04 December 2008
Note: Many of these articles are very old, and although the technical information is still relevant the equipment mentioned may not be (for example a Stormy cooker was state of that art in 1995, but not in 2021).
Air travel with stoves is becoming increasingly difficult these days, and it’s not uncommon for climbers to have their MSR’s or gas stoves taken off them at departure – seriously effecting any trip to the developing world. If you have a new stove then you can get away with this, but if your stoves old then there’s no way you’re going to get it past check in.
You do have a few options though.
A clean fuel free stove offers 0% danger to an aircraft – meaning if your stove, fuel bottle or pump stinks of white gas, the you deserve to get your stove bumped off the flight. If it’s clean then you aren’t putting anyone in danger if you try and sidestep over the top and over officious staff.
The best way to clean everything is with good old Coke-a-Cola. Just pure this into fuel bottles and rinse around, or use it to submerge stoves or pumps (pump coke through it), in order to remove any fuel traces (it also works with piss bottles!). Once you’ve done this every part of the stove will be fuel free.
Once you’ve done this it’s time to…
First off you can just lie and tell them you don’t have a stove, which tends to work OK as the staff then feel like they’ve done their bit (like when they ask you if you have an aerosols in your baggage and you say no – even though 99% of people do). This approach works ok most of the time, and if it’s hidden down amongst a ton of crap then they’ll soon give up any inspection. Don’t try and take any kind of stove in your hand luggage as lying to security people, or trying to blag them is just asking for trouble.
If you’re taking this path then don’t try and push it and take fuel on board – including gas canisters – as this is dangerous and could put everyone at jeopardy!
Another option is to disguise your stove. This can be done by rapping duck tape around fuel bottles (or stickers) covering up any fuel logos and writing ‘Water’ on the outside. Tiny gas stoves can be stuffed inside other gear, like socks, and fuel pumps can be stuck in with your camera gear. In all cases everything needs to be clean and fuel free (see below). Stoves can be broken down and placed in several pieces of baggage
If your stove gear is new then you’re allowed to take it on board, so scrubbing it up (leave it overnight in coke), and putting it in a clear bag, could fool someone into believing it’s brand new.