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Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure
Ice Raven is a partner site of Ravenlore Bushcraft and Wilderness Skills


Bardufoss Airport - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

If like me you live in a mild damp country like the UK then you are most likely to have to fly to a destination where you can enjoy truly cold, snowy conditions. From here, Scandinavia is my usual choice.

This presents an immediate challenge. How do I get all the equipment that I need to enjoy that location onto a plane without it costing an arm, a leg and possibly a kidney too.

It does require a little ingenuity and these are some of the tricks I have picked up along the way

First of all read very carefully all the information about baggage and restrictions to what you can carry. The last thing you want is to find yourself at the airport having to pay excess baggage charges or even worse, having equipment confiscated because they will not let it onto the plane.

Obvious things to pay attention to are stove fuels, fire-lighting materials, and sharp tools. Other less obvious items might be batteries, foodstuffs and liquids.

For example, the Lithium Poly power packs that I use to power my cameras in the cold were chosen because they were the maximum size I could carry on a plane without needing to apply for special permission. Having said that, they are unusual items in my baggage, so to help ensure that I can take them through security with a minimum of fuss I print out the information from the flight website and wrap it around the power packs with a rubber band for reference. These are specialised items and you cannot expect everyone to know where the regulation boundaries lie so a bit of documentation can go a long way.

Obviously, all sharp tools need to go into your checked baggage but make sure they are well wrapped up and not in a position to rupture your bags even with the most extreme baggage handling.

There is no use complaining that baggage handlers are too rough. They are busy people who don’t care what’s in your bag, to them it is a heavy item that needs to be moved from A to B as quickly as possible or the flight will be delayed and they will get it in the neck. I have seen my bags swung by their straps, hurled across the concourse and falling off ramps. It makes you wince but your bags may get a pounding on occasions so get used to it and pack accordingly.

The Luggage

The luggage you see here is the gear that two people needed for a weeks camping.

The big duffel bags are robust but make sure you tidy all the little side straps up with tape or you will see them being used instead of the main handle and 50lbs being swung on a thin strap could well rip your bag right open.

Make sure the baggage labels are attached to the main handles. The handlers tend to check the label before picking up the bag.

Fix any small tears in your bag before you travel, there and back. Gaffa tape is good for that and it’s wise to take some with you anyway.

A small digital luggage scale is a useful thing to take with you. You might know your luggage is below maximum weight on your outbound journey but is it the same on the return?

A 5 scale could save a lot of excess charges.

Pay very careful attention to the carry on luggage allowances. Your carry on luggage is a great way to get some of the small but heavy items onto the plane.

My camera gear is very heavy for it’s size and I don’t want it handled roughly so that is always in my hand luggage. Most airlines have size and weight restrictions. I have seen oversize bags being measured so I keep mine below the sizes but I have never had it weighed because I keep it on my back. Certainly make use of the allowed weight allowance but occasionally I have travelled with a small back pack weighing almost as much as one of my checked bags. The trick is to look casual and unencumbered with it.

Increasingly, many airlines now allow a second piece of cabin baggage. This used to be a “handbag” but became a “laptop bag” and these days is not really defined. Size is important again and sometimes there is a combined weight allowance for both bags, sometimes it is given separately. I use an old fishing bag which is great for carrying kit around the camp when I don’t want my back pack on. Pack it with heavy but small stuff again.

Another way you can transport a good amount of kit is in your pockets. Sure it will slow you down at security but they do not weigh the passengers getting on the plane do they? Wear your bulkiest coat as well. You can take it off while you are waiting for the plane and for the flight but getting it out of your luggage saves both space and weight. 

With all of the above, remember that liquids are now restricted on flights so that is still best in your checked baggage. Stove fuel is forbidden either way though. Even if your stove is empty, it needs to be flushed out so that the fuel does not smell, otherwise the kit they use for sniffing out explosives will sniff out you bag as well and it might not make it onto the plane.


The green duffel bags I use  are just the right size to pass for checked baggage. They are also big enough for me to get my toboggan into when it is rolled up. Once in the bag I can slacken the strap off so it fills one end and provides a tough shell that I can pack with more delicate stuff. It will still need padding but clothing and sleeping bags can be used for that.

Soft kit can be made less bulky with compression stuff bags but leave some smaller stuff loose to fill spaces  between the bags and stop the harder stuff rattling around and damaging it’s self inside the packs.

Some items are obviously singular in nature but if you have duplicate kit such as two cooking pots, try to pack them in different bags. If one bag gets lost you may still have enough gear in the other one and your cabin baggage to continue your trip.

Foodstuffs are something that we need to consider. Generally we head straight to a local supermarket on arrival for provisions but it can be a big unknown. What will they have in stock? Will they be open? Will they still be open if the flight is delayed?

It might be worth having at least some provisions with you. I usually carry a days worth of food or two days if I’m arriving on a weekend.

If you are taking food that is not in it’s original packaging, label it carefully, preferably in the local language as well. You don’t want to have to be trying to explain what the brown powder in the ziplock bag is while they are pulling on their rubber gloves.

Availability of fuel for stoves could be an issue. Take a stove that runs on a variety of fuels if you can and have a backup plan such as being able to cook on an open fire if that is allowed. The wood gas stoves that I use now run on compressed wood pellets (think eco cat litter). If I have enough weight allowance left on my bag I will fill a ziplock bag with a days worth of pellets just in case. It’s not volatile so should not present a problem at the airport.

Fire lighters are usually a “no no” on flights though, but I have carried the type made from cardboard impregnated with wax and never had a problem because they do not look or smell like fire lighters. What I usually do though is take them out of the wrapper that says they are fire lighters.

I use them as extra packing between loose bits in my kit. As such they just look like packing and never attract any attention. Cotton make up removers dipped in wax work well too. I also make rubber bands out of old inner tubes. Not only are they great for keeping your kit together, in a pinch they make excellent waterproof fire lighters as well.

Last but not least, make sure all your paperwork, tickets and passports are easily accessible at the airport but keep them in a waterproof bag around the camp. I usually have a second set printed off that I keep in a different place just in case. Each of my bags will have a copy of my flight information, including my name and address, in the outer pocket as well, just in case they become separated from their baggage labels.

When you get to your destination airport, take some time to fill all your water containers with water before setting out. You might as well start a little bit ahead of the curve on your camp admin. You’ll have enough to do just with setting up on your first night.

These are just a few simple suggestions to make your trip run a little smoother. I’m sure there are many thing I’ve forgotten, or not even thought of, but I hope some of that is useful to you when packing for your trip.

Safe journey.


Sub Zero Crew - Bushcraft UK

Unless noted otherwise, all photography, artwork and content on this site is copyrighted. © Gary Waidson 2022 All rights reserved

The Ice Raven Project promotes sustainable and low impact bushcraft and wilderness skills in Arctic and winter conditions. This includes the use of  tents, tarps  and snow shelters where possible. Fires are only used where safe and where use and collection of firewood will not damage the natural environment. We often travel to locations by public transport and then use snowshoes, sleds, toboggans and pulks to transport our equipment into the wilderness.