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First Impressions: Think Tank Airport International v2

by Nigel Paterson on 02/24/2011

My first design for packing the Think Tank Airport Roller v2.

The first thing I thought of when I unpacked the Think Tank Airport International v2 was how impressive looking it is. Its styling shouts ‘Impressive Roller Bag’, without shouting ‘Cameras, Steal Me!’.

Editor’s Note: If you’d like to purchase this bag, click on the Think Tank banner on the side.

Don’t Weigh Me Down

But the next thing I did was actually pull it out of the cardboard box and thought, ‘bloody hell, it’s heavy’. On my office scales it weighs nearly 6kg or 10lb, although the official weight on the specifications page of Think Tank’s website has it a bit lighter. Maybe they weighed it without the full array of dividers and included accessories (you’d never be able to use all of them at once anyway), or maybe the office scales need calibrating.

The reason I’m sensitive about weight is because I’ve found more and more that airlines are getting touchy about overloading your bags, both checked bags and carry-on. The Think Tank Airport International meets international carry-on restrictions, but when I filled it with a pro Canon kit it tipped the scales at over 15kg.

The big tip here is be careful with whom you fly: United and British Airways have no set weight limit for cabin baggage, but Qantas and Virgin Atlantic do: and they are low at 7 and 6kg respectively. Try www.luggagelimits.com for limits and restrictions before you book.

However, the bag doesn’t look too big, so there’s an excellent chance your bag won’t get weighed at all, but that’s a risk you’ll have to judge for yourself, and you might be able to sling a camera and lens over your shoulder to get past the Gate Nazis anyway. Think Tank even acknowledges Rollers are heavy – the company put a handle on the bottom of the bag so it’s easier to lift and put in an overhead locker.

Security x 3

Apart from the weight issue, the Think Tank Airport International looks like it’s going to be an awesome travelling companion. There’s three – yes three – locks on the bag. The main zips can be fastened with a lock built-in to the side of the bag. There’s a long cable lock in a zippered compartment at the back to attach to an immovable object (perfect if you need to sleep at an airport or just need to have some peace of mind that someone can’t just wheel it away) and a third cable lock at the front to secure a laptop case to the bag. All the locks are TSA combination locks, a requirement for travel in some countries.

Taking it all with you

Unzip the main compartment and the bag seems like Doctor Who’s Tardis, which is bigger on the inside than the outside. This bag swallows gear like there’s no tomorrow: I squeezed in the following Canon gear and accessories:

1D MkIIN

5D Mk II

Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM

70-200 f/2.8L IS USM

24-105mm f/4L IS USM

16-35mm f/2.8L USM

2 x Canon speedlites

Getting sorted

Sorting out how to divide up the bag was a bit of a job and something I still consider a work in progress. Wide-angle lens hoods, for example, are a pain in camera bags because they are a lot fatter than the lens itself, and thus take up a lot of space. This bag comes supplied with a huge amount of dividers in various sizes so you can customise the inside of your page to your liking.

Many bags are now deep enough to take a 70-200mm f/2.8 vertically (like the Think Tank Multimedia Wired Up 20 I’ve reviewed), but the compromise of making the Airport International fit into overhead lockers means it’s not deep enough – which means the lens must lie flat, consuming a lot more room. There’s also a lump in the base of the bag for the arm to pull the bag along with, so the base of the bag isn’t flat when you pack it. This is the nature of the beast though, typical of all roller bags I’ve ever used.

Lots more

On the front of the bag is a pouch which can swallow a laptop in a protective sleeve, there’s a small zippered section for documents, notebooks etc and on the inside of the zip front are four accessories accessory pouches, all translucent so you can see what’s inside. Perfect for filters, memory cards, cables…

Included with the bag are accessories to carry a tripod or monopod strapped to the side and a wet-weather cover.

Not for cheapskates

Think Tank builds bags for professionals, and they are priced accordingly: at $329 (US) the Airport International v2 isn’t cheap – but it is looking like good value for money.

I’ve packed it, I’ve weighed it… when it’s done a few shoots (and the first one it was scheduled for has been postponed due to the heatwave in Eastern Australia at the moment) I’ll be reporting back on its performance.

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