Overthinking Pen Travel

(Jeff Abbott is a regular contributor at The Pen Addict. You can find more from Jeff online at Draft Evolution and Twitter.)

Ever since picking up the bug for fountain pens, I've always been curious about how they act when in a pressurized cabin. It's natural, right? You have these pens that you love using, and you want them to go with you when you go on business trips or vacations. Believe me, I never even considered the fact that fountain pens might misbehave on airplanes until someone told me. Luckily, I didn't find out the hard way.

I also don't travel that much – maybe about 3 or 4 times a year on a plane. That means I don't get a lot of opportunities to try it out, and it's not really something you can ask a relative or friend to try out when they are traveling. So, after a couple of test sessions, I've found a pretty great solution to flying with fountain pens without worrying. My answer? An airtight cigar case.

The first couple of times I flew with a fountain pen, I kept the pen in a plastic bag and tried to keep the nib pointed to the sky. That worked fine, except there was usually some nib creep and maybe even a little spilling. When I fly, I like to keep things as stress-free as possible, and trying to keep a pen in the right position during a flight can be a bit tedious. Not a huge deal, but it's just one more thing. That's why I started looking for solutions that were easier and more trustworthy.

The cigar case wasn't my first stop. All I knew was that I wanted an airtight case, which isn't hard to find – what is hard to find is a small airtight case. I didn't need something that could carry a professional photography setup, just a pen or two. At some point, I started stumbling on cigar cases, but I soon discovered that not all cigar cases are made alike. Some hold just one, while other hold three or four. Since maintaining air pressure on a plane isn't something most people are looking for, it isn't usually listed on the product description. Finally, I found the XiKar case that matched all the requirements. A comment on the product page sold me on it. Basically, the buyer explained that he was in the Air Force and used the case to transport cigars. He said that the case was perfectly airtight and mentioned that closing the case at a high altitude (like the Rockies) before traveling to a lower destination (something close to sea level) would leave the case unable to open because of the negative air pressure inside. Perfect. This works as long as I'm not changing altitudes tonight.

I bought the case in time for my next trip and had a chance to use it. I definitely underestimated how large the case was – it's about the same size as my toiletries bag. Not a big deal, but not the best scenario for packing light.

Apart from the size, this case is top-notch. The plastic is high quality and all of the moving parts are really solid. There's foam on both the top and bottom of the case interior, which is nice, but it's not tight enough to hold pens steady. I plan to find some more foam to make up the difference. Although, a Nock Lookout fits perfectly inside the case as-is.

There are two large latches on the front of the case that secure it shut. There's a place for a lock, if that's something you want to use to protect your pens.

So, how does it fly? On both ends of my trip, the pens didn't leak, creep, or change at all. It was like carrying pens with me in the car. Brilliant. I really don't know what else there is to say about it – it makes flying with fountain pens anxiety-free. I don't have to worry about the pens leaking ink in my bag, and it also protects the pens when they're packed tightly in my bag. Perfect solution for me.

Of course, you may not care about moving to a ridiculous travel setup like this – it's not ideal because of the size, I'll be the first to admit. But, owning multiple fountain pens and inks isn't really practical either. It's all about the hobby and enjoying the experience of writing with fine instruments. And, for me, the ability to pack pens on a plane without having to think about ink leaking is a worth the price of admission, dorky box and all. At any rate, this case also protects it from the trip – think about all the times your checked bag might get tossed, dropped, kicked, etc.

If you want to buy your own fountain pen travel case, Amazon has them for a pretty fair price of about $22.

Posted on December 24, 2014 and filed under Pen Case, XiKar.