Traveling with your camera gear can be challenging. Security, logistics and the cost associated with this deter many from doing so. Think Tank has changed all that and their rolling camera bags make it a breeze to safely pack your favorite camera goodies for travel domestically or abroad.
Think Tank make a whole slew of bags, everything from backpacks to beltpacks. In their rolling camera bag offering they have a number of items which meet the carry-on requirements for both domestic and/or international flight. The bag I chose was the Airport International V2.0. My choice was between it and the Airport Security V2.0. My two main criteria in selecting a bag were that it could hold the equipment I required and that it would 100%, no questions asked, fit in the overhead compartment of the plane. There was no way I wanted to arrive at security and find out that my bag was not the correct specification. I posed the question to Think Tank on their twitter feed @ThinkTankPhoto and these were the two bags they recommended. They also mention the possibility of one of their carry-on backpacks. Even though the Airport Security was slightly bigger, I chose the International to be absolutely certain it would meet all the requirements.
Checking your expensive camera gear simply isn’t an option. I would ship something before I checked it in at the airport. Damage, theft and lost goods could make it so that I arrived at my destination unable to do my job. My strategy is always to pack what I need to do my work in my carry-on and pack anything else in my checked luggage or ship it ahead of time to my destination.
I already own several other Think Tank products, including their Pro Speed Belt, Pixel Racing Harness v2.0 and Modular Set. I also use Think Tank’s Hydrophobia rain covers(70-200 and 70-200 flash). When I received my bag, the first thing I noticed was the quality. This is something I have now come to expect from Think Tank. I still use Lowepro backpacks so this was my first Think Tank bag, but not my last. Zippers are a big deal on any apparel and are usually the first thing to go. I was really happy to see that Think Tank took this seriously and put rugged zippers and hardware on the bag. The zippers in the inside cover are even covered with nylon to protect your gear from getting damaged. Everything from the wheels to the pop-up handle are well engineered and constructed.
The very first thing I did was configure the locks. They were a breeze to set up following the simple instructions provided.
The bag comes with 3 different locks.
- TSA combination lock secures main zipper sliders
- Front cable & lock secures laptop case, when stored in front stretch pocket
- Rear cable & lock secures entire bag to a fixed object
The compartments were already fairly well-configured for my needs and the very next thing I did was to see if it would hold what I needed it to.
What’s in the bag:
- AF-S 70-200mm F/2.8G ED VR II
- AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G ED
- AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED
- Nikon D3 body
- Nikon MH-18a Quick Battery Charger
- AF-S 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II
- Nikon D700 body with MB-D10 battery grip
- Sigma AF 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM
- AF-S Teleconverter TC-20E III
- Cables and other small accessories in top compartment
As shown here, the bag weighed in at 36.62lbs (11.5lbs bag / 25.12lbs equipment). The weight restriction for international flight is 22lbs, so I was over by 14.62lbs. Using something like Think Tank’s Airport Ultralight would get the bag weight down considerably, from 11.5lbs to 3.5lbs, but I would have still been over. I was over in gear weight before I even put it in a bag. I would have been over even had I used a brown paper lunch bag. The Airport International is rated to hold up to a 500mm lens. With this lens alone (10.4lbs) in the bag it would weigh 21.9lbs – just a hair under the 22lbs limit. There isn’t much Think Tank can do about this and I am merely adding this to demonstrate how heavy glass is and how ridiculous the weight restrictions are. The Airport International weighs as much as it does for good reason and I would not want to have to forgo security and safety features for a few pounds. People use bags that are well made to carry their clothes, why shouldn’t I for my camera equipment? The bag comes with a great little pouch that holds a laptop. It slides into the front of the bag and can be removed as needed. This can be considered your personal item and help keep the rolling bag’s weight down. My laptop weighs 8lbs, so I would again be over the limit were it not for this feature. I usually carry a separate laptop case which can slide over handles of the rolling bag. It just gives me more room for chargers and to pack any other items I don’t want to check in. I haven’t had any issues with the weight, yet, and not really sure what I would do if questioned. If I am traveling with colleagues I can sometimes hand them my big glass as their personal item but that isn’t always an option and I would still likely be over. I could toss a few lenses in my laptop bag as well but, again, could potentially be over. You are really at the whim and mercy of the staff on that particular day. Checking the bag would never be an option so that would pretty much end my shoot. The potential of losing everything in that bag versus the cost of the flight wouldn’t even be close, unless the flight was to outer space.
I have not tried to fit a 500mm lens yet but I do have trouble getting my 200mm f/2, the “Super Chub”, in the bag with the configuration you see above. It’s very wide and I have to remove the hood to keep this setup. This isn’t a shortcoming on Think Tank’s part, it’s just an unusually wide lens. The bag could certainly be made to accommodate it. I have packed it with all kinds of different gear and am always blown away by just how much I can get in it.
The bag has fit neatly in the overhead or under the seat in front of me for all but one recent flight aboard a Canadair CRJ-705. When I asked the flight attendant, she said that “if it fit in the tester at check-in it should fit in the plane”. The bag does fit in the tester but did not fit in the overhead or under the seat in front of me. There was zero chance in the overhead and when placed under the seat in front of me it came out so far the she then told me to turn it sideways, which took up space from the passenger beside me. Had he also had a piece of luggage there, I would have been in a pickle. This is also not fair to the other passenger. I really blame this on Air Canada and not Think Tank as the bag meets the requirement set forth by AC.
Even if I am not traveling by plane, I am often in hotels and hate the idea of leaving my gear unattended. If I have expensive equipment I am not carrying with me, I leave it in the bag and lock it to something in my hotel room or car. The peace of mind this bag provides alone makes it worth purchasing. The locks, like everything else about the bag, are well thought out and provide all kinds of options to secure your gear. The ideal bag for this would be Think Tank’s Logistics Manager. I am looking into this bag as an option for carrying my Elinchrom Ranger Powerpacks and heads.
The Airport International looks like any other rolling bag you see an abundance of at airports. From the outside, it appears no different than the rest. I like that it’s not all ‘bling’ and logos. CAMERA EQUIPMENT HERE!!! Think Tank put the ‘bling’ where it counted, in the construction and functionality of the bag. It’s subtle and stealthy, which is what a bag like this should be. Only when you dig into the bag do you see its true nature.
Camera bags are not something you only own one of. You use different kits for different jobs and require a bag for each setup. Think Tank’s lineup, not just their bags, has really impressed me and they have certainly found a loyal customer in me. I really appreciate their attention to detail, build quality and forward thinking designs. Sometimes you buy a product and ask yourself “did a real person even try this?”. With Think Tank, you get the opposite reaction the very first time you use it. It is designed from a very hands-on, user perspective. I highly recommend this back to any jet-setting photog!
- Holds up to a 500mm lens
- ID: 13” W x 18.5” H x 6.5–7.5” D (33 x 47 x 16.5–19.1 cm)
- ED: 14” W x 21” H x 8” D (35.6 x 53.3 x 20.3 cm)
- 9.5–11.5 lbs (4.3–5.2 kg) depending on accessories used
- Lifetime Warranty