Think Tank Airport International v2.0 Review

In our previous bag reviews, readers have commented positively on their experiences with Think Tank products, a company well known for making quality photographic bags and accessories. When carrying substantial amounts of gear while traveling, it is nice to have the features of a roller bag, so let’s take a look at how their Airport International v2.0 stacks up.

Think Tank Airport International Review

1) General Information and Dimensions

1.1) Features

  1. Legal carry on size meets international airline restrictions
  2. TSA approved combination lock secures the main compartment
  3. Security lock and cable built in to the frame
  4. Security ID plate and unique serial number
  5. Holds pro-DSLR and super telephoto lenses up to 500mm
  6. Front stretch pocket holds an optional case for 15” or 17” laptops
  7. Optional low divider set allows for up to 15” laptop to fit inside
  8. Compatible with Airport Check-in briefcase
  9. Clear Business card holder
  10. Seam-sealed rain cover included
  11. Looks like standard luggage rather than a photo bag

1.2) Dimensions

Internal Dimensions: 13”W x 6.5”- 7.5” D x 18.5” H (33 x 16.5-19 x 47cm)
External Dimensions: 14” W x 8” D x 21” H (35.5 x 20.5 x 53 cm)
Weight: 9.5-11.5 lbs/ 4.3-5.2 kg (weight depends on accessories used)

1.3) What’s in the Bag?

Here is a loaded Think Tank Airport International v2.0 roller bag:

Loaded Think Tank Airport International

Here is a list of what was packed in the above pictured Airport International v2.0 bag:

  1. Nikon D4 DSLR
  2. Nikkor 500mm f/4 VR (attached to the D4)
  3. Nikkor 18-200mm VR II
  4. Nikkor AF-S Micro 105mm VR
  5. Nikkor AF-S Micro 60mm
  6. Tokina 11-16 mm
  7. Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E II
  8. Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-17E II
  9. Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-20E III
  10. Nikon Battery Charger MH-26
  11. LensCoat RainCoat Pro
  12. OpTech Rainsleeve
  13. Rain jacket for the Airport roller bag
  14. Assorted Filters x7
  15. Sony XQD card reader
  16. Extra Compact Flash Cards x3
  17. Extra XQD card
  18. Nikon EN-EL3a Battery
  19. Nikon EN-EL18 Battery
  20. Extra lens caps
  21. This bag will hold even more than I have here, and in fact, nothing was packed in the front pocket which is intended for keys, pens and small items. So you as you can see below it will carry a great deal of gear.

    Contents of Airport International

    2) Size and Function (Handling)

    2.1) Outside the Main Compartment

    A separate stretch pocket on the front of the bag will hold a sleeve which holds a laptop up to 17 inches. The optional laptop case unzips on the short side (the top) so that the laptop can be accessed without removing the laptop case from the front stretch pocket. However, if carried separately it seems to me to be somewhat awkward with the shoulder strap or handle at the short side of the case giving the case a vertical or portrait orientation rather than the more common landscape orientation. A potential problem with the straps oriented in the landscape mode is that they may be more likely to get in the way of taking the laptop case in and out of the stretch pouch. Being used to the Kata 3n1 bag that has a dedicated pocket for the laptop, I thought that I would not like a separate case, however, after using it, I found that I prefer the option to keep the laptop with me in the chair during the flight even though there is an additional cost.

    Above the opening to the stretch pocket is an outside zippered pocket designed for pens, keys and miscellaneous items. One downside is if the bag is packed full and there is a laptop in the pouch, accessing this front pocket is a bit tricky as the laptop case covers much of it and tends to compress it.

    Feature-Airport-International-V-20-20

    Moving a heavy bag full of equipment while traveling is much easier with a nice set of wheels and this bag doesn’t disappoint. The replaceable wheels roll smoothly and silently. When you are through rolling to your destination, there are 4 handles, one on each side of the bag, to pick it up. While the top and one side handle are large and foam filled making for comfortable handles that do not cut into your hands, the handles on the other side and on the bottom of the bag are merely straps with no padding, which minimizes bulkiness while maintaining function. A plastic molded handle on the bottom, like found on some luggage, would be more comfortable than the thin strap.

