As a new student pilot, you might wonder why you need a specialist pilot flight bag at all? After all, you may reason, how much stuff do you have to take on a flight, particularly if you rarely go flying for more than an hour or so. And you can’t imagine being airborne for longer than that. So wouldn’t an ordinary kitbag or briefcase, or even a carrier bag, be good enough?
This was how I felt when I started learning to fly. I was already spending what seemed like a small fortune on flying lessons. Why would I want to spend extra on what seemed like an overpriced flight bag?
However, I quickly changed my tune on this. I gradually found that I needed to take quite a lot of equipment with me on every flight. The stuff I carried varied, so I really needed a bag that was flexible enough for different flying trips. And finally, I needed to be able to find items easily, so the flight bag needed to be well organized, with dedicated spaces for smaller items. Believe me, it’s no fun when you have to hunt through a collection of charts, notebooks, and radio equipment, in order to find a fuel tester or your mobile phone. And yes, that happened to me!
This was all many years ago, and the choice of pilot flight bags wasn’t as extensive as it is now. So I ended up in a long search for the best flight bag for pilots, and I used several in this ongoing hunt for perfection. No one seemed to make exactly what I wanted. But things are much easier now, with a huge variety of bags for all types of pilots. So read on my guide on the best flight bags for pilots for more details….
Bottom Line Up Front
A dedicated pilot flight bag may seem like a non-essential item, but having a suitable one certainly makes flying easier. Flight bags come in different shapes and sizes, and are made from different materials, and with the interiors arranged in different ways. So it is worth doing some research to find out what be would be best for you, whether you are a student, private pilot, or commercial pilot. For most people, a flight bag with a lot of versatility is ideal. I would particularly recommend the Brightline Bags Flex B7 Flight Preconfigured Modular Bag for its size, design, and versatility.
- Flight Outfitters Lift Flight Bag
- MyGoFlight PLC Lite Ipad Aviation Flight Bag
- Design 4 Pilots Cross Country Flight Bag
- Flight Outfitters Bush Pilot Folio Flight Bag
- Brightline Bags Flex B7 Flight Preconfigured Modular Bag.
- Lightspeed Aviation – The Markham Leather Flight Bag
Best Buy – Brightline Bags Flex B7 Flight Preconfigured Modular Bag
Why Do You Need A Pilot Flight Bag?
As mentioned above, students and some low-hours pilots often think that any ordinary briefcase or kitbag will do for carrying their flying gear. Well, you might be able to manage with just any old bag, but a well-designed flight bag will make things much easier for you.
Why will it make things easier? There are a large number of items that you need on every flight. These may vary at different times in your flying career. A student pilot will probably need space for a headset, an ipad or tablet, and perhaps charts or books. Private pilots going out on short fights may dispense with the books, but will probably find they need a flashlight, spare batteries, a fuel tester, and a few other items.
Later in your flying, if you go on longer trips, such as overnight, or particularly if you work as a commercial pilot, you are likely to need a few pieces of extra clothing in addition to your day-to-day flight gear. In fact, you may want to carry such things anyway. Fairly soon after I got my private pilot’s license, I got unexpectedly stranded overnight due to extensive thunderstorms that hadn’t been forecast. I had virtually nothing with me for an overnight stop. But I learned from experience, and after that I always carried spare food, spare underwear, and a toothbrush, at the very least, however short I expected the flight to be.
Although you could carry all of these items, and more, in any bag, it really helps if they’re organized in separate compartments and so easy to lay hands on when you need them. It is also a good idea if at least some of these compartments are padded to protect delicate items such as headsets. And these are the reasons why a specialist flight bag is such a good idea.
What Items Will You Keep In Your Pilot Flight Bag?
Let’s now take a look at what any pilot is likely to need to take on a flight, in case you still don’t believe that so much is required.
For Student Pilots
- Your pilot logbook
- Photo ID
- Flight planning materials
- Various emergency items.
For Private Pilots
You need the above, and also..
- High visibility jacket
- Spare handheld radio for emergencies
- Extra charts
- Fuel tester
For Commercial Pilots, And Also Private Pilots On Long Trips
You need all the above and also…
- Extra clothing and personal items for overnight stops
- Spare batteries
- Snacks and drinks
- Mobile phone
There may of course be other personal items that you require.
What Features Do You Need In Your Pilot Flight Bag
When looking for a flight bag, you need to decide what sort of flying you’ll be doing. Even if you’re a student pilot, it could well be worth buying a flight bag that you can grow into, as it were, with space for more items than you need at present. On the other hand, you may prefer to buy a more reasonably priced student flight bag for now, and then get something more extensive and versatile if and when you need it. The choice is yours of course.
Flight bags are made from different materials. Leather looks classy and wears well, but it is expensive and heavy. Polyester is cheap, but not that durable. Canvas and nylon are both hardwearing, although canvas is heavy and not that waterproof. Again, it comes down to needs versus cost, and also personal preference, so do think carefully about this.
Also, think carefully about how many compartments you need, and how large you want your bag to be overall. Again, you can choose something to grow into as your flying progresses if you wish. But also bear in mind how much space you have when you’re flying. In most light aircraft, the bag will have to go in the back. However, in larger aircraft, even if there is space in the back, you may want something that is small enough to fit by your seat, which is most convenient and what the majority of airline pilots do.
On the other hand, your needs may be more specialized. As a helicopter pilot flying the Robinson R22, I needed a bag that would fit under my seat, as this was the only storage space available. This meant I had to discard my trusty old flying bag, as it was much too big, and invest in a specialist helicopter bag of the right size! So these things are not always that straightforward.
Where Can You Buy Pilot Flight Bags
These days you can buy pilot flight bags in many places. There are physical shops and websites for all the well-known aviation supply companies, such as Pilot Mall, Sporty’s Pilot Shop, and Airport Pilot Shop, among others. You may also be able to buy pilot flight bags from your own flying schools, on Ebay or Amazon, or secondhand from other pilots. The choice may not be so great from these sources, but it may be quite acceptable for you. Again, the choice is yours. But do make sure you do some research first, and buy what you need for the type of flying you do.
The Best Pilot Flight Bags
Now we come to the nitty-gritty – which bag should you buy?
Since there are a huge number of pilot flight bags available, and many of them are very good, I found it quite difficult to compile a shortlist of the best ones. There were so many factors to take into account. But in the end I came up with half a dozen excellent bags, all different. For convenience, I have divided them into three groups, although it must be said that there is a lot of overlap between groups…
- Budget priced bags for student pilots and those who need something simple
- Bags with more compartments for private pilots who are prepared to spend a little more money.
- Larger bags with more compartments, often costing rather more, for the commercial or airline pilot. These are also suitable for the private pilot who does longer flights, and an ambitious student pilot may well decided to buy one of these so that he or she does not have to upgrade at a later date.
Do realize that these divisions and types are not set in stone. Take a look, and whatever flight bag seems best for you, buy it if you want it, no matter what sort of pilot you are and what group I have put it in.
Budget Priced Bags
These bags cost around $100, which is actually quite inexpensive for a good pilot flight bag.
Flight Outfitters Lift Flight Bag
This is one of the smaller flight bags, but is designed specifically for students and private pilots. It is made of durable ripstop nylon, and has a number of pockets designed for specific items. These include an ipad pocket, a padded compartment for a headset and spare batteries, and a pocket for various small items such as keys, phone, GPS, etc. The bag even has a special pocket for a water bottle, which many cheaper bags don’t have. It is quite good looking, and does not take up too much room in a small aircraft such as a PA38 or Cessna 150, which many people learn to fly on. And if you’re trying to save money, and who isn’t when shelling out for flying lessons, it’s one of the cheapest bags around.
I like this bag because in spite of its lowish price tag, it is well-designed and durable, and probably has everything the student or low hours pilot needs. You may need something more expensive later in your career, but that could be a decision for another time.
- Relatively inexpensive
- Compact size
- A number of useful compartments
- Too small for some people, particularly if you start needing more stuff for longer flights
- Not easy to clean
- Only One Colour Available
Mygoflight Plc Lite Ipad Aviation Flight Bag
Again this bag is relatively small and inexpensive, but I chose it particularly because it’s designed for ipad users, and more and more new pilots are relying on ipads rather than the more bulky books and charts, as we did in the past. It has a roomy, padded ipad pocket, and also enough other pockets for students and private pilots who don’t carry all that many items. Again, it’s a compact size and not too expensive.
If you are a committed ipad user when it comes to aviation, I’d suggest going for this bag rather than the one described earlier. It’s slightly more expensive, but not very much more. And I think you will like it.
- Good looking bag, in my opinion better looking than the Flight Outfitters Lift.
- Nice large pocket suitable for almost any size ipad
- Sensibly priced
- Has no external pockets for items like a water bottle or fuel tester.
- Only comes in one color option
Medium Range Bags
These bags are suitable for most private pilots, particularly those who don’t want to spend the earth! There is a huge range of bags in this price category, so if something else takes your fancy, maybe go for it.
Design 4 Pilots Cross Country Flight Bag
This bag has a very large central compartment, with room for more books and charts than the previous bags. I like it for that reason, as I always find myself carrying more items than I expect to. With this bag, if you want to throw in an extra book or two, then you can. It also has a high visibility interior for easily finding things in the dark, plus a padded strap in case you find it being heavier than you expected….when you added that extra book or two! There are also some useful exterior pockets.
