These Gold Wings

Best Pilot Bags and Luggage: What Do Pilots Really Prefer?

pilot bags

When it comes to bags and suitcases nobody knows more about this topic than flight attendants and pilots.

We spend so much time packing, unpacking, and hauling our cases through busy terminals, that we’ve become experts in air travel luggage.

I have personally destroyed what I thought was a rugged roller bag in just a few weeks, so I have learned the hard way to tell at a glance what’s good or bad quality.

So, to help prevent you from making the same sort of mistake, here is a – based on pilots’ opinions –  compilation of the most durable and thoughtfully designed flight bags and suitcases available.

Let’s see a list of the most popular models sought after by pilots.

What’s the best overnight/short trip carry-on luggage?

These luggage are the ones used by any pilot, flight attendant or traveler for a weekend trip or a short getaway.

Hard case

35l cabin travel case

46 Reviews
Sterling Pacific 35L Cabin Carry-On Travel Case Luggage

  • Full-aluminum construction
  • Dual-wheel design
  • Reinforced A380 corners
  • Italian full-grain leather handles
  • Dimensions: 22.5″ x 14″ x 8.5″
  • Volume: 35L
  • Weight: 11.5 lbs
  • Maximum allowable cabin & carry-on size on major American airlines

Best features:

  • Full-aluminum construction makes it durable and long-lasting.
  • Dual-wheel design makes it easy to maneuver.
  • Reinforced A380 corners provide extra protection.
  • Italian full-grain leather handles add a touch of luxury.
  • Small batch production ensures obsessive attention to detail.
  • Lifetime Warranty & Repair Service

The toughest soft cases

luggageworks stealth 22

Luggageworks stealth 22″ rolling bag

Best features:

  • Very very popular among pilots in the US
  • This is really a tank, super rugged luggage
  • Plenty of pockets to carry everything you need and a hook to attach an additional bag
  • It has a solid metal frame, stainless steel retractable handle, and top-quality wheels
  • This is the perfect choice for those needing ultra-durable luggage
  • The only drawback: it’s a bit heavier than average

Soft case

No products found.

Best features:

  • Solid and lightweight
  • You have handles on every side of the bag, including the bottom, so it makes it super easy to carry
  • The Wheels are 2 skateboard wheels, so they very easy and cheap to replace
  • The front pocket has a zipper that allows easy access to the main compartments while the bag is in the overhead bin
  • The main compartment is divided into two halves, and it has a mesh flap for each side to separate items easily
  • Best buy for any pilot

Check out a video of that luggage:

Indestructible Hard Case

No products found.

Best features:

  • Dimensions: 22”x13.81”x9”
  • More than durable, this case is indestructible (The military, police and fire departments use these), You can throw it in the water or drop it, no worries
  • Lifetime warranty
  • The best to keep your camera, laptop or valuables safe
  • Handles on two different sides allow for comfortable carrying
  • The downside is that it’s a bit heavy for its size

What’s the best flight bag for private and commercial pilots?

It all depends on what you want to use it for: daily VFR flying, short cross-country trips or a longer multi-day trip.

The best

No products found.

Best features:

  • Dimensions: 16”x10”x3”
  • Designed by pilots to protect your gear while flying
  • It has a specially designed pouch to hold an iPad or laptop
  • Storage for 2 headsets, iPad, cables, EFB, books/charts, toiletries, flashlight… anything that you could need for an overnighter
  • Stylish, lightweight and very well-thought-out flight bag

The alternative

No products found.

Best features:

  • Dimensions: 14”x12”x5”
  • Brightline bags are super versatile. You can buy them preconfigured or pick the parts to customize  your bag
  • Brightline B4 is built for the VFR pilot needs, it has storage for one or two headsets, an iPad, a handheld radio, and any other little tech accessories
  • If you don’t want a backpack the B4 Swift is everything you need. There’s a bigger preconfigured version Brightline Flex B7 Echo if you are looking at something with more capacity
  • You can remove the center section and end up with a smaller daily use bag to organize your small stuff. You have two bags for the price of one.
  • Super practical – great bag for any pilot!