    Included is a tripod holder that will allow you to connect a tripod to the side of the bag. It comes with a cup to hold the feet of the tripod as well as 3 straps to secure it to the bag. There is some flexibility as to how you attach the tripod based on its size.

    Feature-Airport-International-V-20-Rolling-Camera-Bag-12

    To secure your valuables, there are 3 different locks provided: a TSA approved zipper lock to protect the contents of the main compartment

    Feature-Airport-International-V-20-Rolling-Camera-Bag-1

    The second is to secure the laptop bag to the main bag. One problem that I found is that although there is a lock for the laptop bag, the one that I had, had no way to truly secure the zipper which means you can secure the bag, but the zipper can still be opened and the laptop removed.

    Feature-Airport-International-V-20-Rolling-Camera-Bag-2

    Finally, there is a third to lock your bag to an immovable object such as a pole. This is convenient when on location, such as a wedding, and you can’t watch the bag constantly.

    Feature-Airport-International-V-20-Rolling-Camera-Bag-3

    2.2) Inside the Main Compartment

    The main compartment unzips with the hinge on the bottom or the wheel edge of the bag leading to a large, long flap that opens. Personally, I would prefer a flap that opened with the hinge on the side (long side of the bag) resulting in a little less zipping and unzipping to get access.

    Inside, the bag allows you to carry a large telephoto (up to 500mm f/4) with a pro body attached and still carry more lenses, filters, batteries, charger and other accessories. When a pro body and a 500mm f/4 lens is attached it is tight to zip closed and in the case of a D4 with a Nikkor 500/4 attached, the frame distorts slightly and although snug, the zipper will close.

    The dividers are adequate to give you as much flexibility to arrange your gear as you desire. There is an optional set of dividers that are lower so that it leaves room for a laptop within the inner compartment which can be locked. Another reason you may prefer the lower profile divider is that it will allow for another optional bag made by Think Tank to hold cables, wires, chargers and other miscellaneous items inside the main zippered compartment. While some people might prefer the low profile, I prefer the normal profile dividers as they allow me to stack more items in the compartments and having the laptop on the outside makes it easier to access and separate it for a flight while the bag and gear remain in the overhead bin. If you are carrying a larger lens, such as a 500mm mounted on a pro body, the laptop won’t fit well inside the compartment even with the low profile dividers so you may wish to consider your needs before ordering and paying for the optional low profile dividers.

    2.3) Overall size and weight

    This bag will hold a large amount of gear considering its size and weight. You can slide the bag under the chair in front of you but it is long and sticks out and thus may not be allowed. You might be able to turn it sideways on some airlines which have the middle seat with a wider space underneath than the adjacent seats, however, I would plan on it being in the overhead bin.

    One thing to watch with all bags is the individual airline’s weight requirements for carry on luggage. Although the size meets US airline requirements for carry on, it would be easy to exceed the weight limit causing you to have to gate check this, so be prepared by possibly wearing a photographer’s vest or have some other way of removing the valuables needed before checking. While most domestic US flights do not enforce any carry-on weight limits, it is not uncommon on international flights, so please check with your individual airline’s policy before you embark on your next international flight and plan accordingly. It is also important to note that the manufacturer states that the bag is not intended to be checked and if it is checked, they recommend removing the laptop and the camera bodies.

    3) Build Quality

    When a company places a unique serial number on a bag, you expect something different. The materials used in the bag compartment are both excellent quality and environmentally friendly, using no PVC. The exterior fabric is 1680 denier ballistic nylon which has been coated for water resistance. The zippers are large, heavy duty YKK RC Fuse (abrasion resistant) zippers. The skid plates are tall to prevent wear on the fabric when pulling up stairs and the wheels are smooth are smooth and quiet. Should you wear out the wheels, they are replaceable with a free kit from thinkTank.

