Think Tank Airport Accelerator Review

The Airport Accelerator Backpack is a high quality bag worthy of consideration by anyone that frequently carries a healthy amount of gear through airports and doesn’t wish to check their bag. This bag is also ideal for wedding, portrait, and landscape photographers who often find it impractical to use a roller-style bag on wooded or irregular terrain.

Airport Accelerator Backpack front view

1) Initial Thoughts

My first impression of the Airport Accelerator was similar to that I have of all Think Tank products – well-built and well-designed. This bag uses the same quality nylon materials, zippers, seams, buckles, compartments, padding, and cord as found in other Think Tank products. Think Tank is famous for their quality and the Airport Accelerator lives up to the company’s well-deserved reputation.

2) Dimensions

EXTERIOR:
14.0 x 20.5 x 9.0″ (35.6 x 52.1 x 22.9 cm)
INTERIOR MAIN COMPARTMENT:
13.0 x 18.8 x 6.8″ (33 x 47.8 x 17.3 cm)
Laptop compartment: 11.8 x 17.3 x 1.4″ (30.0 x 43.9 x 3.6 cm)
WEIGHT:
4.1 – 5.5 lb (1.9-2.5 kg)

3) Size

This bag has plenty of room for just about all the gear you might want to take on any photography journey. It boasts the ability to accommodate a 600mm lens, and although I don’t have one, I have little doubt that it would fit comfortably in the Airport Accelerator. If you have read Nasim’s and Tom’s reviews of the Airport Security, and the Airport International, you will notice that these other bags are very similar to one another with respect to dimensions, and to the Airport Accelerator as well. Think Tank also makes another rolling bag named, the Airport Takeoff Rolling Camera Bag. What’s the main differences between these designated “Airport” bags? Wheels and a bit of size. The Airport Security, Airport International, and the Airport Takeoff Rolling Camera bags sport some spiffy wheels much like traditional carry-on luggage, whereas the Airport Accelerator is a backpack design.

Airport Accelerator Backpack main compartment area open

4) Features

• International and domestic carry-on size compatible
• Cable lock & locking YKK zipper sliders for added security
• Holds your laptop and iPad in a separate (lockable) zippered compartment
• Includes tripod/monopod mounting system
• Bottom hinged main compartment opens bag completely for quick and unencumbered access
• Light, comfortable and contoured harness system
• Top zippered pocket for boarding pass
• Removable waist belt for additional stability when walking, running, etc.
• Removable padded waist belt
• Adapts to Pro Speed Belt for additional support
• Water bottle pocket
• Ultra-Stretch pockets on shoulder straps
• Robust handles on three sides
• Easily accessible front organizer pocket
• Seam sealed rain cover included
• YKK RC-Fuse zipper and highest quality materials throughout

5) Materials

The Airport Accelerator relies on the same rugged 1680D ballistic nylon material featured on many Think Tank bags. It has a solid reputation and wears like iron. The bag also features two well-constructed nylon handles in addition to the shoulder straps.

6) Zippers

This bag also utilizes Think Tank’s famous YCC RC zippers. Nothing ruins a trip faster than discovering that your bag has a busted zipper and you risk losing or damaging your gear. The YCC RC zippers are one of the best mechanisms to ensure that your gear stays safe and easily accessible.

Airport Accelerator Backpack zippers

7) Compartments

On The Outside
The Airport Accelerator has 2 outside pockets. The first enables you to store some common items you might want to reach quickly, such as airline tickets, pens, a small flashlight, memory cards, etc. The second pocket enables you to store a laptop (up to 17 inches) or an iPad. While there is a layer of padding in this compartment, I would recommend putting your computer in a neoprene-padded sleeve for extra protection.

Airport Accelerator Backpack front pouch

Airport Accelerator Backpack laptop pouch

The Airport Accelerator provides a place to store a business card on the top of the bag. Think Tank also has aside pocket that stores a lock that can be used to secure the zippers associated with the main storage compartment (lenses and cameras) or secure the bag to a pole or other stationary object. Although I consider it a nice touch, I don’t imagine that I would ever use it. First, the bag would rarely, if ever, be out of my sight. Secondly, if the bag were not in my possession, the lock likely isn’t going to stop a thief from getting inside or walking off with it.

Airport Accelerator Backpack lock mechanism

Top of Airport Accelerator Backpack

The Airport Accelerator has side pouch that enables you to slide the legs of a tripod in it. The provided straps can then be attached to the nylon loop system to secure the tripod. When you are not carrying a tripod, the pouch can also be used to carry a water bottle. After loading my Benro C-228 carbon fiber legs and KJ-1 ball head on the side of the Airport Accelerator, I have to admit that I would not recommend putting a tripod of this size on the bag. This combination was a bit much for the bag and it threw it off balance a bit. I would recommend strapping a more moderately-sized tripod or as I show below, one of the more popular travel-sized combinations such as the Benro Travel Angel.

