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
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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
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
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.
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.
[Check out our review of the Bose A20 headset]
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.
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.
4. Kneeboard with Pen and Paper
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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 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.
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.
The Best Gear for Pilots
And there you have it! Our top ten
What other pilot gear do you consider an essential for your
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Liz Brassaw is a first officer for a regional airline and the former Chief Pilot and Chief Flight Operations Officer for Thrust Flight. She holds an ATP, CFI, CFII, MEI, AMEL, ASES with over 2,500 hours of flight instruction given. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree from the Utah Valley University School of Aviation Sciences. She’s passionate about flying and enjoys instilling that love in the instructors on her team and the new students she trains.