Traveling overseas is a lot more complicated than it used to be (some would say more dangerous too…) Not only are the counter and security lines longer and slower… but your choices in “approved” travel gear seems to diminish with each passing day. Read on to learn about the 10 must-have items for your airport go-bag.
Airline, TSA, DHS rules and regulations are changing daily. And this problem is only compounded when you leave the United States–
Consider the additional scrutiny brought on by the security officials in other countries… and you better make sure the gear that you are carrying abides by the S.O.P. (Standard Operating Procedure) of the nation(s) you are visiting.
Be be prepared to have your gear confiscated…and even yourself detained! Something I’ve experienced first hand.
Being asked to “Please step aside” or… told to “Please come with us.” can put a real crimp in your travel plans — causing you to board late and miss flights altogether.
It can be rather embarrassing when it happens in front of your family… and even more so in front of a long line of strangers, who are left wondering “What’s this shady character up to?”
What’s more– it can be a sizable hit to your wallet when they confiscate an expensive piece of gear that you’ll never see again.
Every officer and agent is different. What may fly with one will not with the other.
So why risk it by flying under assumptions. Be smart and plan accordingly. Don’t ruin yours and your family’s trip before it even gets a chance to get started.
With that in mind, let’s dive into the 10 must-have items for your airport go-bag… along with a few security considerations.
10 Must-Have Items For Your Airport Go-Bag Video From Coach Helder
Item #1: Your Backpack
Your choice in backpack can render most of your equipment utterly useless…
Here’s what I mean…
I have noticed that prepared travelers have some key items on them while traveling. However, their carrying equipment choices render the access to this gear useless.
Their gear is either stowed away and inaccessible at a time of need or thrown into a pack. Without knowing exactly where the piece of gear that you need is and having that pack attached to you at all times renders your gear useless.
Which is why I recommend you get yourself a backpack or ruck that has good staging areas for each piece of your gear.
- The more compartmentalized that your gear is, the easier it will be for you to get it when you need it. With proper practice you can always get to the item that you want quickly.
- You also want your pack to be small so that it fits under the seat in front of you. Stowing my bag in the above compartment is never an option for me. I want to have access to my pack at all times. I even take it to the head with me when I am on the plane.
- Also, the more streamlined your backpack is the less that you will standout. The bad guys tend to survey the area. No need to look like “Tactical Tom” and put yourself on the radar before it is deemed necessary.
- You also want to have room in your travel go bag for your comforts. Items such as food, headphones, books, hard drives, tooth brush, etc… are all items that have to neatly fit in my bag while I travel. Even the size of my Macbook was an issue when deciding on a travel go bag.
Find out what additional gear you will need and account for that when choosing a pack.
Item #2: Water Purifier
Let’s forget about your water needs at an airport for a moment.
Let’s focus on your final destination — the fact that you could be arriving in strange, foreign lands.
These countries may not be foreign to us in a regular sense but they are certainly foreign to our digestive systems. Having a water purifier is not just for emergency situations but I also use it often for everyday needs while traveling.
I stay in hotels and apartments while traveling overseas. If trusted bottled water is not available at these locations, I go right to my water purifier for my water supply needs.
Make sure that you get a good water purifier, not just a filter.
We focus our thinking on emergency situations but this is good practice even if just on vacation.
We work hard and when we get time off we want to enjoy it. There are fewer worse things that having a stomach virus while on vacation.
It’s difficult to enjoy the sights when your only view is from the bathroom toilet.
Item #3: Tactical Flashlight
Tactical flashlights are built with the purpose of illumination but… they also have a self defense application.
(Remember, throughout this travel process you are basically disarmed.)
When on the go, all you have on you are the contents of this travel go bag.
The material that it is built from, the position that it is designed to be held in and it’s light pattern selection all have combative use in mind.
Having a good tactical flashlight gives me a bit more confidence in my readiness while traveling. I practice often with my tactical flashlights. I get as versatile as I can with my training so that I gain options in real world scenarios. Where and how your flashlight is carried must be addressed in your personal practice.
The best part of being well versed with a tactical flashlight is that no one will look at you twice for carrying a flashlight in your pocket. But with the proper training you have one heck of a self defense tool that can save your life!
Item #4: Backpack Body Armor
Even people with similar lifestyles to mine looked at me a bit cross-eyed when I decided to add body armor to my backpack. But look no further than recent events for validation of it’s importance–
A few days ago there was an active shooter situation in the FLL airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. One of the shooting survivor’s recanted the following:
“I felt something hit my back,” he said speaking to CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “It was only later when I went to the bathroom to check myself out that the bullet had entered my backpack, hit my laptop and then later when I gave my backpack over to the FBI for investigation they found the bullet in the pocket of my backpack.”
Let’s just say that my friends have since changed their minds.
In the FLL airport shooting, the bullet luckily ricocheted and got lodged in his laptop. Things could have been a lot worse if the bullet were a direct hit.
I realize that it is troublesome that we have to add this type of gear to our preparedness but that doesn’t make it any less viable. Body armor has changed a great deal since my days as a active-duty U.S. Marine.
Current backpack body armor choices are ultra-light, fit perfectly in standard backpacks and best of all for me… have become affordable.
I chose my current backpack body armor because it’s military spec & fits perfectly in my airport travel go bag. Body armor is a personal item. You need to keep your needs in mind but you also have to make sure that it fits well in your backpack.
