Best Pilot flight bags 2024 + what to pack in your flight bag

A good quality flight bag is essential for every pilot. But you might not need it on every flight! In fact, sometimes it could be downright dangerous to take a bag into a cockpit, for example, if you’re heading out for some aerobatics lessons!

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What should you put in your flight bag?

Whilst every pilot has their own preference for what they put in their flight bag, here’s what I put in mine:

  1. Headset
  2. Paper maps and bulldog clips
  3. Navigation plotters
  4. Publications and directories
  5. Electronic flight bag – or iPad
  6. Hat
  7. Sunscreen
  8. Emergency first aid kit
  9. Survival rations
  10. Emergency locator beacon or PLB
  11. GPS Tracker
  12. Pocket knife/survival tool
  13. Emergency cash

Having an incredibly big and bulky bag weighing you down will be hard to move around and be a pain in the cockpit, and something too small won’t fit in all your gear. You want to find a good compromise, which might mean not taking unnecessary equipment with you. For example, I only take my international travel adaptors and passports when I go overseas, and not when I’m bashing around in the circuit!

You also want to make sure you can secure your flight bag in the cockpit; big carabiner clips are actually amazing at doing this and you’d be surprised how effective and versatile they are. Have a look at Locking Carabiner 18Kn Kite Surfing Equipment, Kite... which is the carabiner clip I use to keep my bag secured in flight.

Choosing the right flight bag

It goes without saying that you’ll need different items in your flight bag depending on the flying that you’re doing, so the type of bag you’ll want will also depend on what you do/where you go.

Cross country navigation or international flights

For navigation training and long cross country or international flights – I recommend my students get a pilot flight bag like the Jeppeson captain bag or the FlyBoys large crew bag, as they both fit all of your gear and are versatile. The beautiful part about these bags is that you can add or remove sections as needed. I found this to be an amazing feature of the bag, as it meant that I could remove some of the sections (and equipment) I didn’t need for a flight.

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Here’s what I normally pack in my flight bag for international flights:

  • Flight manual quick reference handbooks
  • Knee pad
  • Hearing protection – Soft inners and hard outers
  • Flying gloves
  • Sunglasses
  • Passports and travel cards
  • Electronic flight bag (iPad)
  • Paper charts
  • High visibility Fluoro vest
  • Battery power banks (for Efb/phone)
  • International travel adaptors
  • emergency ration tin
  • First aid kit
  • Multi-tool
  • Chewing gum! (Great for the top of descent, especially if you have a passenger complaining of blocked ears)

For commercial operators with less equipment, or who are flying smaller aircraft that are more tight on space, I highly recommend the Brightline Flex bags. I have flown with this modular pilot flight bag system for years and its a quality product with a million zippers and pockets to stash all your various things.

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Local flying training or short navs

For local flying training or short navs, you won’t need a giant bag full of gear. You most likely just need a couple of items, and these should neatly fit in your smaller flight bag. I personally use a helmet bag, which is conveniently sized and easily clips into either a seatbelt restraint or other structure in the cockpit. In my helmet bag I keep:

  • Headset
  • Earplugs
  • Flying gloves
  • Paper charts
  • EFB / iPad
  • First aid kit
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Multi-tool

The helmet bag I use is the Flyboys Defender. Though it is sold as a helmet bag, I mainly just store my headset in there, since I don’t wear a helmet for most of my flying. The inside of the bag is ridiculously soft, which is great because I don’t want my helmet/headset getting scratched when it’s inside. It also has internal pockets that are just the right size for storing your earplugs, phone, and other small loose items.

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Student pilot

As a student pilot, you don’t need to spend the earth on a flight bag. You want something that is hard-wearing, fits your stuff and doesn’t break the bank. I started out with the Jeppeson student bag and its a great first bag. Once you get to know the ropes, you’ll work out what works best for you

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If you’re going up to learn aerobatics or formation flying, its best to leave the flight bag on the ground. The last thing you need during a spin recovery or other dynamic material is stuff floating around the cockpit. In violent maneuvers, this FOD could seriously injure you, or become jammed in the controls.


Pilot flight bags are more than just your average backpack or luggage, they are designed to store and protect some fairly unique items, like your headset, maps, flight computers and ensure that you can get access to them when you need them. Hopefully, this article has helped you to find the right flight bag for you. You can also check out my London Fog Luggage Review for some more inspiration on travel bags.

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What flight bag do you use? let us know in the comments below

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ken johnson


Ken is a passionate aviator, a professional pilot and flight instructor. He has over 17 years of flight experience across hundreds of aircraft ranging from recreational, aerobatic, historic, commercial and military aircraft, training hundreds of students along the way. Find out more.

Ken has 124 posts and counting. See all posts by Ken

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