Compound bows are prohibited as carry-on luggage but can be packed as checked luggage. Any compound bow case will serve as an allowed item of luggage carrying your compound bow and arrows, but you must ensure there are no sharp edges that might injure a baggage handler. We have provided an extensive list of some of the best bow cases that have specifically been designed for use when flying.
Protect Your Compound Bow
Where you must give careful consideration is in the protection of your compound bow. We all know that air travel can be brutal on our luggage and a bow case will get the same treatment as any other bag.
If you are hoping your bow makes it to your destination in the same condition as when it started its journey, you should pack it into a well-padded bow case.
Not only should it be well padded, it should have the capability of securing the bow in place so there is no change of it moving around. this may be done with soft foam cut to shape or with restraining straps - or a combination of both.
Airline Approved Bow Cases
There is a difference between bow cases that you might want to use to transport your bows as standard luggage and airline approved bow cases. In reality, all bow cases are approved for use on an airline, they are carrying sporting equipment after all.
What we are actually talking about here is the best bow case for airline travel or at least, one that meets the standards and will hold up to some potentially rough treatment.
A bow case that is said to be airline approved will have a hard surface exterior and will be lockable with some type of key.
When you go through the check-in process there will be the possibility that you will be asked to unlock and open the case so that it can be inspected. Once this has been done the case will have some tape placed on it indicating that it has been inspected and it shouldn’t have to be reopened again.
Most manufacturers produce bow cases that have been specifically designed for air travel. Look for features such as:
- Extra internal padding
- A more secure locking system
- A tougher exterior that will better withstand the knocks and bumps that come with loading on and off the aircraft
- Easy rolling wheels
- A retractable handle
Bow Cases For Air Travel Checklist
The table below lists 12 of the best bow cases available that are suitable for use when traveling on an airplane. The list has been ordered based on the customer ratings that have been gathered, the dimensions are the external dimensions of the case and the quoted price is the price that the manufacturer has recommended the case be sold for. It is not uncommon for the case to be available at a much cheaper price.
Make / Model
44 x 18 x 12
44.6 x 20.4 x 8.7
44.6 x 20.4 x 8.7
46.5 x 16 x 7.65
41 x 15.5 x 5
49 x 21.25 x 7.25
40.75 x 14.25 x 4
38 x 17 x 6
41 x 15 x 6
45.7 x 15.7 x 9
Bow Cases In More Detail
The following is a selection of compound bow cases that have been marketed with an emphasis on their suitability for use with air travel. A basic set of specifications for each case has been included along with the recommended selling price as determined by the manufacturer.
Sitka Gear Nomad Bag
This is a large soft-sided bag that contains compression straps that will allow you to securely stow your bow. It also doubles as a normal piece of luggage that carries your clothes and other equipment. It has a heavy duty molded bottom to protect the contents as well as internal mesh storage pockets. The material used for the exterior covering is a tough rain resistant fabric. To make it easy to transport it has a telescoping T-Grip handle and 80mm wheels.
Where people have reported having problems is with the snap caps over the side pockets that have broken off in transit.
Pelican 1700 Long Case
The Pelican cases are primarily designed for guns but can easily adapted to take a compound bow and the 1700 fits this idea perfectly. The case is a high impact polycarbonate shell that will withstand all types of abuse. The interior dimensions of the case are 35.75” long and 13.5 inches wide so it can comfortably take a bow that measures 34 inches in length. The padding foam can be cut to shape with any sharp knife. Protection is provided by the toughness of the outer shell as well as the o-ring waterproof seal. Moving the case around is simple thanks to the polyurethane wheels at the bottom and the comfortable handle at the top. Security is assured by the inclusion of double throw latches which will take a lock. This is a high quality case.
Plano Bow Guard SE Pro 44 Bow Case
This is a bow case offers a comfortable and easy way to carry and transport your bow. It has been designed to accept shorter framed compound bows. The case is made from a durable plastic and as well as fitting the bow will also be able to take a fully loaded quiver, extra arrows and contains a removable accessory box. Protection of the bow comes from a foam layer that the bow will nestle onto and there are holding tabs inside to prevent movement. On the outside there are tabs that give you the option to securely lock the case.
Plano 108115 AW Bow Case
This is an extremely hard wearing and durable bow case features thick wall construction and uses the Plano patented PillarLock system. The case securely stores your bow and has room for a fully loaded quiver. The case provides complete protection, not only from bumps and knocks, but with a rubberized seal it also keeps out water and dust. The case is locked with latches that make it suitable for any type of travel including by air and the case also comes with a tie-down strap to keep your bow securely in place while it is being transported.
