We’ve all been there. After packing your bag last minute, rushing to the airport, getting stuck in a customs line-up for an hour and finally getting through to security – one of your most prized possessions gets confiscated because it’s against airline carry-on policy.
While most of us know not to bring liquids over 100 mL on board or carry a taser on us, there’s a whole roster of TSA blacklisted items that you probably never knew about. Even though the rules are set in place to keep us all safe, some of the objects barred from flights have us scratching our heads.
If you’ve watched TLC’s hit show Border Patrol, you know that millions of passengers around the world try to get away with stashing some of the strangest items possible in their carry on luggage. While dismantled rifles, sharp hunting knives and even rare meats can be checked into the belly of a plane, travelers are increasingly frustrated by the strict limitations placed on their carry-on luggage.
If you find yourself frustrated with customs, just remember how many terrible aviation disasters could have been prevented in the past had the rules been as strict as they are today. To save you from anguish and loss the next time you fly, here’s our handy list of the 16 strangest carry on items prohibited aboard airplanes.
16. Tent Pegs
Going camping? Headed to a Burning Man or Coachella? Your tent poles are ok to carry on board, but forget the tent pegs. Unless you’d like to lay your sleeping bag out in plain sight and pass out on the grass, check your camping gear bags for optimal music festival or outdoor expedition slumber. This one seems pretty bizarre to us, as you’d think that a long, sharp tent pole would have more of a possibility to be a weapon than a small set of tent pegs. Regardless, you might be better off saving yourself the hassle and renting a tent at your destination.
15. Refillable Lighters
Smokers, do not despair. The TSA allows for each passenger to carry on one book of matches or a Bic-style lighter to help you through those long layovers and short smoke breaks. However, you have to empty your refillable lighters before going through security or risk having them confiscated. This is especially important to remember if you’re picking up a fancy engraved Zippo on your vacation. Most of all, remember: smoking on board while locked in a bathroom can land you in jail. Although vaping on an e-cigarette seems to be acceptable, as Air Canada recently allowed a man to do so on one of its flights.
14. Badminton Racquets
If you’re headed to a tournament and want to make sure you’ve got everything you need, check your badminton racquets or risk having them taken away. If you’re just bringing them along for a relaxing vacation in the sun, consider opting for playing a round of cricket instead since apparently cricket bats are just fine to carry on board. Again, file this under rules that make us scratch our heads. You’d think that a blunt object resembling a small baseball bat would cause more bodily injury than a swat from a badminton racquet.
13. Fishing Rods
This one seems pretty obvious, since having the back of your seat – or worse, head – hooked by some teenager flinging his or her fishing rod around gleefully wouldn’t be fun for anyone. However, hookless fishing rods are accepted in carry on luggage, which is kind of strange considering the long pole could still be used as a weapon. Besides, how are passengers supposed to navigate up and down those slender airplane aisles while lugging around a six-foot rod?
Thinking of doing some DIY and dyeing your hair blonde once you get to Thailand? Forget it, because most chemicals are deemed harmful aboard flights and ones like peroxide and bleach are out of the question. If you managed to nab some cheap chlorine on your latest trip and wanted to bring it back home for your weekly pool cleaning sessions, that’ll have to be put in your checked baggage too. Considering nail polish is allowed on a plane and young girls can often be found stinking up their entire row while redoing their manicures, a bottle of sealed peroxide under 100 mL seems like kind of a strange thing to ban. Although, it is listed as one of the ingredients that can be used in a homemade bomb. So there’s that.
11. Animal Repellent
Mosquito repellent is tolerated on board in quantities less than 100 mL, but animal repellent is not, for some reason. So if you’re off to hike in the wilderness and nabbed some fancy anti-bear spray (does that even exist?), you’ll have to pay those pesky baggage fees and put it underneath the plane. Once again, we don’t quite understand what could be so different between mosquito and animal repellent in order for one to be allowed and not the other. We’re thinking that it has something to do with the active ingredients found within it, which aren’t found in mosquito repellent. Insecticides (sprays used to kill ants, cockroaches, etc) are also not permitted, even in your checked bags.
Of course, few people would be daring enough to try to bring their big old crossbow onto a flight. The hazards associated with it go without saying. If you feel like lugging the arrows that go into such a dangerous object onboard though, nobody will say a word. We’re thinking that if one of these arrows is sharp enough to cause damage while hunting, it’s certainly sharp enough to use as a weapon aboard your flight. Maybe the TSA’s logic is that they aren’t as harmful without the powerful backing motion of a crossbow.