Airport Accelerator Backpack with large tripod

Airport Accelerator Backpack with smaller tripod

And as with other Think Tank bags, the Airport Accelerator Backpack has a variety of metal rings and nylon loops to attach other Think Tank accessories, although it is hard to imagine the practicality of having other storage containers hanging off the outside of this bag.

On The Inside
The top flap or cover of the Airport Accelerator has 3 zippered compartments for spare batteries, power cords, white balance cards, etc. The main camera/lens compartment features the standard Think Tank series of well-padded gray nylon dividers which can be customized to fit your particular DSLR, lenses, and other items.

TopCompartment Pouches

8) Rain Protection

Think Tank provides a well-made nylon rain cover that can keep your gear dry in the event of a sudden downpour.

9) Balance And Comfort

Despite weighing approximately 35lbs when loaded up with my gear, the Airport Accelerator felt comfortable on my back. The shoulder straps were well-padded and the waist strap helped balance the load. It is well-suited for walking 15-30 minutes on level ground, such as through an airport, a short jaunt to a car or a facility, or walking along some wooded or urban terrain. It is not designed for those who often engage in serious hiking expeditions.

Airport Accelerator Backpack shoulder and waist straps

Airport Accelerator Backpack carrying handles

10) What Is In The Bag?

As usual – too much! But I loaded it up more to demonstrate what the bag is capable of storing. One of the great features about this bag is its depth. It can handle a Nikon 16-35mm VR or 24-70mm 2.8 lens standing on its end. This is a great space saver when compared to different bags that often require you to lie pro FX zoom lenses on their side, thus wasting valuable space.

Airport Accelerator Backpack full of gear

Cameras
Nikon D7000
Nikon D7000 Battery Grip
Nikon D90

Lenses
Nikon 24-85mm f/2.8
Nikon 16-35mm f/4″ target=”_blank”>Nikon 16-35mm f/4
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II
Nikon 16-85mm
Nikon 50mm f/1.4 G
Nikon 28-300mm VR
Nikon SB-900 Flash
Nikon 105mm VR Macro
Nikon 28mm 1.8G
Sigma 15mm Fisheye and case

Other
2 – Nikon EN-EL 15 Batteries
2 – Polarizing Filters
1 – Flashlight
8 – CF Cards
6 – SD Cards
1 – Notepad
1 – White Balance Card
1 – X-Rite Color Checker Passport
1 – Nikon SB-900 Flash
1 – Moose Mascot

Tripod
Benro C228 Legs
Benro KJ-1 Ball Head

Benro Travel Angel:
B00 Ballhead
C-0691 Legs

Computer
Apple New iPad with ZAGG Case/Keyboard

11) Airline Considerations

This bag’s purpose, as indicated by its name, is to provide a solution for those needing to transport their gear through the airports and not have to worry about violating the size requirements of both domestic and international carriers. Travelers must still be mindful of the weight restrictions of each airline, however, since simply meeting the size restrictions alone may not be enough to keep a flight attendant from making you check-in your bag if he/she decides it is too heavy to be brought onboard.

12) Quality

Like all Think Tank bags, the Airport Accelerator features solid design, premium materials, and manufacturing excellence. As long as you don’t abuse the bag, give it a cleaning with mild soap and water on occasion, and don’t put any unreasonable strain on the zippers, it will be with you through a few generations of DSLRs.

13) Value

At $279.75, the Airport Accelerator provides quite a bit of bang for the buck. It is $70-$95 less than Think Tank’s rolling models, and for some of us, the backpack design is more important than having wheels on our bags.

14) Suggested Improvements

Better Defined Pockets
Think Tank might want to explore increasing the number of interior pockets of the main compartment cover. The 3 large plastic pockets provide quite a bit of room, but this also means that you will be jumbling a variety of items together. 2-3 smaller pockets in place of one of the large pockets might provide a bit more separation for smaller items.

Tripod Leg Rest
I couldn’t help but think that the stretchy material that forms the pocket to insert your tripod legs into might suffer from wear. Think Tank could improve this feature by adding a removal pocket made of stronger nylon material.

15) Conclusion

If you are looking for a high quality, backpack-style bag to hold some heavy gear on trips, or find yourself navigating territory unfriendly to roller-style bags, the Airport Accelerator represents a solid investment and will serve you well.

16) Compared To

Lowepro Nature Trekker AW II Camera Backpack

The Airport Accelerator Backback has a just enough depth that makes it possible to stand lenses such as the Nikon 24-70mm 2.8 and Nikon 16-35mm f/4 upright. Bags with shallower depths almost always require you to lay these lenses lengthwise, thus reducing the available space. This feature alone enables you to pack quite a bit more gear in the Airport Accelerator than in the Nature Trekker, including a laptop. The Nature Trekker’s smaller size, however, enables you to put it under an airline seat, making it a bit friendlier for airline travel because it does not require an open space in the overhead luggage compartment. It is also a better choice when you don’t need the space or bulk that the Airport Accelerator Backpack offers.

