It is now 4 years since I sold everything I owned and took off to travel the world with my kite gear. Throughout these years, I have acquired talents of packing and carrying gear that will help others save money, time and effort. In the beginning though I rivaled Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) in "Coming to America" with the load of stuff I thought I needed, not to mention over packing my kite gear too.
I own only what is in my 40L carry-on bag, computer, camera, clothes and my (50lb) kite equipment. My kitesurfing travel gear consists of a Cabrinha Chaos 13m, 9m, bar/lines, boots, Custom 140, pump, repair kit, 2m neoprene top, lycra and two depower straps. After 4 years my gear has been to places that are your typical kiteboarding travel destinations; Philippines, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Peru, Colombia, etc. While other places I brought my gear to were over 3,000 miles to the closest kite beach. I had my gear in Nepal while I hiked to the Everest base camp. Kashmir, India while I motorcycled the Himalayas and many others. Between windy seasons and migrating between destinations, my gear never left my side.
With airlines scraping every dollar from customers, I do not see prices dropping or getting any better in the near future for checked baggage. Here are some of the best tips I came up with after traveling and backpacking 4 years around the world with my kiteboarding gear.
Top Tips for Traveling with Kiteboarding Gear:
40L Carry-on Bag
I carry everything I own with my carry-on Patagonia Headway backpack, its amazing!! Use compression bags for your clothing, as this will allow you to carry more in a smaller space. You do not need a huge amount of clothes or unnecessary things. use laundry services if you travel for more then a week and figure out what the necessities are for your trip. If I can do it for 4 years with a 40l bag, you shouldn't have a problem.
50lb (23kg) Checked Bag
Two Kites, One Bar/Lines
Keep your quiver at two kite sizes and one bar and lines, as this will allow you to keep to the 50lb weight limits of the airlines. Now if you pack light or your kite bag is light, you should consider bringing more kites or bars. After two years of traveling I had a 6m and I only used it 2 times. Almost all conditions you can use two kites in, a "smallish" to "largish" size range will cover most of your needs, depending on your weight and conditions. I am 180lbs and have a 13m (11mph - 22mph), 9m (20mph - 35mph). Anything else I do not go out in or wait for better conditions. The only place I wished I had a small kite size was in Tarifa, Spain. You can adjust your style of riding depending on the conditions, unhooked, big boosts, surf, etc.
Know the Wind Range
This is correlated to the last tip, know the wind range for the kites that will be needed at your destination. Ask a kite school or a forum regarding what sizes to bring. Again, the only spot I needed three kites after 4 years of travel was in the crazy windy place of Tarifa, Spain.
Kite Repair Kit
Bring a kite repair kit with you and always do preventive maintenance on those small pin holes that create massive rips. Great thing is, most kite spots these days also have repair people that fix kites and most anything can be fixed. I would also recommend bringing extra fin and foot pad screws, as a lot of countries will not have the correct sizes for replacement.
As mentioned above, bring at least one extra depower strap. When something breaks in your bar setup due to normal wear and tear, most of the time it's the depower strap. Finding a new one in an developing country or in a location that doesn't carry your brand of kite can be a real headache.
Know Airline Baggage Fees
Before you make a purchase for airline tickets, check the baggage fees and how much your checked package/carry-on costs will be. You can check some of these costs here. Also, when you are flying it is exceptionally helpful to have the policy on your phone to reference in case you have any issues at the desk. If the airline allows you to pay ahead of time for your checked bags, DO IT!! Often on international flights you can simply pay for baggage by the kilo (23 kilos = 50 lbs) at a discount online. Use this option prior to arriving at the airport, as paying for the same weight at the airport checkin will cost almost twice as much. Also, even when using a deceiver bag, think about buying the "sporting goods" luggage option. The cost difference is often very negligible, in the range of $10-20 for a 50 lb bag more than standard luggage. In the end, these tips will save you a lot of headaches and stress at checkin on the day you are flying.
Dump The Gear Off At A Hostel or Hotel
Use storage space at a hostel or hotel if you are traveling long term, for a few weeks or the wind dies. That way you are not tied down to your kitesurfing gear your whole trip. Hostels have super cheap or sometimes free storage for bags. I paid 3 dollars a week in Bangkok for storage at a hotel and traveled around the country for 2 months without my gear. I have not had one single problem with storing my gear and recommend it for any long time traveler who wants to explore more without lugging all the gear around.
When a Surfboard is a must!!!
Outside of owning a Nobile splitboard surfboard, many kiters struggle with the high cost of traveling with a surfboard. However, consider checking out the snub nose surfboards available from various brands, they are shorter and are often designed with a skinnier profile. Often a 5'0 snub nose surfboard will fit in a deceiver bag with your twin tip and kites. Just be sure to wrap the nose and tail in a bit of cardboard to add extra protection from dings during transit.
Having Golf On Your Bag Helps
Although this is some what a dying thing to have on your bags, as most airlines are recognizing kiteboarding gear now. But it still helps in a lot of areas when flying and remember to smile and look "golfy" like.
Buy yourself a baggage scale to weigh your gear before you leave for the airport, you can buy these for as little as 6 dollars from Amazon.
Carry-on Additional Gear
If you are over the limit of 50lbs, don't be shy with taking gear with you on the airplane for under your seat. I sometimes carry my kiteboard boots on with me or a harness. This can get you right under the 50lb weight limit sometimes. If you ever have your carry on weighed and it is over the baggage limit, don't hesitate to walk to the side, fill your pockets with items and even layer up with any clothing articles in your bag. Once they have weighed your carry on and let you through security, you can head to the bathroom and put everything back into your carryon and go about your way as usual.
Bring Only One Kite Bag
Bring only one of your bags for the kites, you will not need two and this will cut down on your weight for your checked bags.
Get Airline Status
If you fly a lot, I would recommend sticking with one airline and get status with that airline. Airlines give more checked baggage to folks who have status and this can be super helpful.
Vacuum Packed Bags
Well worth the purchase for a few dollars at onlinesstores or the over priced mystic bags. You can compress your bags to 1/3 the size and makes it much easier for travel. If you don't have vacuum bags, be sure to roll all of your clothing articles instead of folding them. By rolling them tight you can easily save tons of space. There are some youtube videos that show this concept in action.
Add Gear at Over-sized Drop -Off
If the location of drop-off for the checked baggage is away from the counter, you can sometimes add additional gear to the kiteboard bag before drop-off. This will help make your carry-on smaller.
Take Fins Off
The fins of your board will rub through and create rips in your kiteboard bag.
Make sure your gear is not wet before travel, as this will add weight to your over all kitesurfing checked bag.
Is the Splitboard the Future of Kiteboard Travel?
Yes, we think it is the future of kite travel and is only going to get better as technology, construction and investment into split boards gain momentum. There are a number of companies making split boards now and the construction of these now-a-days are extremely tough. We think the splitboard movement is coming upon us and Nobile is leading in that area of construction. They even have a foil splitboard and after traveling 4 years I see a huge demand in the use of surf boards. It is almost impossible to carry a traditional surf board with kite gear and if you do its a pain in the @ss. We think this movement is upon us, keep a look out soon for a detailed review of this new technology. You can also check out Kiteforum for a detailed review of many other riders that are now converting to the splitboard movement or use their search function to look up other reviews from riders.
Nobile even has a splitboard bag that is out with rollers to carry all your gear. We are dying to try this out on our next adventure!!