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To check or not check your backpack?

iloveagoodadventure

Travel Enthusiast | World Explore
Time of past OR future Camino
June 2023
Last summer I travel all over with my “approved” airline backpack that is not designed for hiking trails. I have a larger backpack, which I think would be excessive for the Camino. I truly dislike checking luggage, especially with transfers. Looking for suggestions, since I’m planning on doing the French way. I had to buy trekking poles in Switzerland last year, so I know that is always an option. Thoughts or suggestions on what you folks have found to be successful.
 
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I always when possible carry-on my backpack for the Camino. Even my 48L when packed for the Camino fits within the size maximum requirements as carry-on, and I never carry any liquids more than 3 ounces. No knives or other sharp instruments and I just buy trekking poles when I arrive or just check them in as luggage in a cardboard tube or cheap duffel bag.
I also take the logic that if I am carrying a bag too big to be a carry on I am probably carrying too much stuff.
 
Depends on the flight and the airline: budget flight within Europe means much tighter limits on bag size and weight so what may go in the overhead locker on a long haul flight may incur extra charges or have to be checked on short haul European flights. As their profit margins are wafer thin, they tend to enforce the rules with great enthusiasm. If you do check your backpack, attach a tag somewhere (with name, flight number, date and contact details) so that if it misses a connection, they can track it down and return it to you quickly.
 
Get a spanish phone number with Airalo. eSim, so no physical SIM card. Easy to use app to add more funds if needed.
I always when possible carry-on my backpack for the Camino. Even my 48L when packed for the Camino fits within the size maximum requirements as carry-on, and I never carry any liquids more than 3 ounces. No knives or other sharp instruments and I just buy trekking poles when I arrive or just check them in as luggage in a cardboard tube or cheap duffel bag.
I also take the logic that if I am carrying a bag too big to be a carry on I am probably carrying too much stuff.
Great logic! Perfect
 
Last summer I travel all over with my “approved” airline backpack that is not designed for hiking trails. I have a larger backpack, which I think would be excessive for the Camino. I truly dislike checking luggage, especially with transfers. Looking for suggestions, since I’m planning on doing the French way. I had to buy trekking poles in Switzerland last year, so I know that is always an option. Thoughts or suggestions on what you folks have found to be successful.
If you have to check your backpack, you might want to put an Apple Air Tag inside—it will give you GPS location of your backpack in case it is lost. I do this with any luggage when I travel now. ( These were not available when I did the Camino. Fortunately, nothing lost).
 
Great logic! Perfect
I also take the logic that if I am carrying a bag too big to be a carry on I am probably carrying too much stuff.
I agree about too big a bag. I have a 45 liter pack. I carry a little throw pillow on my camino because if I slept on the pillows in the albergue I would need a really big pack to carry my chiropractor with me. I could easily get by with a 40 liter pack if it was not for my trusty pillow. You could do what RJM says and take a small tube or old duffle and put your poles and knife and check those. I buy the cheapest price airfare and it only allows for a 10k (22 pound) carry on. I always take a couple of days to decompress from my flight. I always do 2 things. Go to Vodafone and get a sim card and prepaid plan (A whole lot cheaper this way). I only talk to my wife and kids on camino and I do that through whatsapp. Then I go to a cucharilla (usually the cheapest place) and buy a pocket knife for 5 or 6 euros. Then I go to an outdoor store, usually Decathlon and buy a pair of cheap poles. I don't mind doing this at all because I like to walk around the city and believe me you never have to walk too far. The cost of buying poles and a pocket knife is definitely cheaper than buying an airline ticket to be able to check a bag. When I get to Santiago I go to Pilgrim House and donate them.
My number one piece of advice is this:
NEVER, EVER, NEVER, EVER check your backpack!!!!! If the airline loses your pack, do you wait in the city for them to find it? Do you buy a couple of things and hope they can deliver your pack to some village along the way that you will have to wait for probably all day? Or do you say screw it and go to Decathlon and buy all new stuff and not know if you can get the gear you like, especially your pack and spend alot of money again to replace everything. Then you have the added treat of hassling with the airline because they can't wait to cut you a check for the true value of your backpack, clothes and sleeping bag etc.
Carry your pack on the plane. I have done 7 Caminos and been on both 777 and prop planes and have never had an issue getting my 45 liter pack on the plane.
Just one man's opinion and buen camino.
 
