Sunday, January 18, 2009

Pilot Toys: BrightLine Bag

Nov. 2010 - I have posted a two year update to my review, which you can find here.

Our lovely winter in the Midwest has kept me on the ground for quite some time now. Frigid temperatures, low ceilings, snow and ice - not much has gone my way lately. But I'm still around (house-hunting, in case you're curious) and figured I'd take the time to put up another post I've been working on for a while. Hopefully the weather cooperates and I'll get something about actual flying up again before too long!

I only really asked for one flying item for Christmas this year, which most pilots will probably find hard to believe. But seeing as how I bought myself the Lowrance 600c GPS a few weeks before the holiday there wasn't much else on my gadget list. So what did I ask for and receive? Why, a BrightLine Flight Bag.

Looking at the "gear" side of the BrightLine Bag

Since I started flight training I had been keeping all my flying gear in two bags - the little portfolio style one from ASA that came with my Private Pilot kit and one that came with my headset. I shoved the headset, digital camera, and everything else electronic into the headset bag and all my charts and flight planning stuff in the other. Obviously I (for those who know me and my overly organized self) wanted something a little more compact and functional.

Over the past year, I caught a lot of pilots talking about the BrightLine Bag on the AOPA Forums. It's designed by a pilot and has a bunch of individual compartments that hold just about everything we tend to carry around all the time. The continued reviews touting its quality and design sold me over and I lucked out when my Mom got me one for Christmas.

Turned around to view the "chart" side of the bag

So what do I think about it? Put simply, it lives up to the hype. Everything that was in my two bags before is in the BrightLine Bag now - and it's much smaller than the ASA bag was alone! The pockets and compartments absolutely do keep things organized and accessible and I find that to be incredibly valuable. You can separate the bag in half - one side holds your headset and gear and the other is designed to hold charts - to leave charts and flight planning forms on the ground when you don't need them for local flights.

Here's everything in my bag:
Seriously, everything listed above is in the bag and there's still some room to spare. Check out the diagram (PDF) from BrightLine to see exactly how many pockets the bag has and what they're designed for. No matter what you have you can probably configure the bag to hold it securely and neatly - the main pocket where I store my headset has an adjustable divider, for example. I love that the chart pocket is perfectly sized to hold sectionals, too. The colored zipper pulls also make it easy to quickly spot any pocket you're looking for. Durability-wise it appears to be made of very high quality materials that haven't given me any trouble so far.

Inside the "gear" side of the bag

Opening up the "charts" side of the bag

I really can't recommend this bag enough. It's pricier than some out there (around $120) but worth every penny. You can't really put a price on having everything easily accessible in the aircraft - especially if you need something in a hurry. If you're in the market for a new flight bag, definitely be sure to give the BrightLine Bag serious consideration!

Rating: 5/5 Cubs

If you decide to purchase this bag based upon my review, I would greatly appreciate if you do so by clicking one of the BrightLine Bag links in this post. Thanks! -Steve


  1. I had to have a flight bag, so I ran next door, literally, to Pilot Mall and picked up the cheapest thing they had. I'll keep the brightline in mind if and when I upgrade.

  2. I've heard good things about that bag. Looks pretty slick, I'll be looking for something smaller when I get my certificate.

  3. Good post! Between you and Rob's blog providing a PIREP on the flight bag I may have to upgrade, or is that downsize....hmmmm either way it looks to be very organized and hold a bunch of stuff.

    Also wishing for better weather here in Delaware. Mary and I will be making the short hop to Reading PA for the first North East Flyers event for 09 this saturday.....load up and head east from the buckeye!

  4. Yup, I do like the bag. Nothing we pilots buy is usually all that cheap so I figure it's reasonably priced for what it is.

    I'd love to go XC for a fly-in but it's been so long since I last flew I'm just hoping to get up this weekend and do a total mock checkride sort of practice flight to make sure I'm not about to drive the plane into the ground!

  5. I've been lusting over this bag too - and I have had a chance to check it out briefly hands on in the pilot shop. But my question is - how easy is it to get stuff out with one hand, in flight, with the bag behind you? How easy is it to open the zippers with one hand? How much survival or first aid gear can it hold in a pocket that hopefully will never have to be opened?

    How easy would it be to find by touch only - your extra water bottle, your camera, your flight guide, your sectional, your cell phone, handheld com, your crash axe - without spilling stuff out of the bag? Honestly, I get more use out of the free AOPA 'headset' bag than anything. I have it velcro'd to my Lightspeed headset bag, so I carry the combo as one bag. I like the free AOPA bag because: It opens at the top, in fact I never zip the main compartment closed. I can throw the aformentioned items into the main compartment, and find any of them by touch only, with the bag stowed behind the seat. Since it is attached to my lightspeed bag, it always stays upright. In the side zipper compartment of the AOPA bag, I keep stuffed to the gills with misc survival items. I never open that compartment and hopefully I never have to.

    Maybe this Brightline bag can replace my Lightspeed headset bag, offering much more utility - and I still use the open top AOPA bag for the things I may need in flight or to bug out with. I may have to transfer some contents from the Brightline bag to the open top bag before flight.

    Any comments would be very much appreciated, because my birthday is coming up and my wife has plans to get this bag for me...

  6. I think that, for the most part, it's pretty easy to get things out in flight. Some of the smaller zippered pockets might be a little more challenging just due to having to maneuver the zippers around corners, if that makes sense.

    Also, I think the big pocket (for headsets - which you probably wouldn't need in flight) would be hard to open without stuff spilling out. The chart side, however, has velcro straps that allow it to open at an angle (like in a V shape) that should let you easily access charts and other printed materials without anything falling out. Similarly, the flashlight pockets, radio (or water bottle) pockets, eyeglass pockets, and pen holders are very easy to get to.

    Depending on the size of the survival gear, you could hold a decent amount. If, for example, I didn't use the bottom 2/3 of my headset compartment (I stick my camera and GPS in there) I think you could fit a first aid kit, some food, thermal blanket, and other goodies without any issues. There's also various pockets that could hold a good portion of that stuff and remain closed unless you (god forbid) need to access it.

    Overall, I think this bag is well-designed to allow for most compartments to be easily accessed. Many of the interior pockets are designed for the things you don't need in flight - wallet, logbook, etc. - but most of the things you want handy should be within reach even with one hand.

  7. Thanks for the review of this bag. It's probably a little overkill for me at this early point in my training, but it's at the top of my list so far. I checked out their videos and I got my hands on one for a few minutes this past weekend at my local pilot shop. Looks pretty good. Until I decide for sure which bag to buy, I'm using the free AOPA bag as well.