A time will come when you’ll need to travel with cigars. Whether for a good friend’s destination wedding, or you pick up a few imports at a specialty shop on a business trip, traveling with cigars requires more than just throwing them in a ziplock baggie and hoping for the best. And you risk damage beyond squishing or breaking.
While resilient to controlled aging, cigars are delicate things. They’re quickly affected by changes in their environment. Humidity and temperature fluctuation can cause lasting damage to the tobacco such as molding or drying and cracking. And exposure to sunlight can damage tobacco or cause a greenhouse effect. We know all this, and that’s why we invest in quality humidors.
But what about when traveling? You have a few options. Travel humidors and travel cases can help protect your cigars. Some aficionados even travel with their desktop humidors. But even then your cigars, humidor, or travel humidor will all be exposed to a lot of changes. Here’s what you need to know and what you need to do when traveling with cigars.
How Does Travel Affect Cigars?
Whether traveling by land or airplane, the primary concern for cigars isn’t so much about the method or the travel itself. It’s about geography.
When you step off an airplane into the jet bridge on your way to the terminal, you quickly feel the difference in weather–especially if your destination is someplace particularly warm or cool, humid or dry. You might even notice changes in your breathing if your nose dries and you wake up with a sore throat the following day.
While planes, trains, and automobiles allow us to cover vast distances in a small amount of time, the change in geography can be drastic, especially for your cigars as humidity fluctuates.
Adjusting Your Humidor to Location
Desktop humidors are helpful beyond the household. Because they’re small and relatively lightweight, you can adapt them for travel in a pinch–especially if you’re traveling via car, bus, van, or truck. Your situation gets more precarious should you choose to pack a humidor in a checked bag, however.
Humidor humidity can fluctuate drastically depending on its surroundings. That includes geography. That also includes seasons and weather. Whenever you travel and expose your humidor to a significantly different relative humidity and temperature, your humidor will acclimate. During this time, monitor the levels of your digital or analog hygrometer closely. If you plan to stay at your travel destination for an extended time, you may need to season your humidor and adjust, including lowering humidity levels.
What Is a Travel Humidor?
A travel humidor is your best all-around option when traveling Especially when flying, these keep your cigars as close to home humidor levels as possible. Travel humidors are portable by design: durable to prevent physical damage, compact in size so you can pack in checked baggage or a carry-on, and compatible with disposable humidifying elements like humidor packs.
Most travel cases are equipped with some form of a protective case. The spectrum ranges from lightweight, leather “finger cases” that pack a couple of cigars, to the locked-and-loaded, indestructible vault-like cases that are often waterproof and airtight. The bulkier the humidor, the more protection–but that does eliminate some of the perks of portability.
As the size of your travel humidor increases, the more cigars you can pack. The largest travel humidor fits upwards of 80 cigars, but this humidor is in a class of its own. On the larger side, travel humidors typically fit 15-20 cigars, while the small cases will only fit two or three.
Remember that your smaller, less protective cases only put a couple of cigars at risk, while the bulky, large humidors do a great job of protecting a high-dollar collection. It’s a win-win situation. The only significant risk is losing a large travel humidor during travel, whether by negligence or a misplaced checked bag.
Travel humidors rely on various humidifying elements like humidity packs, pillows, gel beads, and solutions. Heed your cigar-to-pack ratio recommendations closely. Generally, you’ll want a humidor pack for every twenty cigars. And also remember these are temporary options: you need to keep some in reserve to replace depending on how long you’re traveling. And if you’re going to be in more arid locations, pack extra.
How Does a Travel Humidor Work?
The biggest difference between a standard desktop humidor and a travel humidor comes down to the inside of the case. For desktop humidors that don’t move around, there is a lot of air space which allows the humidifier to work properly. Spanish cedar inlays provide the perfect environment to control the humidity.
With travel humidors, your cigars don’t have those same luxuries for the simple fact that they would get damaged in an open-air environment. So travel humidors are often built with foam padding–like a gun case–or use a cradle system to restrain cigars from moving about. Some are equipped with a humidifier in the lid of the case, while others rely on humidor packs. Travel humidors don’t create as an ideal a situation as home humidors, but they can still keep the environment relatively controlled.
Some are equipped with built-in hygrometers, but this is less often the case due to size constraints. But monitoring relative humidity levels is crucial to know how well your humidor packs are working, so use a portable hygrometer if necessary to get a reading.
A travel humidor DIY tip: because so few travel humidors use any Spanish cedar element on the inside of the case, consider inserting small cedar planks into your travel humidor to give it an added dimension of humidity control as well as aroma.
How To Use a Travel Humidor
Ensure you don’t overpack your travel humidor. These cases are already working at a disadvantage to keep your stogies at optimal humidity, and the last thing you want is to overload the system by packing in as many as possible.
Most travel humidors will require a humidor pack of some kind. Ensure that you use a high-quality humidity pack, and pair it with a similar humidity level you would store your cigars in your home humidor. The only exception is to dial it in further once you arrive at your destination: the humidity levels might be drastically different. Don’t shy from bringing several ranges of humidity packs to help you adjust to the perfect level.
The humidors that are designed for flying will often be equipped with a “purge” knob that will allow you to equalize pressure before opening. While not always necessary, this will release any suction that occurs from changing altitude.
Where To Buy a Travel Humidor Case
Klaro offers two versions of the Flint Travel Leather Cigar Case, in brown and black leather. Capable of storing up to five cigars, these medium-sized travel humidors are a great option for the weekender trip when you want convenience and class. There’s ample room for your cigars, accessories, and a few extras. Two traits make this case great for traveling: high-quality, full-grain Italian leather, and a hard-shell protective case inside the leather that protects your cigars while on the go.
Traveling with Accessories
When you’re traveling with cigars, don’t forget the accessories. But don’t let TSA catch you with a torch lighter and high-end cutter. You won’t get those back. Instead, pack your accessories in your checked bag, and secure them in a DOT-approved container. Empty your lighter of fuel, and always pack a lighter and cutter you don’t care too much about. Even if you follow all protocols, you don’t have much control over airport security.
With these strategies, you should be well equipped to enjoy multiple choices from your home cigar collection while traveling without damaging or distorting the tobacco.