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
- Waterproof matches
- Duct Tape
- Poncho / tarp
- Two pairs of hats and gloves
- Chemical hand warmers
- 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
- 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.
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.
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.