By Daisy Luther
What is a more uncomfortable feeling than relinquishing all of the items that are normally part of your EDC kit?
Here’s one: relinquishing those items and boarding a plane to fly across the country.
For many preppers, a worst-case scenario for us would be if the SHTF while we were traveling. If your journey is by car, you can be fairly well-prepared. However, if you are flying, the TSA has basically neutered our ability to care for ourselves in the event of a disaster situation, you know, “for the safety and security of the traveling public,” to use their own words. Didn’t these rulemakers see the movie Cast Away or the series Lost? If your plane crashed and you were stranded on a deserted island, how on earth are you supposed to open a coconut with what you’re allowed to bring along?
Remember, what you pack in your checked luggage may not be available in the event of a disaster. You can only count on what you have on your person, and that makes the contents of your carry-on bag particularly vital.
Since there’s little possibility of being able to sneak items onto a plane, you have to do the next best thing: you must work within the rules to create a bag that could see you through a variety of unexpected situations. Despite my strong personal feelings about the unconstitutional air travel checkpoints, if I want to get on that plane, I can’t carry my normal EDC kit, which reads a lot like the TSA’s current list of banned items.
If you want to travel with firearms, body armor, and other items you cannot carry on, see this article for some expert advice and this article for even more prepper air travel tips.
How to Pack a Prepper’s Carry-on Bag
Here are 20 items you can bring onto a plane (without getting tackled to the ground by 3 TSA goons while sirens blare, lights flash, and the PA system announces that you are a terrorist who was planning to hijack the nearest 747.) To make the list, the items must be able to pass through a security checkpoint, they must be small and light, since your space and weights are limited for carry-on bags, and they must be practical in a variety of situations. (At the time of publication, this list was accurate and in compliance with the current rules, but they change frequently – always check the website to ensure that the items you brought with you will be allowed on the plane.)
- Scissors: Because you sew, duh. The TSA says, “metal with pointed tips and blades shorter than 4 inches are allowed, but blades longer than 4 inches are prohibited.” I like this pair because the brand is reliable and there are no plastic parts on it, which would just break if you tried to use them to puncture a coconut. The metal components would stand up far better if these were called upon to cut something other than thread or fabric.
- First Aid Kit: The kit I recommend is this one. Nearly every item in it is TSA-friendly, but you’ll need to remove the scissors and sharp implements for your carry-on bag. There are OTC medications for minor ailments, products for treating open wounds, and items to help you stabilize a fracture or sprain. It folds up into a tiny little kit that will easily fit in your bag.
- 550 Paracord: This paracord comes in about a kabillion different colors. Ensure that you purchase sturdy 550 test weight cord. This multipurpose prep can be used in countless ways, but here are 50 ways to get you started.
- Water Purification Tablets: In the event you end up some place where the water is compromised, this teeny little bottle of pills could save your life. The pills are proven to be effective against potentially deadly waterborne contaminants such as viruses, bacteria, Giardia, and Cryptosporidium.
- Water filter: My favorite travel filter is the Sawyer Mini. Weighing in at only 2 ounces, it will filter over 100,000 gallons of water. Just in case you’re on that deserted island for a very long time.
- Collapsible Water Bottle: The more containers you have on hand, the better. This one collapses and can be rolled up when it’s empty. Throw a couple of these in your bag. In the event you have to hike out on foot, you’ll want to take advantage of water sources when you find them. Each bottle holds 24 ounces.
- Extra socks: Remember how I mentioned hiking? If you end up with blisters or wet feet, you’ll be very glad you have these high quality, cushioned hiking socks on hand.
- BIC Disposable Lighter: You’re only allowed to take the little flimsy disposable lighters on a plane. Invest the extra buck or so and get a Bic instead of the cheapo dollar store kind. I’ve gotten some duds, so be sure to test it before you put it in your bag. Fire is often a vital element of survival.
- Ferro Rod : I always like to have more than one way to start a fire. In the event that your lighter gives up the ghost, a ferro rod fire starter will always work.