- large amount of space inside
- A good looking bag with a rectangular shape
- High visibility interior
- May be difficult to find everything in the large central compartment.
Flight Outfitters Bush Pilot Folio
This light brown canvas bag is very unusual, and you’ll either like it a lot or hate it! I like the fact that it’s rather unusual, and looks as though it’s suitable for aspiring bush pilots. But it would be fine for any pilot who likes a more casual, outdoor style of flight bag. It is also fairly large and you could even fit in extra items for a weekend away if you really needed to. And it has a large number of dedicated pockets for your fuel tester, phone, sunglasses etc.
- Well made and good looking, and even suitable for trips that are not aviation related
- Has lots of space for extra items
- Very unusual color and design
- Light brown color is not to everyone’s taste.
- Fairly expensive, though cheaper than leather flight bags.
Top Of The Range Bags
These are the best flight bags you will find, although many of them have a price tag to prove it! They are mainly designed for airline pilots, but that doesn’t stop the rest of us buying them, if they’re what you want.
Brightline Bags Flex B7 Flight Preconfigured Modular Bag
I just love this bag! In fact, I want one, right now! And I’d get one if I didn’t already have too many flight bags.
This bag has an absolutely huge number of pockets, so that you can keep individual items separate and find them immediately. But more important, in my opinion, is the fact that it splits into several bags, so for shorter flights you don’t have to take the whole thing with you. So if you need it, you have a very large bag which will hold everything. But if not, then zip off the extra bits and leave some of it behind.
In my opinion this is a bag for every pilot. It’s quite expensive, but if I was a new student again, I think I’d invest in this bag, and keep it forever. It’s tough too, so it should last for your whole flying career.
- Extremely versatile
- Splits into a number of separate bags if required
- Has an incredibly large number of compartments
- Expensive – you won’t get much change from $300
- Takes up a lot of room and may be unsuitable for very small aircraft
- Rather heavy when fully loaded
Lightspeed Aviation – The Markham Leather Flight Bag
If you want a leather flight bag – and let’s face it, they do look good – then this is the one to go for. It is a relatively small size, but has a large number of pockets and a lot of internal space. It also has a couple of external pockets. And, being leather, it is very hard wearing, and each individual bag is unique with distinctive hide marking and grain.
I wanted to include one leather bag, and I think this one is the best. So if you want a leather bag, bite the bullet and the expensive price tag and go for it!
- A good-looking leather flight bag that is sure to attract admiring glances
- Has a convenient central zipper into the main compartment
- Very hard-wearing
- Rather expensive, nearly $300
- Not everyone likes leather bags
- Relatively small sized.
My Recommendation/Best Buy
This just has to be the Brightline Bags Flex B7 Flight Preconfigured Modular Bag.
As I already said, I just love this bag, and I’m already trying to justify buying one. Although designed for airline pilots, it is suitable for everyone who flies. If you’re a student, you can zip off some of the extra compartments, and simply have a smaller bag. And the bag will grow with you, as it were.
Years ago, I spent ages looking for the perfect flight bag. This one is as close to it as I’ve yet seen.
Frequently Asked Questions – Best Flight Bags for Pilots
Question: Do I really need a specialist pilot flight bag?
Answer: You don’t absolutely have to have one. You can carry your flight equipment in a briefcase or carrier bag if you really want to. But having a dedicated pilot’s flight bag means you have a space in your bag for everything and can find things when you need them. It certainly makes your flying a lot easier, and therefore a lot more fun.
Question: What should pilots pack in a flight bag?
Answer: This depends very much on what you need. The average private pilot will need an ipad or some books and charts, sunglasses, fuel tester, GPS, headset, and a collection of other items. You need to carry quite a lot of stuff, so having a flight bag that will hold it all is an excellent idea.
Question: Is it worth paying extra for a leather flight bag?
Answer: It isn’t absolutely necessary. Modern materials such as nylon work just as well, are lighter, and are much cheaper. Having said that, nothing looks as good as a leather flight bag, and they are very hard-wearing. So if you hanker after one, and can afford it, then it will be worth it for you.
A pilot’s flight bag may not seem like an essential item. But having a suitable one certainly makes your life as a pilot a whole lot easier, and it enables you to easily carry the items you need on every flight, and find them when required. So hopefully you found this article useful, and you will now be able to go out and buy the best flight bag for you.
And then, as they say in aviation, I wish you blue skies and tailwinds.
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- Aero Corner. https://aerocorner.com/blog/best-flight-bags/
- Thrust Flight. https://www.thrustflight.com/the-best-flight-bags-for-pilots/
- Clever Journey. https://www.cleverjourney.com/best-flight-bags/