Front of Airport Essentials Backpack to carry my camera gear.

Think Tank Airport Essentials Backpack review

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If you’re like me and you live, eat, and breath photography, then you’ll want to bring your gear along with on your travels.

Camera gear can be heavy and expensive, so you’ll want something secure to transport it in that’s easy to carry, well made, and roomy with lots of storage pockets. I personally was searching for a sturdy and well built backpack.

Since I was flying out to California I needed something that I could safely use as my carry on. After many hours of research I decided on purchasing the Airport Essentials Backpack by think tank.

It’s never a good idea to pack your camera gear in your checked luggage. It’s not worth taking the chance of things getting broken or stolen. If you’re traveling with your gear,  I’d recommend having it insured if you haven’t already, for peace of mind.

When flying, make sure you check each airline for their carry on limits. This bag just barely passed for my carry on with United.

It fit nicely in the upper luggage rack, but was to big to fit under the seat. On larger plans the Airport Essentials Backpack will fit under the seat. But always check with each airline first for their size specifications.

This backpack has some great features for its size. It has a good number of  storage compartments for items like SD cards, batteries, chargers, and cables.

There are a couple of small pockets on the top of the backpack that can be used for quick access items such as keys, locks, IDs, cash, ect. One pocket has a zipper for its closer and the other has velcro.

You can really pack a lot into it. Just remember: the more you add, the more weight you’re carrying around.

Your camera gear alone can weigh quite a bit just on its own. You’ll want to make sure you’re able to comfortably carry the weight on your back while walking and standing around.

I weighed my fully packed Think Tank with a Samsonite hand held suitcase scale.

I recommend everyone have a luggage scale not just for flying, but also so you can see just how much your gear weighs using different bags and configurations.

In this particular case, the pack ended up weighing about 25 lbs. The weight can really add up quickly!

The backpack’s straps are pretty comfortable with good padding. There’s plenty of slack for adjusting them to fit your shoulders.

There’s also a strap that can be used across the upper chest area which can help distribute the weight and hold your main shoulder straps in place. It also slides up or down to fit your chest height.

Finally, there is an adjustable waist strap. This strap, in my opinion, does a poor job of helping with weight distribution. It seems that it’s more for holding the pack in place on your back.

Think Tank sells waist straps with more support if you think you may need one for all day backpacking.

If you choose not to use the waist straps they may be stored in a pouch area under the padding.

The back side of the Airport Essential has a good amount of padding at the shoulders and waist for extra comfort.

One of my favorite features on this bag is the tripod attachment. It comes with two “tripod straps” with buckles that will attach to the side of your backpack while two of the tripod feet slip into the stretchable bottom pocket.

When not using the stretchable pocket for a tripod, I use it as a water bottle holder.

The other handy feature is the cable lock. No, it’s not the most secure lock, but it’s better than nothing and it does help to deter a thieves. It can lock your pack’s compartments or you can use it to secure the pack to something in case you have to leave it temporarily unattended. The lock also stores nicely in it’s own zippered pocket when it’s not in use.


The top features for this backpack:

  • Fits 13″ and some 15″ laptops in addition to a 10″ tablet with locking zippered compartments.
  •  Cable lock and locking zippers for added security.
  • International carry-on size compatible.
  • Comes with a seam sealed rain cover.
  • Tripod straps.
  • Reinforced padded dividers.

Gear capacity

  • Holds one standard size DSLR with 4-6 standard lenses.
  • 300mm f/2.8
  • 70–200 mm f/2.8
  • F/4.0 pro lenses

Dimensions of the Airport Essentials Backpack

  • ED: 11.5″ W x 18″ H x 7″ D (29.2 x 45.7 x 17.8 cm)
  • ID: 10.6″ W x 16.3″ H x 5″ D (27 x 41.4 x 12.7 cm)
  • Laptop: 10″ W x 15.5″ H x 1″ D ( 25.4 x 39.4 x 2.5 cm)
  • Weight: 3-3.6 lbs (1.4-1.6 kg)


A packing card comes with this backpack. To give an idea how to pack. It’s two sided. One side is for Nikon, the other is for Canon.

The interior reinforced panels are held in place with a very strong velcro. The panels can be moved around or even completely removed to accommodate the gear you want to pack.

Since this was my first trip to California and then to Nevada I brought my favorite most used lens.

  • Nikon AF-S 50mm 1:1.8 G
  • Nikon AF-S 35mm 1:1.8 G
  • Nikon AF-S 18-140mm 1:3.5-5.6 G ED
  • Nikon AF-S Micro 85mm 1:3.5 G ED
  • Nikon Speedlight SB-700
  • Batteries
  • Charger and cabbles
  • SD cards
  • Lens cleaning kit
  • Remotes
  • Tripod parts
  • Head lamp
  • Rain cover

I personally packed my Tamron 150/600 mm lens and it fit very nicely.

They recommend lens up to 300mm, but I had no issues packing my Tamron. If you pack a larger than recommended lens, make sure to add extra padding on both ends of the the lens.

For the Tamron, I removed the lens collar and hood, which gave me more room to work with.

The backpack itself is very well made with solid construction. All the zippers work smoothly without getting caught on material.

There is lots of padding throughout and my gear was very secure and stayed in place.

Think Tank carries a large variety of airport luggage so you have lots to choose from depending on what your needs are. They have a great warranty and replacement parts in case something gets lost or broken.

So if you’re looking for a small but sturdy and well built camera bag, the Think Tank Airport bags are the way to go!




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