Lowepro Pro Trekker AW 400
These two bags are very similar in specifications although designed for slightly different purposes. The Airport Accelerator Backpack is designed for transporting your gear smoothly and easily through airports, and for shorter jaunts while working weddings, and landscapes and outdoor portrait photography. And although well-padded, it would not be the first bag you would consider if you were into hiking long distances up steep hillsides with a full load of gear. The Lowepro Pro Trekker AW 400 has quite a bit more shoulder and waist strap padding that makes it much better suited for such purposes.

Think Tank Airport Roller Style Bags
The main issues are the consideration of how much you value wheels vs. a backpack style and how practical each is for your needs. All 3 larger Think Tank roller style bags are similar in dimension to one another and the Airport Accelerator Backpack. Wheels add a bit of weight and cost – as much as 10lbs and $95. I tend to favor backpack models, but understand that not everyone can or wishes to carry 25-45 lbs of camera gear on their back and would rather shift the burden to a set of wheels! But there are situations when it is simply not practical to use a roller model. One of our local parks in Pittsburgh is a very popular location for wedding, nature, and portrait photographers. A roller-style bag simply wouldn’t be very practical to use in many areas, particularly after a good rain.

17) Where To Buy

You can find the Airport Accelerator Backpack at B&H Photo or directly from Think Tank.

Think Tank Airport Accelerator
  • Features
  • Build Quality
  • Handling
  • Value
  • Size and Weight
  • Packaging and Manual

Photography Life Overall Rating

4.6

Comments

  1. 1
    ) Sid
    January 7, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    Moose mascot?! :P :O

    • January 8, 2013 at 9:13 pm

      Sid,
      No bag is complete without a Moose Mascot… :)
      Bob

      • January 9, 2013 at 12:50 am

        You know whats great about your articles Bob? Its your skill to inject humour in even the most boring/dry/technical topics! :D

  2. 2
    ) WhiteLight
    January 8, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Looks very cool. This isn’t a new bag is it?
    I had almost purchased a roller bag, but this definitely looks more comfortable to lug around

    • January 8, 2013 at 9:15 pm

      WL,
      It is relatively new, although it is sometimes tough to tell, as Think Tank has had similar versions with slightly different names. It is a comfortable bag, although not as comfortable as some made for trekking in the wild.
      Bob

  3. 6
    ) Attila
    March 25, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    Hi Bob,

    thanks for the review!

    Just my two cents: those who buy such a bag for $280 in the States or for 280 euro in Europe (equals $365) normally use more “pro” gear with the lens hood on. Of course, it always depends on the application but I think that people with such a bag do not use 16-85 but use rather a 17-55 or a 24-70. Here comes the point: these lenses, especially their hoods, are extremely fat. The hood of the 24-70 is 11,5cm (4,5″) in diameter, an 85/1,4 is 9,5cm (3,8″), 24/1,4 is the same size.

    That’s where your pictures (the forst and the one with the gear) are a bit misleading: they imply that you can put lenses in four coloumns next to each other. In reality, it only applies when you use smaller lenses or do not carry the hoods. If you do, you immediately end up with only 3 coloumn of lenses.
    Same applies to the TT Airport Commuter review. No hood on the lenses. In fact, people normally use their lenses with the hood on and therefore need to carry them. Same applies to the images on TT website. No hoods. Hoods eat up a lot of space and often make bag arrangement less optimal than shown here.

    In sum, my suggestion would be to include the lens hoods and more pro gear with these pro and more than expensive bags. In this way, people will not be surprised when they got their bags on hand and will not have to realize that those overly optimal arrangements (show on TT website e.g. and above) show only the gear selected for that image only.

    And no, I do not want to put 16 lenses in a bag, but you know, we are all in search for the best camera bag and often we realize the real dimensions of bags when we got them on hand. And the purpose of a review can only be to help avoid these mistakes.

    Anyway, I love your site and reviews but wanted to add this.

    • March 25, 2013 at 8:35 pm

      Attila,
      Well… not quite. I never leave home without my lens’ hoods. And although I didn’t specifically mention them in the “What’s In The Bag” section, the lens hoods are indeed on each of these lenses – they are face down attached backward on each lens. Before writing back to you, I placed my 24-70mm f/2.8 in this bag. The lens and its hood fits standing up in this bag just fine. As I mentioned, the partitions are adjustable, so you can configure it based on the width of each lens/hood combination.
      Bob

      • 8
        ) Attila
        March 26, 2013 at 4:31 am

        Bob, I just wanted to say that if you place a 24-70 and 85/1,4 next to each other with hoods reversed, than there won’t be place for two more lenses next to them but for only one. Bag internal width: 33cm, lenses with hoods: 11,5cm + divider (1cm) + 9,5cm + divider (1cm) + remaining 10cm will fit only one more lens. But I might be wrong and I’m happy to get corrected here.

