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If you’ve ever had to work your way through a busy airport with your gear, you know that an ordinary camera bag just isn’t going to cut it. Making sure everything is safely packed, moving through security, getting on and off your plane, working your way through yet another airport– it’s a challenge. Think Tank Photo addressed the challenge head-on not too long ago, when they introduced a new line of Airport Backpacks. The line includes (from biggest to smallest) the Airport Accelerator, Airport Commuter, and Airport Essentials, all of which meet U.S. and international carry-on standards. I’ve been putting the Commuter through its paces for the better part of a year, and– as someone who had previously never owned a gear bag designed specifically around air travel– I’m really impressed.
As with all things Think Tank, the construction is impeccable. Heavy-duty zippers and stitching, comfortably padded straps and handles, as well as all of the pockets and compartments I’ve come to expect from Think Tank. While lots of pockets and extra dividers aren’t exactly innovative, more and more of Think Tank’s newer bags are also being designed with dedicated pockets for tablets or laptops. The Airport Backpack series is designed to hold both. The exterior-access pockets are also right where they do the most good, providing quick access to travel essentials like i.d., credentials, passports, boarding passes, and other necessities. A large side pocket is perfect for a bottle of water or a paperback book.
All of that great exterior access doesn’t do you much good, though, if the interior doesn’t do its job well. Fortunately, the gear section of this bag is pretty remarkable. The two things I noticed while packing it for the first time were how much it holds, and how deep it is. Without any re-reconfiguring of the dividers, I packed three bodies, five lenses, two speedlights, a set of Pocket Wizards, and all of the memory cards, cords, batteries, chargers, gels, film, pens, business cards, m&m’s, and accessories I needed. And there was room for more.
Other features include a locking security cable, removable waist belt, and tripod attachment straps. To be honest, I was a little disappointed by the tripod attachment set-up. The exterior side pocket holds two of the legs, and a set of included straps secure the tripod to the side of the bag. Unfortunately, I don’t really feel all that secure attaching my tripod to this bag, but that might be my tripod’s fault. If it was light-weight carbon fiber or more of a travel size I might feel differently. I was initially a little concerned about carrying the fully loaded weight of this bag on my back, but the padding and straps work well to distribute the weight evenly. I’d probably still prefer a rolling case for longer trips, bigger airports, and larger gear loads, but the Airport Commuter is built around the concept of making traveling with your gear easier. Mission accomplished.
Last observation– Don’t let the word “airport” in the name fool you. I’ve been using this bag as one of my main, everyday location bags far more than I’ve been using it for travel. Mode of transportation notwithstanding, this is one of the best bags I’ve come across for packing a sizable amount of gear, plus laptop, iPad, and other essentials.
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