Essential Pilot Gear for Travel

Behind every great pilot is an overnight bag of essential items. In this review, we will look inside pilots’ overnight bags at what is commonly essential pilot gear for travel.

Spoiler alert! As a seasoned overnighter, it is with great anticipation that we look at essential pilot gear for travel. This review is a bit like a trailer, where you get the gist of the whole movie from just a short snapshot, in this case, the title! Another spoiler alert is that it has been proven that pilots are in fact human, and therefore we all have our own quirky ways, and this would flow into what you prefer to have with you on your flying trips. However, I have taken a lifelong poll from my pilot colleagues during many arduous hours in the flight deck, added a pinch of my own experience to create what I believe is essential, and of course, nice to have items in some cases!

Warning … this is a gender-neutral review, however, in the spirit of a bit of fun, there may be items that are ‘commonly’ accepted more for some than others! This does not limit you from taking on your work trips whatever makes you happy, in flow, and of course, helps you get restful sleep prior to duty. Get ready to pack your overnight bags as we reveal (appropriately) what pilots carry!

Everyone needs every charger imaginable, and a good attitude!

And to keep you reading, after much consideration, we have included a sealed section at the end that could be essential for some …

This website is reader-supported, which means we may be paid when you visit links to partner or featured sites, or by advertising on the site. For more information please read my Privacy Policy and Terms of Use

What essential pilot gear needs to be packed for travel for: 

·        One day

·        Overnight trip

·        A weekend

·        One week trip

·        Two weeks or more 

There is nothing worse than getting to your overnight stop and realising that you do not have an item that makes your life better. I could leave this to your imagination however some of the big ticket ‘inconveniences’ I’ve left behind is definitely a fresh pair of undergarments, my battery bank and even at one point my work phone!

Keeping a pilot comfortable while seated, is something not often considered by passengers, but certainly known by pilots!

pilot gear
What is essential for one may not be for another – make a list!

In our search for essential items to pack, there are a few crucial criteria you need to know beforehand.

·        How long is the trip?

·        Do you prefer compact packing and small overnight bags or happy to bulk it up? What kind of luggage do you have?

·        Are you operating internationally or does your company require a passport to be carried and easily accessible at all times?

·        What is the temperature at the destination?

·        Will you have access to a laundry? (Would you use a laundry anyway?)

·        Is it safe to use chargers for your PEDs (portable electronic devices) at the destination (cyber security) or do you need battery banks?

·        Will your phones have safe access to local telecom networks or do you need local phones?

·        Do you have a phobia of drying washed clothes on every upright piece of furniture?!

“You start with a bag full of luck and an empty bag of experience. The trick is to fill the bag of experience before you empty the bag of luck.”


Armed with this knowledge, we are set to tackle the job.

What essential pilot gear needs to be packed for One day?

Oh … the day trip. You either love them or you hate them. For many pilot parents juggling childcare with their partner, the day trip is a gift, however, for others who have a long commute, driving to and from the airport in the same day can almost give you a rash, before we even think of maintenance delays and the potential for it to turn into an unplanned overnight!

Packing for a day trip is largely about ensuring that you have all the items that you need to fly your aircraft whether it be maps and charts or an electronic flight bag (EFB). To house your important pilot stuff, you will need a good ‘nav bag,’ named affectionately because it helps you ‘navigate’ one can assume.

These days thankfully we understand more about posture and long-term wellness, so the lighter the better. Good posture is not only about how you sit, but also about how you move around. Something on wheels or a ‘satchel’ style for your shoulder.

pilot gear
The lighter your packing the better – don’t forget what will be provided for you, and what you can buy while you’re away.

Remember, the size of your bag needs to be able to accommodate your lunch because if you observe pilot colleagues, many either do not enjoy the airlines catering, or they prefer to bring a healthier option.

In summary …

A good nav bag, lunch, and a good attitude are required for a day trip!

What essential pilot gear needs to be packed for an Overnight trip?

An overnight pack is all about how long you have on your layover and whether you have time to get out for exercise and a meal, or if you intend to hibernate and not leave the room. This knowledge is sourced from your roster and needs to be thought through as well as looking ahead at the expected temperature of your layover port. If exercise is in your sphere, then your joggers are going to be the bulkiest, but necessary, items in addition to your ‘active wear.’

Then a quick review of cheap food venue options that the pilot rumor network has shared about what is nearby to your crew hotel and deciding if you are dressing to impress. It is always good to have your basic go-to outfit, with options to ‘glam it up’ if you bond with the crew and everyone wants to go ‘out-out.’ Then we need to get practical and throw in your toiletries and a spare pilot shirt. I am not going there on the exceedingly rare pilot colleague that you notice the same oil stain on their shoulder the next day. Please bring a clean pilot shirt!

Another helpful tip for overnights, whether they be single or multi nights away, is how to manage the pesky curtains that have been hanging there for years. A gap that allows even the smallest amount of light in can cause ‘lack of sleep rage’ which is obviously no good for next days performance. In the closet, you usually find those coat hangers that have two pegs for holding your pants. Simply clamp the hanger onto the two sides of the gaping curtain, and voila, you have a dark room again.

pilot gear
There are obvious essentials, and then optional ‘essentials’ if you know what I mean..

You’re welcome!

