A common question from traveling photographers is can they bring their tripod or monopod on-board flight as a carry on item. As Flying With Fish has not covered this topic in a few years, I figured it was a good time to bring it up again, as the uncertainty photographers face seems to surface with significant regularity.
Traveling with camera gear can be stressful for photographers. Trying to pack all your equipment into a single legal carry on bag to avoid the perils of checking equipment is a challenge, and one piece of gear many photographers do not like to leave home without is their tripod or monopod. For those seeking to bring it all on the plane, rest assured, in the United States the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) allows photographic tripods and monopods as carry on. The only stipulation from the TSA is that the tripod or monopod not exceed the maximum carry on limits, and either fit in the overhead or under the seat below.
Globally, for the most part, tripods and monopods are allowed as carry-on. When I travel with a tripod, monopod or light stand, it is almost always attached to the outside of my bag, and I have had virtually no issues in the United States, England, France, Japan, Hong Kong, Mainland China, The Netherlands, Germany, South Korea, Canada, etc. The only place I have experienced a real issue was in Italy, and that was cleared up quickly and I was on my way.
In the TSA in the U.S., and Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) in Canada allow tripods and monopods as carry on as they are deemed “photographic equipment.” As photographic equipment, the agencies do not want the liability of force checking these items. The TSA does state that the items may be subject to additional screening or not allowed on board if the items alarm and of course “the final decision rests with the TSA on whether to allow any items on the plane.”
Should you have a problem, you can show the TSA their carry on allowances for tripods and monopods from your smart phone here – http://1.usa.gov/PPypLz
For your sports folks, just remember this, although the TSA allows a six-foot metal extendable tube to be allowed on board, with a small spike in the foot, because it is photographic equipment, does not mean you are allowed to bring on your lacrosse stick or pool cue. The TSA states that “Sports equipment that can be used as a bludgeon (such as bats and clubs) is prohibited in the cabin of the plane and must be transported in your checked baggage,” so try and avoid bludgeoning anyone with your monopod while flying.