Get a spanish phone number with Airalo. eSim, so no physical SIM card. Easy to use app to add more funds if needed.
I agree about too big a bag. I have a 45 liter pack. I carry a little throw pillow on my camino because if I slept on the pillows in the albergue I would need a really big pack to carry my chiropractor with me. I could easily get by with a 40 liter pack if it was not for my trusty pillow. You could do what RJM says and take a small tube or old duffle and put your poles and knife and check those. I buy the cheapest price airfare and it only allows for a 10k (22 pound) carry on. I always take a couple of days to decompress from my flight. I always do 2 things. Go to Vodafone and get a sim card and prepaid plan (A whole lot cheaper this way). I only talk to my wife and kids on camino and I do that through whatsapp. Then I go to a cucharilla (usually the cheapest place) and buy a pocket knife for 5 or 6 euros. Then I go to an outdoor store, usually Decathlon and buy a pair of cheap poles. I don't mind doing this at all because I like to walk around the city and believe me you never have to walk too far. The cost of buying poles and a pocket knife is definitely cheaper than buying an airline ticket to be able to check a bag. When I get to Santiago I go to Pilgrim House and donate them.
My number one piece of advice is this:
NEVER, EVER, NEVER, EVER check your backpack!!!!! If the airline loses your pack, do you wait in the city for them to find it? Do you buy a couple of things and hope they can deliver your pack to some village along the way that you will have to wait for probably all day? Or do you say screw it and go to Decathlon and buy all new stuff and not know if you can get the gear you like, especially your pack and spend alot of money again to replace everything. Then you have the added treat of hassling with the airline because they can't wait to cut you a check for the true value of your backpack, clothes and sleeping bag etc.
Carry your pack on the plane. I have done 7 Caminos and been on both 777 and prop planes and have never had an issue getting my 45 liter pack on the plane.
Just one man's opinion and buen camino.
Awesome, wonderful advice! Thank you!
 
I always when possible carry-on my backpack for the Camino. Even my 48L when packed for the Camino fits within the size maximum requirements as carry-on, and I never carry any liquids more than 3 ounces. No knives or other sharp instruments and I just buy trekking poles when I arrive or just check them in as luggage in a cardboard tube or cheap duffel bag.
I also take the logic that if I am carrying a bag too big to be a carry on I am probably carrying too much stuff.
We always carry our own backpacks--we check a duffle bag with our poles and Swiss Army knives and carry the duffle bag with us. We like having the flexibility, and feeling that we have everything we need to survive on our backs. I must point out, however, that we for many years have been doing trails other than the Frances with its greater number of places to find shelter, food, and other accommodations.

Last year was an exception to this--we did the Dingle Way in Ireland and had a company arrange stays and baggage carry. It was very nice, and efficient, but I found that I had brought from home more changes of clothing (most of which I never wore) and found that my biggest "problem" was what to send ahead and what to carry myself. Basically you still need to carry raingear, first aid supplies, snacks and water, etc. So, for the most part, I don't see any great advantage to transport services, but I know that some people need this option.
 
We always carry our own backpacks--we check a duffle bag with our poles and Swiss Army knives and carry the duffle bag with us. We like having the flexibility, and feeling that we have everything we need to survive on our backs. I must point out, however, that we for many years have been doing trails other than the Frances with its greater number of places to find shelter, food, and other accommodations.

Last year was an exception to this--we did the Dingle Way in Ireland and had a company arrange stays and baggage carry. It was very nice, and efficient, but I found that I had brought from home more changes of clothing (most of which I never wore) and found that my biggest "problem" was what to send ahead and what to carry myself. Basically you still need to carry raingear, first aid supplies, snacks and water, etc. So, for the most part, I don't see any great advantage to transport services, but I know that some people need this option.
What is your pack size and brand?I am looking at a 45L by Patagonia, however I am not sold on it yet.
 
Ideal pocket guides for during and after your Camino. Each weighs just 40g (1.4 oz).
I always check my bag so I can take my poles, pocket knife etc. toiletries are not an issue on short trips but for 5-6 weeks I tend take a 256ml bottle of Dr Bronners for washing me and my clothes, which isn’t carry on friendly. I may jinx myself with this but it’s never been an issue so far. I do this with my 30L Camino bag as well as my 50L backpacking/camping pack that I use on other hiking trails.
 
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Thoughts or suggestions on what you folks have found to be successful.
I always check my bag so I can take my poles, pocket knife etc.
It is not necessary to check your backpack in order to take your poles, knife, etc. You can just check a package (even a cardboard box) with your poles, knife, etc. If that goes missing, it is easy to replace those items. If your whole pack goes missing, it will disrupt your Camino.

Your backpack might have dimensions listed by the manufacturer that indicate a fully-packed backpack. If you do not fill the top part, it might fit within the airline size requirement even when the listed dimensions seem too big.
 
It is not necessary to check your backpack in order to take your poles, knife, etc. You can just check a package (even a cardboard box) with your poles, knife, etc. If that goes missing, it is easy to replace those items. If your whole pack goes missing, it will disrupt your Camino.

Your backpack might have dimensions listed by the manufacturer that indicate a fully-packed backpack. If you do not fill the top part, it might fit within the airline size requirement even when the listed dimensions seem too big.
I understand the logic of this but I’d actually be sadder to lose the poles and knife this way. I’ve had them a long time and am more attached to them than whatever decathlon clothes or boots toiletries are in my bag. It’s a roll of the dice I’m willing to take.
 
I understand the logic of this but I’d actually be sadder to lose the poles and knife this way. I’ve had them a long time and am more attached to them than whatever decathlon clothes or boots toiletries are in my bag.
I don't get the logic of this. You seem to saying that if you are going to lose the poles and knife, then you want to lose the rest of your belongings as well. You don't have a choice whether to check the poles, but you do have a choice about your other stuff. ;)
 
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I don't get the logic of this. You seem to saying that if you are going to lose the poles and knife, then you want to lose the rest of your belongings as well. You don't have a choice whether to check the poles, but you do have a choice about your other stuff. ;)
🤷‍♀️😆 I know, but OP asked what we do and have found to be successful and this is what I do.
 
