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My wife and I recently flew from Denver to New York and we were successfully able to bring a Onewheel+. In this article I will share our experiences with some resources and tips that can help improve the chances of being able to successfully fly with your beloved Onewheel on your next trip.
There are many considerations when planning to take a Onewheel on a flight. After having put hours of research and planning, there were things we were prepared for and there were things we were not prepared for.
Which Onewheel can I take?
We own both a Onewheel+ and a Onewheel+ XR. Because of the battery chemistry of the Onewheel+ XR, technically the XR is not supposed to fly either as a check in or a carry on. That was one of the reasons we purchased a Onewheel+ as our second Onewheel, so we could take it on flights. While the XR is not supposed to fly, there are reports of people successfully taking their Onewheel XR on flights however if you try it, you do so at your own risk.
It just takes one TSA agent to escalate the situation to their superiors and if they do a little digging they will find that the XR battery is prohibited and you will have no ground to stand on to change their minds.
Even if you get through security on your departure flight, there is also no guarantee that you will have the same success on the return flight. The worse case scenario would be to successfully get to your vacation spot, enjoy the Onewheel, and then not be able to take the Onewheel home on the return flight.
For this very reason we decided to take just our Onewheel+ on our recent trip.
How to Pack the Onewheel for Air Travel?
I struggled with this for a long time. The awkward shape and the weight of the Onewheel makes finding a good case or bag very difficult. After researching the topic I found that the options included various roller cases, large suitcases, the Onewheel Mafia bag, third party bags made specifically for the Onewheel, different types of large dry bags, duffle bags, backpacks, and even the original box which the Onewheel came in.
Your bag choice will dictate how you try to fly with your bag: check in or carry on. While the Onewheel is long and the airlines could make you check it in, if you get the right kind of bag you can attempt to bring the Onewheel as a carry on. The advantages of a carry on are multiple:
- You are able to speak directly with TSA and the airlines if there are any questions and to show them the appropriate paperwork to give your device the best possible chance to board the plane.
- You decrease the risk of damage to your Onewheel.
- You decrease the risk of getting it lost or stolen during transport.
Here are my thoughts on the different bag types:
There are backpacking type backpacks that are designed to be rugged and to carry the weight of a large amount of gear. I start with this type of carrying bag because this was the option that worked for me. I went with a backpacking pack because we already owned multiple backpacking packs from all the camping trips that we have done. This bag worked great for me but I suggest getting one of its bigger brothers for more room. Keep reading to find out more.
Be aware that not all bags will be large enough to fit your Onewheel. With 3 out of the 4 bags we own the opening did not open wide enough to fit the Onewheel.
My personal backpacking pack, by Teton Sports, fit the Onewheel very snugly but only after I removed the Fender. Carrying the Onewheel on my back felt just as comfortable as carrying the gear needed for a 3 day backpacking trip. Because of the design of many of these bags, you have the weight distributed more along your hips than on your shoulders for a more comfortable carry. With this bag you can’t even feel the wheel against your back.
I do recommend trying one of the larger backpacking packs by Teton Sports to see if you can fit your Onewheel more easily and even with the fender still on. Check out the Teton Sports Explorer 4000 bag or the even bigger Fox 5200.
Finally, all the extra compartments and straps allowed me to pack my charger, a large helmet, my wrist guards, a Mafia bag (for use when I get to my destination when traveling and exploring the city) and my GoPro equipment all in the backpacking bag! It is pretty amazing.
I was able to bring this bag with my Onewheel and all my gear on to a full flight, no questions asked. Before boarding I made sure to loosened the shoulder straps all the way so that the bottom of the bag sagged down to my butt which decreased the upper profile of the backpack making it look smaller than it actually is.
There are large roller cases that can be purchased online for a reasonable price that fit the Onewheel very well. With a little bit of extra cushioning or foam you can really protect your Onewheel for the flight. The wheels on the roller case are also nice to pull your Onewheel around in the airport.
Because of the size of the roller case, you will most likely have to check the bag in. Unfortunately, the quality is low on many of these less expensive roller cases and there are reports that many of the sub $100 bags start breaking apart after just one or two flights.
This option is great because many already have an old big suitcase laying around to try out. When we were visiting Ellis Island, I was amazed to learn that from 1900 to 1914 up to 5,000 to 10,000 immigrants were processed each day! Most were successful in getting into America, some had to go through additional processing and a very small percentage were put back on ships and sent back to where they came from.
I was amazed to see how many immigrants came through Ellis Island carrying luggage that would have fit a Onewheel. It’s funny how owning a Onewheel will change your perspective on life.
If you find you have a suitcase that can fit the Onewheel, you can support the device with large foam insulation chunks you can get at your local big box hardware store or online. Some have tried using clothes and other items to pack around your Onewheel in the suitcase but I would avoid this because there is a very high chance that after you check the bag in it will be inspected by a TSA agent. There is no way they are going to pack your bag as good as you did if there are a number of loose articles supporting the Onewheel.
