The iPad has replaced many things pilots used to carry, from calculators to charts, and in the process it has earned the name Electronic Flight Bag (EFB). But while an iPad running ForeFlight or Garmin Pilot can do a staggering array of tasks, it’s not a complete flight bag replacement. If nothing else, you need something to protect your precious tablet.
For that reason, most iPad pilots still carry a flight bag—and the design of that bag has changed over the years. Old school chart cases may have been helpful for lugging heavy Jepp binders around, but they’re a bad choice for modern pilots with less to carry. A slew of new flight bags offers some great options for staying organized and protecting your aviation gear, without breaking the bank.
Flight Gear iPad Bag
First up is refresh of Sporty’s popular Flight Gear line, with new designs for 2021. There are six bags in all, but the iPad Bag is (not surprisingly) aimed squarely at EFB users. It has a convenient upright shape that fits almost anywhere in the cockpit: on the co-pilot seat, between the seats in some Cessnas, behind a seat, or even under one. It has a variety of quick-access pockets on the outside, perfect for a water bottle/window cleaner bottle, backup radio, and flashlight. The main compartment has a hanging clip for your headset, which keeps it elevated and protected from drops.
The back of the bag features a dedicated iPad pocket, padded for protection and easy to access in flight. We’ve flown with it and found it quick to slide our iPad (attached to a kneeboard) into this pocket before landing. There’s also a pass-through hole that allows you to charge your tablet while it’s in the bag. We put our battery pack in the main compartment, then fed the charging cable through the pass-through slot and kept our iPad topped off.
The Flight Gear iPad bag, available for $69.95, is a good value. Custom embroidery is also available on the front.
Flight Gear Cross Country Backpack
Another good option in the Flight Gear lineup, especially if you like to keep your hands free, is the Cross Country Backpack. This is a smaller backpack with room for the essentials, but it’s not an overwhelming size (we’ve tried some large hiking packs in Cessnas and it never works very well). There’s a padded headset pocket and plenty of smaller pockets to keep you organized. The main compartment has room for books, a change of clothes, or a kneeboard, plus a mesh pocket to secure your iPad.
The Flight Gear Cross Country Backpack measures 18″h x 15″w x 8″d and is available for $59.95.
Flight Outfitters Waypoint Backpack
The team at Flight Outfitters has been busy over the last year, introducing a number of new products, from flashlights to flight bags. Their Waypoint Backpack, introduced last fall, has proven to be a popular option with pilots. It has all the storage and organization features you’d expect, plus some nice enhancements like a braided steel handle and a carabiner to attach extra gear.
For iPad pilots, the dedicated rear pocket is perfect. There’s a padded pocket for a full-size laptop and an iPad. The bright orange interior makes it easy to find your equipment in a dark cockpit.
The Flight Outfitters Waypoint Backpack is available for $129.95
Flight Outfitters Lift Mini
The latest bag from Flight Outfitters is based on their original design, the Lift, which has been one of the top-selling flight bags in aviation for the last five years. The new Lift Mini is a smaller cousin with the same shape and vertical layout, but in a compact size and at a lower price. There’s a front organizer pocket, a main compartment for a headset, and a slim rear pocket for an iPad. If you’re looking for more pockets and more space, the Flight Gear iPad Bag will be a better option; for a minimalist bag that can easily move from airplane to airplane, the Lift Mini is a great choice. We think flight instructors in particular will like this bag.
The Flight Outfitters Lift Mini is shipping in late March and costs $69.95.