Carry your pack on the plane. I have done 7 Caminos and been on both 777 and prop planes and have never had an issue getting my 45 liter pack on the plane.
Just one man's opinion and buen camino.
I am going to double down on this because flying in Europe is very different to flying in the rest of the world. If you are flying to Europe and back, fine. But if you try to take a 45lt backpack on a Ryanair or Vuelig flight you going to find out exactly why they are so cheap. Budget European airlines not only have tighter limits on carry-on baggage, they enforce them ruthlessly.
 
I've checked my pack every time I have travelled to Europe from Australia and never had it lost. On a recent trip, not on the camino, my bag was delayed when it wasn't tagged properly for a transit, but otherwise checking bags has never been a problem for me. When I have travelled on the European budget airlines after my pilgrimages, I have checked my bags as well, and that has never been a problem either.

Lucky? Perhaps. Airlines do lose bags, and perhaps you might want to check how the the airlines you are using rank on this before choosing to fly with them. But I am not going to change my approach here.
 
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I am going to double down on this because flying in Europe is very different to flying in the rest of the world. If you are flying to Europe and back, fine. But if you try to take a 45lt backpack on a Ryanair or Vuelig flight you going to find out exactly why they are so cheap. Budget European airlines not only have tighter limits on carry-on baggage, they enforce them ruthlessly.
I can’ really comment on budget airlines in Europe except to say that I have flown Vueling 5 or 6 times and have been able to take my pack onboard. I may have upgraded my ticket last December but I don’t remembered now.
 
I've checked my pack every time I have travelled to Europe from Australia and never had it lost. On a recent trip, not on the camino, my bag was delayed when it wasn't tagged properly for a transit, but otherwise checking bags has never been a problem for me. When I have travelled on the European budget airlines after my pilgrimages, I have checked my bags as well, and that has never been a problem either.

Lucky? Perhaps. Airlines do lose bags, and perhaps you might want to check how the the airlines you are using rank on this before choosing to fly with them. But I am not going to change my approach here.
I agree with Doug. Coming from Australia I have always checked in my pack. Nowadays I have it wrapped. I do not want to be carrying it around during transits . This April I will use an Air tag for the first time.
 
I agree with Doug. Coming from Australia I have always checked in my pack. Nowadays I have it wrapped. I do not want to be carrying it around during transits . This April I will use an Air tag for the first time.
There is quite a lot of data online about mishandled bags. It’s quite a minefield but let’s you assess your risk I guess. It’s a little under 1% I think.
 
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There is quite a lot of data online about mishandled bags. It’s quite a minefield but let’s you assess your risk I guess. It’s a little under 1% I think.
The US DOT publishes monthly consumer reports for US airlines. The latest (Oct 2022) shows an average rate just under half a percent for mishandled baggage, with the best performance around 0.13 bags for each thousand bags. Lost baggage is a even smaller number.
 
🤷‍♀️😆 I know, but OP asked what we do and have found to be successful and this is what I do.

We were with you all the way 👍

Flight within Europe means much tighter limits on bag size and weight so what may go in the overhead locker on a long haul flight may incur extra charges or have to be checked on short haul European flights. As their profit margins are wafer thin, they tend to enforce the rules with great enthusiasm.

For flights within Europe I'd listen to what Dick says. Budget airline overheads have become tight to the point where I've observed staff members pushing the cabin baggage check cradle up the check in queue in the name of speeding things up, only to point out your mistake and 'ca-ching'.

For flights way ahead I normally book a better seat with an increased cabin baggage allowance and reduced hold costs (if an airline offer). This way if I'm on the edge all options are open for the sake of 40 Euros or so.

I'd also put a printed itinerary inside your pack with any albergue/hotel bookings you have including the dates and your telephone number.
 
There is quite a lot of data online about mishandled bags. It’s quite a minefield but let’s you assess your risk I guess. It’s a little under 1% I think.
That means that at 1%, if my maths is correct, if there are 300 passengers on a plane, 3 of them are likely to have missing baggage. Having said that, we always check our bags. And last trip to Europe, they went missing, and didn't turn up for another 8 days. But we'll do it again next time. As you say, coming from Oz, you don't have a lot of choice unless you want to go visiting your rellies in hiking gear.
 
Ideal pocket guides for during and after your Camino. Each weighs just 40g (1.4 oz).
That means that at 1%, if my maths is correct, if there are 300 passengers on a plane, 3 of them are likely to have missing baggage. Having said that, we always check our bags. And last trip to Europe, they went missing, and didn't turn up for another 8 days. But we'll do it again next time. As you say, coming from Oz, you don't have a lot of choice unless you want to go visiting your rellies in hiking gear.
That sounds right! Thought @dougfitz numbers are factual rather than my viewpoint. Depending on reason for mishandling, bags are generally put on next availability flight which is obviously quite a elastic term!!! Of course many folks visiting Camino from USA are doing 4 or maybe 6 sectors so that increase risk I guess.
 
That means that at 1%, if my maths is correct, if there are 300 passengers on a plane, 3 of them are likely to have missing baggage.
The numbers I found for recent performance of US airlines includes mishandled baggage, but doesn't break that down further. The sites that I did find that suggested they might have provided global statistics ended up behind a paywall, and I wasn't going there. As I noted earlier, the average rate of mishandled bags in the US is about 0.5%, with the best performing airline at about 0.13%. So flying with a good airline, at least as far as mishandling baggage is concerned, will result in far fewer lost bags than has been suggested here.
 
