The quest for the perfect flight bag isn’t easy. It’s hard to strike a balance between carrying all the gear you need and lugging around a heavy monstrosity.
Part of the problem is that different missions require different amounts of stuff. A local trip around the pattern might only require the bare minimum of equipment. An overnight cross country might require all your flying gear, plus a change of clothes and an extra headset for passengers.
Up to now, that’s meant either lugging around a huge gear back all the time, or switching your crap between bags. Either option is a huge pain.
When I started instructing, I decided to go for the most minimalist option I could for my gear. Part of that was switching to the ultra-compact QT Halo Headset (you can read that review here).
The other part was finding a bag that was small enough to not be a burden when switching between planes…
For the last few months, I’ve been flying with a BrightLine bag. And I think I’ve finally found the perfect flight bag.
I’d seen quite a few BrightLine bags around the airport, but I’d been hesitant to invest in a new gear bag because I was already using a pretty pricey MyGoFlight PLC Pro flight bag. The PLC Pro is a great medium-sized bag, but it was still a lot bigger than what I was aiming for. So, after scaling down with the QT Halo headset, I finally decided to go all out and buy the BrightLine B2 Compute bag.
The thing that makes BrightLine bags unique is their FLEX system.
Modular = Better
BrightLine bags are modular. Individual pieces zipper together to create whatever size bag you want. The front section of the bag features a series of sectioned pockets — 10 of them in total. The back has a large iPad pocket, as well as another front pocket that doubles as a band to attach the bag to rolling luggage.
In between those front and back sections, BrightLine makes a wide array of center sections in varying sizes. The configuration I bought, the B2, comes with a super compact 2″ center section.
That sounds like a pretty small bag — and it is. But for some paperwork, a QT Halo headset, and a kneeboard, it’s actually more than enough room.
The thing that makes the BrightLine a game-changer, though, is the modular design. For instance, the bag I bought was really two bags — I could use it as-configured, or take out the center section and zip the front and back compartments together to form an ultra-slim B0.
(One perk of using the 2″ center section is that my handheld radio is able to clip onto the pen pockets on the sides for outside carrying.)
When I was in the San Francisco Bay area not too long ago, I stopped by an awesome pilot shop called San Carlos Aviation & Pilot Supply and picked up the 4″ center section. That piece can zip in between my front and back sections to make a normal-sized flight bag that’s capable of carrying larger headsets like the Lightspeed Zulu.2s, and a change of clothes. Or, I can combine it with the 2″ section to have 6 inches of storage space in between the front and back sections.
So I basically got four flight bags in one.
The best part of the BrightLine FLEX system is that I can basically switch bags without needing to move anything out of all of the pockets in the front and back sections — everything stays put, and I can have a drastically different-sized bag depending on my mission. It’s really brilliant.
Another big plus is that if your typical mission changes (or if a component breaks), you can simply buy an additional piece instead of a totally new bag.
The front section is the workhorse in terms of storage. It’s deceptively spacious. There are three large pockets stacked on top of each other, but they’re really 10 pockets because of the way they’re separated by zippers. What’s really impressive is that, despite the super low-profile of my standard instructing bag, I’m still able to carry a bunch of extras like a pulse oximeter, flashlights, and a Square reader (for accepting credit cards for flight instruction) in that compact package.
It really wasn’t a compromise between size and carrying ability, which is pretty amazing.
Quality and Customer Service
I’ve only been using the BrightLine bag for a couple of months now, but build quality appears to be good. The bags use pretty heavy-duty zippers to connect sections, with more standard-sized zippers to open the compartments and pockets.
Some of the interior fabrics are pretty lightweight, but that seems to be by design to keep the bag light. So far, mine has held up well to very frequent use. (I’ll update this review if that changes.)
The large, heavy-duty zippers that connect the different sections were a little stiff when I first got the bag, but they’ve become easier to zip as I’ve broken the bag in. Otherwise, no big surprises to report.
A bit after I ordered, I realized that I forgot to buy the slim handle kit that I’d need if I wanted to use the B0 Slim configuration — so I called to see if I could add it to my order before it shipped. They were super nice on the phone and actually included the kit with my shipment free of charge. Thanks BrightLine!
That’s the kind of amazing customer service that makes me feel confident spending money with a business — I feel reassured that I can buy BrightLine’s gear, and they won’t nickel and dime me if something goes wrong and I need support.
Ultimately, I think that the BrightLine bag system is about as close to a perfect flight bag as it gets. Currently, full bag configurations start around $97 for the B0 Slim, and you can either buy completed bags from them or add on individual components to suit your mission.
To see the FLEX system in action, check out this video from BrightLine: