We Took a Tent on Ryanair: Here’s What Happened

There’s a saying that’s been stuck in my head since I studied abroad in 2012: “beware Ryanair.” Back then, I heard all kinds of far-flung stories about harried flights, shifting time schedules, and—most often—so-called trolls at the gate flourishing measuring tape because they were picky about your carry-on luggage.

Over the years, I’ve deduced these stories to traveler myth. I’ve flown Ryanair many timesto Warsaw, Rome, Gran Canaria, London, Edinburghand have never had problems. My flights have always been on time and I haven’t had any issues with my carry-on or checked luggage.

But this information didn’t bar the echoing “beware!” from echoing when Lisa brought up the idea of camping in Rome.

A tent? Squeezed into our carry-on luggage? On Ryanair? Sirens and red flags galore.

We did the research and the web seemed pretty half-and-half on the subject. Mostly, it appears that tents are technically allowed in your carry-on luggage, but the airline has the final say.

In our case, we calculated the cost risk. Since our tent was pretty cheap (see below), in the worst case scenario where they ask us to leave the tent behind, it would still be cheaper for us to fly tent-less and get a new, cheap tent after landing than getting a hostel.

So we tried it.


What we packed:

We each took a backpack: one with all our essentials (clothes, toiletries, etc) and the other with our camping gear. If you are a solo traveler, we think you could manage to get everything into one. Here’s a list of products similar to the ones we use:

  • Backpack: We’ve been using this for years for all of our travels. It’s the perfect size for travel and comfy to lug through an airport or through a crowded city.
  • Sleeping Bags: We have two small ones squeezed in that larger case.
  • Tent: The one we used is older and 15€, but there are a lot of compact tents around that price. The tent poles are plastic.
  • Insulation Mat: This one folds easily and the slight padding was good for the rocky, Italian ground.
  • Lightweight Folded Backpack: this is great for carrying a camera, water bottles, and books around the city.
  • Collapsible Camping Light: ours springs open and has various light settings but doesn’t take up valuable packing space.

What happened:

With bated breath, we waited at the end of security as they scrutinized the contents of our bag. They eventually asked us to open it and showed us the x-ray.

It turned out they didn’t care about the tent at all, they just couldn’t figure out what the mysterious spring electronic was (the collapsible lamp).

Bottom line: We were fine! Security in both directions did not say anything about the tent. If you are on the fence of pitching a pitched tent idea, we would tell you to go for it!

Have you had any difficulties packing something in your carry-on? What travel mystery should we take on next? Let us know in the comments!


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