5 Tips For Checking Your Travel Backpack at the Airport

Depending on the type of trip we are taking, we sometimes prefer to use a backpack for air travel. Many times we will carry that backpack onboard the flight as a carry-on.  But for long haul flights, we sometimes choose to check our backpacks onto the airplane.  But travel backpacks are very different than suitcases or other standard luggage that is checked on an airplane because they aren’t exactly designed to hold up in the same way. And there are all those important fitting straps hanging off your backpack!  The last thing you need is for an important strap to tear up or a clip to be broken during transit.  Over the years of planning trips and using our checking our backpacks on airplanes, we have come to find out some essential tips for when you check your travel backpack.  Here are our top 5 tips for checking your travel backpack at the airport.  

1. Secure All Your Hanging Straps on Your Travel Backpack

A good travel backpack has a lot of straps.  And they are all quite important, as we discussed in our post “how to fit your travel backpack.”  So one thing to make sure of before passing your bags over to be checked by the airlines is to make sure there are no loose straps.

our backpacks sitting on chairs in airport ready for air travel
Our Mountainsmith travel backpacks are great, but sometimes it is more convenient to check them on the airplane!

This will not only help keep your bag from getting stuck in the belts, but it will keep from tearing the straps up in the process!  It also helps maintain the length of your straps when you pick up your pack at the baggage claim, so you don’t have to do as much readjusting.

Liz has really enjoyed having her Mountainsmith Backpack, and I travel with my Mountainsmith Lariat 65.  Our backpacks are important pieces of equipment that need to fit properly for our health, so the last thing we want is for our straps to be ruined.

Getting Ready to Fly, liz is securing her backpack straps and getting out important items before checking it on the airplane
Lots of hanging straps! Be sure to tie them all up before checking your travel backpack on the plane…or they might get torn up!

2. Tie Your Travel Backpack Shoulder Straps Together

This is a tip that a lot of people may overlook, but to me, this is an extremely important tip when checking your travel backpack. Let’s be honest, the crews in the back couldn’t care less about your bags. And they are used to moving mostly typical travel luggage, with handles and wheels.  But backpacks are unique.

Backpacks have a lot of hanging straps, including the two critical suspension straps for your shoulders.  And as we know, travel backpacks are very important pieces of equipment… that should be handled with care!

close up of travel backpack with shoulder straps tied together for safe travel on an airplane when checked baggage
Securing my travel backpack shoulder straps together makes one easy strap for airline baggage handlers to use!

I like to try and make their job a bit easier (and protect my travel backpack) by giving them one main strap to hold on to, rather than two.  This helps them move my pack to where it needs to go. I have seen that by doing this it keeps my strap at the length that I want them. That way once I get my bag at the baggage claim, I can get it and go and not have to go through a full-on adjustment of straps. This helps me out in case I might have to run to my next connection or mode of transportation.

3. Bring Electronics & Power Cords With You in Your Carry-On

Never check your electronics OR power cords. But sometimes at the airport, we may have to rush to check our bags and might forget about our electronics in our backpacks until the last minute. So having easy access to our main compartment is essential in getting our carry-on ready to travel. The u-shape design on our packs makes this so easy.

Josh on floor at airport check-in grabbing items out of his travel backpack before checking on a plane
We love our collapsible Mountainsmith Scream 25 bag – we can take valuables out of our travel backpacks when we check them and take the Scream as our carry-on.

At first, we were unsure about this design, but we soon come to love it because it is much easier to access our items throughout the bag and not mess up our packing! Also, our Mounatainsmith Scream 25 collapsible bag makes for a great carry-on bag. We can easily pull it out of the big backpack and stuff it with our electronics to take on the plane with us.

4. Buckle Your Waist Strap Around Your Backpack to Secure It for Air Travel

This tip is one we had to learn the hard way. During a  prior trip, we didn’t have the waist straps secure by wrapping it around the main part of the pack. We arrived at the baggage claim with a missing snap. This made the critical waist strap on the backpack useless.

Since then, we have been making sure that our waist straps are secure by latching them around to the main pack. Extremely important!

Travel backpack on floor at airport check-in with straps tied up and secure before checking on the plane for air travel
At the check-in counter, my travel backpack’s waist straps are secured by wrapping them around the back and buckled.

5. Secure All Zippers and Be Sure Important Items are Deep Inside the Big Compartment

Make sure that you do not have anything valuable (or simply important) in the top pouch our the outside pouch of your pack.  This will at least make it a little bit harder for anyone to get it out of your bag.

Also, make sure zippers are tucked under zipper hangover liner. If you have double zippers to a compartment, make sure they are all the way on one side & stuffed into the corner edge of the zipper liner — this will help keep zippers from being snagged and pulled open, with your contents falling out!

Liz going through all the pockets of her travel backpack and getting necessities out before checking on the airplane
Getting our travel backpacks ready to be checked on our long flight overseas!

Next time you travel with your pack and are thinking about checking it, make sure you use these tips to ensure you arrive at your destination with your pack and all of your straps.


Being Mountainsmith users and fans for years, we were ecstatic to begin working with them.  However, while we may receive occasionally free products to test and review, all opinions are strictly our own.


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