Can You Take a Metal Detector on a Plane?


Metal detecting when you’re on vacation is a fun way to get outdoors and try detecting on some new territory. I started wondering how to get my normal collection of gear from point A to point B using the airlines, so let’s talk about that.

You can bring a metal detector on a plane as checked baggage according to the TSA website. Airlines around the world can provide specific guidance, too. There are also rules that apply to metal detecting accessories. Here are the specifics about taking your gear with you from the TSA website.

If the TSA is not applicable to you or you’re not sure, check with your airline. Also, please note that this topical summary is not official guidance. You should always check the TSA website and the airline for the most recent guidance, as it may change from time to time.

airline check-in line
You did your research, now check-in, and enjoy your metal detecting vacation!

What can you take on a plane?

Metal Detector:

TSA gives it a double question mark! “Because of the size limitations of overhead bins and space under seats, this item should be transported in checked bags.”

That said, if you have batteries in the detector, see the section on batteries below.

Dry Batteries

This applies to typical non-lithium dry batteries (alkaline, nickel metal hydride, nickel cadmium, etc.) in the most common sizes: AA, AAA, C, D, button cell, 9-volt, etc. Batteries are something the airlines are very particular about, so check ahead of travel to make sure you are packing correctly.

Headphones:

As you might guess, headphones are good to go! One note, if they are battery-powered, check the section on batteries above.

Shovel: 

Apparently, shovels aren’t a thing the airlines encounter often, as TSA.gov says nothing specific about them. In that case, it’s something you want to ask your airline about. However, they may be considered a tool, so see the rules below about tools!

Pinpointer:

No information or guidance. I’m guessing “pinpointer” is so hobby-specific that they don’t get asked about often, so check with your airline. It’ll probably fall under the electronics category and might only be a concern based on the battery type.

Flashlight:

If you need one for checking crevices or deep holes and rock piles, etc. a flashlight gets the green light. Ok, again check battery type.

Hammers:

This might be a partial no-go, but if you want to take one for splitting rocks or something, here’s the verdict. Similar guidance for mallets.

Magnets:

If you ever use a magnet when detecting, they look good to go. You may or may not be into magnet fishing, a close cousin to metal detecting IMO, but if you’d like to know what that’s all about, I wrote about that hobby here.)

Knives:

I sometimes use a long kitchen knife to cut grass plugs. There are a few different uses for knives when metal detecting, so how about knives and the airlines? Basically yes and no, with some additional specifics. Here’s the answer. Pocket knives have similar guidance. How about the good old swiss army knife? Again, yes and no with some noted specifics.

Multitool:

This one’s interesting, TSA specifies “without blades” as ok.

Screwdriver:

This is a useful repair tool and can also be used for digging. As far as the airlines go, it’s all about length. TSA says: 

“Tools longer than 7 inches (measured from end to end when assembled) are prohibited in carry-on baggage; these items must be packed in your checked baggage.” 

“Tools 7 inches or shorter (measured from end to end when assembled) are allowed in carry-on baggage.”

NOTE that this rule mentions tools in general. The overall guidance on any tool is here.

Tape Measure:

A useful accessory sometimes, it’s ok.


Finally, a few tips about taking your metal detecting equipment on a plane.

  • Break your detector down to make a smaller footprint in the bag or hardcase
  • Remove batteries and store them safely in a battery case to prevent the contacts from touching
  • Pad or protect the sensitive electronics
  • Protect the sharp edges of a shovel by covering it with cloth or cardboard
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