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As the years have gone by some stuff has been so handy it's now in the 'never leave home without it' pile, these items get the priority boarding treatment !!...
If you're just starting out or want some ideas about what to take on trips, here's a handy start...
...so let's have a look in my bag...
Flight Helmet - MSA Gallet LH250
Some pilots do, some pilots don't. My brain says, why would you think not wearing a helmet in a 2 tonne elevated lump of metal isn't a good idea!! Africa has a hugely reduced capacity for speedy medical attention and anything to keep you alive longer is in my books a 'sensible' must. Wear one for a while and you feel naked without.
Can not begin to tell how many times this 296 has saved my ass. Having your own GPS means you can quickly sort out your navigation issues and focus on the flying as you understand your unit far better than any other. Get your own, learn how to use it, look after it, it will be one of your best aviation investments ever. A note to Garmin, if you happen to be listening!!... BRING BACK THE 296 !!! ...
Iridium 9555 Satellite Phone
Africa's huge, desolate and at times darn right nasty. There's only one way to be sure you can get the message out when you need, Iridium.. the rest just can't compete. Cellular coverage, what's that!! Unless you happen to be in a town it's almost non-existent. Now you've got comms whenever it's needed. The 9555 can send emails & SMS's too, so a really great tool. Yes it costs quite a bit, nothing compared to roaming rates though and that only works when you have cellular coverage, the knowledge of knowing you always have comms is worth ever penny.
Dual Sim Nokia Cell Phone
It's cheap. It's basic. The battery lasts nearly 3 weeks!! Try getting that with a new smart phone. Dual Sim? Options people. Options.
Photocopies of Passport, Pilots Licence & Yellow Fever
This continent hasn't gone digital yet, most of it is still doing triplicate with carbon paper!! If it had French or Belgium colonial history there's going to be lots of paperwork. Immigration and general ease of passage through this dark continent can be sped up no end with just a few copies of some important papers that can be dished out quickly.
Whites & Stripes with a Crew Card
Never underestimate the power of a smart uniform. Try it. African officials love their uniforms and the power they wield. Fight Back. Wear yours too. Whites and Stripes with a suitably fancy looking Crew Card works a treat. It's like an 'African Access Pass' !! Have them handy. Give it a try. You'll see.
Two reasons. First, a decent nights sleep! If you've ever tried to sleep with the incessant buzz you'll know what I mean. Second, trying hard to avoid needing the Coartem listed below.
Malaria Test Kit
A cheap test kit can save your life. There's no other way to say it. Early detection is key. They're cheap, easy to carry and with decent hospitals usually 100's if not 1000's of kms away. You don't want to be messing about with malaria.
Malaria, this mean little bugger kills someone every 30 seconds... by the time you've got this far down the post several people have died... over 500 million people suffer some form of effects from malaria each year!! For those working in the bush in Africa it's more of a WHEN than an IF ...
A picture speaks a thousand words. What we do is difficult to explain to those we leave at home. A great picture brings it all to life and the memories it rekindles last a lifetime.
Lots of them. Black ones. You can never have too many. Where you're going there will be no shops. Take pens.
Mini Tool Kit
Speak to your engineers. Narrow down what you might need. You never know when it'll come in handy. You just never know. Just have something other than your Leatherman.
Petzl Head Lamp
24 hour electricity and lighting!! In your dreams. When it's dark in Africa, it's DARK!! Get a Petzl. Know where it is. Take spare batteries. Try cooking and eating your dinner with the torch on your iPhone! You'll only do it once and then wish you had a Petzl.
Until you've had one you never think you'll need one. Once you've had one you can't comprehend not having one. A note to airport security, keep your hands off my ***king Leatherman!!!
Electrical Tape / Zip Ties
No self respecting helicopter pilot will travel without the tool box fundamentals close at hand. These two simple items have been the saviour on more occasions than I care to remember.
Now, nowhere is a coffee free zone, if there's electricity there's capacity for coffee. One of the best little things in my bag.
Africa. One continent. Many countries. Multiple colonial dynasties. Equates to more power socket variations than months in the year!! You need your options covered. With todays modern devices, you gotta have power. The simplest I've found is to have a multi socket in your home country set up and then just plug that into the local outlet. Then you only need to do the socket conversion once.
Sponge Ear Plugs
Smallest items in my bag. Get on a plane, chuck these in and a pleasant drone free flight follows. You wont believe how good these are. A noisy bush camp on a Friday night or that damn buzzing mosquito. These little ear plugs are a home run.
The biggest threat to you comes from the smallest package, germs. Keep the suckers at bay by keeping your hands clean.
Pegs & Drying Line
Wet clothes just suck. I carry a few clothes pegs and a short length of rope. Makes hanging and drying anything simple, hotel rooms, tents, in the chopper, you name it, I've used it to hang stuff all over the place.
Need I say more. Never should there be any reason to be caught short. Never.
First Aid Kit / Medical Stash
There's always a mini drug store in my bag, everything from water purification tablets to rehydration powders and an array of stomach / nausea / sickness tablets to boot. When you feel sick, being stuck away from decent help just makes it all that much worse, so take your own.
Long Pencil Case
This one was a sheer moment of genius. Store all my computer cables in a pencil case. Long and thin and fits in anywhere. Perfect.
Of course there are a whole load of other things that go too, they change depending where I'm going. The stuff above get's packed first, the other stuff follows.
If you've got a list of stuff you never leave on a trip without and want to share, drop it in the comments below.
Thanks for the visit and fly safe.
Just my experiences as a pilot in Africa, things learnt along the way and useful stuff for others following their dream...
All content is a personal opinion and not to be considered technical instruction or guidelines of any kind. All content is for entertainment purposes only.