What’s the best small briefcase for a pilot?

I see more and more pilots carrying just a briefcase nowadays.

As Captain Mario Linares says: “If you are back in base each day, this type of bag is perfect”.

The best

No products found.

Best features:

  • Dimensions: 16.8”x12.2”x7.2”
  • This expandable leather briefcase fits a 15” laptop computer and the front and the back have small compartments to store all your accessories
  • Highly recommended for those who need a little bit more space than a standard briefcase With the expandable option, it really can fit a lot.
  • It also has a pocket that slips over the handle of a carry-on suitcase, making it super convenient to carry two suitcases with one hand.


The alternative

pilot bag tom bihn

Tom Bihn Pilot Bag

Best features:

  • Small, versatile bag, for the everyday items you use while flying
  • Made in the USA, it’s ultralight, easily accessible and it has many organizational pockets, a  very well thought out design
  • The top back pocket with a zipper is designed to allow you to slip the bag over the handle of rolling luggage
  • You can choose between 2 fabrics: 400d Halcylon (a lighter weight option) or 1050d Ballistic Nylon if you want a super-tough fabric

What’s the best duffle bag for a pilot?

For those pilots who are looking for a handheld everyday bag with a larger capacity, we have found a few interesting options that are recommended by almost everyone in the industry.

The best

No products found.

Best features:

  • Dimensions: 10.5”x16.5”x11.5”
  • Exceptional Briggs & Riley quality. This brand is known for making top-quality luggage and offers a lifetime guarantee on all their bags. So it means that if your bag is ever broken or damaged they will repair at no cost
  • This duffle bag has many gusseted pockets and a roomy main compartment with a zippered mesh pocket for smaller items. It can be opened up from the top to make it easy to access important items while in the cockpit
  • Recommended for pilots who enjoy having their items well organized and accessible
  • If you need something bigger for a long layover, you can also fit this bag on the top of the Briggs & Riley Baseline Carry On Bag using the pocket on the back of the bag

Duffle bags alternative

No products found.

Best features:

  • Dimensions: 16”x11.5”x9”
  • Made of water-resistant, rugged PVC fabric
  • Flyboy Large Crew bag is padded on all sides and it comes with removable interior dividers  to allow you to set up the compartments the way you want or need
  • The interior design in grey instead of black will help you find items easily in low light conditions
  • In summary: this is a very well built bag with high capacity recommended for private pilots, student pilots or any commercial pilot looking for a durable bag with lots of compartments. Carry books, company manuals, headsets, iPad and you will still have room for personal items. The only downside of this bag is that it doesn’t have the rear strap that fits around the handle of a roller suitcase.

What’s the best pilot traditional wheeled case?

If you are looking for a typical pilot bag, classic, durable and elegant, you’ll love these.

The best

No products found.

Best features:

  • Dimensions: 17.5″ x 13.5″ x 7″ inches
  • Made of a sturdy hard-sided frame and ballistic polyester material
  • Professional looking
  • Good for files, laptop, and accessories
  • Perfect size for everyday travel and to be taken inside the cockpit
  • Removable fully padded laptop sleeve for a 17.3 inch laptop

The alternative

No products found.

Best features:

  • Dimensions: 10.5”x18”x17”
  • Classic pilot case with a file divider and a removable laptop sleeve
  • Simple and timeless sophisticated design
  • Solid case, with lots of room and lots of compartments
  • Made out of durable ballistic nylon
  • Best quality and affordable price

Complete Buying Guide

With so many styles to choose from, deciding which one to choose can be really confusing.

So, here you’ll find all you need to know to help you select the best flight bag or suitcase for you.

What to look for in a flight bag?

We asked pilots in my company about their flight bags and most of them have their own important requirements and preferences, so it’s a very personal choice.

But there are a few features that are crucial to all of them:

Your flight bag must be lightweight, resistant and not too big.