Large Dry Bags or Duffle Bags:
This tends to be less expensive than a lot of other options and oftentimes you can find very durable dry bags or duffle bags. The downside is carrying the heavy Onewheel in a duffle bag for any length of time is impractical. Even if the bag has backpack type straps, because of the shape of the Onewheel carrying it on your back gets very uncomfortable. In addition, the bag offers little protection to your Onewheel so I would not use this type of bag if you plan to check in your Onewheel.
Onewheel Mafia Bag:
This bag is great and it is designed to fit the Onewheel like a glove. Unfortunately, it is very expensive and the bag offers no storage space for anything other than your Onewheel and it also offers very little protection so I would not check in my Onewheel in just this bag.
Third Party Onewheel Bags:
There are a growing number of third party bags for the Onewheel. These have been designed with the Onewheel in mind and I am sure they do a fantastic job. But like many Onewheel accessories, they tend to be very expensive.
The Original Box or another cardboard box: This was a creative idea that I saw on a discussion board. It’s a cheap solution but there are too many downsides to using a box to make this a long term solution. You will have to check in a box of that size and there are only so many trips that a cardboard can tolerate. The box will also announce to the world and thieves what they can expect to find in the box which may increase the risk of theft.
How to Pack if Checking the Onewheel in?
If you are checking in your Onewheel, do the following to give your Onewheel the best chance of making the flight:
Make sure the Onewheel is packed securely so that there is limited shifting and movement in the bag or case.
Because TSA will open the case or bag for inspection, make sure that the packing is not overly complicated so that the agents will not be able to pack it back up when they are done.
Print the following paperwork and have it clearly positioned so that the TSA agent will see it and hopefully read it.
Have your name and phone number clearly written on the paperwork so that they can contact you directly if there are any concerns.
Have plug covers in place. The less exposed wiring and electronics the better.
Consider deflating the tire as the luggage storage area may not be fully pressurized. If you do this (which I did not), make sure to have a way to pump up your tire when you reach your destination.
What to Prepare if You are Carrying On the Onewheel
This is what I did and it worked like a charm:
- Give yourself extra time. This may be needed at security and at boarding. I gave myself an extra 30 minutes which worked out great.
- Have the paperwork printed out and be familiar with it. Click here for the paperwork.
- Dress nicely. Business casual or better is advised. The more you look like a professional, the greater your chances of getting through without hassles.
- Make sure to smile and be polite. Get on the good side of the TSA agents.
- Be confident and don’t let a mean TSA agent intimidate you. To be confident, you need to be prepared.
- While you are taking your shoes and belt off, tell the nearest TSA agent helping travelers that you have some expensive camera dolly equipment and that you normally just leave it in the bag until they ask you to take it out for inspection.
- Watch the perplexed look on the TSA agent who is staring at the computer monitors screening the bags. Wave and smile when they look up to ask who this bag belongs to.
- When they call you over to inspect your bag tell them that there is nothing sharp in the bag and that you spoke to the airlines before the trip and have prepared the following paperwork. Tell them this inspection happens every time when flying with the Onewheel which is used for camera work as well as a personal mobility device so you have prepared the following paperwork. Give them the papers to inspect.
- Be prepared to show them the watt hour which is listed under the side rail on the Onewheel which is within the safety limits set by the FAA (if you are taking a Onewheel+).
- Thank them for their time as you go to repack your Onewheel and then go to catch your flight.
What if they don’t let you take the Onewheel?
There is no reason you should not be able to take the Onewheel+ on a flight. Unfortunately, if you get the wrong agent at the wrong time, he or she may evoke the old “Hoverboard” rule from back when hoverboard batteries would spontaneously explode. Ensure them that this is not a hoverboard and that the battery technology is completely different and completely safe for flying.
If the agent will not concede, then you are out of luck. You can try asking to talk to a superior but at this point things are looking grim. If you are in your home city you could walk back to your car or to whoever drove you to the airport and leave your Onewheel. By getting to the airport earlier than normal you give yourself enough time to put away your Onewheel and then go back through security and catch your flight.
If you are returning home from a trip or vacation, the options are fewer if you get stuck. The airport will offer shipping options but this will be expensive and it will take you time to set up shipping from the airport. Make sure you have given yourself enough time to do this if it comes to it.
I was very nervous taking my Onewheel on an airline for the first time. The TSA agent reviewed the paperwork I gave him while I was removing the Onewheel from my bag. The TSA agent asked me a lot of questions about how the Onewheel worked and how much it cost. He seemed genuinely interested.
Besides doing a visual inspection, the TSA agent did not ask to power on the device and he did not even wipe it down to look for trace explosive materials. He said the device looked really cool and really fun and then he sent us on our way.
It was a lot easier than I had anticipated. I then went to the nearby TSA office and asked the supervisor if there was any paperwork that they recommend I take with me during future travels to make the process as streamlined as possible. She said what I had was good and that if we showed that the battery was permitted to fly that we should not have any problems in the future.