Living in Europe, my flights to the Camino starting point are short and baggage-wise simple: My 32lt backpack weighs around 6kg and never needed to check it in. I have Black Diamond carbon Z-folding poles that I place inside the pack, they were never scrutinized by security neither in ZRH-, GVA-, SdC-, BCN- or MAD Airports, even when I had to open the bag to allow checking other items like my Swiss Army knife (blade length is within the max. limit) or liquids.
(This in altogether 12 "Camino-flights" since 2013 and as recent as in the last 2 years).
While I have no personal experience in regards to long-distance multistop "Camino-backpack" trips, I would assume that there should be no problem carrying a small and light pack aboard. I would take the chance that the poles could be held back, in which case they can still be checked in (separately, without the rest of the pack).
If traveling from overseas with post-camino plans requiring "civilized clothes" and things, it can be difficult to keep the weight and volume down.
SdC and all other Spanish and European cities you might visit offer low price fashionable shopping (Zara, Corte inglés, etc) A set of pants or a dress, t-shirts, a sweater or a jacket can be bought for an easy150 Euros and you'll need to buy those sooner or later anyway.

Buen – and easygoing – Camino
 
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I always when possible carry-on my backpack for the Camino. Even my 48L when packed for the Camino fits within the size maximum requirements as carry-on, and I never carry any liquids more than 3 ounces. No knives or other sharp instruments and I just buy trekking poles when I arrive or just check them in as luggage in a cardboard tube or cheap duffel bag.
I also take the logic that if I am carrying a bag too big to be a carry on I am probably carrying too much stuff.
I’ve been looking into carry-on size back packs. Even the smaller packs seem to be over 22” long which is what many airlines limit.Osprey Tempest 30L-26”, Deuter Speedlite 30L-25”, Gregory Jade 33L-24”. What is the name of your 48L pack that fits within the carry on limit? Still pondering.
 
That means that at 1%, if my maths is correct, if there are 300 passengers on a plane, 3 of them are likely to have missing baggage. Having said that, we always check our bags. And last trip to Europe, they went missing, and didn't turn up for another 8 days. But we'll do it again next time. As you say, coming from Oz, you don't have a lot of choice unless you want to go visiting your rellies in hiking gear.

Or to put it more in forum perspective, if there are 200 forum members signed up to start in April, two of them will have their checked luggage go astray. Ok, I know that’s faulty logic, but no more faulty than assuming that since you’ve checked your bags ten times and not had a problem, you are good to go.

This is another one of those topics with very strongly held opinions, but I think that the best we can do for newbies who are not sure what to do is to point out the facts:

1. Budget airlines in Europe are ruthless, so be careful with a carryon.
2. Many forum members routinely carry on packs with no problem.
3. Many forum members have checked their packs for years and haven’t had a problem.
4. Some forum members have had checked luggage (pack or other) lost or delayed on their way to a camino and have vowed to never again check the pack. I am in that group — having a pack go missing creates incredible hassles for those who are coming from afar to walk and don’t have free days at the beginning to sit and wait for the bag to arrive. And the prospect of getting to a store to replace all my gear weighs very heavily in my mind in favor of carrying on my pack. I had to replace my hiking poles once at the start of the Vdlp and it added a lot of unnecessary stress.

I’m going to be carrying my pack for a month, I better be able to carry it for an airport transit!

@dick bird, I’m assuming you were not planning to start walking upon arrival, because an 8 day wait for a pack to show up would have done many of us in.

Those who have read my rants before will be surprised that I have not mentioned hiking poles — if I had, I would have had to delete my own post!
 
I’ve been looking into carry-on size back packs. Even the smaller packs seem to be over 22” long which is what many airlines limit.Osprey Tempest 30L-26”, Deuter Speedlite 30L-25”, Gregory Jade 33L-24”. What is the name of your 48L pack that fits within the carry on limit? Still pondering.
Both the backpacks I have traveled with as carry-on luggage have an overall length of 22". One is an REI 48L and the other a Deuter 32L. Both are several years old and I'm sure the models are discontinued.
When I measured the packs they are empty and that 22" length is that of the frame, not including a full top compartment which would add to the overall length. I don't know if the listed dimensions in the catalogs etc is that of the frame only or is that of the pack with a fully loaded top compartment, If that does include a fully loaded top then the frame may very well fit with the maximum dimensions as a carry on.
I never travel to the Camino with anything breakable or fragile in my pack so before I board I cinch it down tight. Pull in all straps, compress everything (only really have clothes and some sandals).
 
Get a spanish phone number with Airalo. eSim, so no physical SIM card. Easy to use app to add more funds if needed.
I’ve been looking into carry-on size back packs. Even the smaller packs seem to be over 22” long which is what many airlines limit.Osprey Tempest 30L-26”, Deuter Speedlite 30L-25”, Gregory Jade 33L-24”. What is the name of your 48L pack that fits within the carry on limit? Still pondering.
The REI pack I have is indeed discontinued, but I found the manufacturer listed dimensions and it shows a length of 24.5" and like I said the frame is 22". So it does look like the listed dimensions include a loaded top compartment. If you are buying a backpack at an outdoor shoppe I suggest bringing a portable tape measure and check the actual rigid frame dimensions of the pack. That is what matters most.
 
