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Kneeboards are useful devices for both pilots and anyone who works outside with a tablet
Have you ever wished for an accessory for your field tablets so you could go hands-free? A few years ago, I realized I had a need for something to help me hold a tablet while collecting data from a small boat. I knew working over water could be so much easier than it currently was (digging in my backpack to grab my gear every 5 minutes), but I wasn’t even sure anyone made such a product.
It was then that I stumbled on kneeboards for pilots, and since then my field data collection work has been much easier! Both when doing windshield surveys from a car, or simple data collection from a boat. Now, it’s so much simpler to stay organized and keep my field tablet located on my lap without risk of falling or distracting me. The best kneeboard for pilots is also the best kneeboard for people in our line of work, too!
What is a Kneeboard?
Unless you are a pilot, the concept might be new. A kneeboard is a gadget that holds iPads and other tablets for pilots so they can keep their hands free to fly. The dimensions vary, so it’s quite easy to find one that matches your field tablet. Think of it as a high-tech clipboard for your high-tech paper (tablet).
This device has 3 parts:
- Flat Plate: The flat plate is the part of the kneeboard that supports the back of your tablet. They usually come between 8 to 11 inches long and 4 to 6 inches wide. Flat plates can be made of plastic or metal.
- Elastic Strap: This is what holds the device to your leg. The elastic strap can be loosened or tightened to fit each individual wearer.
- Binder Clip: The final component is the binder clip. This is what holds your technology to the flat plate so you can use your hands.
How Can a Kneeboard Help Me?
If you think a kneeboard won’t be of use to you, think again. Anyone working in an environment that requires hands-free operating should have this gadget. Even Lyft drivers use something similar to attach their phones to their windshields!
It may look a little strange at first. It may take some getting used to. However, I’ve found kneeboards to be an invaluable tool in my environmental work. How? For one, I was able to collect pond samples more efficiently with two hands without having to worry about the fate of my field tablet (using the kneeboard on my arm in this case). Using one, I was able to quickly enter in the data and go right back to sampling!
Even taking soil samples was much simpler!
How Do I Choose a Kneeboard?
Paper:There are two distinct kneeboards out there. One is for paper, and the other is for tablets. If you are someone that likes to make handwritten notes, you’ll want to purchase the kind created to hold paper. You can even create your own! Here are some instructions from the EAA Aviation Center.
Field Tablet: Many consultants use field tablets. If you plan on taking out a tablet, make sure you purchase a sturdy kneeboard. The last thing you want to do is lose all your data to the fish! Need some help deciding on a good field tablet?
Extras:How do you feel about upgraded accessories? Kneeboards are never one-size-fits-all. In fact, there are multiple little differences in what many brands offer. The most notable is a side pocket. Side pockets are great for holding little extras you may need.
I like to store my stylus, charging cable, and headlamp in mine. However, they make the device a bit more cumbersome. Many pilots swear by keeping it simple!
Check out this video for more information about kneeboards and pilots. As you watch, keep in mind how these features could help you in the field.
Best Kneeboard for Pilots (and Wetlands!): Our Top 3 Picks
#1. MyClipKneeboard Simplest Tablet Kneeboard
Why did MyClipKneeboard decide to name their device Simplest Tablet Kneeboard? Because the design and use are easy! In fact, this kneeboard is universal. That means it can hold virtually any kind of phone or tablet on the market today. Just make sure your field tablet is between 3 inches and 12 inches wide.
The elastic band is comfortable and flexible to fit almost any size leg. Even though the binder clips are plastic, they are highly adjustable to fit your portable technology. Whether you use this in a plane or in the wetlands, the gadget will not obscure your view of necessary surroundings! The MyClipKneeboard weighs a measly .6 ounces, so you won’t even notice the extra weight.
#2. Flyboys F-16 Viper IFR/VFR Pilot Kneeboard
Note: If you aren’t a pilot, there’s no need to pay attention to the IFR/VFR stuff.
The Flyboys F-16 Viper IFR/VFR Pilot Kneeboard is a bit pricier than the rest, but it also includes quite a few little extras. There are 3 pen holders, and a side pocket for important papers, notes, batteries, etc. There’s even a removable plastic clipboard!
This tri-fold kneeboard is sturdy and durable for long days in the field. The flat plate is made of metal, so it will hold up better than those made from plastic. This device does weigh more at 9.4 ounces, but after a few days, you will barely notice it. Fun fact: the Viper is much more compact than many of the other kneeboards on the market.
Another great feature of this Flyboys product are the colors available. You can choose between black, desert tan, navy blue, and olive green. As an added bonus, you can tell people your Viper was designed by an F-16 pilot!
#3. ASA Visual Flight (VFR) Kneeboard ASA-KB-1
ASA is a well-known, high-quality manufacturer, and their ASA-KB-1 is no exception! This product was made for those of you that want a paper kneeboard. The ASA made of brushed aluminum so it’s lightweight, strong, and durable.
Even though it isn’t made for tablets, it still has the elastic to secure it. The legband is a 1½ inches wide so it stays put all day. There is also a pen holder in the legband so no space is unnecessarily taken up. In total, the ASA-KB-1 is 9 ½ inches long by 6 ½ inches wide.
A Final Word About Kneeboards…
Don’t hesitate to buy one if you’re on the fence. I know I waited months before I pulled the trigger, but I wish I had bought one sooner. Anybody working on tablets consistently, either on environmental projects or from a cockpit of a plane can benefit immensely from one of these gadgets!
Do you prefer to use a field tablet or paper notes? Do you own a kneeboard? What product would you recommend? Let us know all your thoughts and feelings on these handy devices in the comment section. We look forward to hearing from you!