Think Tank Airport Commuter Camera Backpack Review
As their tag line suggests, Think Tank is the choice of many working professionals and has such a wide range of camera bags, cases, and accessories, that they really have something for everyone. As a professional outdoor lifestyle advertising photographer (http://JesseStarrProductions.com), I’m always seeking the best methods for transporting gear, weather by plane, car, or while hiking. Think Tank and their adventure photography specific sister company Mindshift Gear consistently create well thought out solutions that are extremely durable and practical. Below is my Think Tank Airport Commuter backpack review.
NOTE: Because of the similarities, some of the wording in this review is shared with my Think Tank Airport Roller Derby rolling camera bag review.
Think Tank Airport Commuter: What is it for?
Anyone who has travelled on a plane with their camera equipment knows the hassles presented by the converging goals of keeping everything protected and still fitting in to the overhead so it stays with you. We all know how baggage handlers like to toss your things as violently as possible, which makes it vital that your camera bag doesn’t get relegated to the checked baggage storage. With the Airport Commuter, Think Tank managed to make a backpack that swallows a ton of gear and fits comfortably into almost every overhead compartment on US and Domestic flights. Additionally, the size of the backpack allows it to fit under the seat as your personal item, which is crucial for super small overheads and situations where you are forced to check a bag. The beauty of the Airport Commuter is that I can fit an entire professional camera kit with lighting into the bag and be confident that it will be coming with me in the cabin. See lower section for a list of gear I travel with. The size is great for a serious amateur as well.
Travelling with the Think Tank Airport Commuter:
Let’s get this out of the way, backpacks that are meant to fit into small places like the space under an airline seat are never going to be as comfortable as typical hiking packs with their overbuilt padding and support systems. If you’re looking for something to use once you’ve reached your destination and are getting on a trail, check out Think Tank’s Mindshift Gear line of adventure camera packs (http://www.mindshiftgear.com/). All that said, the Think Tank Airport Commuter does its best to give you a comfortable experience with very nicely padded shoulder straps that are contoured to fit your body. Thankfully, the sternum strap easily slides up and down to adjust for torso size. A simple webbing waist belt adds a little bit of weight distribution and stability for heavier loads. The padding on the back is about as good as you could expect, given the size constraints and a channel down the middle offers some air flow.
I used the Airport Commuter primarily as a bag to carry extra lighting gear and I’m probably pushing the limits of how much weight you’d want in there and I still found it to be acceptable for shorter periods of time. With a typical camera load, the pack would be great for walking around with a really solid kit on your back. In the front flap of the bag is a large space that has padded sleeves for both a laptop and a tablet.
Keep in mind that if you overfill the camera compartment like I did, it is more difficult to slide your computer in, although I still was able to fit my Surface Pro 4 in there. Additionally, I put noise cancelling headphones, a speedring for my softbox, and a grid kit for my light in this area of the bag. A smaller zipped pocket on the front is perfect for power cords and small accessories. All of the materials used are very durable and my experience with Think Tank bags is that they last forever. Ballistic nylon and heavy duty zippers keep everything working through rough use.
Customization and Configuration:
The Think Tank Airport Commuter comes with a solid array of movable dividers that let you configure the bag for your needs. The customization of the padding makes it a great bag for non-professionals as well and you can configure the dividers in a way that lets you take your camera and a couple of lenses and store clothes for an overnight in the rest of it. It’s easy to move the dividers around, harder to determine what works best for you. I suggest taking out most of the dividers, laying out all of the equipment you want to put in the bag, dry fitting everything, and then putting the dividers back in. Below is a list from Think Tank of what fits in the bag and a list of what I put in mine.
What Fits in the Think Tank Airport Roller Derby:
- Gripped DSLR
- 400mm f/2.8
- 15” laptop
- 10” tablet
- Additional lenses and gear
Stored in my Think Tank Airport Commuter:
- Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Laptop
- Apple iPad Mini
- Profoto AcuteB 600r battery generator
- Profoto AcuteB flash head
- Lowel GL-1 LED ‘Gun’ Light
- 6 Phottix Strato II radio triggers
- 5 Pocket Wizard radio triggers
- Mini GorillaPod tripod
Specifications and Feature List:
Internal Dimensions: 11.5” W x 16.3” H x 6.8” D (29.2 × 42.4 × 17.3cm)
Exterior Dimensions: 12.5” W x 18.” H x 8.5” D (31.6 × 45.7 × 21.6cm)
Laptop: 11” W x 16” H x 1.3” D (27 × 40 × 3.5cm)
Weight: 3.5– 4.2lbs (1.5–1.9kg) Depending on accessories used
- Meets most international and US carry-on requirements*
- Cable lock & locking YKK® RC Fuse zippers protect your gear
- Fits up to a 15” laptop and a 10” tablet
- Contoured adjustable harness with lumbar support
- Height adjustable sternum strap and elastic pockets on shoulder strap
- Robust handles on three sides for easy over head lifting
- Mesh interior pockets
- Tripod/Monopod mounting system included
- Seam-sealed rain cover included
- Removable padded waist-belt allows for use of Thin Skin or Pro Speed Belt Camera Belts
- Compatible with Camera Support Straps (sold separately)
Think Tank Airport Commuter Review: Conclusion
The Think Tank Airport Commuter is an excellent option for bringing a large collection of cameras and lenses or other gear with you on your next trip. Like all Think Tank products, it is extremely well made and has tons of thoughtful features that show it was designed by people who actually test everything out themselves. This is my new go to backpack for getting my camera gear to and from a location when I’ll be travelling on a plane. Combined with the Think Tank Airport Roller Derby, which fits in the overhead on the plane, I can carry an entire professional kit with cameras, lighting,modifiers, and computer as carryons. It is available for MSRP $209.75 directly from their website as well as camera stores across the country. For more, see https://www.thinktankphoto.com/products/airport-commuter