I’ve been looking into carry-on size back packs. Even the smaller packs seem to be over 22” long which is what many airlines limit.Osprey Tempest 30L-26”, Deuter Speedlite 30L-25”, Gregory Jade 33L-24”. What is the name of your 48L pack that fits within the carry on limit? Still pondering.
On my last four CF's , I carried my trusted Mountain Hardware 36lt backpack measuring 50 cm (20''), weighing about 6 kg fully packed (incl. foldable Black Diamond Carbon Z poles and a small daypack)

36 lt. Rucksack.jpg

In my experience, Airlines (yes, even budget ones like Spains Vuelling) generally are more lenient with backpacks, as they are soft and squashable, I never had a problem, even with my other, larger pack, a 40lt-plus Deuter with a length of more than 62cm (24 ¨)
 
The REI pack I have is indeed discontinued, but I found the manufacturer listed dimensions and it shows a length of 24.5" and like I said the frame is 22". So it does look like the listed dimensions include a loaded top compartment. If you are buying a backpack at an outdoor shoppe I suggest bringing a portable tape measure and check the actual rigid frame dimensions of the pack. That is what matters most.
Thanks so much. I’m really new at this and want to make the right purchase.
 
€2,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
Or to put it more in forum perspective, if there are 200 forum members signed up to start in April, two of them will have their checked luggage go astray.
This number is not supported by the actual data for US airlines. A couple of people have speculated that the rate for lost baggage might be 1% of checked bags. I haven't found any actual performance figures that show the situation is this bad. The US DOT publishes monthly data for the US market that shows the average rate of mishandled bags is less than half of that, and the best airlines in that market have a mishandling rate of about 0.15% (0.0015).

There is reporting that indicates that this rate has been increasing, and it must create a mountain of mishandled baggage at the major airports.

And of course, if you are one of those unfortunate enough to have this happen to you, it could put a big dent in your travel plans. However, as someone who accepts this risk, and checks my bag, I am accepting that at some point I might be faced with the prospect of having to replace all the clothing and equipment that I have so carefully chosen over the past few months to prepare for my pilgrimage, and delay by departure as a result. It might mean not taking a rest day later on to make up for the time I have lost, or taking the train, bus or a taxi somewhere if the delay is too large. This doesn't have to be the disaster that some people think it will be, distressing as it might be.
 
Thanks so much. I’m really new at this and want to make the right purchase.
Also after you find and buy the right backpack, before you leave for the Camino pack the backpack as it will be when you travel and check its dimensions. There's a good chance it will seem too big but as said before backpacks are easy to compress down. Like a pillow almost. No doubt you can crunch it to size and if not reevaluate what you are carrying. Filter out some of the what-if's and just in case stuff.
 
This number is not supported by the actual data for US airlines. A couple of people have speculated that the rate for lost baggage might be 1% of checked bags. I haven't found any actual performance figures that show the situation is this bad. The US DOT publishes monthly data for the US market that shows the average rate of mishandled bags is less than half of that, and the best airlines in that market have a mishandling rate of about 0.15% (0.0015).

There is reporting that indicates that this rate has been increasing, and it must create a mountain of mishandled baggage at the major airports.

And of course, if you are one of those unfortunate enough to have this happen to you, it could put a big dent in your travel plans. However, as someone who accepts this risk, and checks my bag, I am accepting that at some point I might be faced with the prospect of having to replace all the clothing and equipment that I have so carefully chosen over the past few months to prepare for my pilgrimage, and delay by departure as a result. It might mean not taking a rest day later on to make up for the time I have lost, or taking the train, bus or a taxi somewhere if the delay is too large. This doesn't have to be the disaster that some people think it will be, distressing as it might be.

Thanks again for uncovering the numbers @dougfitz ….I was in the ‘it’s less than 1 in 100 camp’ but I think your numbers suggest about 1 in 670 so a huge difference and 1 bag per every 2 or 3 aircraft.

That said I would assume that USA data will consist of lots of domestic point to point flights, with maybe ‘commuter’ connections, which may be a little better performance wise than international connecting flights across multiple airlines.

I don’t particularly like checking bags unless I have to, as much due to having to wait at the other end as concern about my bag being mishandled, which of course is a real hassle.

In the UK I think people love taking about ‘lost bags’ …it’s just one of those subjects that the media and people sitting around the swimming pool engage in.

Some airports make me far more confident than others re bags. I guess from Australia to Europe many folks will be transiting through the airports that are largely regarded as the best in the world. I.e. SIN, HKG, NRT, BKK, AUH, DXB, DOH so that would be a big factor in my decision.
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
I have come full circle on this. Now, I check both my backpack and my poles. I have never - in over 50 years of flying all over the place - lost a checked bag. I tuck both poles and pack into an IKEA bag, check it, then mail the bag forward when I arrive, and I’m good to go.
 
