Photo Gear Review:
ThinkTank’s Airport International V2 Roller

ThinkTanks airport international v2 the biggie smalls of rolling camera bags ThinkTanks Logistic Manager, Airport Security v2 and Airport international v2 roller bags

ThinkTank Photo's Impressive Roller lineup (L to R): The cavernous Logistics Manager, the generous Airport Security V2 and the amazing Airport International V2

I'm still shaking my head in disbelief. I've been using ThinkTank's Airport Security V2 for almost two years now. Rolling into assignments, packing and unpacking the working layout of the bag blindfolded, flying domestically confident it would fit in any overhead bin provided I'm in the top half of the boarding order, and talking my way past the occasional airline employee intent on putting my gear at risk in the belly of the beast. Returning from France last summer I felt the rules closing in, and even though the overheads readily accepted the bag, I decided the next time over the pond I'd be traveling with ThinkTank's smaller International roller.

ThinkTanks Logistic Manager, Airport Security v2 and Airport international v2 roller bags

The Tale of the Tape

Externally the Airport International V2 measures 14” W x 21” H x 8” D versus the Airport Security V2 at 14” W x 22” H x 9” D. If this was a fight I'm not sure you'd give either journeyman a tale-of-the-tape advantage, but by shaving an inch off the height and an inch off the depth, ThinkTank has created a stealthier bag that really looks smaller without sacrificing its effective capacity. I call that magic. When gate agents are scanning the milling crowd for full-flight cabin victims, it's amazing how those extra inches stand out. By comparison the International should slip past that scrutiny as easily as a black-clad super model.

That was the theory anyway. When the bag arrived early in the week the visual difference had me convinced I would have to make some serious compromises in gear for upcoming assignments in the UK and Italy. The photo below shows the two bags sitting side by side: the incumbent fully loaded and the challenger in its stock divider configuration right out the box. I'll admit I sat staring at the two bags for some time before making my first move.

ThinkTanks Airport Security v2 and Airport international v2 before the transfer

My go-to everyday Airport Security V2 layout (L) and the stock Airport International V2 (R) before divider reconfiguration and gear transfer.

The King Stays Put

My 200 f2 is king. I wanted its weight at the bottom of the International in the deepest part of the bag. ThinkTank's designers don't seem to have anticipated a horizontal layout quite like mine so I had to improvise a little with the divider piece normally used to seat a body and lens combo. Note to Doug and the designers at TTP, how about a horizontal divider for the bottom of the bag with an attached padded top flap to baby big glass. I've got something just like this in the bigger bag cannibalized from some other system long since sent down to the minors. With the 200 seated, the next challenge was to locate the two bodies. After some experimentation I built a central padded divider box that put them on the wings, hot shoes down/RRS L plates up (well protected), and from there the rest of the layout fell into place and my grin began to grow.

You can see from the inventory schematics below the only significant sacrifice was my 85mm f1.2. Given the versatility of the 100 and the beautiful wide-open performance of the 200 for portraits, I won't miss the extra weight and the sketchy AF performance of the 85 that limits its usefulness to static subjects. All my key gear safely stored, nothing strained or forced, and it's a good working layout. Loaded like this it weighs 35 lbs.

The Airport International V2 takes it all in

Click to view a larger image of the final layout.

Here's what needs to fit in the Airport International V2

What had to fit. Click for a larger view of the contents.

Here's what didn't make it

What didn't make it or isn't needed

Ogio's Tanker 9600 Will Swallow Everything Else

With the essentials safely billeted in the ThinkTank International, Ogio's mammoth Tanker 9600 will accommodate clothes, toiletries, my monopod, a collapsible softbox, three 430 EX IIs and a couple of Justin clamps. I stick the monopod inside a hard cardboard tube for extra protection and enclose a manifest for customs to minimize searching about in the bag to figure out what the electronics are. Of course flashes could be stolen, but it's unlikely. My final piece of luggage is the large Rapha backpack. It carries my laptop, 5DII chargers (2), one or two external HDs, card reader and cables.

My thanks to Ogio for supplying the Tanker 9600. I love the SLED system, big wheels and interior divider (though spoiled by camera bags I wish there were a couple more structural options inside). This trip will be a great test of the heavy lifter. I'll have a review of the Tanker next month.

The Airport International V2 and Ogio's Tanker 9600 Ogio's Tanker 9600

My first two ThinkTank Rollers have provided exceptional trouble-free performance. Wheels, zippers and handles work as well as they did on day one and the resilient exteriors show no signs of wear or damage. I expect nothing less from the Airport International. It has already surprised and delighted me by absorbing the critical gear I need with me, and it gives me increased piece of mind that I'll fly under the radar through airports. With more than $15,000 worth of cameras and lenses safely stored in the bag, $329 is a fair price to pay for superior TTP design and quality. I wouldn't roll any other way. The ThinkTank International V2 Roller

13 Responses to Photo Gear Review:
ThinkTank’s Airport International V2 Roller

  1. daniel says:

    Great review. Nice to see my favorite worlds (photography and cycling) colliding as TTP tweeted this one out.

    I found it interesting that you don’t roll with any of the “workhorse zooms.” I always like to have the 24-70 and the 70-200 on hand, even just in case. I guess you do achieve that range with 3 lenses though.

    Take care!

  2. Kim Bahr says:

    This is good to see. I was recently not allowed to carry my Airport Security bag on to a domestic flight.

    Flight was not full, there was plenty of room, it wasn’t boarding late . . . no reason I could see for not allowing it. The flight attendant insisted it wouldn’t fit and wouldn’t let me show him that it did . . . exact same model and configuration of plane that I flew out on so I was absolutely positive it would fit with no problem.

