Think Tank Airport Navigator Review
Traveling with camera equipment can be a very nerve-racking experience, especially when you are a professional photographer and your client’s are counting on you to arrive at the location ready to work. The serious amateur photographer also worries about their gear when heading on a vacation that might be a once in a lifetime experience that has to be documented. It’s a well known fact that airlines care very little about your baggage and will toss things 5 feet through the air when loading them onto the plane. While it is possible to purchase hard sided, heavily padded cases that will theoretically survive this punishment, most of us choose to carry on our camera gear so that we aren’t taking the risk of loss or damage. For years, I’ve been using a Think Tank Airport Security V2 rolling camera bag for traveling and it’s an excellent bag. However, it is at the upper limits of the carry on bag requirements and if you are boarding towards the end, you will likely not be able to find space for it in the overhead bins. Enter the Think Tank Airport Navigator rolling camera bag. Think Tank are masters of solving photographer’s problems and the Airport Navigator is a great example of this. The Airport Navigator is capable of taking an entire professional photographer’s kit and putting it into a case that fits almost every domestic and international carryon baggage dimensions.
Think Tank Airport Navigator Review: Build Quality and Fit and Finish
Like all Think Tank products, the Airport Navigator is built to take the full abuse of a serious photographer and this means it will hold up over many many years for the average user. The exterior is made of a high-quality nylon that is treated with a DWR (durable water-repellent) coating and the underside has a polyurethane coating for extra weather resistance. If in a true downpour, you can slap on the included waterproof rain-cover for extra protection. Top of the line YKK zippers and a burly grab handle add reassurance to the durability. After bringing the Airport Navigator through multiple series of airports and dragging it along on weddings, portraits, and commercial shoots, it barely looks used and I am quite confident it will continue to do so for a decade.
Think Tank Airport Navigator Review: Capacity and Organization
The Think Tank Airport Navigator can swallow an amazing amount of gear in such a small case. I’m a fairly gear heavy photographer and I was able to fit everything I need to shoot a wedding and backups into the bag. Think Tank gives you a lot of extra dividers to use to customize the bag to your needs and you will want to play around with what works best for you. By default, the Airport Navigator camera bag comes set up so that you can put two cameras with lenses attached into the upper access pocket. This set up allows you to access your camera’s without having to open the main compartment or having to lay the bag on its side. There is a great convenience factor there that many will want to take advantage of. For the way I shoot, I reconfigured the dividers for maximum storage and I put my two camera bodies (without lenses) in the top access zone. Below is a list of the gear I put in the Think Tank Airport Navigator.
- Nikon D810 camera body
- Nikon D750 camera body
- Nikon 35mm 1.8
- Nikon 85mm 1.8
- Nikon 24-70mm 2.8
- Nikon 60mm 2.8
- Nikon 50mm
- Nikon 70-200 2.8
- Nikon Sb-910 Speedlight
- 2 Cheetahstand CheetahLight V850 speedlights
- 2 Phottix Odin flash triggers
- 5 Phottix Strato II flash triggers
- Spare batteries and cables
- SD and CF card readers
- Wedding day emergency kit with sewing kit, sunblock, hairspray, and wrinkle remover
As you can see, the Airport Navigator can swallow a TON of gear and will accommodate all amateur photographers and 99% of professional photographers. In addition to camera gear, the front lid has a padded slot for both a 15 inch laptop and a tablet. It’s a truly impressive package.
Think Tank Airport Navigator Review: Transportation
An important part of any camera bag review is how easy it is to actually transport the case and this is where the Airport Navigator shines brightest. The exterior dimensions of 16” W x 15.5” H x 10” D (40.6 × 39.4 × 25.4cm) allow it to fit in every domestic and international carry on overhead bin with room to spare. The only time you are going to have trouble is on small regional jets but you can talk your way into them letting you tuck it under the seat in many cases. Because the Airport Navigator can stand up in most overhead bins, you can fit it into the gaps left by the larger bags. As far as moving the bag around, Think Tank gives you multiple options. Being a roller bag with a large weight capacity, the extendable handle and wheels will see the most use and thankfully, they are well designed and smooth operating. The wheels are the rubber roller blade kind and move smoothly over multiple surfaces. The handle extends to an adequate height and collapses with one press of the button. In addition to the rolling handle and the grab handle, the Think Tank Airport Navigator also comes with a nice, thickly padded shoulder strap that is easily detachable if not needed. I like to keep it on because it is great when you need to quickly pull the bag off the ground and sling it over your shoulder. Think Tank also included a smart feature where the shoulder strap has a slot for slipping over another rolling bag’s handle so that you can roll both at once. Overall, I found the Airport Navigator to live up to its namesake and be an excellent travel companion.
Think Tank Airport Navigator Review: Conclusion
After extensive testing, I am very confident recommending the Think Tank Airport Navigator to anyone looking for a portable yet high capacity camera bag. Rolling cases like this one save your back from the stress of a backpack and are easy to navigate through an airport or train terminal. The use of space is about as good as you can imagine and a full kit of camera gear will fit without problem. Being able to worry much less about traveling with $15,000 of equipment is well worth the price of the Airport Navigator at $289 msrp.