Last Updated on March 20, 2023
- Weights like dumbbells, arm weights, ankle weights are not specifically prohibited by the TSA
- The decision on whether a weight can be brought on a plane is taken by the TSA security officer that inspects your luggage
- Airport security will stop you bringing any weight that could be potentially used as a weapon on to the plane
- In practice most weights are not permitted to be brought on to planes
- You can pack weights in checked luggage but need to be aware that you don’t exceed weight limits to avoid excess baggage fees
TSA Weights & Dumbbells Rules
The Transportation Security Administration controls what can and can’t be brought on to planes in the United States.
They don’t specifically mention weights or dumbbells on their website so I checked on Twitter to get an answer from the TSA social media team:
Although weights aren’t specifically listed as a prohibited item in carry-on bags, our officers may not allow them past security if they present a security concern or cause an alarm. We recommend transporting them in checked bags.TSA on Twitter
Bringing Weights In Carry-On Luggage
So the TSA doesn’t recommend bringing weights in your carry-on bag.
There isn’t a blanket ban on flying with weights, it depends on the type of weight you bring and how easy it is to handle.
Specifically the TSA is worried that certain weights could be used as a bludgeon. The more suitable your weight is to whack someone over the head with the more likely that it will not be allowed past airport security.
This is the same reason that you can’t bring other sports equipment like baseball bats, golf clubs, or lacrosse sticks on to planes. In the eyes of the TSA these are seen as potential weapons that must be stopped from getting in to the airplane cabin.
The TSA officer who inspects your luggage at the checkpoint is the one that makes the final decision.
If they see a security concern the security agent will ask you to surrender your weights and they won’t be allowed on board the plane.
Lighter weights might be able to slip through the airport security checkpoint but the TSA offers no guarantees.
All heavy items are seen as potentially dangerous items. If they are easier to swing and handle like a bat the risk they won’t be permitted on board is greater.
Even if you manage to get a dumbbell or a weight through security at one end, there is no guarantee that the next TSA officer will view it in the same way for the return journey.
This passenger managed to bring a dumbbell without attached weights on the outward journey but had to leave it behind on the return home.
So if you want to bring weight-lifting equipment in your carry-on luggage your options are limited.
Water-filled dumbbells might be one option for you to consider but even they will have a handle that might be seen as a problem.
I’d recommend this water or sand-filled kettle bell as a good carry-on weight that will get past the TSA when empty.
Resistance bands are an option too the TSA should let them through as long as they don’t include any heavy handles.
Failing that then bodyweight exercises can be a good substitute for weights with the right technique. Especially if you are only going on a short trip.
Another thing to keep in mind is that airlines on international flights often have a carry-on luggage weight limit that would stop you bringing weights on the plane.
Bringing Weights In Checked Luggage
You can bring weights like dumbbells inside a check-in suitcase.
Most airlines have weight limits for checked baggage of 40 – 50 lbs. This helps to prevent injury to baggage handlers.
If you go over these weight limits you will incur excess baggage fees and they can be quite significant.
That’s on top of the fact that bringing a checked bag usually already involves a baggage fee.
Still Unsure? Ask The TSA
Jules asked the TSA about bringing these egg weights in hand luggage:
Even though egg weights are only hand weights the TSA recommended against packing them in carry-on bags.
Joe wanted to bring a medicine ball on the plane:
The answer from the TSA for pretty much all free weights is that it’s better pack them in checked luggage.
Nick asked about flying with a kettlebell:
You’ve pretty much got zero chance of bringing a kettlebell on a plane. They are just too convenient to swing and use as a weapon.
You might think that little ankle weights would be okay but the TSA advises packing ankle weights in checked luggage:
Even small weights can be a problem.
Natasha managed to leave the country with her small exercise weights but had to give them up on the return leg.
The same goes for gym weights like barbell weights or weight plates:
It doesn’t matter if a weight is neoprene coated or not.
Joyce wanted to bring a weight vest in her hand luggage:
So you can see that the TSA pretty much recommends against packing all gym weights and even small exercise weights in carry-on bags.
If you decide that the weight that you have in mind can’t be considered a weapon then you can try to bring it and hope that the TSA officer at airport security doesn’t have a problem with it.
But you do so at your own risk. There is every chance that you’ll need to surrender it at the checkpoint.