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Backpacker Magazine – March 2012

Travel Like a Pro: Carry on Your Camp Kit + Must-have Medicines

TSA-approved camp kit carry-on items. Plus, meds you might need abroad.

by: Abbey Smith

Style PS Leatherman (Courtesy Photo)
Style PS Leatherman (Courtesy Photo)
SteriPEN Traveler (Courtesy Photo)
SteriPEN Traveler (Courtesy Photo)
Jetboil Zip (Courtesy Photo)
Jetboil Zip (Courtesy Photo)

Travel Like a Pro
More adventure travel tips for Backpackers
Carry on Your Camp Kit
Pare down your gear to fit a weekend-size pack (no larger than about 45 linear inches, the standard carry-on limit), and you can skip baggage-claim hassles. Key products: these TSA-friendly backcountry essentials.

At less than 4 inches, this bladeless Style PS Leatherman ($20; 1.6 oz.; is approved for carry-on luggage, but has eight stainless-steel tools including pliers, wire-cutters, scissors, a file, and tweezers. It’s TSA ready, but this tool still cuts it in the backcountry.

Water purification
SteriPEN Traveler 3-in-1 ($50; 5.7 oz.; uses UV light to kill illness-causing bugs in questionable drinking water from hostel faucets or wilderness streams. It also fits in small-mouth water bottles, and uses easy-to-find AA batteries. Read a full review of SteriPEN’s USB-rechargeable version, the Freedom.

TSA is clear: Stoves are OK, fuel is not (print a copy of the regs from to hand-carry through security). Research canister availability on forums such as; if you can buy fuel in-country, pack a compact canister cookset like Jetboil’s Zip, shown, ($70; 13.8 oz.; If canisters aren’t available, consider a wood-burner like Vargo’s Titanium Hexagon Wood Stove ($60; 4.1 oz.;

Pack These Meds
Supplement your first-aid kit with scrips to self-treat.*

» Ciprofloxacin (Cipro) A broad-spectrum antibiotic that treats serious traveler’s diarrhea (bloody or accompanied by fever) and urinary tract and bacterial skin infections. “Expect to see an improvement, but not full resolution of symptoms quickly,” says travel specialist Arthur Dover, M.D. “Cipro may kill an infection, but inflammation takes time to heal.”

» Azithromycin This oral antibiotic may cure fever-causing upper respi-ratory infections and bronchitis (but not colds, influenza, or viruses). It’s also effective against diarrhea that doesn’t improve with Cipro.

» Ibuprofen Prescription-strength doses (800 mg or more) of this OTC painkiller are as effective as prescription medications like Vicodin or Tylenol with codeine for treating pain, but won’t reduce alertness.

» Mupirocin Applied as an ointment, this antibiotic cream treats superficial bacterial skin infections that are swollen, crusty, and/or red.

*See a travel doctor pre-trip for prescriptions and self-treatment instructions. Seek medical attention if symptoms don’t improve.

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Apr 13, 2012

I'm a physician, and I can tell you that Azithromycin (AKA Zithromax AKA Z-pack) doesn't do much that Cipro won't do, except for cover mycoplasma which is rare. If you can only choose 2, you're better off with Ciprofloxacin or Levofloxacin plus Fluconazole -- will pretty much cover almost any bacteria or fungus you might encounter out in the wilderness. At least, that's what I always carry, and it hasn't let us down yet.... (famous last words)

Epic Steve
Mar 28, 2012

Lots of comments here about "approved" items not being allowed on the plane. Simple solution: Quit bringing so much stuff in your carry-ons! I can't stand it when I see all these people in line ahead of me with wheeled luggage and multiple bags that (IMHO) should've been checked luggage or mailed ahead. This slows down the boarding and deplaning processes IMMENSELY. I bring a very small backpack that fits under the seat in front of me. That's it. No exceptions, ever. If everyone did this, air travel would be much less of a hassle. It is after called "CARRY-on" luggage... not "wheel-on" or "drag-on" or "struggle-on" luggage. Sheesh.

Mar 14, 2012

Make no assumptions about anything being OK. I had a small backpacking stove and two empty never-used fuel canisters in my checked bag. I was called off the plane before take off, and my items were at the ticket desk. Missed the flight.

Mar 01, 2012

Good review! This is truly the type of article that needs to be shared around the web. Sad on the search engines for not positioning this blog post higher!

Feb 22, 2012

I am a cop at Newark Airport in NJ and that leatherman will be taken by TSA. Even though things we purchase for travel may state its TSA approved it will not be ex. TSA approved locks- they will be cut off by TSA

Feb 21, 2012

I am not sure about packing Cipro and Z-pak's...Both of those can have systemic consequences for overdosing, not the least of which is kidney failure. I would not do this unless you have someone in your party who REALY KNOWS what they are doing, or have contact with a stateside doc that you can call or email your symptoms too. They are prescription after all, and finding some doc-in-a-box in Cozumel may do more harm than good!

Feb 21, 2012

Remember the good old days when millions of people traveled by air, carried essentials in their 2+ carry-on bags, when loved ones could wait with you at the gate and meet you there upon your return, when the only reason you checked your backpack with a week's worth of gear was for convenience, when you used your Swiss Army knife to cut up the in-flight meal, when the back half of the plane all carried lighters (ok I don't miss the second-hand smoke), and when the biggest hurdle in the airport was OJ jumping a suitcase?

Feb 20, 2012

I had a Leatherman Micra: taken off me in Chicago a few years ago. And yes, Zithromax (Z-Pac) is an excellent antibiotic!

Feb 20, 2012

I had a Leatherman Micra: taken off me in Chicago a few years ago. And yes, Zithromax (Z-Pac) is an excellent antibiotic!

Feb 19, 2012

Michigan sells the pocket knives and Leatherman tools that are collected by the TSA. This is the web site. If you visit it today you have a chance to see the groups of knives for sale this date. Don't see any Leatherman tools this week, but believe me I have seen them sold in large groups on this site. It follows that R is right, it's a gamble so be prepared to lose it to the State of Michigan.

Feb 19, 2012

I also agree with many of the tips and suggestions noted above especially the ones about TSA agents and agents in other countries. Each country has different rules about what is "allowed". I had to throw a perfectly good tennis racket in the trash in Mexico one year and they always take my small surgical scissors, but not the needle driver or forceps (maybe they help outfit local clinics). Its all a gamble.

Jim Murphy
Feb 18, 2012

I just finished a 7-day trip in the Cardamom Mountains of Cambodia. Bringing Ciprofloxacin is wise, but do not forget to bring Metronidazole (Flagyl) as adjunct treatment.

Feb 17, 2012

a)yes having a printed copy of the rules per the site is a must. Ask for a supervisor and if that fails, ask for a manager. If it is TSA compliant, and the bladeless tool is less than 7 inches (their rules), wait on that manager, get names and worst case go to the above mentioned site to complain (names, times, specifics and quotes). Try to discount attitude and stick to facts (not I feel as if ...). You get more flys with honey than with salt.

Works for me.

Feb 17, 2012

Last summer I flew fm Burlington, VT to Seattle, WA to do some backpacking. I brought my Jetboil (but no fuel)packed in my checked bag. "Has this stove been used?", asked TSA. When I replied, "Yes," I was told it couldn't fly. Luckily I had time to walk to a Post Office and mail it back home so I didn't lose it. Incidently, a jar of unopened peanut butter in my carry on bag got rejected and I had to go back and put it in my checked bag.

Feb 17, 2012

I've had TSA agents that wouldn't let my collapsible trekking poles on the plain. Then when I went to check them as baggage it was within 45 minutes of the flight so I had to either ditch my poles or reschedule my flight. Ugh

Eric B.
Feb 17, 2012

The listed antibiotics are good ones to have , especially in 3rd word nations where tap water is ALWAYS suspect.

In addition anti-amoebic antibiotics are absolute lifesavers (don't ask...) and to avoid recurring amoebic dysentery over the years use Diloxanide right after finishing the first courst of anti-amoebic antibiotics. Diloxanide (diloxide) will get rid of amoebic cysts that can linger in the GI tract and cause "ameobiasis" years later.

Not every internal medicine physician will know about this drug but those specialising in tropical diseases likely will.

Feb 17, 2012

From the Leatherman site:
Click the red "TSA Compliant" Logo on the left side and this message pops up:

While the Leatherman Style PS complies with TSA regulations (March 2009) and has been tested in airports around the world for travel-approved tools (visit for full details), please remember that ultimately discretion is up to each individual TSA agent. Regulations may vary from country to country.

Feb 17, 2012

I totally agree with the above posts regarding the TSA. I have argued over hemostats, small tools and most recently was told that travel sized liquid bottles must be "Labeled" I have been told that "It does not matter if it complies with the rules, I don't like it" (Kansas City)and had another Agent drop my laptop and when I made an issue, she told me "If you want to make your plane, you better shut up". (Denver) In the end, checking a bag, or sending key items to your destination is much better. This year, we sent one person by truck with a load of gear to avoid the hasseles. Maybe the TSA will get the idea that they are driving away traffic, but I will not hold my breath.....

Feb 17, 2012

I fly a couple of times a month at least and recently made it through TSA with my Leatherman Super Tool (2 2.5 inch blades). I didn't even realize I had it in my bag until I went to unpack at my destination. I have on two other occasions had TSA find either a knife or my leatherman - in which case I apologized and quickly ran it back to my car. In the case of the leatherman mentioned in this article - I think it will all depend on the TSA agents you encounter and what their interpretation of the rules are.

Feb 17, 2012

The black box warning for Cipro resulting in acute Achilles tendon ruptures is in a subset of patients that have used corticosteroids (currently or in the past) NOT all people. Eric

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