In summary …

A clean pilot shirt, exercise gear, and hitting the town clothes!

What essential pilot gear needs to be packed for a weekend trip?

A weekend trip can up the ante on the size of the bag you need as a layover on a weekend means that more is going on. Do not be fooled into thinking that adding one more day and therefore two nights is simple. This takes strategy and planning as the outfit options need to accommodate perhaps more than one activity depending upon your useful layover time. In addition to your activewear, and you are going out for cheap eats clothes, there is likely a need, for now, two fresh pilot shirts and cheeky casual coffee attire. If you are savvy, you could combine two outfits into a dual role, however your assessment of the weather at your destination will determine if this is a risky move!

Now that we are into multi days away, this also drives the need for a personal medical kit to save the expensive emergency trip to the convenience store. Be sure to check your airlines rules on medication appropriate for flying, however a suitable pain relief option is sensible. Additionally, your medical kit should of course have Band-Aids!

pilot gear
Check what is legal in the countries you are flying into and through

Please note: It is essential to check the TSA liquid aerosol gels rules.

In summary …

Consider a bigger overnight bag, clothes that can serve a dual role between night out and a day coffee, and personal medical kit!

What essential pilot gear needs to be packed for a one-week trip?

When it comes to a one-week trip, things get a little trickier and more pre-planning is required. You need to consider the weather you might transit through and with the nature of our travel could be from freezing cold to balmy and warm … in the same day! It is this length of trip that screams out for swimmers just in case there is a hotel pool or a cheeky hot tub. Aside from your social needs, it becomes unnecessary to take six pilot shirts, so this is where you be like many other pilots before you and wash your shirt in the basin with the hotel soap. Hilariously, this is where you find out who else is doing the same as your shirts both smell the same the next day! Otherwise, seek some washing powder from the concierge or bring your own.

pilot gear
Don’t forget the chargers and power banks!

Having more time away also opens the possibility of bringing some boring tax receipts to sort for your accountant and/or take the opportunity to study for an upcoming proficiency check. Being away should not stop home life if you are organised. Just a note on tax, do not leave your file in your hotel room as that is your personal business. Believe me, it has happened before so suggest that making sure everything is online is encouraged!

In summary …

Attire for the hot tub, something to do and a weather-appropriate selection of outfits.

You can check out my London Fog Luggage review for some inspiration on travel bags too.

What essential pilot gear needs to be packed for two weeks or more?

Phew … a two-week or more trip sounds like a commuting contract from another country. In some ways, it makes it easier as some of the decisions are taken out of your hands. You are packing for cold and hot regardless, you need comfortable packing clothes (neat casual for hopefully business class), plenty to do for the dead time, exercise, and swimming gear, and most important is a tailored medical kit. If you are not familiar with your surroundings then having the basics is essential, effectively making yourself independent but remember to ensure the contents are not illegal in the countries you are traveling to and through.

In summary …

Imagine you are moving house and you will not have access to your wardrobe for a while … and you will be close to what you need for such a long trip.

What pilot gear is unnecessary to take on short trips? Long trips? 

On short trips, you are far less likely to need activities to fill your time as the nature of them is often shorter layovers.

On long trips, you need it so take it!

“Prepare for the unknown, unexpected and inconceivable … after 50 years of flying I’m still learning every time I fly.”

Gene Cernan

What gear gets provided by airlines? 

In an aviation utopia, we would all love the airlines to supply caviar and champagne, but the reality is most of what they assist with is financial. Most airlines provide a duty travel allowance to cover meals whilst away and it is up to the pilot to be savvy if they want to have excess from the allowance. Otherwise, the airlines usually provide headsets in the aircraft and some meals on board if you are brave! You may also choose to take your own items such as a fuel tester for safety checks before flight, but an airline will usually provide those.

Where can you buy essential pilot gear for travel? 

Essential pilot gear can be found on so many websites that there is too many to list here. The best option is to google ‘pilot supplies’ and pick what jumps out at you. One that we have used before for items needed for flying the aircraft is the Pilot Shop website.

However, this is just personal experience. Our advice is to shop around. Or you can always do a quick shop at your stopovers or your destination.

What would be essential pilot gear in a sealed section?

Look away now if you have a weak stomach! This section is shamelessly to keep you reading until the end (or did you scroll to it?!). There are items that are necessary for both men and women. Yes, we are all grownups, and you know what I mean from a personal care point of view.

There is a saying … ‘it’s a long time at sea sailor’ and what this means is we all have healthy ‘needs’ and the longer they are not met the longer the trip will feel. What we are saying is there are ‘special care’ items that will help you weather the long time away. There is no shame and there are plenty of stories of ‘items’ in overnight bags so you are not alone. Enough said!


We have reviewed many essential pilot gear for trips away however even the well-organised and savvy pilot cannot control day of ops disruptions and roster changes. Every pilot has a story of the item that was left behind but rest assured, even if inconvenient, you can always go to a store or wash an item and hang it out on the furniture. The time away from home is often mixed between missing family and routine, and secretly enjoying the break! (Do not tell your partner that!)

At the end of the day, you are there to perform a task and every landing that you complete safely is all a pilot really needs. Fly safe. Stay safe. Come home.

proaviationtips banner ad

You May Also Like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *