Think Tank Airport Takeoff V2.0 Review
Welcome to my review of Think Tank's Airport Takeoff V2.0 roller backpack! I was fortunate enough to receive the roller backpack just before going to Europe for the 2019 Paris Air Show. It was the perfect opportunity to really see how well this product (and myself) handled traveling with a hefty amount of gear.
Since I travel quite often with photography equipment, I figured it was time for a new bag that offered more comfort. Having until that point used a Think Tank Streetwalker Hard Drive backpack, I decided to check out the manufacturer's latest offerings online. I was quite intrigued by their roller bags, as it seemed to be the perfect solution for traveling and everyday use. I have been using a backpack for the past 5 years, and I love that it allows me to be mobile. The issue I have is the pressure my shoulders and traps receive from all the weight I carry around.
I stumbled across the Airport Takeoff V2.0, and I thought the concept of having a backpack and a roller in 1 was astounding! Keep scrolling to read my review.
How much can it fit?
In a word - plenty! Think Tank is known for its brilliant designs that incorporate storage compartments for everything you require when on the go. According to the manufacturer, the backpack can accommodate a lens as large as a 400mm f/2.8, two standard bodies and assorted lenses. Given my previous experience with owning the Think Tank Streetwalker Hard Drive, I discovered that you can fit more into these bags than what is advertised.
For example, after having read reviews on this backpack, I was concerned that a 500mm lens would not fit at all. The reason the Airport Takeoff V2.0 isn't advertised for anything bigger than a 400mm, is that the retractable handle interferes with the the main storage compartment area. Upon receiving the bag, I immediately began configuring the interior, and to my pleasant surprise, the 500mm f/4L II was a match (note the hidden 2x III below the lens). Now to be clear, the lens did protrude out a bit, which made zipping up the bag a bit more difficult at the lower extremities. The bag was also slightly bulkier from a profile view. Nevertheless, whilst traveling, I did not encounter any discomfort or problems with the pictured layout.
What did I pack?
My first trip with the Airport Takeoff V2.0 was to the 2019 Paris Air Show. I packed "light" for this trip given that I was bringing the mighty 500mm. Believe it or not, but all of the gear pictured to the right came along with me, and more!
That includes the Canon 5D Mark IV (gripped), EOS 6D, 16-35mm f/4L IS, 24-105mm f/4L IS, 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II, 500mm f/4L IS II, 1.4x III and 2x III extenders. On top of that (not pictured), I packed my 15" Macbook & charger, 4x spare batteries, 1 dust pump, 1TB portable HD, passport, wallet, portable charger, iPhone cable, CF card reader, memory card holder and business card holder. Altogether, the backpack weighed just about 40lbs (18kg's). The bag had no issue at all handling all of this weight. The bag also doesn't look suspicious enough to have its weight questioned by gate agents.
Does it really fit in overhead bins?
Despite having packed my Airport Takeoff V2.0 to a "bulkier" state than what is typical, I managed to fit it in the overhead bins of the following aircraft and airlines; Air France Airbus A319 (pictured), Easyjet & Lufthansa A320, Air Canada Boeing 767, Boeing 777, Bombardier CRJ-900 & Embraer E190.
I didn't attempt to store the bag underneath any seats, though it may have been possible depending on the aircraft's configuration (which these days is tight!).
One things I highly recommend doing when traveling with valuables of such sort, is to board the aircraft as early as possible. Even if your "zone number" is last to enter, it's usually not a problem if you explain to the gate agent that you require a space in the overhead bin. I was last to board on an Easyjet flight, and they were forcing me to put my bag in the lower cargo compartment. I naturally refused and requested them to accommodate my bag inside the cabin. After a small fuss, a space was found for by backpack (which only proved how rather lazy the crew was, as none of the bags in the overhead bins were arranged in an orderly fashion as to welcome more bags).
What can I say? Think Tank sure know how to cater to professionals! Having the comfort of choosing between rolling or quickly putting onto my back was the ultimate deciding factor for me. The bag is extremely well built, there is no doubt that the interior contents are safe even from a big fall. The quality is top notch, and I've heard the customer service is equally as impressive. The price tag seems tough to swallow at first, but it's a small price to pay to protect your gear, and the bag lasts an eternity!
There is very little to hate on about this backpack/roller. However, based off my observations and experience, I will share a couple of cons.
1. The wheels do not rotate, meaning that when walking through a busy terminal, you cannot simply rotate the bag to walk with it in a profile position. It's not really a problem, but I had the habit of doing that with a regular suitcase which resulted in me sometimes tripping over my Think Tank bag.
2. The retractable handle should have been designed as to not have a protruding area inside. Had they opted for another construction, a 600mm prime or larger would fit appropriately.
3. Weight. The backpack itself comes in at between 8.7 to 9.7 lb. Add in a super telephoto prime, a couple of lenses and a laptop and this bag is by no means traveling light. Despite the weight being problematic for some, I'm confident my camera gear is safe and it's still the most compact bag to carry a ton of equipment. I've never had any problems at check in with anyone questioning its weight/size.