SKB 4217 Parallel Limb Bow Case
This is a high quality bow case that has been designed for just about all compound bows built over the last few years. It is large in size and will accommodate bows that have an axle-to-axle length of 35 inches with ease. It all starts with an injected molded case that is both watertight and dust proof. Inside it comes with a custom foam insert that will securely position and protect the bow. There is also a water-jet cut foam arrow system to hold up to a dozen arrows in place. The case can also be secured with reinforced locking locations that will allow you to add your own padlocks.
Flambeau Safeshot Compound Bow Case
This is a hard bow case that uses the Polypro construction and will provide outstanding protection for the bow. It is larger than most other bow cases which makes it suitable not only for the newer parallel limb bows but also the older style bows that are generally longer. Extra support for the case is provided by the pillar structure that gives it greater durability. The case can be locked with four locking points located at different points that will accept any standard luggage lock.
Lakewood Elite Bowfile Bow Case
This is an interesting bow case largely due to the design of the way the bow is placed into it. Rather than opening the front of the case like a door you open the top and drop the bow into the case. This allows you to leave a quiver attached with the arrows in place and it will fit without disturbing your set up. The case is made for parallel limb style bows and is extremely sturdy with a tough outer shell plus a support bracket inside to withstand rough handling in transit. The interior is foam lined to completely protect your bow.
Americase AT Compact Bow Case
This case has been designed with air travel in mind because it has been created with a light weight and a compact size so that it complies with the airline weight and dimension limits. The case will hold a compact parallel limb hunting bow that is more commonly sold today. It has a foam bed as well as four restraining straps to prevent movement. The case has also been made more mobile thanks to the recessed wheels and a comfortable pull handle. The aluminum exterior means that the case will easily hold up to all types of bumps.
SKB ATA Double Bow / Rifle Combination Case
A case that has the ATA in its name indicates that it has been specifically designed for use on airlines. The case has been designed to accept both a compound bow and a rifle such as an AR-15, short shotgun or carbine. The shell of the case is made from high density polyethylene to provide a tough yet lightweight exterior. The latches of the case are significant because they are heavy-duty latches and they are protected from being damaged while in transit. The case itself is sealed with a water resistant O-ring to ensure the contents are completely protected. It is also easy to move around thanks to the smooth rolling wheels and spring loaded end handle.
Everest Roller Trolley Bow Case
This bow case has been designed to take two compound bows. It is extremely durable with the exterior made from 1680D heavy duty nylon that will stand up to the rigors of air travel. It is also quite versatile with handles on the side and on the top and easy rolling wheels on the bottom. It can be carried like a case, pulled along on its wheels or even hoisted on the back like a backpack. On the inside the padded interior ensures the bows are protected during transit. Velcro straps hold things securely in place. As well as bow storage the case also has a telescopic arrow tube that is capable of holding up to a dozen arrows.
TSA Luggage Size Limits
Given that a compound bow cannot be taken onto the plane as carry-on luggage, your bow case is going to have to be checked. Some of the cases that are discussed above will allow you to pack clothing as well as your bow and may allow you to get by with only a single bag.
But the majority of bow cases are designed simply for the bow and perhaps a quiver of arrows. This means it is likely that you will be checking the case in as your second item of checked luggage.
The majority of airlines charge a fee for the second item and this fee is applicable up to 50 lbs. Beyond that you can expect the fee to start rising.
As an example of costs and weights, American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines all charge $25 for the first checked bag with a limit of up to 50 lbs. A second checked bag will cost a further $35, also with a weight limit of up to 50 lbs.
Flying With Archery Equipment
The TSA rules when it comes to archery equipment is that you are prohibited from taking bows and arrows onto a plane in carry-on luggage.
You can use either hard or soft bow cases when transporting your archery equipment on a plane, however it is a good idea to wrap sharp ends to ensure airline workers are not injured. This might happen when security screens are done or during the baggage handling process.
To ensure your bow, arrows and other gear do not move whilst in transit you should ensure that everything is properly secured. Many bow cases come with internal straps that allow you to lash everything down securely. Ensure that you always use them.
Before arriving at the airport it is always a very good idea to ring the airline to confirm that there won’t be a problem bringing your archery equipment onto the plane. You will need to be able to tell them the size of your case, that it is TSA-approved and what it will be containing. Most airlines won’t have a problem but there may be size restrictions or some other concerns that may need to be addressed.
Remember, you are essentially flying with a weapon in your luggage, consequently there is always the possibility that things will not go smoothly. Be prepared to answer questions about the bow and also, be prepared to answer them in more than one place.
Further Bow Case Options
As well as the bow cases that have been suggested above, we have also examined some of the most popular models of hard bow cases and soft bow cases currently available on the market today. We suggest that you might also like to browse through the features of those too: