One of the last, but in my opinion most important, issues to cover for traveling is how to travel with fountain pens. I’ve had lots of people warn me about it so I thought I’d find some research and share it here.
The biggest myth around flying with pens, fountain or otherwise is that they will explode. All my research suggests that the worst fate you might face is that the pen would leak. According to Penspotters:
The cabin pressure on the typical jetliner is maintained at about 10psia (0.7 atm), corresponding to the air pressure at about 10,000 feet of altitude. Although you reach this lower pressure within 30 minutes or so of takeoff, the air inside your pens is still at the ground-level pressure of 15psia (1 atm), and will take a very long time to equalize. This puts some pressure on the liquid ink, and can cause it to blot as you write, or to ooze or spurt from the pen even if you don’t use it.
Whenever you fly with pens, whether in checked baggage or as carry-on, you should make sure that the pens are either completely full (so that no air is trapped inside), or completely empty and clean (no ink to leak out). If possible, make sure the pens are kept points-up, which will make cleanup a bit easier should they leak.
So, if you are concerned that a pen might leak, store them upright (tip facing up) in a plastic bag during the flight to protect the interior of your bag. I plan to carry my Kawecos empty for the flight and pack a few cartridges and/or some sample ink vials and a syringe to refill (C’mon, my April Ink Drop samples just arrived!).
If you are not a fountain pen user but are concerned that other writing instruments might revolt on you mid-flight, you may want to consider a pen that has been designed specifically to tackle the challenges of the pressurized cabin like the UniBall Vision Elite or RT, Pilot Precise V5/V7 RT or the Pilot VBall RT. Ballpoint pens seem to be a good choice for many people in-flight and handling the rigors of pressurized cabins. A Fisher Space pen is a good option as it was designed to handle the pressure of space travel, so it can probably handle a domestic flight. And, of course, you can’t go wrong with a pencil though I would recommend packing a travel sharpener to keep pencil shavings neat or a mechanical pencil.
(Sites referenced in this post: Moleskinerie, Richard’s Pens, Budget Travel, The Pen Addict, Pen 4 U, Writer’s Bloc, Nibs.com, Levenger)