    Well it all can’t be perfect. One quibble is that after you load this bag and are ready to use it, you will open the zippered compartment and reveal the telescoping pull handle which leaves something to be desired. The handle has 4 sections, allowing you to adjust the height to 3 different levels. If you are a taller individual, you may appreciate the length of this handle. However, the length comes at a price of rigidity. The multiple segments lend themselves to more torsional instability and flex, giving the handle a “cheap” or weak feel to it. While so far, it has not broken, it gives you the sense that it could break somewhat easily. The manufacturer may have elected to use this design to minimize impact of the handle on interior room by using 4 shorter sections as opposed to 3 longer sections. To maximize interior space without making the bag thicker, there is a recessed area that holds the handle but intrudes into the interior compartment. Another minor quibble with the handle is the fact that when folded into its pocket the handle is recessed into padding such that grabbing it and getting your fingers around it is awkward.

    Need some reassurance? Think Tank, the makers of the Airport International v2.0 have what they call their “No Rhetoric Warranty” in which they guarantee and warrant the bag against any defects in material or workmanship for as long as you own the product and are the original owner. They will repair or replace the item at their discretion and their reputation is that the warranty is not just talk but that they have excellent customer service to back it up. See their website for details.

    4) Value

    At the current retail price of approximately $369 USD this bag is not cheap, but it also isn’t built cheap. Think Tank has used top quality materials and made a durable and functional bag with nice touches like small pockets to cover the zippers to prevent them from scratching your gear when the cover is closed.

    Zipper out Zipper in

    If you compare the price to similar bags, you can find cheaper, but they probably aren’t built as well. Value is not always just equal to the cheapest product, but rather price in consideration of quality and functionality, thus this bag still represents a good value for the price.

    5) Compared to

    We have also reviewed the Lowepro Pro Roller x200 and compared it to the Think Tank. See our Lowepro Pro Roller x200 Review for details.

    Compared to the previously reviewed Kata 3n1-33 bag, this Think Tank Airport International v2.0 compares very well with a few main differences:

    1. The Airport International v2.0 is a roller bag making it easy to transport
    2. The Airport International will carry more, including a 500 f/4 lens which I cannot fit into the Kata Bag
    3. The Kata bag fully packed will fit under most airline seats, leaving the overhead compartment for another piece of luggage, while the Airport International will rarely fit under the seat and looks like another roller suitcase as opposed to a backpack that can be placed under a seat. This can lead to more airline scrutiny and the possibility of a gate check with the roller bag.

    6) Conclusion

    I have enjoyed this bag as I have used it on trips over the past couple of months. The build quality is excellent, its padded handles are comfortable and the wheels roll very smoothly. It has enough room to carry significant amounts of gear while still meeting carry-on size requirements making for one very nice bag! If you have the budget for it, I am sure you will not be disappointed.

    7) Where to Buy

    Think Tank Airport International is priced at $369.75 (as of 08/16/2012) and can be purchased through many different local and online retailers. Below you will find a direct link to Think Tank Photo’s website, along with a link to our affiliate B&H:

    1. Think Tank Photo – Airport International v2.0
    2. B&H Photo Video – Airport International v2.0
    Think Tank Airport International v2.0
    • Features
    • Build Quality
    • Handling
    • Value
    • Size and Weight
    • Packaging and Manual

    Photography Life Overall Rating

    4.6

Comments

  1. 1
    ) Martin
    August 17, 2012 at 12:00 am

    great review thanks

    • August 17, 2012 at 8:30 am

      Martin, thank you for visiting.

  2. 2
    ) Mark
    August 17, 2012 at 12:07 am

    Hi Tom,

    in this box at the end with the yellow stars is a category labeld with “value”. Is it meant as “usefullnes”?

    • August 17, 2012 at 12:14 am

      Mark, no, Value is a relationship between the quality of an item and the cost. Something that is high quality with low cost would be a good value. Something of low quality but high cost would be a poor or low value. I struggled with this rating somewhat because the item is not inexpensive, but the quality is very good. Value can be subjective because to some a Mercedes is a good car and a good value and to others it is a very overpriced car and not a good value. I hope that helps.

