The TSA allows passengers to fly with fitness equipment, but health enthusiasts have to be mindful of the airline’s weight limits for luggage.
You can bring weights on a plane, but remember that airlines have weight restrictions for checked and carry-on bags. I don’t recommend packing your dumbbells in your hand luggage, as they’re likely to be grouped under “items that can cause serious injury.” Check them in to be on the safe side.
If you’re adamant about taking your dumbbells in your carry-on, ensure they’re light enough to meet the requirements (3-5lbs is reasonable).
It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to carry weights through security unless they’re valuable and you’re afraid of losing them.
Weight Limits for Dumbells
Most airlines have a checked luggage weight limit of 50lbs, though this increases to 70lbs if flying first or business class.
There may be even stricter guidelines for flying with a local or smaller airline.
If you’re bringing dumbbells of different weights (say, an entire set), you may need multiple bags so you don’t end up with an overweight suitcase.
Depending on how heavy your luggage is, you may end up paying additional fees to accommodate the excess weight.
You might also need to pay handling fees if your weights are packed with other heavy fitness equipment.
You’ll have to crunch the numbers and see if the extra expense is worth bringing your gear.
Are Weights Subject to Further Inspection?
You’re likely to face further inspection if you place your weights in your carry-on bag, as heavy items are always a cause for concern for airport security.
So, even if the TSA allows dumbbells on the plane, you’re still likely to spend more time than usual at the security checkpoint.
Putting your weights in a checked bag reduces the likelihood of additional inspection, though you shouldn’t be surprised if the officer asks to have a closer look.
Remember that TSA agents make the final call and can still restrict you from boarding with dumbbells – even if they’re technically allowed.
Generally speaking, packing light is the best way to avoid complications at airport security.
Can My Weights Be Confiscated?
The TSA can confiscate anything they deem illegal or harmful to your fellow passengers.
The criteria used to determine ‘harmfulness’ are blurry and specific to the situation, but heavy dumbbells could be considered dangerous.
That said, you won’t face much trouble if you keep them at a moderate weight, check them in, and are sure they’re not suspicious-looking (no dumbbells with pointy ends, for example).
If the TSA confiscates your weights, they’re likely to sell them, donate them, or throw them away. They don’t profit from the sales, but other government agencies can take advantage.
Surplus centers and websites like GovDeals are popular places to find items if they’ve been confiscated.
In both cases, the aim is to auction the inventory to the general public, so you’ll need to cough up some dough if you want to reclaim your dumbbells.
The prices are lower than what the items are worth, so you’re better off getting your weights from the site or surplus centers than buying new ones.
All this assumes that you’ll find them and that they’re special enough to go through the hassle.
Overall, always play it safe when dealing with the TSA.
How Do You Avoid Problems With the TSA?
If you’re unsure whether the TSA will allow your dumbbells, ask them at AskTSA on Facebook Messenger or Twitter.
It’s a situation where you need clarity, so go to the source and get the info you need.
Just bear in mind that even if you get confirmation from AskTSA, the agents at security reserve the right to make the final decision.
Lighter Alternatives to Weights
The second best way to avoid problems at the checkpoint is to carry lighter, more portable alternatives to free weights.
These items can’t replace regular weightlifting exercises long-term, so bring your gear if you’re going on a long vacation and won’t have access to other equipment.
However, the following are perfectly acceptable substitutions if you’re headed on a short trip and want to maintain your fitness routine.
1. Resistance Bands
Resistance bands weigh next to nothing compared to dumbbells yet perform similar functions if used correctly.
The results aren’t as identical, but you’re only using them for a few days, maybe a couple of weeks at most.
Setting aside everything concerning the TSA, resistance bands also keep your bags lighter than if you carried your weights.
I say the trade-off is worth it.
Ensure to get closed-loop bands (as opposed to other types) – they’re better suited to building muscle and allow you to perform a wider variety of exercises.
2. Water-Filled Dumbbells
As per the name, these dumbbells require you to fill them with water to increase their weight.
When empty, they’re lighter than regular dumbbells and can weigh up to 20lbs when filled with water, producing the same effects as your usual gear of similar weight.
Bringing heavy exercise equipment on a plane is all about strategic planning and abiding by the rules.
It doesn’t help that these regulations are a bit murky, but you’ll get more concrete guidelines if you explain your situation directly to the TSA.
Airline weight restrictions will be your greatest challenge, but you’ll get less hassle if you check in your weights.
Contact your specific airline to avoid any issues or if you have additional concerns.