Keep in mind that this bag will have super intensive use, almost every day. You’ll lug it up and down flights, around the airport, city, and hotel, so it had better be light and strong.

And resistant, which means made of high-quality material. But this is subjective. Some pilots prefer a leather case, some people ballistic nylon and some prefer aluminum.

The last important feature is the size, the requirement is a small or not too big bag. At least that is more and more the tendency. For 3 obvious reasons:

  • Dragging heavy and bulky luggage is not what you want
  • The space inside the cockpit is limited
  • Most pilots don’t need to carry much nowadays. Just license, passport, and iPad.

So the smaller the better.

Anyway, don’t worry too much about the size, most of the luggage fit inside the cockpit.

If it’s not next to the pilot’s seat, you can leave it behind.

It’s mostly about what’s more convenient for you.

What type of pilot bag to choose?

It depends mainly on your preferences, what you need to pack (some pilots still carry a huge amount of manuals and charts) and the type of flying you do (schedules/routes you have).

For example:

If you always return back to your home base, which means that you sleep at home every night you just need a business briefcase.

Why more?

Captain Mario Linares says:

I have everything I need with me: Passport, iPad, license, keys and wallet, and iPhone. In my case, I can even pack an extra shirt or a lunchbox when I need it. Very practical.

So this type of bag will suit,  short-haul or low-cost airline pilots, sport aviation pilots, flight instructors, tour pilots, etc

If you normally have short layovers or you sleep at home but you want to carry something for those just-in-case moments, you may need a briefcase plus a small roller case. Or just a small roller case can work.

This type of bag will suit almost everyone: Cargo pilots, short-haul, low-cost, regional and charter pilot, etc.


If you have longer layovers, then you can add a big suitcase.

This type of bag will suit the ones that are spending several nights away from home: long haul pilots, charter and corporate pilots.

What else should you consider before buying your luggage?

Check if the luggage has a luggage strap to be able to attach it to the another suitcase handle and be able to carry both together with one single hand.

That, believe me, is really convenient.

Any luggage with Four wheels obviously has a big advantage in helping you tow around the airport. They will roll smoothly and be more stable.

Large capacity. Even though most pilots want small bags, they also want the largest storage capacity. So this should also be considered.

Many compartments: After asking many people here in the industry, some of them told me they like to have separate compartments for keys, wallets, magazines, laptop, or clothes. It’s not really necessary but it can be decisive when choosing between two.

What to put in your flight bag?

pilot's flight bag content

These are our top recommendations:

  • Documents:  Passport, airport ID, medical documents and  pilot certificate/license
  • Ear defenders: for your walkarounds
  • Alcohol wipes: To disinfect and sterilize inside the cockpit before you start flying
  • A torch: for your night walkarounds (provided by some companies)
  • Headsets: In many airlines, you’ll find them as equipment on the plane
  • Hi-viz: normally provided by the company
  • Toiletry kit: deodorant, toothbrush
  • Pens
  • Calculator (most people use their phone)
  • Sunglasses: not polarized
  • Logbook
  • Chargers and power bank
  • Phone & iPad
  • Food & Water
  • Keys
  • Extra clothes
  • Wallet
  • Manuals: only if you don’t have your iPad or tablet

Which brands do pilots prefer?

Some pilots prefer Luxury-Premium brands: Briggs & Riley or TUMI.

Some pilots prefer brands that make suitcases designed for flight crews: Travelpro, Rimowa, Luggage Works.

And others will choose the best business traveler luggage: Samsonite, Swiss Alpine, American Tourister, Delsey.

Just make sure to pick a high-quality and trustable brand.

I have been using many different bags and there are really big differences between well-known luggage brands and low-budget brands.

Most of the cheap brands can work for an occasional traveler but not for flight crews. They will tear or break within a few months.

Remember, the ideal flight bag is a personal preference.

It really depends on what you want.

Just think about what you need and choose the best pilot flight bag for you.

Still searching for luggage? The preferred luggage of flight attendants article might help you. After all, pilots and flight attendants fly the same planes and carry their luggage in the same places.

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