Finding pocket tools that will get through airline and TSA security can be a little tricky so we figured we would try to bring some clarity to the issue of what you can fly with in your pocket. Since there are some speculation and claims about what is approved and what is not; we figured the best way to find out what you can fly with is to simply try it for ourselves. After checking the TSA website, it is pretty clear what is prohibited. Using that as our baseline, we went about looking for some pocket size tools that had items we could use and did not include any of the banned items.
Editors note: This article is not intended to endorse or encourage illegal behavior by bringing banned items on commercial airline flights. The purpose of this article is to shed some light on what could be deemed as ‘approved’ pocket tools to take on flights with you. Travel with any pocket tool at your own risk. And always remember that regardless of what the TSA rules say, an actual TSA agent has the right to overrule just about anything, even if it’s a product you’ve brought onto a plane previously or something that is not necessarily banned according to official policies.
There are many of us that always carry some kind of pocket knife or other useful compact tool so that we can be like adult boy scouts when the need arises. To be without our knife or other tool leaves us feeling lost when situations arise that require a quick slice or something opened – at least that’s how I feel. When it comes to traveling for a short trip by air, we often do not check our baggage which means that we have to leave our knives and tools at home. This past summer I got tired of not being prepared and figured I would search out and find some sort of pocket tools that we could fly with.
Most manufactures are hesitant to claim that they their product is airline or TSA safe, so after scanning the TSA website and going through their prohibited and permitted items, we observed that if it is in question, it probably is prohibited. You can check out the list here for yourself.
But on the list we saw a few things that gave us some hope:
- Tools (seven inches or less in length),
- Screwdrivers (seven inches or less in length),
- Wrenches and Pliers (seven inches or less in length)
- Scissors – metal with pointed tips and blades shorter than four inches
Given this short list of permitted items, we started to look around at our options and figured it would be good to start small. There are a number of key chain size multi-tools but most of them include knives or blades – and a knife of any size immediately disqualifies the tool for air travel… even though my ballpoint pen could do more damage than many of the 2″ blades I’ve seen. Two mini multi-tools that caught our attention were the Swiss+Tech Micro-Tech 6-in-1 and the IDL Tools T7 MultiTool because they seemed to meet our needs.
IDL Tools T7 Industrial MultiTool 1900CP
- Large Philips screwdriver
- Small Phillips screwdriver
- Small Flathead screwdriver
- Large Flathead screwdriver
- Large pliers
- Fine pliers
- Wire cutters and strippers
- Price: $14
- More info: http://www.idltools.com/products/t7/
- Buy it now
This little tool is made of hardened steel which helps to ensure durability. It features .5 degree tapered jaws that make it easy to grip materials of varying thickness. This taper provides complete closure of the jaw tips to allow you to tightly grasp even thin materials. The by-pass wire cutters were designed to maintain their edge and the by-pass orientation allows consistent clean, smooth cuts on up to 12 gauge wire. Interlocking fine pliers teeth help hold thin materials and the large pliers teeth are set-up to enable grabbing multiple sized bolts. The flip out micro screwdrivers are also extremely nice.
Swiss+Tech Micro-Tech 6-In-1 MTCSS-1
- #2 Flat screwdriver
- #2 Phillips Screwdriver
- Precision Pliers
- Wire Cutters
- Wire Stripper
- Sheet Shear
- Bonus! 1/8” Rule Markings
- Price: $14
- More info: http://www.swisstechtools.com/proddetail.aspx?pid=6
- Buy it now
This durable and precision-made 6-in-1 tool includes pliers, wire cutter, wire stripper, sheet shear, and both Phillips and flat screwdrivers that meet ANSI standards. Weighing in at only 1.6 oz, this little tool is easy to keep on hand since it takes up so little space. This tool can make minor repairs, assemblies, installations, and lots of other tasks an easy undertaking. The patented quick-release self-locking jaws keep this tool tightly secured to a key ring, eliminating the need for a belt holster. With a quick down-turn of the handles, it’s released and ready for use.
TSA Approved Tools Testing and Use
To test out if these two tools were commercial airline safe, we took both of them with us on several multi-day trips that involved multiple airports and numerous TSA screening positions and even on one international destination. Determined that we would not do our testing stealthily by trying to conceal these tools in our carry-on luggage, we simply carried them in our laptop bag and even in our pockets. When required we sent them through the scanning equipment by themselves – completely exposed in a bowl – and never once were we questioned. Now this is not to say that these will always make it through. In fact, based on our experience, we suspect that depending on the day and the mood of the screening agents, they might want it more than us and decide to confiscate it on a whim…. Still, as far as we’re able to surmise, they are clearly legitimately “approved” according to this week’s TSA guidelines.
As far as actually using these tools. They came in very handy for tightening a few nuts, clipping wire zip ties and even for a few small adjustments we needed to make on a piece of audio equipment. Both tools are adequately sturdy and can be functional in a pinch. It is a safe bet that you can find a small sized multi-tool that is safe to fly with. Make sure that it does not include any blades and, just in case it does get confiscated, keep the good, expensive stuff for when you are home and on the ground.