Breezing through airport security

walking from the plane

I’ve been trying to smooth my transition through airport security recently and in these couple of months I feel like I have it cracked. The time before the liquid restrictions came in seems like a different world. In many ways it was.

Recently I’ve been to Austria, Turkey for a week, Sweden for four separate occations and a couple of days in Paris. Yes I know.. trees will be planted to alleviate the eco-impact. For all these trips I have packed my Tom Bihn Tri-Star and wore my Scottevest 7.0.

On average, my Tom Bihn Tri-Star packed with all I needed still had space to spare and weighed in at just under 13 lb. The bulk of my baggage is tech. I’m even packing the small and light Tom Bihn Co-pilot (below) in Dyneema inside for an every day carry.Tom Bihn Co-PilotAs well as my clothes etc.. I normally have with me a Macbook Air 11″, an iPad mini, a kindle, a Zoom digital recorder with external mic, kindle, a harmonica, and all the cables, chargers, adapters, spare batteries and paraphernalia that follows my tech around.

Even with all this packed I still have one of the three Tri-Star compartments empty. (Handy for duty free on the way home.) And as you can see in the photo below this misleadingly spacious bag slots in nicely to the Ryan Air how-much-can-we-tax-you measuring cage.Ryan Air Bag measuring cage

While travelling Turkey during the European Wine Bloggers Conference I was reluctant to leave two amazing Lebanese wines in Izmir and packed them in my Tri-Star where they traveled in the hold to Ankara, to Elazig in the east, back to Ankara before Istanbul and then finally back to the UK. I was very happy indeed when on returning to London I found both the bottles arrived intact.Wine

For the most of it though I mainly travel hand luggage. It really helps that I have managed to get my washkit down to solids alone. No more liquids in a plastic bag.  Solid ‘crystal’ deodorant and tiny toothpaste and creams that never seem to raise an eyebrow on the x-Ray.

The key to smooth passage on these recent trips lay in the choice of smaller computing devices and of course wearing my Scottevest.

When passing through security, in an ideal world, you want no liquids, no tech and no metal objects of any kind. This of course would be super suspicious and no doubt attract enough attention to warrant a body cavity search. In Turkey I did have to show my Harmonica as apparently it looks like a clip of bullets to the half asleep Xray operator.

To keep things simple I have the majority of my mobile devices and suspicious metal objects secreted around my Scottevest pockets. Xray operators don’t like objects obscuring other objects. As I’m queuing to get through the metal detector I chuck everything into my pockets and zip them up.  There are more than enough pockets to go round.

As well as this, another time suck when crossing is having to remove your belt or shoes. Since wearing the Tom Bihn nylon belt (with secret compartment) I’ve not been asked to remove it once. The same goes for my Vivobarefoot boots. They are virtually flat with 5mm soles and the border guards and customs officers are always looking for soles.

So with watch, wallet documents and coins in my Fleece 7.0 I sling my jacket in a tray and my Tri-Star in another with both my iPad and Mac Air next to it but still in the Tom Bihn protective sleeves. I also slide my passport into an RFID blocking pouch and that sits in my red zipped document pocket inside my Scottevest.

I still have my belt, Yubikey and FitBit on my person but they have never set off the metal detector yet. I do know that the detector is also set to go of randomly but as yet that hasn’t happened and it has become a game to pass through without a sound.

Finally, arm yourself with a smile and some good manners and remember you are the 10,000th person to pass through there today and those guys are sick of asking if you have any liquids or sharp objects etc etc.

Once through and looking smug, providing you do not fall foul of a random swabbing stick, you only have to slide your laptop back in your bag, your ipad into your jacket and you are free to head in and purchase some over priced food and drink. Or in my case.. Sample the free whisky.

And when finally on the plane, you have all you need in your jacket and its the simple matter of stowing your bag in the overhead locker and taking your seat. Comfortable in the knowledge you have kindle, ipad, phone, mifi etc stashed in your pockets and close to hand.

Please let me know of your border crossing and travelling light tips and tricks.

I’m @Documentally on Twitter and

Thanks for reading.

[Disclaimer: Some of the tech I have listed above has been sent to me free of charge for review. Most of what you see has been bought with cold hard cash. All thoughts are my own.]


  1. TwistedOtter says

    This is awesome and some really good info. I’m a big ScotteVest fan myself. The only place I have to disagree is with the belt and shoes in the USA. Three words: full body scanners. Those things regularly pick out the rivets in my jeans. That, and TSA will ask you to remove your belt and shoes no matter what. Doesn’t matter if you paid $300, they have “airport security safe” written on them, and are made of recycled piñatas…shoes and belt off. So, I just make sure my shoes are easy to get on and off and stow my belt in my Fleece 7.0. Sigh.

    • says

      I’ve got through a few times keeping my belt intact. It’s not visible under my shirt and has not raised awareness. I have to agree with you on the shoes though. I can’t remember getting through with them on. We are a little less (but not much) paranoid over here.

  2. simfin says

    After 30 yrs of airport and border security traumas, I have concluded I have a face that security people want to slap..

  3. says

    Liking your reviews m8 – some really good tips. The belt is the really annoying one – particularly if they search you as you can’t hold the trousers up while being searched 😮
    Looking for a UK available version of the nylon belt you cite above.

  4. BethC says

    Thanks for sharing! This was funny and also contained some good tips. I’m trying to transition to solid toiletries as well; it certainly would make security easier. I have TSA-Pre status now, which has been wonderful despite the ridiculousness of paying for being treated like a human being again, but it doesn’t help in small airports without separate lines, or when flying internationally.