Flying With Fuels
The backpacking aficionado loves to dream of exotic
locations for their next tramp. The reality of having to deal with
flying with your backpacking stove may seem more like a nightmare, though.
Ok, I'll admit it: for a long time I was under the impression that you could
fly with some fuels like denatured alcohol, Esbit, and butane
Recently, though, a real saint of a backpacker waded though the government
regulations database to set the record straight.
You can neither carry on nor check any baggage containing backpacking
fuels. There is one exception made for less than 16 fluid ounces of
alcohols containing 30% or more water. This means that even potable
alcohols like Everclear (100% ethanol) are prohibited. While you could cut
Everclear 30% with water to make it legal or use rubbing alcohol (70% isopropyl
alcohol, 30% water), these fuels are less than satisfactory.
The airlines are required to post the following notice:
Federal law forbids the carriage of hazardous materials aboard
aircraft in your luggage or on your person. A violation can result in five
years' imprisonment and penalties of $250,000 or more (49 U.S.C. 5124).
Hazardous materials include explosives, compressed gases, flammable liquids and
solids, oxidizers, poisons, corrosives and radioactive materials. Examples:
Paints, lighter fluid, fireworks, tear gases, oxygen bottles, and
radio-pharmaceuticals. There are special exceptions for small quantities (up to
70 ounces total) of medicinal and toilet articles carried in your luggage and
certain smoking materials carried on your person.
The fine is more than enough to scare me off from trying to
skirt the law. But short of resorting to cooking over a fire (ugh), what
can a backpacker do?
1) Hazmat code does not prohibit the mailing of butane canisters,
denatured alcohol, or esbit by USPS Parcel Post (ground). You could mail
your fuel to yourself a week in advance. Address the package to Your Name
c/o general delivery at the nearest PO to your destination. Having your
arrival date on the package and/or calling the PO helps to keep the clerks from
getting confused. The postal regulations require that they hold mail
addressed to general delivery for at least 10 days. Make sure you follow the ORM-D code for shipping these items; see your local post office for details.
2) You could track down the nearest outfitter or
hardware store to your destination and
pick up some fuel when you got there. This is probably the easiest thing
3) If traveling overseas, find out the local names for backpacking
fuel. There is a link to a comprehensive list of fuel names around the
world in the blue sidebar on this page.
|It's a real hassle to make arrangements for your fuel before heading to the airport, but it has to be done.
Carrying hazardous materials will subject you to a possible $250,000 fine and/or five years in prison. Don't take the chance.
The only acceptable fuel is 16 fluid ounces or less of not more than 70% alcohol by volume. Though this will work in a pinch, the high water content will significantly lower the heat output of an alcohol stove. You could demonstrate this at home by burning rubbing alcohol in your home made alcohol stove.