think tank airport essentials camera bag

My reviews: Think Tank Photo Airport Essentials camera backpack

This is my review on Think Tank Photo Airport Essentials, the smallest camera backpack of Think Thank Photo's Airport series. I have been using it for almost three years already and I am extremely happy with my purchase.

Since I moved from a Nikon full frame DSLR equipment to a Nikon mirrorless camera's gear over two years ago, I was looking for a smaller backpack. My obvious choice fell on the smallest backpack of Think Tank Photo Airport series. 

I decided to update my original review since I started to use this backpack also to carry my latest photographic purchase: a drone.

The Airport Essentials backpack comes in the usual Think Tank Photo's elegant black exterior design with minimal visible features and straps. Honestly, if you wouldn't carry a tripod in its side stretchy pocket, you hardly wouldn't be saying it's a camera backpack. It looks more like an ordinary laptop backpack.  One of those you often see carried by business men in the suit.

Also, differently from the bigger Airport Commuter camera bag, it doesn't look that bit boxy. Still it's a sturdy backpack coming with great handles and as a carry on backpack it gets the perfect size and capacity for most of my travels.

 

MAIN FEATURES
  • Meets most of international airlines’ carry-on size requirements; Contoured adjustable harness with lumbar support;
  • Large comfortable handles;
  • Height adjustable sternum strap and elastic pockets on shoulder strap;
  • Robust handles on two sides of the backpack for easy over head lifting;
  • Includes tripod/monopod mounting system;
  • Cable lock & locking YKK zipper sliders for added security; Useful top zippered pocket for boarding pass;
  • Water bottle (or tripod) pocket
DIMENSIONS
  • Exterior Dimensions: 29.2 × 45.7 × 17.8cm
  • Internal Dimensions: 27.9 × 41.4 × 12.7cm
  • Laptop compartment: 25 × 38 × 3cm
  • Weight: 1.4–1.6 kg

Think Tank Airport Essentials camera bag

Think Tank Airport Essentials camera bag

Inside my Airport Essentials backpack there's enough room to accomodate perfectly my Nikon Z7 II body with a SmallRig L-Bracket attached and three Nikon f/4 pro lenses. Incredibly, there's also enough room also for a DJI Air 3 drone, its DJI RC2 remote controller  and a couple of batteries. Also, I carry inside additional gear like filters, cards, small accessories and my JBL Tour One M2 wireless headphones (in this case I move the drone's remote controller into the compartment for my Macbook).

Honestly, I have been seriously impressed about how this backpack still carries a lot of things.

There's not enough room for a gripped full frame DSLR camera (like Nikon D850), for example.

Same like most of camera bags, also in this backpack you find plenty of dividers to customize the space for your gear needs.

NO BUILT IN RAIN COVER 🙁

What I really miss in the Think Tank Photo's Airport series bags, is the built in rain cover at the bottom of the bag. Normally, you find it in many other camera backpacks. Not in the Airport Essentials camera bag, unfortunately.

For its Airport series, Think Tank Photo  opted for a seam sealed rain cover included in a small bag apart. This means if it starts raining suddenly when you are already out you have to open the main compartment where camera and lenses are located to take the rain cover bag, extract it out and cover the backpack.

Before you do all this the backpack will be wet, though Think Tank Photo declares its bag is totally waterproof thanks to its durable water-repellant polyurethane 1680D ballistic nylon coating.

Think Tank Airport Essentials camera bag

FITS PERFECTLY MY 14" MACBOOK PRO (AND EVEN A 16" ONE!) 🙂

The two large see-thru zippered pockets inside of the lid are big enough to accomodate my K&F Concept 150x100mm filters and some cables. The handle on the side in the Airport Essentials bag allows me to carry it more like a briefcase when I want my shoulders take a break.

The bag has one more zippered compartment on the front with two pockets. The bigger one fits perfectly my 14" MacBook Pro (though you can put also a bigger 16" MacBook Pro without any problem) while in the smallest one I put my 7" ebook reader though you can use it also for putting a 10" tablet.