Luckily, body armor comes in many shapes and sizes. Get the best that you can afford and be careful with all the knock-offs available. The last thing that we want from our preparedness effort is a false sense of security.
Item #5: Tactical Pen
Before I bought my first tactical pen, I traveled with a thick pen having as a self defense item. A well built pen can cause an amazing amount of damage when used and deployed from a reverse-grip position.
And once I held my first, aircraft grade aluminum pen, I knew I had a serious piece of self defense gear in my hand. As with all the gear that I reference here today… Practice & then practice some more with the gear that you plan to travel with. This goes 10 fold if you plan on utilizing it for self defense.
I own a few different tactical pens. They all have good and bad points. One thing that I want you to keep in mind is that the more “tactical” that the pen looks, the more scrutinized that you will be by airport security as well as law enforcement.
If your tactical pen looks like something out of Star Wars, it’s probably not a good idea to have it in your travel bag or pocket. In my airport travel go bag, I carry a tactical pen that doesn’t have a lot of options. But… It looks like a black pen and nothing more. I can carry it in my pocket and even while in the Middle East, no one looks at it twice.
Item #6: Paracord
Serious Survivalists never underestimate the value of basic cordage.
Whether I’m camping or preparing gear for SHTF scenarios, I can never have enough paracord.
The more pioneering skills that I learn, the more valuable that paracord becomes to me. I can fix my travel gear using paracord & I can use it to make field expedient handcuffs on the fly.
Paracord is light and packs easily.
Most of us have paracord bracelets, belts, necklaces and other gadgets made from paracord. But when you need fast access to paracord, having a few feet on extra cordage in your travel bag is always a good idea.
Item #7: Small Dry Bag
My travel bag certainly has some stories that it can tell. It has had everything from wine & beer spilled all over it, to dogs peeing on it. This is just while at the airport!
To be honest, the dog urinating on my bag was not my fault but I do take credit for a few of alcohol spills… One thing that made these incidents a bit more bearable (besides club soda and free cologne samples) was my dry bag.
I keep a small dry bag in my travel go bag with some incidentals and tech gadgets in it. Anything can happen while traveling so it is a smart idea to protect your sensitive gear from the elements that may render them unserviceable.
I keep gear that needs to remain dry in my dry bag. My gear remains protected from bad weather conditions on the tarmac or even worse scenarios that may occur while traveling overseas.
The dry bag is also good for trapping smells.
Food & used under garments have also been relocated to my dry bag while traveling. There are many ways to bring unwanted attention to yourself; strange smells coming from your go bag is definitely one of them. In a pinch, even ziplock bags can help the cause. They are not ideal as a dry bag but certainly better than nothing.
Item #8: Spork
The sporks I use are made from titanium.
This adds to their super light weight but also make them hypoallergenic.
It may not sound like a big deal but I have issues trusting hotel & restaurant staff at certain places that I have stayed. Let’s just say that I have seen the staff do things or not do things that would make your stomach churn.
I use my spork in airports, hotels & even restaurants while traveling in certain places.
Let’ face it, with the amount of germs floating around any International airport, it is good practice to use your own utensils whenever possible. Your immune system gets taxed enough while we travel. Add in the stress from varied reasons and we open ourselves up to getting sick. Any additional germs picked up from utensils left out in the open, countless fingers rummaging through them… and you can see why a spork is a good piece of gear to have with you.
Item #9: Electrical Tape
If you spent any amount of time in the military, you know the endless applications of duct tape.
It repairs gear, builds temporary structures and many field expedient footballs have been constructed with the use of it.
I used to travel with duct tape in my airport travel go bag. But while in Frankfurt Germany, I got a roll of duct tape confiscated and I was questioned privately for a couple of hours.
I haven’t had duct tape in my travel bag since. My replacement? Electrical tape.
It has similar applications to what the duct tape offers and has a smaller profile. I have had a roll in my travel bag for the last 3 years and I have yet to have security officers take a second look.
Item #10: Ferro Rod
Everyone is aware that matches & lighters are illegal on a plane.
As a U.S. Marine, we carried Zippo lighters in our pockets. The Zippo lighter was as much a part of our EDC as were our dog tags. I would go through airport security while heading home on a 96 or even a 72 hour pass to visit the family. Then I would go through the detectors after placing my keys & Zippo in the tray and would have my items handed right back to me. I would board the plane and all was good.
Well, things have changed…
So if you want to be prepared and have access to some type of fire starter, carry a small ferro rod.
It is incredibly lightweight and blends well with the pack. I use various ferro rod necklaces and like to show them as a necklace to whomever is inspecting my travel bag. It can be used with my spork in an emergency and causes no harm to myself nor anyone around me.
I realize that it is cliche and even a bit corny but when I needed to decide on whether or not to add a ferro rod to my airport travel go bag I think of the movie; Castaway. Yup, I usually secure the rod in the internal molle straps right then and there.
I keep other items in my travel bag that I consider staples. But I’m continually testing and reviewing gear. When I find an item that works better for me, my skill sets and the situation at hand, I upgrade my travel go bag accordingly.
I suggest you do the same.
Also, having cool gear is awesome but there is a caveat…You need to know how to use it and use it well!
Even if it is the most expensive, tactical, SEAL approved piece of gear in the world, it is still useless unless you know how to deploy it. Get familiar with each piece of your gear. Train with your gear in light and dark situations. Use that gear while you are freezing and when you are sweating your butt off.
The more that your gear becomes a part of you, the greater your chance of survival using it becomes.
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