If your flight schedule involves an overnight, no matter how much you want to travel light, there’s just no way you’re cramming a change of clothes plus your toiletries inside your flight bag. (And really, do you actually want your dirty socks hanging out next to your headset case on the way home?)A dedicated gear bag keeps work and relaxation separate. It gives you plenty of room for all the extras you’ll need as you unwind and recharge at the hotel before turning around and heading back to the airport.
How to Choose a Pilot Gear Bag
Before you start shopping for your bag, think about how you’re going to use it and what it needs to hold. If you’re just pulling a couple of overnighters occasionally, a basic bag might do. Student can use a gear bag to carry extra study and reference materials.
If you’re a career pilot spending more nights in hotel rooms than in your own bed at home, you will need a larger, more robust bag. You might even choose a coordinating gear bag and flight bag.
There are lots of styles and sizes of bags, so to make the decision process easier, we’ve tracked down the best gear bags for pilots and pulled them all together in one place.
Keep reading for our recommendations on the best:
- Best Small Pilot Gear Bag
- Best Pilot Bag with Wheels
- Best Combination Flight and Gear Bag
- Best Pilot Duffel Bag
- Best Pilot Backpack
- Best Modular Pilot Bag
- Best Vintage Aviation Gear Bag
- Most Unique Pilot Gear Bag
Are you ready? Let's start!
1. Best Small Pilot Gear Bag
Travelpro FlightCrew5 City Tote is a fantastic option for pilots who want something small, versatile, and lightweight to carry a few extra supplies. You can use this bag not only for traveling but also for everyday shopping or as a tote purse. Student pilots will find it just the right size for extra books and reference materials.
The City Tote keeps you well-organized with a padded laptop slot, two large zippered front pockets, and a generously sized center compartment with zipper. If you are flying with a larger bag, you can use the tote’s quick loop to attach it to a rollaboard.
2. Best Pilot Bag with Wheels
Multi-night trips call for a larger gear bag that is easy to maneuver through the terminal and onto the hotel shuttle. The Travelpro FlightCrew5 24” Expandable Rollaboard is a large rolling bag designed by a 747 captain. It gives you everything you’re looking for from flight crew luggage including durability, functionality, and organization.
We especially like the easy-access front laptop pouch, rugged design, and the fact that the included J-hook and strap attachment make it easy for you to connect this bag to your flight bag or smaller piece of pilot luggage (like the City Tote).
3. Best Combination Flight and Gear Bag
If you’re a bit of a minimalist (or you are flying a small plane with size and weight restrictions), you may not want or have room to carry both a flight bag and a gear bag. That’s where a combo bag comes in.
The Traveler keeps your organized and professional with separate designated pockets and compartments for your flight bag items and your overnight gear.
Multiple front and side zippered pockets act just like a flight bag giving you easy access to everything you need in-flight. Meanwhile, your clothes, toiletries, and other personal items are tucked away in the large main compartment of the bag until you land and head to the hotel.
It really is the best of both worlds, and you’ll love the freedom of traveling light.
4. Best Pilot Duffel Bag
Depending on where you’re going and what kind of storage space you have, a rigid gear bag may not be the best fit. A pilot duffel bag collapses down when not in use, and its soft-sided style makes it easier to fit into tight cargo spaces onboard.
We love the padded compartments on the AirClassics Pro. This newly updated bag keeps your delicate gear safe with a padded headset compartment on each end, a padded tablet sleeve, and even a padded calculator/transceiver/GPS area. The center compartment of the bag is large and easily organizable by repositioning the included Velcro dividers.
The Jeppesen Sanderson Captain Bag goes the modular route with a pair of detachable headset bags plus a detachable GPS/transceiver bag. It’s designed to help you customize your loadout for each flight. The bag also features a zippered laptop pocket, storage pockets, and an adjustable four-way divider to organize the main body section. Pick this duffel if you want a single bag that can be reconfigured for different types of flights.
5. Best Pilot Backpack
We have two favorite backpacks to share with you—one understated and professional, the other rugged and casual. Both are well-built with the durability to stand up to heavy daily wear.
The ASA AirClassics Pilot Backpack is a sturdy bag with a polished finish. We especially like the water-resistant bottom fabric that keeps your gear from getting soaked if your bag is set down on wet tarmac. You’ll also like the luggage handle pass-through and checkpoint-friendly fold-down panel for when you’re flying as a passenger and need to go through security.
If you’re embracing wild, confident, bush pilot fashion, you will love the Flight Outfitters Bush Pilot Rucksack. The heavy canvas bag is trimmed with thick leather and though it may look rugged, it has modern features like a padded laptop compartment that you’d expect in a travel backpack.
6. Best Modular Pilot Bag
Looking for a fully customizable and scalable flight or gear bag option? You’ll find it with BrightLine Bags. This family of modular bags is built on the premise of starting with a center bag section then adding on the individual pieces you need for each flight.
This means your bag can be as big or as small as you want it any given day and you can shift between reserving lots of room for clothing and toiletries or focusing mainly on flight gear with just space for a light jacket.
If you’re setting the BrightLine up to be your overnight gear bag for a multi-day trip, we suggest Brightline Bags Center Section Eleven, pocket cap front, flat cap rear, and side pocket echo. You could also pick the BrightLine B18 Hangar bag that includes center section eleven plus eight other BrightLine modules for a duffel-bag-like feel.
7. Best Vintage Aviation Gear Bag
Craving retro aviation style in a bag? Red Canoe has you covered. Their vintage bag collection is rooted in the historic golden days of aviation. Picture durable nylon or rugged canvas bags accented with impeccable historical details that connect you to aviators of the past and bring history to life.
8. Most Unique Pilot Gear Bag
Lots of the bags on this list (with exception to the vintage line) are classic, standard, timeless black designs. But we get it: some pilots want to have a little fun and make a serious statement with their gear bag. Or perhaps you just want to be sure you can pick it out in a crowd if you send it through to baggage claim. Either way, the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works Kit Bag fits the bill as does the NASA Rocket Scientist Training Backpack.
Pro Tip: Even if these more eclectic bags aren’t your style, they can be a great gift idea for pre-teens and teens. Try using the NASA backpack as a gift bag for a ticket to Space Camp.
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It’s your turn
We’d love to hear from you: what features do you look for in a pilot gear bag? Share your “must haves” and which style of gear bag you usually fly with.