How to Protect Your Backpack When Checking in at an Airport

Updated November 21, 2016

Travelling with a backpack is an exciting and simple way to see other parts of the world. Checking your backpack at the airport can be stressful because there is a risk of damage to the pack. If the backpack is packaged properly, however, you will be able to check your pack without fear of damage. There are two main ways to protect your backpack -- put it in a larger duffel bag or secure the protruding parts of the backpack with extra straps.

Fill your backpack with the items with which you will be travelling.

Place your backpack in a large duffel bag. Outdoor speciality stores also sell backpack carriers specifically designed to hold backpacks during travel.

Zip the duffel bag or backpack carrier (see Resources for an example of a backpack carrier) and secure the zippers with a TSA-approved lock, which you can find at stores that sell travel gear. This method should keep your bag secure during the airport baggage-check process.

Fill your backpack with the items with which you will be travelling. It is important to make sure the backpack is filled because the straps hold better to a backpack that has little extra fabric or room to move. There will be nothing between your backpack and the conveyor belts used to move luggage in airports.

Secure all the straps and buckles that are part of your pack. Allow as few free hanging items as possible. Tuck loose straps into zippered pockets or tie them to loop holes on the pack.

Pull protruding parts of the backpack, such as the shoulder straps and hip belt, toward the pack by tightening an extra strap around the pack. This prevents the pack from getting snagged on conveyor belts and damaging the pack. Purchase extra straps, such as webbing, at an outdoor speciality store (see Resources for an example). These will not come with your backpack. Two to three straps should be enough to secure the entire pack.

Use a square knot to secure each strap by crossing one end of the strap over another, as if you are tying your shoes. Then cross the straps in the opposite way. For example, if you have two ends named A and B, cross A over B the first time and B over A the second time. Pull the knot tight. Tuck the extra straps hanging off the knot under the secured part of the strap.


Many international airports offer to shrink-wrap luggage to prevent theft and increase security. This is a great option for a backpack. Domestic airlines often provide large plastic bags at no cost. Place a name and contact card on the outside of your backpack or duffel bag in case it gets lost. Many backpacks are too large to take as a carry-on, but check with the airline to be sure because carrying on your backpack will be safer for the pack and its contents.


There is no guarantee that TSA will search your luggage, but if they do, you might lose your lock. When using straps, understand that the straps might come loose during transit and the backpack could be damaged. If you are carrying on your backpack, do not pack any of the TSA prohibited items (see Resources).

Things You'll Need

  • Backpack carrier or large duffel bag
  • Straps
  • Transportation Security Administration (TSA) lock
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