9. Batteries For Wheelchairs
If you’re physically handicapped and rely on a motorized wheelchair for mobility, make sure to charge its batteries adequately before setting off on a trip. You’ll have to check your wheelchair and batteries and rely on the airport’s complimentary ones to get yourself to and from your gate. Lead acid is found in most batteries, so the larger ones required to power a machine like a wheelchair probably aren’t permitted because the danger associated with them leaking is greatly increased and/or they could be used as a weapon in an acid attack.
8. Spiked Rings/Necklaces
We all know that sharp objects are a no-no in airports and on planes. However, fashion trends are constantly changing and big, spiked rings and necklaces are currently en vogue. Unless you want to leave your fun new jewelry purchase with the security agents, check your spiked accessories if you’re planning to bring any on your trip. We’re wondering how many of these items must be hanging out in American customs bins collecting dust, considering how many motorcycle aficionados tend to opt for huge brass knuckles and spiked belts.
Drills, screwdrivers, spanners and pliers are all blacklisted carry-on items by the TSA. So if you’re a handyman, you kind of have to pay those checked baggage fees. If you’ve got some extra room in your carry-on bag, you can bring your drills bits on board with you. While we completely understand the dangers associated with a whirling electric drill, we don’t quite see how a simple pair of pliers are more hazardous to passenger safety than say, the crossbow arrows and hookless fishing rods mentioned above. It’s probably best to leave your tools at home or use different ones at your destination if you’re traveling for work.
6. Gas-Powered Curling Irons
Gas is one of the major natural elements banned aboard aircraft, so leave your gas-powered curling iron at home or in your carry-on luggage. Your electrical one is ok, as are any battery-powered hair styling tools. Gas is exceptionally flammable and is a significant component used in the making of bombs so it isn’t too surprising that it isn’t allowed on board. What puzzles us is that electrical curling and straightening irons can get extremely hot, so if they somehow get plugged in on a plane they could cause some serious heat damage if left unattended.
5. Fake Ammunition
Most young boys (and some girls) go through a phase in their lives where toy guns and plastic bullets are very appealing to them. Anything that remotely looks like a weapon will not only be confiscated by customs officials but will cause a huge scene at first sight. It would be wise to pay attention to which toys your children pack for themselves for your next all-inclusive Dominican getaway before getting to the airport. We’re sure there’s probably a dozen different ones laying around in your basement that would be just as much fun for them to bring and would save you the sheer embarrassment of watching a plastic pistol being waved around at the ticket counter, causing mass panic.
4. Ink/Toner Cartridges
If you have to bring ink or toner cartridges with you for your office event set up abroad, keep in mind that the TSA gets very particular about them. Units over 500g are acceptable to carry on but NOT to check. We’re guessing that the logic is if they spill, somebody will be around on board to notice whereas nobody can see what’s happening if they leak in the belly of a plane. We’re not sure why ink and toner cartridges bypass the usual no chemicals on board rule, but they do.
Many travellers try to bring paint on to their flights in quantities below the approved 100mL regulation. All forms of paint (spray, liquid, etc) are banned on flights as they can be toxic when inhaled. Beyond that, the aerosol found in spray paint cans is hyper flammable and can cause some significant damage on board if coupled with that one Bic lighter you’re allowed to carry on. So if you’re itching to liven up Barcelona with some of your graffiti, pack the paint in your checked luggage – like all of the items mentioned above.
2. Meat Thermometers
Are you a chef headed to his next foodie venture or job? Meat thermometers are a crucial tool for you, but they’ve got to be checked. For some reason, the TSA is picky with thermometers – potentially because they’re often filled with mercury or alcohol. While the amount of mercury found in a meat thermometer is pretty insignificant, it can vaporize at room temperature if spilled and fill the air with tiny, invisible toxic atoms. It’s unlikely that the three grams of the chemical found in most thermometers would pose a risk to anybody’s health, but the TSA can never be too safe.
1. Gun-Shaped Belt Buckles
We’re topping off our list with probably the most bizarre of all of the items mentioned here. You won’t be allowed to get onto a plane if the belt buckle you’re wearing looks anything like a gun. Never mind if it’s plastic, coloured, bedazzled and clearly not an actual weapon: no dice. Mind you, we’re kind of questioning what kind of person you are if you’re still wearing a gun-shaped belt buckle in 2015.