    Perhaps this smaller appearance would have been less likely to have been questioned???

    • Kim,

      Some of my tricks.

      I’ve gotten in the habit of keeping the bag out of sight and behind me when approaching the gate. Once on the plane I handle the 45lb bag like it was light as a feather. I don’t even attempt to put the bag in with wheels facing out, it goes in sideways with my backpack in front of it to discourage a flight attendant moving it. I’m glad I’ve never reached an impasse as you did. I’d either miss the flight to avoid checking the bag or “wear” the gear.

      For the record which airline had the problem with the bag?

      • Kim Bahr says:

        I do the same things as far as not being conspicuous and I knew for a fact that on this particular plane the bag would have fit easily under the seat in front of me, so overheads weren’t even the issue. I don’t carry a purse while traveling and had the Think Tank 15″ laptop bag on my shoulder . . . very lightly packed so the front pocket wasn’t bulging. Nothing else in my hands, not even a jacket or book.

        My seat was in Row 5, aisle, and tried to talk the flight attendant into letting me show him that it would fit but he refused. And he refused to listen when I quietly told him what the contents were.

        I seriously thought about rescheduling the flight, but unfortunately I had a deadline at my destination.

        Airline . . . Delta, boarding in Detroit.

        When we landed, I got to watch their people toss my camera bag on top of the luggage like any other carry on. 2 Camera bodies, 2 L series zooms, 2 primes, flash and accessories.

        Fortunately they were well packed and survived fine, but I wasn’t happy . . . contacted the airline and their only response was to send a $50 travel voucher. They couldn’t tell me how to stop something like this from happening again.

        The really frustrating part is that people were allowed to board with full size carry-on bags and duffel bags which were much larger than my camera bag and neither I or the guy next to me had anything under the seat.

        • Sorry to hear it was Delta, I’ve had pretty good luck with them Kim.

          I’d have pleasantly told him “I just have to grab a couple of things” pulled both bodies attached lenses and basically made the situation as ridiculous looking as possible, then handed him a much lighter and mostly empty bag. Again assuming I had to be on the flight.

  3. I have a Think Tank Streetwalker Pro backpack which pretty much has all the same designs as the packs above and I have to agree that they were AWESOME! I would not want to use any other packs!

  4. Hi Kim,
    Yes, appearance is everything and sometimes you just have bad luck with a grumpy attendant. Did you remove the shoulder straps in the rear of the bag or did you have a laptop in the outer sleeve? They can both create a percieved bulkiness which can raise red flags for the keen eye.

    Let me know if you have any additional questions and we can provide any tips you may need ;)
    customerservice@thinktankphoto.com

    Best Regards,
    Chris

  5. Kim Bahr says:

    My guess would be Flight Attendant on a power trip. There were no “red flags” . . . flight not full, boarding on schedule, plenty of room in the cabin. It was a “just because I said so” situation and the airline was absolutely no help in giving me any info on how to prevent this in the future.

    The Airport Security I have does not have straps (or if it ever did, I wouldn’t know it) and no, the laptop bag was lightly packed and not in the outer pocket of the camera bag.

    FYI, I bought the bag specifically for airline travel, have made several trips a year since I purchased it and I have never had a problem, even on regional flights. This wasn’t a regional flight.

    See more detailed info in my response above.

  6. It is a real struggle balancing size vs capacity. In Oz we are limited on domestic flights to 49cm long so any sort of useful size roller bag is too big. My solution is the Airport Acceleration V.2. Yes it is heavy fully loaded, but TTP bags are very well made so handle the weight very well. When on my back it is quite comfortable although I wouldn’t like to carry it for a full day hiking!

  7. Norm Arnett says:

    I purchased an Airport International last year, and am loving it. Our first flight after purchase was to Johannesburg. No problems at all, though TSA employees take a long time reading my bag in the scanner. The only place I had any problem was on my return flight. The South African Airways folks told me it was too heavy (It was over limit) but as soon as I said it was photographic equipment and opened the bag to reveal 2 Bodies, a 400mm lens, 2 prime lenses, a macro lens, speedlight, and other items, the SAA staff waved me through and onto the plane. Did I mention I love this bag?

  8. It’s a reaction to wearing a uniform, it tends to make the wearer’s head swell uncontrolably. We call the jobsworths, they normally at some time in the discussion point out that “it’s more than my job’s worth to allow…”.

    It’s always hand to know the CEO of the company your flying with. It won’t get you your way but a quietly stated well I’m sure “BIll Gates” will be interested in your helpful attitude to his customers. No matter how cocky they are they’ll be waiting for the call when you get to the other end of your flight. That litte trickle of sweat down you know where, might just stop them doing it again, at least for a while.

    I’ll be grabbing the Ogio when you arrive in Scotland Michael, trust your Uncle to tote the BIG bag. I’m surprised you’re taking so little with you, coleagues of mine used to watch while you carefully packed a camera bag then when your back was turned they would slip a phone book into the bottom of the bag. That’s cameraderie.

    Douglas

  9. Having now seen the bag and what you managed to pack inside it, I reckon you now have the best and stealthiest camera bag there is. The weight is fine and having to lift it is eased by the compact and balanced config you worked out. The price may seem high, but the level of protection is superb and the shell of the case is so neat without many projectios to snag anything. Even the littel cover for the trolley handle zippers away when stowing.

    Great choice Michael and hats off to Think Tank for a bag designed for photographers, by photographers.

    Douglas

  10. Tim Cox says:

    Luggage porn! Glad to see you’re getting some great gigs, Michael.