by Marco Wolf
Travel is a wonderful way to learn new things about people and places, but its preparation can create anxiety. This is especially the case if your trip to the unknown includes bringing your most precious and valuable kite gear. Matters get even more uneasy when you leave your gear with an airline stranger at the check in counter – hoping for the best until your arrival!
I felt this anxiety on my first kite trip to Union Island to the Grenadines in 2014, but since have traveled to many global kite locations including South Africa, the Caribbean, Morocco, and some European destinations. Over time I have learned to pack my gear in anticipation for some rough transportation handling. At this point I have packing down and it now takes less than than 30 minutes to pack my kite gear. I would have welcomed any suggestions on packing for my first kite trip in 2014, and therefore, I want to share an easy way to pack your gear. Regardless how well I thought I was prepared, setbacks happened, thus I continued to refine my process. See my latest reason here for adding more padding?
I have two large travel bags for kite gear (depending on the board size), but the bag I prefer is a NeilPryde 165 (with rollers). The bag has integrated padding and feels generally solid. An important feature is zipper protection at places where the zipper is likely to slide along transport belts on its way into the plane. There are many other bags available with similar benefits.
In regards to travel with gear, people are generally worried about overage charges on large gear not specifically labeled golf equipment. Though, in my experience airlines care less about what’s written on the bag. Personally I fly Delta Air Lines, who has simplified their travel sizing in recent years, which makes checking my gear easy. Kite gear bags count like any other bag if you stay under 50lbs regardless of size (within limits of course).
I take advantage of their loyalty programs (Amex Credit Card*) and get to fly with two free checked bags. I put my harness (hard back) and clothing into a second checked bag. Please check with your airline as their policies change often and may differ depending on the destination.
Pack for 2 kites, 1 or 2 boards, 2 bars, pump, and wetsuit!
You will need: Padding, painter’s tape, foam noodles for your board, and a scale to stay under 50lbs.
My 30 minute packing routine!
- Empty the bag and move all tightening straps aside.
- Add a bottom layer to the bag before you begin packing if your bag is insufficiently padded. This can be a large piece of cardboard or bubble foil. Below, I’m using a layer of surf board padding that came with one of my bags. Anticipate an attack from all sides during transport.
- Prep your board(s) for travel: Remove fins from your board(s) and store with screws in a ziplock bag. If you are traveling with one twin tip, you can leave the foot straps on, but with two boards, I recommend removing the straps from the bottom board.
- Pad the edges of your board! I’m using 2 Lowe’s pipe insulation (foam noodles) because it comes pre-cut and is inexpensive ($1.70 per noodle). I cut 4 pieces with a box cutter to fit the all of the sides around the board. These usually last for many trips and don’t have to be bought again. Once these are cut roughly to the size for the four board sides, use painters tape to attach the noodles to your board’s edges. Duck tape is hard to remove from the noodles and can tear them. Take the roll of tape with you to do the same for your return and make sure to bring a screw driver if you bring a twin tip (perhaps a multi-tool).
- Place the board into your bag and make sure nothing can push into your board from underneath. I did not remove my WOO holder once and it made a permanent and ugly impression into the bottom of my surf board. I thought a towel would be enough to protect, but this was not the case. So, if you store board to board, no obstacles should be between. You can put the board into a surf sleeve for additional protection and you can also use it for daily handling at the destination.
Next, add your kites: Either stretch two kites out next to each other or keep them folded up and add them length wise. I prefer to take them out of their original kite bags and distribute them through the entire bag evenly. You can now add other items, I recommend to put bars and pump in separate bags when adding on top of the kites.
I use compression bags to stow pump and bars as I can use them for my daily moving of kites at the destination. They are also lighter than your regular kite bags. Lastly, close the tightening straps and tighten sufficiently. As a word of caution, I always make sure my kites are not exposed to the zipper. TSA will open your bag and may not be careful when closing. This can result in a zipped in kite. I often use my wetsuit as extra layer between zipper and kites.
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