Think Tank’s Airport International is designed to carry as much gear as possible with you in the cabin of the plane with adequate protection, the convenience of wheels and the appearance of conventional luggage.
It succeeds at these tasks very well, complying with one of the most common carry-on size standards almost perfectly – it slides into those carry-on checking frames with an accuracy which could only have come with been designed for the job – and can swallow an incredible amount of gear. In addition to camera gear, there’s a neoprene-like stretchy pocket on the front which will swallow a laptop and the bag is supplied with accessories to make a pro’s life easier – a rain cover, tripod and monopod straps, and enough internal panels to satisfy anyone.
I’ve been using the Airport International for a while now, and it’s become my default bag. Provided the shoot is happening on hard surfaces – the wheels (which look like they came off an inline skate) make moving the bag around easy.
Wheels and handles
What roller bags are great for is getting large amounts of gear around without straining your back. Think Tank obviously worked this out: they put a handle on the bottom of the bag, between the wheels, to make it easier to lift into cars, overhead lockers etc. On soft or loose surfaces the bag’s design makes it awkward to carry, but I’m still finding myself using it to transport gear to a shoot before grabbing what I need and carrying it in a photographer’s vest or smaller bag, such as my Think Tank Multi Media 20 waist bag.
One downside of most large cases is they can’t be accessed until placed on their backs. The main compartment’s zip runs right around the outer and must be flipped up (and usually right over) to access your gear. This means these bags aren’t suited to photowalks, photojournalism or anywhere you’re going to be short of time. You can’t effectively open the main compartment until you’ve removed your computer from the front pocket: it’s too heavy and you could easily damage the laptop if you don’t. The front of the bag can get filthy when it’s quickly flipped open – it ends up on the ground. Apart from getting dirty, small items fall out of both the exterior and interior accessory pockets when this happens, so you quickly learn to keep them fully zipped up. I’d like a pair of internal straps to limit the opening of the bag to just past vertical, so you could open the bag, let the front stay open on the straps (but not resting on the ground), get gear out but not have the case lid getting dirty and have items falling out of the accessory pockets. Clips on the straps could make them removable. I’ve learned to place the bag near a wall and flip the lid up onto that.
So far the Airport International has stood up very well to the punishment that’s been metered out to it and the convenience of having gear in a bag with wheels is a real blessing. In my next article on the Airport Roller I’ll give a full rundown on what I’ve squeezed into the bag and more on its day to day use.
You can see Day 1 one of this series here.
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