The Gear

Pilots like to observe and compare what other pilots bring along for survival and comfort.  I know I do.  Here is what I bring:


I currently use a 2017 Sony a6500 camera (after using Canon G series for many years, then a Sony RX100 Mark 3) for stills and some video, and use a GoPro for video.   I’ve built a tail mount as well as a motor driven wing mount for the GoPro. I would enjoy using a DSLR at times, but you can see many of my photos are out doing something active, and the compact camera and a nice strap system allows me to keep it with me and handy when I have a pack on or when climbing.  I think some of my best photos are not great photos on their technical merit, I just happen to be in a nice place at a nice time and the camera was handy.

One backpack with survival gear that goes on every flight:

  • Hatchet / hammer
  • Full shank knife
  • Firestarter
  • Waterproof matches
  • Flint
  • Duct Tape
  • Cord
  • Poncho / tarp
  • Two pairs of hats and gloves
  • Chemical hand warmers

    Underwing mount
  • Some energy bars that I noticed are now rock hard
  • Two military MREs (full meals)
  • Case of bottled water (I used to carry large jugs, but someone suggested that it is less likely that all the little water bottles will rupture in the event of a crash landing)
  • Camping repair kit
  • Signal mirror
  • Commercially purchased first aid kit
  • Sunscreen
  • Mosquito netting
  • Flashlight (probably the fourth backup)
  • Stove – An old MSR XGK mountaineering stove that will run on the plane’s avgas
  • Cook kit
  • Starbucks instant coffee!

Delorme InReach GPS rescue / messaging unit. Although I used to use a standard 406Mhz PLB, then a Spot, I now use a Delorme unit.  It also allows for simple messaging which has proved to be invaluable.  A perfect example is Betsy led a women’s hiking group up to the top of Half Dome  and I planned a fly by to get photos (search the blog for “Rendezvous on Half Dome””.  But Half Dome is a major undertaking and it would be impossible to accurately plan on when to do a fly by.   With the satellite unit, she sent a pre-arranged message when they were near the top of the cables, and I timed my takeoff on that.  Once nearby we established radio communications via a handheld radio.  

Toolkit. I have small toolkit with a set of wrenches, a few spare sparkplugs, an alternator belt, wire ties, etc.   The plane has been very reliable, but I have had a few things go wrong when away.  My wing  flaps once did not retract while on the ground at Bryce Canyon, Utah.  I called my mechanic at home (Thanks Tom!!), and he described how to open up the wing and troubleshoot.  It turned out to be a connector, which I was able to wire-tie together, and which he later replaced.

Road Bikes on the way to Oregon

Daypack. I learned I needed this after canceling a few return flights because of weather, and ending up with only a suit to wear.  This contains jeans, shorts, T-Shirt, socks, running shoes, toiletries and some money. For those reading and taking note of what my plane looks like – not much money.  Like some of the other stuff, sometimes it gets left behind if I’m already packed for a few days.

Tent. A cheap one, although I have used it a few times.  But if I know I’m camping I’ll take a better one and leave this behind.

Sleeping bag. Also a cheap one, and also one I’ll leave behind if I pack a better one.

Snow boots. My survival kit has grown over the years.  I used to make sure I wore decent shoes, but got complacent and then realized I made some trips over snow country in basically dress shoes.  So now I have two pairs of snow boots of different sizes – and hope that if I’m with a passenger we can both fit in them.

Folding chairs. They are not survival items, but I use them fairly often and I love having them.  Sometimes if I get dropped off by a business client, I’ll take out a chair and just decompress for a few minutes before getting into the plane and “becoming a pilot”.  It helps clear my head and focus.

Folding Bike. I generally keep a Dahon folding bike in the plane (and Betsy has one too), unless I’m bringing a mountain bike or road bike.  For mountain bikes I put down a bed sheet and basically throw the bikes in the back.  Our road bikes are a little too nice for that, so I made some homemade bike stands that hold them up without wheels so that it fits nicely in the back.  I then use seatbelts that are there for the seats that I removed to tie them down.

Bike Stand of Sorts

Fishermen’s Vest. I also keep one of those fishermen’s vests with all the pockets attached to my pilot’s seat.  In it are some critical items, and the theory is that I can grab that on the way out, and it may be the only thing I’ll end up with if there is a fire.  But there isn’t really much in it, a knife, matches, band aids, gauze, flashlight and strobe. I think I ate the energy bars.

Flight Stuff. Folding stool to check the fuel level, chocks, oil, tow bar, windscreen cleaner, etc.

It is a lot of stuff, and sometimes I look behind me when I’m flying and wonder what all that stuff is back there.  I do snoop around a bit when I’m parked at other airports and I seem to carry far more than other pilots do.  But I have the room, and it seems prudent to have – so what the heck.

3 thoughts on “The Gear

  1. Hi Ney,
    I’m finally buying a Gopro3+ for husband’s birthday next week. He wants to put it on his U206F. I see your picture for the underwing mount but was wondering if you could share more about your kit for your “motor driven mounted camera thingy!” Also, we’d be interested in knowing more about how you did your tail mount. We love your site and all the places you go. We have been to a lot of the same places and enjoy reading about your experiences. Hopefully, my husband won’t read this before the 24th!

  2. Brian Tucker May, 2019 — 1:39 pm

    Hi Ney,
    I just read your Cuba entries – looks like an awesome trip with good friends.
    a couple questions
    1. you made mention of your attachment to reduce glare from windows on your camera – is that part of a toilet plunger?
    2. curious which brand of inflatable vest you ended up with, if you liked it, and if you tried it out?


    1. Hi Brian. The lens attachment is a used toilet bowl plunger I found in a restaurant bathroom. Not really, its called the Ultimate Lens Hood. I don’t know where I bought it, but you can google it. The life vest is a Revere and it was very comfortable and seems a quality product. I bought it for around $80 online (lots on ebay) but Mark waited and had to pay $130 at Banyan FBO in Ft. Lauderdale.

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