- Cash: Sometimes the best prep you can have on hand is cold hard cash. This can be especially useful if you are going to another country. Whether it’s a bribe or you use it to purchase a necessary supply, having cash on hand is important when traveling. Check the laws of your destination; sometimes cash has to be declared, and if you don’t, it could be seized.
- Silver coins: I like to carry some silver with me when traveling too. For discretion, old silver dimes could go in their own little pocket of your wallet, where they will breeze right through most scrutiny. If for some reason cash does not work, precious metals might.
- N95 Masks: If the person beside you on an airplane suddenly falls to the floor bleeding out of every orifice, you’re going to want to have an N95 mask on hand. Not only are they useful in the event of contagious disease, but during a disaster, many times harmful particles are put into the air. Use your mask to avoid inhaling smoke, shards of glass, insulation, construction components, dust, and other particles.
- Hand Sanitizer: I’m not a huge fan of hand sanitizer in day-to-day life, but traveling is extraordinarily germy business. Use hand sanitizer before eating or after touching things that 20 billion other travelers have touched, like bathroom surfaces. Bonus use: it’s highly flammable and can aid you in starting a fire.
- Bleach Wipes: The same deal as hand sanitizer: I don’t think it’s healthy to bleach the heck out of your everyday living environment, but when on a plane, give a wipe-down to armrests and that tray table that has heaven-knows-what on it from the last passenger. (On my last flight I watched a woman change a poopy baby diaper on one…just sayin’.)
- SAS Survival Guide: This tiny book packs a gigantic punch. Slightly bigger than the palm of your hand, it has 625 pages of clear, concise instructions for a vast variety or survival situations in a wide array of environments. If you can only have one how-to guide with you, this is the one you want.
- Sunblock: You know, it’s bad enough you were in a plane crash or other disaster that has left you stranded. Do you really want a sunburn on top of that? Particularly if you are in a locale with an equatorial or desert climate, it’s vital to protect yourself from the sun’s rays.
- Space Blanket: These high quality Mylar blankets fold up into a teeny-tiny little square. Not only will the keep you warm or shelter you from the elements, the shiny side will reflect light and help to alert search planes. Don’t go cheapo on these – the dollar store version is likely to rip the first time you use it.
- Compass: If you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, it can be easy to walk around in circles. A compass is a simple, non-tech way to navigate to somewhere – at the very least, it’ll help you keep going in a straight line.
- Mini Cree Led Flashlight Torch Adjustable Focus Light Lamp: Pretty much any bad situation will seem worse in pitch black darkness. This tiny little flashlight is exceptionally bright, and will shed long-lasting light to see you through the night.
- Listerine: In a pinch, original Listerine can be used as a topical antiseptic. This size is TSA-approved. Meanwhile, you’ll also have fresh breath.
Air Travel Tips
Because of the stringent TSA regulations, you are very limited in what you may take with you on a plane. To stack the odds in your favor in the event of some kind of disaster, remember these practical tips:
- Pay attention to the flight attendant. Aren’t you going to feel kind of stupid if the plane crashes and you have no idea where the nearest exit is? Take 2 minutes out of your life to listen when the flight attendant goes over the safety information.
- Dress appropriately. Whenever I see fellow passengers wearing flip-flops, high heels, or other inappropriate footwear, I cringe. You should always wear shoes that are sturdy and comfortable enough for a long distance hike. As well, clothing items made from natural fibers are less flammable and more breathable. Cover as much of your exposed skin as possible by wearing long pants and sleeves.
- Wear your carry-on bag. That well-packed carry-on bag isn’t going to do you much good if you don’t have it with you. To keep your hands free for other tasks, I recommend a backpack or cross-body bag for your most important survival items.
- Bring snacks. I always pack things like Clif bars, nuts, and dried fruit. The more snacks you have, the longer you can wait before eating your fellow passengers, Andes-soccer-team style.
Do you travel frequently by air? What tips do you have for flying prepared? Please share them in the comments section below.