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Best Gear for Pilots | 13 Pilot Essentials You Need in Your Flight Bag

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In this post I’m going to share the best pilot gear I carry with me on nearly every flight.

Over the years the gear I carry in my flight bag has evolved and today, the items below are the things I consider pilot essentials.

We receive commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

Whether you’re an experienced pilot or a brand new student pilot, there’s gear here you’ll use on every single flight. Plus some pilot gear you may not use regularly, but will definitely want just in case.

Here are the top ten pilot bag essentials!

1. Pilot Certificate & Medical

When it comes to gear for pilots, this one’s a no-brainer because you can’t legally fly without these.

Make sure your pilot certificate and FAA medical are always in your flight bag. It’s a good habit to develop to always check and make sure you have them with you.

As an airline pilot, I keep my certificate and medical in a wallet that comes with me on every flight.

However, when I was a flight instructor I kept them in my headset bag since I never stepped on a plane without my headset.

Student Pilot Certificate

2. Headset (with extra batteries if necessary)

Nothing will ruin your planned flight faster than opening your bag and realizing you’ve forgotten it.

I’ve gone through a number of different headsets over the years. My current headset is the Bose A20 (though if I was buying now I’d just get the new A30). I’ve also flown with a few different David Clark headsets that all performed well enough during my flight training and early flight instructor days.

If you want to dig into headsets more you can take a look at my list of the best pilot headsets to help you pick one.

As a student, you’ll generally be able to borrow one from the flight school if necessary.

Our Pick
Bose A20 Aviation Headset with Bluetooth
$1,195.00

The A20 is one of the best aviation headsets on the market. It’s comfortable to wear for those long flights, has excellent active noise reduction, and incredibly clear audio.

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02/18/2024 10:38 pm GMT

[Check out our review of the Bose A20 headset]

Headset inside cockpit

3. iPad with ForeFlight and/or Sectional Charts

An iPad loaded with appropriate sectional charts and approach plates is a must-have for pilots in this day and age.

I’ve used ForeFlight for years and have trained hundreds of students on how to use it.

Make sure you keep your sectional charts up to date.

And if you don’t know what iPad you should get as a new pilot, check out my article on iPads for pilots.

2021 Apple 10.2-inch iPad (Wi-Fi, 64GB) – Silver
$249.00

A tablet is a must-have in the cockpit in 2021. If you’re not sure which one to go with the Apple iPad is easily the most popular tablet on the market. The 2021 iPad is a great option. Some people also like the iPad Mini and if you really want cutting edge go with the iPad Air.

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02/18/2024 06:49 pm GMT

4. Kneeboard with Pen and Paper

Flight Outfitters iPad Slimline Pilot-Friendly Compact Cockpit Flight Kneeboard


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5. Snacks & Water

You may be surprised to see snacks and water on a list of essential gear for pilots but they can come in handy in the times you least expect.

Worst case scenario you don’t eat them and they’re already in there for your next flight.

Notice Title

Add some other nice-to-have gear from this list of the useful gifts for pilots.

6. Charging Cords and a Backup Battery

It also helps when you need to charge your phone mid-flight. Some modern airplanes, like our Piper Archers have USB chargers built in which is a really nice feature.

Anker PowerCore 20,100mAh Portable Charger Ultra High Capacity Power Bank
$49.99
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02/18/2024 03:53 am GMT

7. Non-polarized sunglasses

Flying in Texas has taught me that sunglasses aren’t just nice things to have so you can look cool in the cockpit.

They are pilot necessities, without which your vision can be severely impaired when flying certain headings throughout the day.

For a long time I flew with a pair of Ray Bans like the ones below. But now I fly with sunglasses made by Flying Eyes. They’re easily the most comfortable sunglasses I’ve ever owned and are barely noticeable even with a headset on.

If you need help choosing check out my post on the best pilot sunglasses.

8. Fuel Tester with Screwdriver

Besides the obvious reason, checking fuel is also important because you may get different fuel from other airports. And you want to make sure you have quality fuel to get you where you want to go.

Aviation Fuel Tester with Built-in Cowl Screwdriver
$10.85


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02/18/2024 03:53 pm GMT

9. Flashlight

This is one pilot accessory you don’t want to skip. Whether or not you go night flying frequently, you want to be sure you have a good flashlight.

NITECORE MT20A 360 Lumens 2x AA White/Red LED Flashlight Penlight with a Keychain Light
$44.95
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02/18/2024 03:28 am GMT

10. Multi-Tool

Multi-tools are essential gear for pilots as they provide a wide range of functionalities that may come in handy during a flight.

Carrying a multi-tool on you or in your flight bag ensures that you’re always prepared for any unexpected situation that may require a set of pliers, a knife, or a screwdriver.

Unfortunately, many pilots overlook the importance of carrying this versatile tool in their bag, which can be a costly mistake.

In my experience very few pilots carry them but that’s based simply on the number of times another pilot has asked to borrow mine.

One excellent example of a reliable multi-tool for pilots is the Leatherman Wave Plus. This well-built tool offers exceptional versatility and durability, making it an ideal choice for any pilot looking to add an essential gear to their flight bag.

LEATHERMAN Wave Plus Multitool
$117.95


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02/19/2024 12:29 am GMT

More Gear for Pilots

Now that we’ve gone over my pilot equipment list, here are a few other great items to keep in your bag or on the plane but not necessarily “essentials” in my view.

Extra Tools

Extra tools can be a huge help in the cockpit and very handy on emergency maintenance stops. Many of these items are things you’ll collect as your aviation career goes on, so I wouldn’t consider this as must have student pilot gear.

While a multi-tool is a great thing to always keep on you, a small toolbox full of tools could be a great item to keep in your own plane. This is especially true if you do much backcountry flying.

Survival Gear

Nobody wants to think of the possibility of needing survival items, but to be a truly safe pilot you have to plan for the unthinkable.

If you commonly fly over bodies of water, consider getting a water-activated emergency light or beacon.

There are countless survival items designed specifically for pilots that have saved lives.

Do yourself a big favor and research some of these items. Decide which are necessary for you, keep them with you, and hope you never have to use them.

Our Pick
ICOM A25C Handheld Airband Radio – Communication Channels Only
$510.87
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02/18/2024 07:33 am GMT

The Best Gear for Pilots

And there you have it! Our top ten flight bag essentials! Now it’s important to remember, just like no two pilots are the same, no two flight bags are the same!

What other pilot gear do you consider an essential for your flight bag?

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