        And this is already nitpicking, sorry for that. I know it is a huge bag and it can carry more than I myself want to.
        One more thing: I’ve got the Streetwalker Pro from TT and carry the lenses standing with hood in position (except for the 24-70). The depth of these TT bags is really a nice feature.

        And I plan to upgrade to this one or to the earlier version (AcceleratION V2.0) in which you can even put away the shoulder straps which is great for storing lenses at home.

        Keep on the good job and thanks for the review once again!

        • March 26, 2013 at 8:33 pm

          Attila,
          You are analyzing this storage capacity of this bag far more than I did! The simple truth is that these bags have the capacity to store more of our equipment than most of us are capable of carrying. On our recent trip to Washington, DC., I swore I would pack much lighter the next time around. I inevitably find that I bring far more gear than I use. I may even ditch some of my f/2.8 zoom lenses for their f/4 lighter equivalents. I am not quite yet to the point where I would trade my DSLRs for mirrorless counterparts, but lighter lenses and those that offer a wider zoom range (such as the 28-300mm Nikon) might make much more sense for most of us.
          Thanks for the tip on the Streetwalker Pro. I may review this bag if one of my fellow photography life colleagues hasn’t already done so.
          Bob

          • 10
            ) Attila
            March 27, 2013 at 5:05 am

            Bob, you know, in Hungary (where I’m from), TT bags are not available. You cannot have a look at them and cannot touch them or see them in real life. I have to order them from abroad. And I have already had some many bags and sold them at half price that I’ve already learned to very carefully scrutinize these reviews.
            I try to read all the reviews because every piece of information and every other bag arrangement helps. That is why I always say thank you for the good job you do for us.

            I always try to figure out how MY equipment would fit in and I have to make calculations based on the specs given. That’s why the thorough analysis of the bags’ storage capacity from my side.

            And I totally agree that it is often better to carry less. But: once I was preparing for a one day trekking trip into the mountains (rather hills in Hungary) and I decided not to leave the 70-200/2,8 at home. It is such a good lens and cost me so much that I wanted to carry it. :-) And finally I mostly used the Sigma 85/1,4.

            That is why I recently thought that next time I’ll carry only the Samyang 14/2,8, (buy and) carry the new Sigma 35/1,4 and the 85/1,4. More than enough freedom of choice, low weight and excellent image quality across the board.

            But back to the bags: I plan to by this to serve another purpose of storing all my equipment at home. Lenses, flash, flash triggers, Black rapid straps, WB cards, filters, it is not just lenses, there is much more but you know this…

  4. 11
    ) nitin
    October 17, 2013 at 3:59 am

    Can this bag take canon 500mm f4 with hood reveresed? Also does it comes with removable Laptop sleev/bag? Why the bag’s weight has range – 1.9 to 2.5 kg?

    • October 17, 2013 at 4:59 am

      Nitin,
      Yes. No sleeve/bag for laptop that I am aware. I suspect that the weight range has to do with the fact that you can remove some of the padding, locking mechanism, and the tripod mounting system. The range does sound a bit high however, considering the the actual weight of these items.
      Bob

      • 13
        ) nitin
        October 17, 2013 at 5:23 am

        Thanks Bob, for quick reply. I think there are two versions of this bag – ver 1 and ver 2. o This one seems to be Ver 1. And may be removable laptop sleeve is there in ver 2.0

        • October 17, 2013 at 6:41 am

          Nitin,
          I checked Think Tank’s site and can’t seem to find any indication that it comes with a sleeve. Not a big deal, however, as you can always pick one up at Marshalls or TJ Maxx for $5-10.
          Bob

          • 15
            ) nitin
            October 17, 2013 at 7:29 am

            Yes Bob, Their website doesn’t mention anything.

            Following link might explain better what I am talking about ver 2 bag:

            http://www.throughthefmount.com/articles_rev_airport_acceleration.html

            I am in India and it’s difficult to get these bags across counter hence I want to be very sure ordering online.

            Regards,

            Nitin

            • October 17, 2013 at 4:59 pm

              Nitin,
              I would strongly suggest contacting Think Tank directly to clarify this issue. I can’t find any indication that this laptop sleeve comes with this bag. It is probably not wise to assume that it does simply because someone showed one in a review.
              Bob

            • 17
              ) nitin
              October 18, 2013 at 12:19 am

              Hi Bob,

              I contacted Think tank and the model I am talking about is old one and has been discontinued. The one you reviewed is latest one.

              Regards,

              Nitin

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