We decided to perform a quick survey of our PCC Pilot Group and included a number of our colleagues and peers.
Being a pilot in 2016 often involves a combination of erratic start times, end times, days off, days on, 'dead-head' travel on airlines, weeks away in remote locations, hotel rooms in strange cities, and a whole lot of Airport Metal Detectors and Customs Clearances.
As pilots become seasoned to this somewhat bizarre set of circumstances, they generally learn over time to pack lighter and smaller, and then smarter and even lighter, and finally ...smaller again. The less items and bags they have, the easier it is to get through the airports, bus rides, hotel check-ins etc.
With that in mind, we conducted a quick survey to find out which SPECIFIC ITEMS our Pilot Group considers as 'must haves' to get through their commutes, duties, travel, and solitude. Please note this is not an advertisement for any particular product, just results of our survey.
Here is what we came up with -- in no particular order:
1. iPad mini / Tablet / Kindle.
Size is important here. But all of our pilots agreed that a nice, light weight, easy to pack iPad mini / kindle is tailor made for today's pilot. They are excellent for reading a novel, reviewing SOP's and Systems, METARs, TAFS, Flight Plans, and even looking at Satellite Imagery. Not only that - you can watch movies, listen to your music playlists and podcasts, catch up on emails, etc. The list goes on. For a pilot, there is no disappointment quite like 'oh man, I forgot my iPad mini at home!'
2. Coffee Sachets.
This could be the simplest... yet most important development of the 21st Century! Individual Coffee Sachets of whatever strength you prefer - almost guaranteed to be better than any coffee machine or airline coffee. Pilots work some of the strangest hours. And as you are aware, pilots must remain alert and awake when operating their machinery. Therefore, good coffee is often critical to a professional pilot.
18 out of our 22 surveyed pilots take along a zip lock bag with their preferred coffee sachets. When a good coffee is needed - all you require is hot water and a cup. An amazing bonus here... the stronger the coffee, the stronger the coffee aura in your hotel room. Try it some day at your hotel. Make a coffee from a Starbucks Pike Place sachet - makes one cup - and then invite someone to your room. No question they will be blown away by the coffee smell excellence! (NOTE: Only invite persons known to you to test this theory, not complete strangers - lets try to keep the arrests/jail-time to a minimum).
3. Fit Bit.
Simple Smart Watch. A relatively new product, the Fit Bit Charger HR is a small, subtle watch that tells you the time but also tracks your daily steps, heart rate, quality of sleep amongst many other things. The Fit Bit also automatically syncs with your ipad, laptop, or smartphone to upload your latest results. You can track the amount of steps you do in a day, raise the target, and hopefully watch your health improve over time. We cannot say enough about the fit bit.
Do you have any super fit friends? Take a closer look... there is a good chance they are wearing a fit bit watch. If so, ask them about it and see if it sounds like something you could use. We love them. They require no maintenance, no knowledge, no manual and essentially no work other than activity on your part. Type Rating Training and Manual Study ... Zero required!
4. Skipping Rope.
Wow what a piece of equipment. Travel anywhere, in any hotel... and almost guaranteed you'll be able to find a spot to skip. May sound insane, but it is a great cardio exercise and one that you can continually improve and challenge yourself with. See if you can get to 30 consecutive skips. Over time bump it up to 50. Try for 80, even 100. And when you trip up, as we always do, try again. Within minutes you'll be soaked in sweat. Easily packs into any suitcase and takes up literally no room.
5. Small yet Powerful Power-Bar.
This could be the most important item on the list. In our day and age, you need to be connected and stay connected. To your Chief Pilot, Wife, Husband, Girlfriend, Personal Trainer, etc. Especially when being transferred in airports, train stations, hotels, or perhaps when you land from a long flight. In 2016 we all seem to own smart phones and/or iPads --- and guess what --- they need power. Every pilot we know packs a fully charged small Power-Bar in their flight case for this very reason. The smaller the better - provided the power-bar can charge your phone or tablet in one connection. It is so great to have power-back-up at your finger tips.
6. Water / Water Bottle.
Flying is one of the most dehydrating things you can do. Add in some soft drinks and/or a cup of coffee .... and you are effectively drying yourself out at Mach .85. You have likely heard that it is recommended that a person drink 3+ litres of water each and every day. Sounds insane doesn't it? Well... it is an excellent idea. Especially for us pilot types.
If this amount of water seems odd to you or impossible, .. excellent! Be patient and slowly work your way up to 3 litres over a few weeks. Start with one litre if that is more than your normal intake. Yes of course you will spend more time in the bathroom drinking all of this water. But the health benefits are phenomenal. You will be continuously cleaning your system and helping your body with digestion. No question, once 3+ litres a day becomes your norm, you will be amazed how great you feel. Once our team made this transition, one of the unexpected benefits was being much more alert first thing in the morning. First Cup of Morning Coffee.... no longer required... 'pass me the water bottle - thanks a lot!'.
7. Small Yet Excellent Wireless Speaker.
Bose Mini Sound Dock II. Wow. This small wireless speaker is perfect for long stays in remote hotel rooms while away from your friends and family. The bluetooth connection is excellent and the overall sound will blow you away. The speaker is easy to charge with the provided USB cable (samsung shaped connection to the speaker itself). Essentially the size of small water bottle yet with the sound of a boom box. Try it out. There are many options here but we found the Mini Sound Dock II is the best compromise between overall size, ease of use, and quality sound.
8. Work Out Gloves.
Do you have a pair of work out gloves? We all do. They have two essential uses.... the first is the obvious one. And that is to protect your hands / palms while lifting weights at the gym. Great stuff. The second use is more subtle. The gloves have a unique look and will be seen whenever you open your suitcase or overnight bag. From there they will fill your hotel room with guilt... until you pull them on and start doing some push-ups or head to the gym.
9. iTunes Shuffle.
Here we go again with the product promotion. Our apologies. In any case, more than half of those surveyed own and carry the iShuffle with them on their trips. They are tiny, affordable, and amazing. Drag and drop your favorite playlists into this little gem. Music and podcasts can make a huge difference to your run or gym visits.
NOTE: The shuffles are so small, you will likely lose the first one you own within the first week. After your second one though, you will be hooked.
10. Quality Soaps and Shampoo.
Do an experiment and some fine morning, sit outside a 3 star hotel or air-bnb. Listen carefully to the complaints of the guests as they walk out of the hotel. You are likely to hear all about the water pressure, water temperature, shampoos and soaps. Why the soaps and shampoos - well it is highly likely that the owner found an amazing deal on these products a few years ago in a remote corner of a K-Mart dungeon. And guess what - they bought a 7 year supply.
Pilots don't touch the stuff. You will find the cagey, veteran pilots know exactly which hotels provide the good soaps and the excellent shampoos. Its uncanny. And because these same pilots realize they have a number of 3 star hotel or mediocre air-bnb stays ahead of them, they often slide the high quality mini-shampoo bottles and soaps into their toiletry bags after initial use. Its a must.
Do you know a pilot? If so, ask to see their toiletry bag. We can almost guarantee you will find 5+ shampoos and 3 soap bars.