I guess I like to live on the edge because I almost always check my bags. I used to work for an airline and I still use my benefits which means I’m standby and one of the last on and I absolutely hate searching for storage space onboard. I love the freedom of dropping off my bag/pack, for me it’s a luxury. I should also add that almost everyone I know disagrees with me on this!!!🥴
 
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DO NOT check your bag. Our last Camino we ran into a guy in Madrid (flying from the U.S.) who checked his Camino bag and it was lost. The airlines told him to stay at the airport because they would find it soon. He ended up staying that whole day at the airport--no bag but the airlines said they would get it to him the next day so he stayed in Madrid overnight. No bag the next day. We met him on his third day when he just decided to buy all new gear in Madrid and because he was on a limited time frame thus had to cut his Camino a couple of days. My husband and I have traveled around the world for 2-6 months at a time in multiple countries with varied climates on the same trip and we have always been able to fit what we need in 35L backpacks (REI & Osprey) that fit all airlines. We do not put stuff in the detachable top so length is just measuring the frame. My husband had knee surgery Nov 2023 so now we have the issue of his poles, which he never had to use in the past but we will still try to put them in our carry-on and TSA can take them if they want but we will NOT be checking our bags.
 
Ideal pocket guides for during and after your Camino. Each weighs just 40g (1.4 oz).
I have never - in over 50 years of flying all over the place - lost a checked bag.
In a similar time frame, I have personally had bags delayed 3 or 4 times (by up to several days).

DO NOT check your bag.
Sometimes I check a bag, sometimes I don't. My decision is made on an understanding of the known risks and benefits, and of my own tolerance in the particular situation. Then I try to carry onboard those items that are most important not to lose.
 
If you have to check your backpack, you might want to put an Apple Air Tag inside—it will give you GPS location of your backpack in case it is lost. I do this with any luggage when I travel now. ( These were not available when I did the Camino. Fortunately, nothing lost).
Only if it is within range of a phone that is "willing" to pass on its ID to Apple AND is connected to the internet. Otherwise, it tells you where the tag was the last time it ws able to report in.
 
Thanks again for uncovering the numbers @dougfitz ….I was in the ‘it’s less than 1 in 100 camp’ but I think your numbers suggest about 1 in 670 so a huge difference and 1 bag per every 2 or 3 aircraft.
Now that most (if not all) airports use computerized sorting/routing with scannable bar codes, it is far less common. But it still happens as you note. Instead of one or two each plane, I suspect it's more likely a lot of them on an occasional flight and none on most flights. Probably stolen bags are more common than lost ones.

As much as possible, I carry on everything with one exception. No need to pack a lot—any place that has an airport has stores that carry anything I might need. I love not waiting for baggage claim!

The exception is when I take the bicycle. I get to the airport, take my carry-on out of the trailer, fold up the bike, put it in the trailer, and check it in. On arrival, take out and unfold the bike, put the carryon in the trailer, hook up and take off.
 
St James' Way - Self-guided 4-7 day Walking Packages, Reading to Southampton, 110 kms
As others have said, take your pack as hand luggage sans the prohibited items. A 33l Osprey Talon is well within limits and having a small pack makes you slim down on pack weight. I never carry more than about 5kg these days. I'm also off the plane and gone within 10 mins of landing (Shengen). Buy a cheap penknife and other items when in Spain/Portugal. Donate at last albergue.
 
Just started watching a you tube video of a man flying into Biarritz than onto SJPP to start his camino. Then it shows him in SJPP and he says your are probably wondering why i'am not starting my camino. His pack didn't make it on his flight and came on a later flight and he had to go back to Biarritz to pick it up.
 
Just started watching a you tube video of a man flying into Biarritz than onto SJPP to start his camino. Then it shows him in SJPP and he says your are probably wondering why i'am not starting my camino. His pack didn't make it on his flight and came on a later flight and he had to go back to Biarritz to pick it up.
This cannot have been great, but it is the risk one takes when one checks baggage. I do hope his camino is merely delayed, and he is able to adjust his schedule along the way and still complete the journey. It seems he will have a more interesting story to tell at the end than most of us.
 
Down bag (90/10 duvet) of 700 fills with 180 g (6.34 ounces) of filling. Mummy-shaped structure, ideal when you are looking for lightness with great heating performance.

€149,-
The only time we ever checked a bag to Spain, it was lost by the airline. Fortunately, it was just an Ikea bag with our poles, and we had carried on our packs, so after a quick trip to the local Decathalon we started walking as scheduled.

Based on my experience, en route to Spain, airlines lose 100% of checked bags. 🤣
 
I always look for a backpack that meets the needs of my trip - and whenever possible, I do carry on.. so I look at airline baggage size specifications before making any purchase. I have never been unfortunate enough to loose a back - but the thought of losing a bag on the way TO a destination is too stressful. On the way home I don't worry, but on the way there it can ruin the start of what should be a fun and relaxing trip. I also want to get through airport security and customs as fast as possible, without the delays of having to collect baggage. You can easily lose 30 minutes of prime vacation time just waiting for your bag to drop on the conveyor belt. I won't attempt to put poles in my bag - I know some people get away with it, but I have seen them confiscated in front of me.

On the way home - just depends on whether it is included in the price of my ticket and how much hassle it is to check the bag. Still don't want to have to collect a bag to go through customs and security again - but if that isn't a concern then I have no problem checking on the way home if included in the price of the ticket.
 
Just started watching a you tube video of a man flying into Biarritz than onto SJPP to start his camino. Then it shows him in SJPP and he says your are probably wondering why i'am not starting my camino. His pack didn't make it on his flight and came on a later flight and he had to go back to Biarritz to pick it up.
And ..
 