In the upper side part of the compartment there's a useful pocket to hold pens, keys, smartphone, block notes and more small accessories.

In the upper part of the backpack, just underneath the handle, there’s a useful top zippered pocket. It's ideal to take out or put inside easily your passport (or any ID card) and your boarding card at check-in counter or during the security controls at the airport. You've enough space also for inserting a few business cards.

Still in the upper part there is a small business card holder. In my opinion, it would make more sense if the pocket were transparent for more visibility in case of need.

STRAPS AND POCKETS

Like the other Airport Series bags, also this one doesn't have any fully dedicated straps to secure your tripod. I really miss this. Personally, I would have preferred another bottle pocket in the other side of the backpack as well. That would allow me so to carry both tripod and bottle of water. Even better, I would have preferred the tripod be strapped in front of the backpack like in other dedicated camera bags.

Same like in other Think Tank Photo‘s products, there’s a small side pocket with a cable lock provided inside. It should help to lock the zipper closed and secure the backpack to an immoveable object, like a table for example, when you’re out.

The shoulder straps of the bag are adjustable. By tightening the shoulder straps, I can shift the weight further up my shoulders to relieve strain on my spine. This is good considering how many hours I spend walking about with almost 10 kg of photographic gear on my back!

The included waist belt in the bottom part of the backpack is easily removable.

Think Tank Airport Essentials camera bag

Think Tank Airport Essentials camera bag

BRING THE AIRPORT ESSENTIALS ON BOARD

Think Tank Photo says its Airport Essentials camera backpack fully meets the international carry-on standards and fits perfectly inside the overhead compartments of most planes.

This camera backpack fits perfectly under economy seats of most of commercial planes.

I tested it on many different planes like Airbus A-320, A-321, A-330, A-340, A-220 or Boeing 737s or 787 Dreamliner I flew with. I haven't any problem even to put it under the seat of smaller commercial planes like Embraer 175 or 190. 

Airlines I flew with this camera backpack are Swiss, United, Turkish, Vueling, Lufthansa, Austrian, Air Dolomiti and more. 

Being the Think Tank Photo Airport Essentials 17,8 cm deep only, it perfectly fit also the smaller overhead bins of turboprop or regional jets.

Think Tank Airport Essentials camera bag

Think Tank Airport Essentials

WHAT I WISH THIS CAMERA BAG HAD

I would love to see a a stowable harness in the Airport Essentials camera bag. A pair of zippered flaps that can encase the entire harness of the backpack. This would help to easily slide the bag into tight spaces, (i.e. aircraft overhead lockers) while also diminishing the look of the backpack’s size.

You could enter an airport with the most simplified camera bag possible simply by stowing and hiding the side straps. You wouldn't have all those annoying side straps, hip belts, and just about anything else that dangles or jingles all the time!

The less stuff hanging from a bag, the smaller and less technical it looks, and, in my experience, the less likely you are to be asked to have it weighed or measured at the check-in counter!

Think Tank Airport Essentials camera bag

Think Tank Airport Essentials camera bag

CONCLUSION

Think Tank Photo Airport Essentials is a practical, compact but spacious at the same time camera backpack. It has excellent storage and solid build quality. It looks like a sturdy and well made bag. It fits perfectly my full frame mirrorless camera with L-bracket attached and my three f/4 lenses.

This bag has a reasonable price for the high quality of used materials. Definitely, I am happy about my purchase.

PROS
  • well made and robust camera backpack with high quality materials;
  • fully meets the international carry-on standards;
  • fits overhead compartments on board;
    fits under (economy class) seats of most of commercial planes, smaller included;
  • lighter than other camera bags with similar size;
  • useful top zippered pocket dedicated for storing passport and boarding cards;
  • removable waist belt;
  • elegant design
CONS
  • no built in rain cover at the bottom of the bag like in other camera backpacks;
  • unlike other camera bags, straps to secure tripod are on the side of the bag and not in front of it which means you can’t use the stretch pocket to hold water bottle;
  • business card holder not transparent
Stefano Politi Markovina