My first flight bag was actually an insulated lunch bag that my flight school sold me with the headset. The insulation served as padding and there was a pocket on the side into which I could cram sunglasses or charts. I later graduated to a laptop bag, which was good for charts, but didn't hold the headset. I tried using a document case like the big airline pilots carry, but my cockpit didn't accommodate it. I now use a messenger bag leather messenger bag I bought at a Danier sale. It has lots of pockets which although not perfectly suited to the things I carry, I now am accustomed to navigating to find my stuff when I need it. It's tough and looks good, and the leather feels nice. Animals definitely are made out of excellent stuff.
When I fly single pilot, I put my bag in the copilot seat and secure it with its own strap, then open all the pockets that contain things I need in flight. An additional pocket contains things that I won't necessarily need in flight but which I could need if I'm stranded somewhere I didn't expect to go on this flight: a change of underwear and socks and my cellphone charger. One tends to use one's cellphone a lot during irregular operations.
You could fly with your stuff in a Spider- Man backpack from Zellers and you would probably be able to dig most of it out when you needed it, but it's nice to have something that looks professional and that both protects your gear and makes it more accessible. There do exist bags designed specifically as flight bags. A reader sent me a link to a YouTube clip featuring the Brightline bag. They've clearly put a lot of thought into it.
The Brightline bag does solve a few common flight bag problems. My headset is the same size as the blue one in the demo so it doesn't fit in the little end pocket on many flight bags. I do like the water bottle pocket and the dedicated spare battery pocket, and having it break in half.
At $US 129.00, it's quite expensive for a bag, but it's not out of the ball park for flight bags. I don't know about the material or how durable it is. Will the pens poke holes in the little pen pocket? Does it stand up to catching on the sharp metal bits at the edge of the fuel selector panel? I like how compact it is, and they may be right that it does the job of bigger bags, becaue my bag is not stuffed full. But an advantage to having a larger bag is that I can stuff my sweatshirt and a couple of books in it, whereas if I wanted to add that much to the Brightline book, it wouldn't fit. If I felt my current bag were worn out, I'd definitely consider this bag, but I'm happy enough with the leather one to keep it until it gets ratty.
When I searched my inbox to find the name of the reader who sent me the link, so I could credit him or her, I found insteada message from the manufacturer, offering me a commission if I were to sell any bags. I had archived that message probably without even reading it, because I don't advertise on the site. But then I thought: as I'm going to post about this bag anyway, if someone was going to buy it anyway, then what's the harm in having them buy it from this site and have some of the money go towards building houses for Cambodians? So if you like this bag enough to buy it, do it by clicking the link below.
I eventually realized that I didn't find the original message because it came to my personal mailbox, not my Cockpit Conversation one, because this reader is also a former student who figured out long ago who I was, and thus knows my real e-mail address. He doesn't have a blog, but I can tell you he once took a little Cessna out and overflew a prison, inside a charted restricted area, but didn't get in trouble, because he asked permission of the proper authority first. It was a ballsy little demonstration that that's how the system works.