The 2024 Camino guides will be coming out little by little. Here is a collection of the ones that are out so far.
The only time we ever checked a bag to Spain, it was lost by the airline. Fortunately, it was just an Ikea bag with our poles, and we had carried on our packs, so after a quick trip to the local Decathalon we started walking as scheduled.

Based on my experience, en route to Spain, airlines lose 100% of checked bags. 🤣
I check mine every time (to Spain ) and it’s never failed. By the same logic, between you and I (as I’ve flown 40+ times to Spain) they lose <2.5% of baggage. What if we use a bigger sample. Maybe everyone …
 
Although the risk of a lost bag in very small in my experience........
(Never lost one in 50+ years of flying on hundreds of flights)

I do carry on my pack. As someone else said, if it's too big as carry on luggage, then it's too big anyway!

But I just like the security of knowing I have all my gear with me, that took years to accumulate.

I use an Osprey Sirrus 34L. And I can fit all I need. clothes, meds, sleeping bag etc.
My wife who is somewhat smaller than me uses an Osprey 24L.

I do 'check in' a mailing tube, with poles. liquids, knife etc.
And maybe a couple of things that I can afford to 'lose' to make my pack lighter on the plane.

However.........

I check the carry on allowances and size/weight limitations for every flight I will take.
For example, I'm using 3 different airlines on my next Camino.
Some discount airlines have a smaller / lighter allowance.
As I'm generally using these on my return from Santiago.
I could check in my bag if I had to as a Plan B.
And I book a check-in luggage spot just in case anyway.
 
I agree with Doug. Coming from Australia I have always checked in my pack. Nowadays I have it wrapped. I do not want to be carrying it around during transits . This April I will use an Air tag for the first time.
Travelling from Australia is very different to the relatively short flights from North America or within Europe. Cabin baggage is usually carefully checked and trying to get a hiking backpack on board would be very problematical. Also the transit points are usually in the Middle East and security there is very rigid. It would not take much for a security officer to decide that your backpack contained something doubtful and dealing with the authorities is more difficult than in western counties. Checked baggage is a better option I think.
 
€2,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
Are you saying that the dimensions posted by the airline might not apply, or simply that they would be applied strictly? Many Camino packs do comply.
The rules would be applied very strictly. If a backpack was small enough it may be allowed, however as a semi-official guideline any backpack above 'daypack' size may not be allowed, even if its dimensions and weight meet the carry on standard. I can't say for certain that this would apply in every case, it depends very much on the individuals at check in, however in my time working at Sydney airport I saw enough issues with carry on baggage to belive that checking your backpack is a better option, at least out of Sydney.
 
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Are you saying that the dimensions posted by the airline might not apply, or simply that they would be applied strictly? Many Camino packs do comply.
Many might, but there are a couple of things working against some of us:
  • while the most common international cabin baggage dimensions of 56cm x 36cm x 23cm might seem generous, not all of us will carry packs that small.
  • personally, I pack walking poles, pocket knife and a first aid kit, all items that will not be allowed in the cabin, at least from Australia.
  • not all the domestic flights that I need to take have the same provision as the international legs. While the international cabin baggage dimensions might apply in theory, and allow me to take a cabin bag that size, such a bag will never fit into the overhead lockers or under the seat on those flights. Any bag over the dimensions allowed for that aircraft will go into the hold. After that, I can take it board as cabin baggage on the subsequent legs.
There seems to be considerable variation in the cabin baggage provisions. According to one source allowable weight varied from as little as 5 kg to a massive 23 kg, the maximum weight for a regular checked bag on many airlines. I didn't bother doing the volume calculations!
 
The 2024 Camino guides will be coming out little by little. Here is a collection of the ones that are out so far.
As someone else said, if it's too big as carry on luggage, then it's too big anyway!
No doubt quite a few "someone elses" have that view, but it is equally true all the other someone elses have a different view or have insufficient experience to have formed a view. I am suspect that Robo included that as an implied statement and the people asking this question will eventually have to form their own decision. That might take a few Caminos to work out.

For my first 2 Caminos I had my pack as cabin luggage but since then I have always checked it in. 45 litres is my optimum size. If it gets lost I am in serious trouble. C'est la vie.

PS: for my first Camino I flew QANTAS and took it as cabin luggage. It was the right dimension but 8kg, 1kg over the limit so I was compelled to remove 1 kg of important stuff (it was all important). I put that on the counter just beside the check-in window, and was given my boarding pass as it was correct weight. Then in full view of the check-in person, I quietly put it all back in my pack, and my journey began. I understand that is common behaviour.
 
The rules would be applied very strictly. If a backpack was small enough it may be allowed, however as a semi-official guideline any backpack above 'daypack' size may not be allowed, even if its dimensions and weight meet the carry on standard.
not all of us will carry packs that small... variation in the cabin baggage provisions
I am not arguing for or against checking a bag, or suggesting what size backpack one should carry. Certainly in some cases, you must check it. I check a small bag with sharps, etc., and carry on my backpack that does fit within the requirements. I would say mine could be described as daypack size but hiking style.

My point was that IF people want to carry on their backpack, the best initial strategy is to measure the packed backpack and compare exactly to the posted requirements for each airline concerned. Then they will know better what their options are. At check-in, if the rules unexpectedly change, then they will have to cope.
 
