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AOPA Pilot Gear Guide

2021 Gear Guide
Photography by Chris Rose

The Pilot

2021 Gear Guide Pilot
Photography by Chris Rose

The Pilot

Garmin D2 Air SmartwatchA bit of the essentials, a bit for fun, and a bit that makes flying safer and more comfortable. This is our perfect mix of the best gear choices for you, the pilot.

  1. Pacsafe Travelsafe bag
    Know someone who has had something stolen from an FBO or their airplane? We do. Travelsafe portable safes will keep stuff secure in your airplane, FBO, or your hangar. $89.95-$139.95
    pacsafe.com
  2. Cloudbase Optics Hi-Def Lee Wave Sunglasses
    Great classic styling and non-polarized tinted lenses are just the start of what makes these sunglasses a must-try. Add in that they’re light, durable, and fit well under a headset and you have a winner. $79.95
    sportys.com
  3. Garmin GDL 51 SiriusXM receiver
    Satellite weather from SiriusXM Aviation is available on a host of panel-mounted avionics, but if you want a portable solution, the GDL 51 is it. The unit will send weather and satellite radio to your panel, tablet, or portable GPS, and you can even use it for entertainment on the ground. $649 plus a $200 rebate until December 31, 2021
    sportys.com
  4. Garmin D2 Air Smartwatch
    With a built-in pulse oximeter, GPS, airport data, an HSI, altimeter with vibration alerts, and all the other functions you expect from a smartwatch, the Garmin D2 Air sits right on the line between cool and crucial. $499
    sportys.com
  5. AOPA Fleece Zip Hoodie
    Stay warm on the ground or in the air with a stylish zip hoodie from AOPA Pilot Gear. The cuffs feature thumb exits, and there’s an interior phone pocket with cable port. $48
    aopapilotgear.com

Also consider: the AOPA Pilot’s Chronograph from Jack Mason, PlaneEnglish aviation radio simulator, Appareo Stratus Insight, simulator equipment from Precision Flight Controls.

The Passengers

2021 Gear Guide Passenger
Photography by Chris Rose

Polaroid OneStep plusThe Passengers

Flying is best shared with others. Invest in the gear that will keep your passengers happy, comfortable, and coming back again and again.

  1. Better Barf Bag
    We all get sick now and then. If your passengers get sick, you want it in a bag that contains the mess. 10 to a pack. $7.50
    sportys.com
  2. Faro Stealth 2
    You want your passengers to have a good headset, but you don’t want to spend a fortune. This passive noise-reduction headset gets rave reviews for comfort and quality, and it even includes Bluetooth. $249.95
    sportys.com
  3. Flight Outfitters Seaplane Duffel Bags
    Unless you’re flying a business jet, stuffable duffel bags are the perfect luggage for airplanes. This set of bags from Flight Outfitters look great, are durable, and the price is right. Plus, they’re water-resistant, so don’t worry about tossing them onto a wet ramp. $99.95
    sportys.com
  4. Polaroid OneStep+
    Do your kids hyperventilate at the idea of being away from Instagram while they’re riding in the airplane? Hand them this. The best in a (re)surging market of instant film cameras, the OneStep+ features two lenses and the ability to send photos to your electronics via Bluetooth. $139.99
    polaroid.com
  5. AOPA Packing Cube Set
    Do you ever find yourself on a trip and wish you had just a little more space for all the stuff you bought? The Packing Cube Set from AOPA takes away the worry. Keep the cubes neatly folded away when you don’t need them, and expand to a duffel when you do. $55
    aopapilotgear.com

Also consider: MyGoFlight’s Aviator Pro Luggage collection, PilotWorkshops Flying Companion manual.

The airplane

2021 Gear Guide Airplanes
Photography by Chris Rose

PJ2 Handheld COM RadioThe Airplane

Your airplane is your baby, so why not pamper it? We found five pieces of gear that every owner would love to have. And each will make your flying safer and more enjoyable.

