So, I have packed my kids’ masks, plastrons, chest protectors, fencing jackets, gloves, knickers, lamé, body and mask cords, fencing socks and shoes, and at least two of each of their weapons. Their fencing bag is so stuffed with the equipment that the zipper seams are starting to rip. Since our last trip to Montreal resulted in our luggage being lost until the last day of our trip, my wife and I have learned how to pack all our, and our kid’s, clothes and necessities as carry-ons for the flight. But wait, we have a big problem, there is no way I can take the fencing bag on the plane as a carry-on! First, it will never fit in the overhead compartment and I am certain it won’t fit under my seat. Second, I’m pretty sure the TSA will tell me my kids fencing weapons are prohibited carry-ons after they x-ray the fencing bag. Well, I guess it’s cheaper to pay for the checked fencing bag than coming up with bail money to get out of jail after we go through security. But wait, second big problem, even if the airline doesn’t lose the checked fencing bag, will the weapons survive the baggage handlers? Should I put all my hopes in the baggage handlers being kinder and gentler if I place a big “FRAGILE” sticker on the side? With such weighty problems there is only one thing to do to find a solution – go golfing.
More specifically, go to the local golf store (or internet website golf store). The solution for flying fencing weapons is a golf bag travel case. But we’re not out of the clouds yet, in fact, the amount of choices might leave us up in the air. Golf travel bags may be soft sided, hard sided, or soft sided with hard covers. Further, the golf travel bags are usually separated into travel bags, hybrid bags, and travel covers or cases. Are things getting cloudier? Let’s try to start clearing the clouds away. Since these bags will be used for the transport of fencing weapons instead of golf clubs, I would eliminate any travel bags or covers that are soft sided or not fully hard sided. This would leave only hard sided travel or hybrid bags and travel cases. So, which is best? It depends on how we want to travel.
Travel and hybrid bags are made to just handle the golf clubs and have external “pockets,” usually removable, to store anything else. They have a price range from about $100.00 to $160.00. These are a great solution if we want to just pack our kids’ weapons in the bag and carry on the rest of our kids’ equipment. This is a travel bag only for weapon transport. Carrying on the rest of our kids’ equipment only exposes us to having to pay for two new weapons when we arrive at the tournament (instead of paying for all of our children’s equipment and weapons) if the airline loses our luggage. Our children may lose their knickers but we probably will lose our shirts, especially since we will now have to figure a way to get the new equipment back home. But this cloud does not only have a silver lining. In researching this option, I noticed that many purchasers have experienced cover latches that break just because of where they are placed on the bags. The good news is, since I shopped around before buying my present hybrid bag (it’s similar to the Caddy Daddy Co-Pilot Wheeled Travel Bag), I have never experienced any latching problems. The bad news is that my present bag’s lid is too small for my kids chosen weapons of épée and sabre. These travel/hybrid bags are made to transport golf clubs, not fencing weapons. My bag’s top cover was great to transport up to three or four foils with small guards but I’m having real problems handling the larger guards of our multiple épée and sabre weapons. So, how about a travel case?
With such names as “The Turtle” and “The Vault,” you may be able to clearly imagine what travel cases look like. Basically two half shells that form a coffin like case which will comfortably hold our whole fencing bag, weapons and all. I would need to get 35” PVC pipe to protect our kids’ weapons from having the tips broken from shifting in the bag when handled by baggage handlers. Of course, we will want to pack this bag with our weapons and regular clothes and then carry on our kids’ fencing equipment (except the lamé). Again, this will avoid having to purchase all new equipment if our bags are lost. Although I don’t own one, from the customer opinions posted on the internet it seems the best of these are the SKB Super Hard-Shell Golf Cases. These are available through Golfsmith here in town or through The Golf Warehouse, www.tgw.com on the web. These seem to be high end quality with similar high end prices that
that range from approximately $220.00 to $250.00. Average travel cases usually run around $150.00.
The Sports Authority, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Golf Galaxy also sell both travel bags and cases. I always read the reviews before buying any of these. I noticed from the reviews that I should spend enough money on the bag or case so I don’t wind up with a thin plastic case, or a bag with flimsy latches, which will break on my first trip. I find that if enough purchasers have written reviews, I can figure out whether it will last or whether it’s just trash.
What is the best way to take the rest of the equipment as a carry-on? First, I get the glove, plastron (underarm protector), and jacket. I take them all and stuff them in each of the masks. This will allow the masks to keep their shape when being placed under the seat or in the overhead compartment. I place each of the loaded masks in a backpack, or in an over the shoulder bag, which is small enough to carry-on. Second, knickers and socks are placed in the zippered pocket of the backpack or over the shoulder bag. It is best to separate them from the mask in the carry-on since the mask might otherwise snag the material. Third, fencing shoes are placed on the bottom of the backpack or over the shoulder bag and each loaded mask is placed on top of the shoes in the main compartment. The last items are the body cords and mask cords. I usually put them with my camera or other electronic equipment so the TSA doesn’t think I am trying to detonate the knickers. The lamé is sandwiched with our other clothes and laid flat as possible in our regular luggage.
So that’s it, I have just accomplished all the fencing packing for going out to the tournament. I may want to fold up our over the shoulder fencing bag and place it in our luggage too in case we want to use it to carry everything to the tournament. As for getting all the new equipment we had to buy (along with the old equipment that didn’t pass the weapons check) back home from the tournament – perhaps the local Fed-Ex store near the tournament building could help us out.