My reviews: Think Tank Photo Airport Essentials camera backpack

Last week, I received the Think Tank Photo Airport Essentials, the smallest camera backpack of Think Thank Photo's Airport series. For two years, I have been using the Think Tank Photo Airport Commuter backpack for my travels and I have been extremely happy with that purchase. 

Since I moved from a Nikon full frame DSLR equipment to a Nikon mirrorless camera's gear I was looking for a smaller backpack definitely and my obvious choice fell on the smallest backpack of Think Tank Photo Airport series. Here's my review on my latest camera bag purchase.
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.

These are the main features and dimensions of the bag as declared my manufacturer:

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 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

Inside my Airport Essentials backpack there's enough room to accomodate perfectly my Nikon Z7 II body with a SmallRig L-Bracket attached plus three Nikon f/4 pro lenses and additional gear like filters, cards, small accessories and even my Sennheiser Momentum 3 wireless headphones, a great companion for my journeys. 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 that allow to customize the space for your gear needs.
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 which you find in many other camera backpacks. This happens also 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 which 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

The two large see-thru zippered pockets inside of the lid are big enough to accomodate easily my K&F Concept 150x100mm filters, a portable disk for my Macbook and some cables. Like in the Airport Commuter, 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 (instead of two you find in the bigger Airport Commuter bag) with two pockets. The bigger one fits perfectly my brand new 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 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. There is enough space also for inserting a few business cards. Still in the upper part there is a small business card holder which in my opinion it would make more sense if the pocket were transparent for more visibility in case of need.

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 so that I can could 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 which 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 which 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.
I'm sure it does as in my personal experience the bigger Airport Commuter camera bag fitted perfectly under economy seats of various airlines' Airbus A-320, A-321 , A340 I flew with (including Swiss, Vueling, Lufthansa and more) and even under the seat of smaller commercial planes like Embraer 175 (Alitalia). Being the Think Tank Photo Airport Essentials 17,8 cm deep only, for sure, it must perfectly fit also the smaller overhead bins of turboprop or regional jets and under the seat of most of the commercial planes.

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. Like the bigger Airport Commuter bag I own, it looks like a sturdy and well made bag. It fits perfectly my full frame camera with L-bracket attached and my three f/4 lenses. It should be a perfect camera bag in case I should move to a smaller full frame mirrorless camera in the future. Purchased for 163€ at Amazon, in my opinion, 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