      • 13
        ) Mark
        August 17, 2012 at 11:04 am

        Thank you Tom,

        I belive I understand: “value” is meant in this context as “cost-benefit ratio” resp. “cost-value ratio” (the latter is recursive!)

        • 21
          ) Lakshmi
          August 20, 2012 at 8:28 am

          True!
          value = cost-value ratio = cost-cost-value ratio ratio = cost-cost-cost-value ratio ratio ratio = cost-cost-cost-cost-value ratio ratio ratio ratio = ….

  3. 4
    ) Ben Ooijevaar
    August 17, 2012 at 2:19 am

    Why do you carry 2 DX lenses?

    • August 17, 2012 at 8:09 am

      Thanks for reading and the comment Ben, you are observant! I was using my D300 to take the photo, so I put another lens in the place of the D300 in the bag just to show what it is capable of holding – the photo is for illustrative purposes.

  4. August 17, 2012 at 3:39 am

    I have the Mark 1 version of the bag which is seemingly very little different to the Mk 2 and excellent quality. Ironically, given the “International” label, the problem for international flights is its weight. 4 or 5 kilos and a carry-on weight restriction of as low as 8 makes you vulnerable to problems. I did take it on a trip to Antarctica and bluffed my way through but on a later trip to Japan I took a Guragear Kiboko bag instead. The Thinktank bag is still great where you don’t have to catch a flight, though.

    • August 17, 2012 at 8:12 am

      Murray, thank you for that feedback. I pointed out the weight concern because it is very easy to exceed the weight limits. It happened to me on the way to Australia, the flight from Denver to LA was fine, in LA I had to repack some gear and gate check a bag due to weight. Best to be prepared for that. Thanks again for the reminder.

      • August 17, 2012 at 8:23 am

        I had the closest call in Ushuaia. The carry-on limit was probably 10 kilos. My friend had 16 which was OK but I had 24. She got me to open my bag then rolled her eyes and let me through….

        • August 17, 2012 at 8:29 am

          haha! Nice she let it slide.

  5. 6
    ) Klaus Salkola
    August 17, 2012 at 7:17 am

    I have a roller bag made by Lowepro. Two bags inside another. Takes much space for inside volume. On the other hand, the camera can be reached while the bag is standing up and the handle doubles as a holder for the flash.
    I like the possibility to take the camera without laying the bag on the floor and opening it wide open. Perhaps somebody could make a bag with a “tween deck” and a locker type upper door. The bottom compartment could be for accessories and extra lenses etc.

    Klaus

    • August 17, 2012 at 8:31 am

      Klaus, thank you for your comment. I will be posting a review of a Lowepro roller bag soon!

  6. 14
    ) Chris
    August 17, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Excellent review!! Thank you! Look forward to the LowePro review. I’ve been trying to decide between the two for awhile now.

    • August 17, 2012 at 11:38 am

      Thank you Chris, I should have the Lowepro review out this week, hopefully.

  7. 16
    ) Dennis Hughes
    August 17, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    One important thing – you show a three dial lock. Those are broken in less than 60 secs. 4 dial TSA locks are available for a few dollers more. Use them.

    • August 21, 2012 at 6:54 pm

      Dennis – thanks for reading and for the heads up and good advice.

  8. 17
    ) avishai
    August 19, 2012 at 6:50 am

    Hello, i am going to a photography hike on Tuesday and i need help with a few stuff.
    i am going to The hula valley in Israel (where i live) and am going to spend a day at the area. the place has really lot’s of birds!

    i photograph mainly wildlife and landscapes. how should i prepare for the day? what to do before? where to look? should i learn a specific bird species? should i look at other photographs? just how should one prepare for a big hike.

    thanks! i will very much appreciate an answer!

