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Can You Bring an EDC Knife on a Plane? Yes — if You Check It

We know you want to bring your precious blade with you on travel, and you can if you follow these guidelines.

young man picking luggage from conveyor belt in airport
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For many everyday carry enthusiasts, a pocket knife is an essential, necessary part of any loadout — so much so that some won't go anywhere without one. While incredibly useful for numerous everyday tasks, knives do come with some baggage. After all, they're not just tools; they can also be used as weapons and have been for thousands of years.

There are some occasions and activities in which you might want to reconsider bringing a knife at all — or at least be careful of how you choose to bring your knife along.

One of the major ones is air travel. And while the USA's TSA (Transportation Security Administration) has brought the hammer down on safety ever since 9/11, you can actually bring a knife on a plane — if it's in your checked luggage.

There are no knives that are OK for carry-on

Let's get this out of the way as clearly as we can. Under no circumstances should you try to bring a knife through any TSA security checkpoint on your person. End of story. The TSA has very strict guidelines regarding any and all sharp objects, and not for no reason. Essentially, it boils down to this: if it's sharp and useful, you're not allowed to bring it with you on a plane.

At the very least, trying to bring a knife through a TSA security checkpoint will get that knife confiscated. However, the surrounding circumstances and the appraisal of the agents (and potentially law enforcement personnel involved) could lead to detainment — and you could even be arrested and charged.

What about multi-tools (and other EDC)?

But multi-tools aren't knives, you might say. Yes, that's technically true. But the TSA's guidelines apply to anything with a sharp edge, and that includes any blade (or sharp implement) that might be attached to, you guessed it, a multi-tool.

Furthermore, the rules are up to the interpretation of whatever TSA officer you happen to be dealing with. If your multi-tool (or any other implement) has an awl (a pointed tool traditionally used to pierce holes in leather), a saw, large scissors (those under four inches long are considered okay), a gut hook (used for fishing purposes), etc, it's going to be at risk of confiscation.

And if that happens, you're not going to get it back. If the TSA is playing a game of better-safe-than-sorry, so should you — just don't try and bring it along... unless you plan to do it within the TSA's guidelines.

A convenient work-around: Just check it

You're not entirely out of luck. There's a very simple means of bringing your favorite bladed tools along with you whenever you fly: stashing them in a checked bag.

Because the bags are taken by airline agents and put through separate TSA security checks and not returned to you again until you reach your destination, the rules for what you can stash are different.

For instance, you can't bring alcohol with you through a TSA security checkpoint on your person or in a carry-on. You can, however, put a bottle of booze in your checked luggage. The same goes for knives, tools, and anything other everyday carry implements with sharp edges on them. This includes corkscrews and box cutters, even ice axes, meat cleavers, swords and throwing stars (you can see the full list here).

Even if you do bring your knife along with you to wherever you travel, you're also still at the mercy of the laws local to that area. You might successfully fly with your favorite automatic OTF knife to California, but if you're carrying it around with you are breaking the law, and running the risk of escalating whatever interactions you may have with the local police. Make sure you know the local laws before trying to bring your knife on a trip.

xray of a suitcase packed with clothing

International travel is especially tricky

Just as you should know the local laws when traveling between states, that's doubly true for international travel. Customs, both in the US and when entering other countries, functions much like an extra layer of security, and you're required to make certain declarations — ranging from foodstuffs to automobiles and tons in-between — when traveling into other countries and when returning home. And, generally, the rules for what you can bring in and out are even stricter than those upheld by the TSA.

This is all to say that, not only should you know what you can and can't bring with you, but it may just be better not to try and bring your knife along with you on international travel at all, even in a checked bag — unless you're absolutely certain that no trouble will come of it. Just like local travel between states, the risk of being caught with a bladed tool when going through customs can be as light as a slap on the wrist or as severe as indefinite detainment. And that's a pretty hefty risk vs. reward situation.

TSA-friendly EDC Tools

While the above hopefully serves as an informative wake-up call, it does seem a bit ho-hum and kind of disheartening. If you're still determined, however, we've got one last piece of advice: skip the sneakiness, rule-bending and potentially extensive research and instead pick up some everyday carry gear that was made specifically with travel in mind.

Plenty of big-name brands in the knife and multi-tool space have already decided to deal with travel guidelines in their own way, usually by crafting a tool (or tools) designed to fall within the TSA's strict guidelines — meaning you can travel with them without having to worry yourself at all. Below, we've gathered a few of our favorites that you can pick up and bring right through that TSA security checkpoint without fear of getting yourself into trouble.

Editor's Note: There's always the chance, no matter how small, that even a fully-TSA-compliant multi-tool could be confiscated; there's just no way around it so long as there's a human element.

Gerber Shard Keychain Multi-Tool

Gerber Gear amazon.com

Victorinox Jetsetter Swiss Army Knife

Victorinox swissarmy.com

Leatherman Style PS Multi-Tool

Leatherman leatherman.com

The James Brand Halifax Keychain Multi-Tool

The James Brand thejamesbrand.com

Gerber Multi-Plier 600 Bladeless Multi-Tool

Gerber Gear gerbergear.com
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