I love this thread so much! It mixes poles on a plane with backpack size AND whether or not to check your bag!

If only someone had mentioned whether or not you need poles anyway!

Me: 34L Osprey (about 8/9 kg)
Never check it.
Buy cheap knife and poles once in Spain.

I like the security of having the bag above my head in the bin and I am frankly too impatient to wait around baggage claim!
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
This had been a great thread to read through.

My daughter (5'5") and I (6'4") have the same pack, currently, though men's and women's; large and small sizes. They're REI Flash 45's, definitely a bit cavernous. I'm looking to downsize mine but her's is still within the 22 x 14 x 9 that my airline states.

We're having to fly through Heathrow and I am a bit anxious after last summer's luggage backup there.

Does anyone have a good lead on a 30-35L-ish bag for a tall dude that still meets 22 x 14 x 9 requirement?
 
This is an issue I have been changing my mind about back and forth just about every day.

I have a 45L pack and am flying from the US. It for sure meets the requirements to carry on to my Delta flight from the US to Amsterdam. But for the KLM flight from Amsterdam to Madrid, I think might be too wide at the bottom of the frame. I would prefer to check it but I only have a little over an hour layover in Amsterdam so any delay out of the US will be a problem.

I have a foldable duffel bag big enough for my pack that I am thinking of bringing and if in Amsterdam they don’t let me take it on the plane I can just unfold the duffel, put my pack in it, and give them that.

I think it will be a game day decision for me what I actually do and which option I think has the greater risk.
 
I really do not like the idea of checking my bag. I did one Camino with checked luggage to carry poles with me to start, but now consider it not worth the extra fees and worries.

I challenged myself last year and was able to do CF with a Osprey Stratos 24L (pack list). Fitted perfectly in size as a Carry-on luggage item. I saw people with even slightly larger dimension backpacks getting to board planes without having to pay extra fees. Friendly airlines, I assume.

This year my airlines seem to have gotten extremely greedy. My tickets only allow a Personal Item (40 x 30 x 15 cm) without extra charge. Was shocked to see that when booking flights. Will challenge myself once more and start Camino Norte next month with my Osprey Daylite Plus 20L backpack. Fingers crossed.
 
Down bag (90/10 duvet) of 700 fills with 180 g (6.34 ounces) of filling. Mummy-shaped structure, ideal when you are looking for lightness with great heating performance.

€149,-
Like Dougfitz and others above, I've been travelling for many years. The airlines misplaced a bag once. They took three days to find it. For anything important, I now use carry-on only.
Just walked the Inglès, those three days would have completely stuffed my Camino. I carry a Deuter 32l, super comfortable, light, and pushes the Lufthansa bag limit by one cm. Weight limit is 8kg, I had a kilo to spare (spring!). Coming back the flight was full, they were taking bags at the gate. I got through, 5 out of 14 other pilgrims didn't. It delayed them at the other end, but no more - because those bags went straight into the hold.
Check your ticket, or online for the flight carry-on bag limits. As Madisv show's above, all airlines are different!
 
Although the risk of a lost bag in very small in my experience........
(Never lost one in 50+ years of flying on hundreds of flights)

I do carry on my pack. As someone else said, if it's too big as carry on luggage, then it's too big anyway!

But I just like the security of knowing I have all my gear with me, that took years to accumulate.

I use an Osprey Sirrus 34L. And I can fit all I need. clothes, meds, sleeping bag etc.
My wife who is somewhat smaller than me uses an Osprey 24L.

I do 'check in' a mailing tube, with poles. liquids, knife etc.
And maybe a couple of things that I can afford to 'lose' to make my pack lighter on the plane.

However.........

I check the carry on allowances and size/weight limitations for every flight I will take.
For example, I'm using 3 different airlines on my next Camino.
Some discount airlines have a smaller / lighter allowance.
As I'm generally using these on my return from Santiago.
I could check in my bag if I had to as a Plan B.
And I book a check-in luggage spot just in case anyway.
Hi Robo,

I had assumed the airline charges the same to check-in a mailing tube filled with poles, knife, etc. as for a full size rucksack. What has your experience been - same cost or not ?
 
St James' Way - Self-guided 4-7 day Walking Packages, Reading to Southampton, 110 kms
Hi Robo,

I had assumed the airline charges the same to check-in a mailing tube filled with poles, knife, etc. as for a full size rucksack. What has your experience been - same cost or not ?
Yes, usually the same cost.
On full service airlines it's included in the ticket price anyway.
On discount airlines hat I have used, it wasn't a high cost if booked ahead with ticket.

I understand for those travelling short haul within Europe though, and the cheap fares available, a checked in bag might be the same cost as the seat!
 
Thank you Robo,

unfortunately answer was as I expected more or less !

I would be flying from Dublin and the cost of checked baggage is approx. EURO 20 to 30 per item on normal airlines , e.g. Aer Lingus, Finnair, SAS, etc. And probably similar or even more on the so called low cost airlines - like Ryanair.

So, looks like I can't win - might as well just check-in the rucksack. Think of the time wasted at destination searching for really cheap poles, and being without tools that you may be used to and have confidence in - like Gerber tool or Swiss Army Knife, spork, etc.

Thank you for the so prompt reply to my question Robo
 

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