If you’ve ever traveled by air, chances are you’ve had at least one friendly encounter with our Nation’s most competent and resilient aviation security force, the TSA. The sound of latex gloves snapping into place, followed by a deep gravelly voice letting you know that things are about to “get real” can be quite an experience.
Desperately wanting to avoid such situations, I take great precautions in both what and how I pack. So when it comes time to pack my metal detector for a trip through the airport, I follow 3 basic steps to avoid a date with “Big Ole’ Rodney” and his latex gloves.
Step 1: Metal Detector & Gear Breakdown
Breakdown your metal detector into as many pieces as possible. This includes removing the search coil, separating the shaft into sections, and removing the electronic control box and hand assembly. If the control box has batteries, I would suggest removing them and leaving them behind. You can purchase new batteries once you arrive at your final destination. I prefer to go this route versus being hassled over batteries in the security line.
However, if you use rechargeable batteries, or just don’t want to purchase new ones upon arrival, you are permitted to travel with them. Keep in mind that you will have to pack them in your carry-on baggage. Also, you’re required to keep batteries in their retail packaging, cover the ends with electrical tape, or put them in a plastic Ziploc bag to prevent short circuit.
Once you’ve broken down your detector, gather all of your accessories such as headphones, recovery tools, gloves, etc. and set to the side.
Step 2: Luggage and Packing
Depending on the duration of travel, you may choose to use a combination of carry-on and checked baggage to transport your gear. For carry-on luggage, check your airline’s guidelines for size and weight restrictions. A safe bet is to go with a bag that’s no larger than 20”x13”x8” and weighs no more than 40 lbs. after it’s packed.
Inside your carry-on, you will want to securely pack the electronic control box, headphones, search coils, and batteries (if you decide to pack them). Make sure to protect these components with either bubble wrap or by wrapping them with clothes. Try placing the components in-between clothes, in the middle of the suitcase.
Even though you might be tempted to use one of your recovery tools (i.e. metal probe) on a prying Toiletry Search Agent, please pack all of your recovery tools; along with the sectioned shaft and hand assembly, in your checked baggage.
If you travel frequently, you may want to invest in a hard carry case designed for your metal detector. For example, White’s offers a carrying case for several of its machines.
Step 3: Additional Material
In addition to your metal detector and gear, I would suggest keeping a copy of the owner’s manual inside each piece of luggage that contains metal detecting gear. If ever pulled aside and questioned (or your checked bag inspected), a picture is worth a thousand words. The manual will show them what your machine looks like, what it’s used for, and will help bolster your explanation of what’s inside your luggage!
Also, when it comes to answering TSA questions, refrain from using words like treasure, valuables, money, etc. to describe why you’re traveling with a metal detector. Just tell them that you like finding other people’s trash. In this situation, the less glamorous you make the hobby, the quicker you’ll get through the line. After all, who wants to talk to someone who just confessed to a more sophisticated version of dumpster diving?
What travel tips would you like to share?