  1. RAM Suction Cup Mount Kit
    Keeping your iPad on your lap or between the seats is amateur-level cockpit organization. Step up your game with this highly rated suction cup mount from RAM. Spring-loaded clamps keep things secure and make mounting and unmounting easy. $61.95
    sportys.com
  2. Levil Aviation BOM
    Looks like a bomb, works like magic. Mount this BOM under the wing for a completely self-contained source for GPS, AHRS, ADS-B In, and angle of attack. No more cords or having to manually power up multiple devices. $1,695.75
    levilaviation.com
  3. Mid-Continent Instruments and Avionics Chronos
    Time, temperature, volts, and quick charging all from one compact 2-inch panel-mounted instrument? The Chronos series covers it all. USB options abound, including USB-A and USB-C connectors and delivering up to 60 watts of charging power. $499 to $799
    mcico.com
  4. PJ2 Handheld COM Radio
    Buying a portable radio is like eating your vegetables. You know you should have one, but sometimes it’s hard to make yourself spend the money. If you’re going to have a portable—and you should—the PJ2 is a great choice. It’s easy to use and doesn’t require a headset adapter. $299
    sportys.com
  5. Cable Knit Lambswool Throw
    Every airplane should have a blanket stashed on the hat shelf or behind the back seats. This throw from the AOPA Pilot Gear collection is stylish and warm, and it comes in a reusable zippered bag. $68
    aopapilotgear.com

Also consider: Garmin inReach, ACR ResQLink personal locator beacon, Go Time Gear survival tent and emergency sleeping bag, Slide Down tiedowns, Skydisplay head-up-display by MyGoFlight.

The Hangar

2021 Gear Guide Hangar
Photography by Chris Rose

Pilot’s CoffeeThe Hangar

Far more than a parking spot, your hangar is where your airplane spends most of its life. And where you want to spend most of yours. Get the gear to make your hangar fun and more useful.

  1. Bordbar trolley
    You’ll be the envy of the airport when you roll up a Bordbar trolley and ask who wants a drink. Available as new construction or refurbished from a tough life of service, these airline trolley carts are customized to the customer’s spec, and can even include a refrigerator. approx. $1,300
    bordbar.de
  2. HangarBot
    As your personal hangar manager, HangarBot can do everything from opening and closing the hangar door to keeping an eye on the place when you’re not there. Especially useful is the ability to turn on or off your engine preheater. And it’s all controlled remotely with your phone or tablet. $499, plus modules
    hangarbot.com
  3. Pilot’s Coffee
    Pilots and coffee go together like peanut butter and jelly. Now there’s a coffee by pilots, for pilots, that is easy to take with you or make with minimal equipment. Simply drop the single-use bag of coffee in your hot water, steep, and drink. Perfect for the hangar or the road. $20 for 10; $36 for 20
    pilotscoffee.com
  4. Flyboy Toys Custom Sign
    Make it clear what really belongs in the hangar with this custom sign from Flyboy Toys. These metal signs are customized with your airplane and N number, and a range of pre-selected messages. $39.99
    flyboytoys.com
  5. Watercolor Stainless Bottle
    A hangar is no place for spilled drinks. Keep your water cold and your coffee hot with the Watercolor Stainless Bottle from AOPA. Adorned with a watercolor image of a seaplane, it will be right at home in your hangar. $25
    aopapilotgear.com

Also consider: Big Ass fan, Spencer Aircraft travel chair or AirTite Cot, Best Tugs, Jupiter Discovery X5 folding electric bike.

The Shop

2021 Gear Guide Shop
Photography by Chris Rose

Grypshon GrypmatThe Shop

Maybe your shop pulls double duty as your hangar, or it’s your basement where you are building your dream airplane. Or maybe it’s just a state of mind and a set of good intentions. Regardless, you’ll need to gear up.

  1. Grypshon Grypmat
    We love this mat so much we’re including it in our yearly gear guide for the second time. Far superior to the old coffee-can method, the Grypmat can hold and organize your tools and parts, and keep everything safely on a table, cart, or even the cowling. $59.95
    grypmat.com
  2. Mike Busch book series on maintenance and ownership
    Author, speaker, podcaster, and AOPA columnist Mike Busch looks at maintenance and ownership from the pilot’s perspective. In his four-part book series you’ll learn to become your own maintenance manager. $104.80 for a set of four titles
    aircraftspruce.com
  3. Vividia Ablescope VA-400
    If you’re not looking in your cylinders on a regular basis, you are missing out on one of your strongest maintenance tools. This borescope wraps back around to be able to easily see valves, and all sorts of other tight places on the airplane. $250
    aircraftspruce.com
  4. Safety Wire Twister Kit
    Often the first purchase for an aircraft shop is a decent pair of safety wire pliers. This set comes with two types of safety wire twisters, three gauges of wire, and a carrying case for an attractive price. $66.75
    aircraftspruce.com
  5. Wings Logo Hat
    You have your nice hats and your flying hats. You need a shop hat. The AOPA Wings Logo Hat is a low-profile lid with strap adjustment and no button on top. Plus, the color will help mask the grease stains. $19
    aopapilotgear.com

Also consider: Harbor Freight borescope, Engine Management 101 from Superior Air Parts.

Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly is senior content producer for AOPA Media.

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