As you can imagine, we’re finding it hard to think of anything BUT Fencing Summer Nationals as we get more excited to travel to Columbus. I realize many of you might be flying with your fencing gear for the first time (*), so I wanted to share this post on tips for packing your gear, keeping it safe, and being prepared should something go awry.
First of all, as with most things, experience is the best teacher. That’s why I spoke with someone who has traveled all over for fencing competitions: numerous national and international events including World Cups, the International Maccabi Games, Summer Nationals, NACs, ROCs, SYCs, and more. I’m talking about Michael Yukelson, father of our epee fencer, Taly Yukelson. Both Michael and Taly were gracious enough to share their tips and learning experiences for traveling to any event including this year’s Summer National Championship!
These tips basically fall into two camps: first, how to pack your weapons to protect them, and second, tips for being prepared for the inevitable problems like delayed flights, missed connections, and lost luggage. In short, we’ll talk about how to protect your weapons and then tell you why you should keep all other gear in your carry-on luggage if at all possible! We don’t suggest trying to take your weapons onto the plane (unless you feel like getting friendly with airport security 🙂 )
So, we all know that fencing gear is gentle. It can break in so many places and it includes delicate electrical and mechanical parts. One rough bump in the wrong place and your weapon is out of commission! Hopefully you’re able to fix it, but if not, we also can agree that no one wants to have to replace expensive fencing gear. It’s enough of an investment the first time!
So, for your most important gear, your weapons, we suggest that you purchase a golf travel case. They sell hard cases for golfers to transport their golf bags and clubs, and these are actually perfect for your fencing weapons as well. If you are in fencing for the long-term and plan to continue traveling, it’s worth the investment. If a youth fencer is attending at least 2-3 national competitions, which could be Summer Nationals, one NAC, and one SYC, RYC, or ROC, head to your nearest golf store … you’ll be glad you did!
When you get to the golf store, even if you are a golfer, you might not have any idea how to select a golf travel case for fencing gear. The truth is that any will work, but here are some tips:
- Your case is likely to last a long time and might even be a one-time purchase. We suggest not skimping too much on price so that you are sure you have a sturdy bag that can take some knocks.
- Look for these criteria:
- Is it rigid enough?
- Can it hold up to five or six weapons? This may sound silly to a youth fencer, but remember, this is a long-term investment! Many senior advanced fencers participate in multiple events and need more backups as they get more serious in the sport.
- How easy is it to roll around? Not just in the airport where the floors are smooth and level, but what if you’re walking up a gravel hill from a parking lot to a fencing venue? Transportability will be key when you’re going to and from tournaments after flights and hotels and all of the other stresses of traveling.
Michael recommends golf travel cases from SKB. Not only do they meet the criteria above, but they also have an unconditional lifetime warranty! Michael told me personal stories about cases broken during travel by airport handlers. SKB always handled the situation quickly, so the lifetime warranty has been more than worth it for Michael and likely would be for you too.
Whether you invest in a golf travel case or use another type of luggage, a great tip is to protect your blades with PVC pipe. You can purchase a pipe on any fencing equipment site, or you can make one yourself by purchasing PVC from your nearest hardware store. It’s actually recommended that you use your PVC pipe everywhere you go with your weapon, even if you’re just traveling in the car or your weapon is at a competition not being used. I’ve seen weapons stepped on while in a bag at a tournament, or blades ruined from wet clothes being thrown on them in the trunk of a car.
Okay, so the truth is, despite all of these precautions, you’re likely to hit a snag at some point in your fencing career. We all know how often luggage gets lost at the airport. This is particularly true when you have connections with your flights! The good news is that all major competitions (NACs, Nationals) have vendors on site selling weapons and gear. In the unlucky event that you do have to purchase a new weapon, it’s really not so bad because you will likely need it down the road anyway. Plus, if worst comes to worst, although undesirable, you can borrow a weapon from a teammate.
Okay, onto a VERY important point—we strongly suggest that all fencing gear other than your weapon be kept in your carry-on luggage and NOT checked. It will be tempting to use the space around your weapons for jackets and masks and whatever else, but it’s better not to! If your gear is with you and your golf travel case is delayed, you still have the rest of your gear to completely suit up and only have the weapon purchase to worry about. Gear on the other hand you really would prefer not to purchase at a competition from vendors. First, particularly for youth fencers, you’re likely to be buying it just for the one instance since you don’t typically need backup gear and youth fencers tend to grow! Also, it’s best that gear be a bit worn-in, tried and tested … you don’t want an ill-fitting mask or jacket to keep you from fencing your best. Not to mention, if time is tight, you might not have time to put your name on a new jacket/lame!
So, let’s review. Use PVC pipe protectors on your weapons. Invest in a golf travel case if you plan on flying a few times a year. Keep all other gear in your carry-on if at all possible so that in the worst case of lost luggage, you only have your weapon to worry about.
We hope this post is helpful as we all prepare to travel for Summer Nationals. See you in Columbus!
(*) In our ebook for beginner fencers “Parents’ Guide to Fencing: Everything You Need to Know to Start Your Child in the Sport of Fencing” you can learn more about different competitions your child can participate, various options for fencing gear, where to purchase it and much more.