  9. August 19, 2012 at 7:45 am

    Avishai, for some bird photography basics, I suggest reading Nasim’s post:

    http://photographylife.com/how-to-photograph-birds

    As for ideas on what to shoot or look for, looking at other photographs taken in the area is an idea. There are also a number of good birding apps available for the iPhone and Android that can tell you what has been seen in the area as well as a field guide to sounds and identification.

    To prepare, I would try to limit the gear so as to not be overloaded. Maybe two lenses – one telephoto – if birds is the target, take your longest lens and then take a wide angle lens for landscapes. If you have two camera bodies, then mount one on each body and you are set.

    Don’t be afraid to use a lens that you normally wouldn’t use for a photograph – it gives a different look or perspective to the photo. Take your time on the hike to stop and to listen. Good luck and have fun!

  10. 19
    ) Kenneth Wong
    August 20, 2012 at 7:06 am

    Hi Tom

    I have this bag, and I’ve never noticed the ‘four’ handles you speak of in your review.

    There’s the padded one on top and another on the side, and then there’s the strap at the bottom which is there merely to facilitate brief lifting (e.g. lifting the bag from a flat postion in/out of a car trunk). There is no handle on the side that has the tripod, at least none that were intended as such. The loops you find on the side where the tripod holder is, I believe, is for the securing straps.

    All in all, it’s an excellent bag. Like many others have observed, while the Airport International v2.0 meets international airline carry-on luggage dimensions, it’s easy to load this bag beyond the weight restrictions. I frequently travel with my Hasselblad H4D system in this bag, and it easily exceeds the 7kg allowance stipulated, though due to the compact dimensions, it is usually overlooked by counter staff as a ‘heavy’ bag

    • August 20, 2012 at 7:22 am

      Kenneth – Thank you for your comments. Yes, in the review, I referred to the two handles as straps just as you called them. I phrased it this way: ” the handles on the other side and on the bottom of the bag are merely straps with no padding”. I agree with you, they are not intended to carry the bag far, I am not sure I know anyone who wants to carry a bag upside down anyway. The bottom strap as you know, is usually used when you place the bag in the overhead compartment with the wheels facing out. You need it to pull the bag out. The second strap on the side of the bag is as you said, for securing the tripod – that is correct. However, when luggage is packed with the bag not oriented in the most convenient way, then you grab whatever you can to turn the bag. That strap then for a brief time becomes a handle. I apologize if I wasn’t clear. Thanks again and thanks for adding your experiences with this bag.

      • 23
        ) Kenneth Wong
        August 20, 2012 at 11:55 am

        Thanks for the clarification, Tom :)

        It’s also probably not a good idea to put the bag into the overhead compartment with the wheels out, as it just makes extraction and lowering the bag to the ground a bit more tricky, from personal experience, though YMMV.

        Another great bag to consider from the Thinktank range is the Airport Airstream. I generally find two advantages with that combination – I can pack more without it looking like more, since many airlines do not regard laptop bags as part of the allowance. With this combination, I am often able to fit an extra lens or two, plus accessories into an Urban Disguise 50 v2, and most people who take a look at the Airstream don’t really think it’s as heavy as it looks :)

        • August 21, 2012 at 6:06 pm

          Kenneth – you are correct it is easier to place wheels first but some airlines insist wheels out. Thanks for the heads-up on the Airport Airstream and the Urban Disguise. You are correct that when things look smaller, you attract less attention from the airline personnel at the gate and the Urban Disguise looks nice – we may have to take a look at those closer so thanks for the feedback and tip!

  11. August 20, 2012 at 9:29 am

    I will definitely consider this for my return visit to Botswana next year! Did not have wheels last time and suffered lugging my gear on my back through my connections.

    • August 21, 2012 at 6:08 pm

      Jacqueline – Botswana? If needed I can be your sherpa. :) However it is probably cheaper to buy a better bag. Happy Trails !

  12. 27
    ) Ürün Çekimi
    August 23, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    I want to have a set…

  13. 28
    ) Randall
    August 23, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    Glad you got all these new writers. It feels like almost everyday there is a new interesting article to read…. *** rolls eyes***

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