Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Think Tank Airport Takeoff Review

Copied from my Amazon review of the Think Tank Airport Takeoff

So here's the deal. I own a green Lowepro Mini Trekker AW that I still prefer to use for short travel because of its portability. It weighs nothing compared to the 10 pound (while empty) Airport Takeoff. That being said, I could no longer tolerate the 20 pounds hanging off my shoulders with the Mini Trekker. I debated between the 3 Think Tank roller bags and decided on the one that offered me the most versatility. This one is an international carry-on sized bag. Also, I wanted to have the option of putting the bag on my back for whatever reason (unpaved roads or fooling airport personnel into thinking the bag is lighter than it looks so they won't weigh it...)

The dividers suit me just fine. I'm a Nikon shooter and in the bag now I have a D3 body, 70-200mm f/2.8G VR, 24-70mm f/2.8G, 14-24mm f/2.8G, 50mm f/1.8D, 85mm f/1.4D, 2 SB-800 in their bags, and assorted other stuff like a Giotto blower, polarized lens filter, etc. In fact, I have space for more... probably 10% more stuff. The lenses I carry are not as big as a 200-400mm or 300mm f/2.8G VR but they're not small either. Definitely a dramatic increase in space over the Mini Trekker.

So here's my gripe with this bag and let me explain to you why I think it's the way it is. Think Tank could have easily used a 2-section aluminum handle rather than the 4-section handle that I see on all their roller bags. Most carry-on rollers are 2-section aluminum handles so they're not only sturdier but also cheaper to acquire (cost). Yet Think Tank chose the 4-sectional handle... why? IMHO, to save space.The 4 sectional takes up less space in the "handle compartment". However they sacrificed sturdiness in using the 4-section handle. I quickly googled "think+tank+airport+flimsy" and discovered what is probably the "Achilles heel" of all the Airport bags (or at least also the Airport International). Most reviews complain that the handles are flimsy as hell.

Now when I say the handle is flimsy, I don't mean that it's just normally flimsy. I mean that there's a TON of play between each section. Obviously the more sections there are, the more exaggerated each section's flimsiness becomes at the top of the handle. So much so, that at the top of my handle there is about 1.5 inches of play forward and backward and almost an inch left and right. Yeah, THAT flimsy. Will it break? Probably not (benefit of the doubt). Does it inspire confidence when hauling $15k worth of equipment around? Probably not. Could Think Tank have done better? Probably... particularly when we're paying $300 for these things.

Otherwise I think the bag is solid. The wheels are smooth and there are plenty of compartments for stashing your stuff. Yeah my other gripe is that the handle is hard to pull out when tucked away in its compartment, but I can live with that if the handle were solid. I feel like I have to baby the handle so I don't break it though... and that's not good. The backpack straps are easy to use although I wish there was a belt strap/buckle like on my Mini Trekker (because it holds the bag down better which allows you to carry more weight) Hope this helps. Having a rolling camera bag is still a huge benefit over a backpack.


  1. Do you have a photo of your bag setup

  2. Hey Shane, I don't but I'll keep that in the back of my mind next time I put it together again... I usually use my MiniTrekker AW for daily use! :)