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ThinkTank Photo: Airport International v2.0, review [video]

This is one of the best bags I’ve ever used! If you travel by air with either a lot of camera gear, or one of the big telephotos such as a 600mm, the Airport International v2.0 is well worth a look. Not only is it designed to fit within all International carry-on sizes, but it gives you a huge amount of storage space and three built in security locks. And because it’s a roller, it makes your journey more comfortable as well!

Having almost thrown my back out carting a 600mm, D3s and laptop in my usual hand luggage travel bag (the ThinkTank Photo Streetwalker HardDrive – which is still my number one rucksack of choice) I was keen not to do that on my trip to Yellowstone, especially given that involved two flights to get there. So, good friend and fellow photographer Colin Pickett let me borrow this bag. And all I can say is, wow! It took all the strain out of getting the gear to my destination, and the ease in which I could move it around the airport resulted in a much more comfortable and stress free journey! I’ll get this out the way now, I love this bag.

Bag Specs

Dimensions: 14” W x 21” H x 8” D (35.6 x 53.3 x 20.3 cm)
Weight: 9.5–11.5 lbs (4.3–5.2 kg) depending on accessories used
Number of built in security locks: 3 (two of which are made by Samsonite and TSA approved)
Included accessories: Removable rain cover
Optional & compatible accessories: Low profile internal dividers, stream line laptop bag

Available to buy:
In the USA direct from ThinkTank Photo (use this link to get a free gift with any purchase over $50)
or Adorama.
In the UK from Clifton Cameras and Play.com.

Video Review

If you want to see the bag, I’ve done a video review which you can see below. I go over the main specs of the bag and show them in operation to help give you a better idea of what the bag is about. You can also carry on reading where I go in to more detail and give my thoughts on certain aspects.

Having trouble viewing? You can also see it on YouTube, here

What’s on the outside?

Being designed by TTP, you know it’s going to have some great touches, and you’d be right! The first thing you notice is how ‘normal’ it looks. It’s very understated and doesn’t scream ‘I’m full of valuable camera equipment’, which I love. Even the logo is small and discrete. Everything about this bag lets you know it’s been very carefully thought out and designed for the photographer who needs to fly with their gear. From the user replaceable and detachable wheels (which require an Allen key, not supplied) to the clever placement of pockets and handles, the bag is every bit the perfect travel companion. The lower sections on the outside of the bag are reinforced with toughened plastic, making it extra robust for demanding journeys and it’s also designed to fit within all international airlines hand luggage restrictions (at the time of writing), so that it can easily be placed in a planes over head storage area or under the seat. One word of warning though, if you’re travelling internally in America, it may not fit on smaller regional jets as they can be very limited in space. In that case you may need to gate check the bag – so if in doubt it’s always best to check with the airlines current hand luggage allowances before you fly.

Front view of the Airport International, showing the secondary pocket and stretchy laptop pocket.

Front view

The rear of the Airport International houses a zip compartment for the steel cabled lock.

Back view

Carry Handles and passports
As usual with ThinkTank, this bag has been very well thought out. And the Airport International v2.0 has several nice touches to make carrying it around during your journey easier. For a start, there are handles on the top, both sides (one of which doubles as a tripod/monopod anchor point) and even the bottom.

Handle under the Airport International v2.0 to bag picking bag up from any side easier.

Underside handle

The bottom of the Airport International has a reinforced kick plate and handle

Bottom with reinforced kick plate and handle

The top one and main side one are both highly padded and very comfortable even when the bag is full and heavy. All these handles mean that however you need to pick the bag up or move it to place it somewhere for storage, be it in the airport, the plane itself or in a taxi on the way to the hotel, the bag is always easy to grab and go. It may not seem like much but I bet all of you have at some point found it awkward to lift a heavy bag out of a packed space because you couldn’t get a good grip on it…

The left side of the bag houses a nice thick padded handle and the main compartments lock.

Main side carry handle and compartment lock

The right hand side has a strap that doubles as both a tripod holder and a handle to lift the bag.

Right side tripod holder doubles as handle

Also, there is a nice handy zipped compartment right at the top of the bag where you can put your travel documents so they are always easy to gain access to – and on top of that is a business card/address label holder with clear front, should you want to use that. The back also has a serial number on an ID plate, so you can register the bag on the Think Tank website. That way, if it does ever get lost, you can keep your fingers crossed if it’s found it may still work it’s way back to you.

Passport Pocket for easy access of your travel documents. ThinkTank Photo Aiport International v2.0

Passport Pocket for easy access

Locks locks and more locks
This bag has three separate locks, two of which are Samsonite locks that are TSA approved, meaning they have TSA key holes so if airport security do need access to your bag should you decide to check it in (if you’re brave enough), they can unlock and lock it back up easily. The first lock is to secure the main compartment of the bag, and comprises a 3 digit combination release. You simply click the zips in place and the main compartment is secure, it’s a nice clean system.

Three digit Samsonite TSA lock for main compartment is built in to the side of the bag, just near the carry handle.

Three digit Samsonite TSA lock for main compartment

The second lock is hidden behind a zipped compartment on the back of the bag which is big enough to hold other small items (this space cleverly makes the most of the way the collapsible handle is stored, but more on that later). This is a padlock style lock, again with a three digit combination. But where this differs from the main compartment locking system, is this padlock is attached to a long piece of thick interwoven and shielded steel wire, meaning you can lock this bag to an immovable object. I’ve never had the need to secure a bag in this way, but it’s nice to know if you are travelling alone and do need to leave it somewhere, anywhere, for even just a few moments, you can lock the bag to an object so it can’t go for a walk very easily – even if you want to be extra safe leaving it in the hotel.

Rear lock compartment to enable you to lock the Airport International v2.0 bag to an imovable object.

Rear lock compartment

Rear lock concealed behind a zipped flap on the Airport International v2.0 bag

Rear lock concealed

The final lock is similar to the second lock, in that it is attached to the bag with a length of wire, although this time thinner. Also the lock is a slightly more simple three digit clasp lock, like a keyring. This lock is found in the front zip, along with some extra storage pockets. It’s main purpose is to secure a separate laptop bag, such as the TTP Artificial Intelligence, to the main bag if you use the front laptop storage pocket as described further down. The inside of the pocket this lock is stored in, also has a metal ring so you can loop the wire through the laptop bag and then lock it back to the Airport International.

Laptop securing cable stored in front pocket allows.

Laptop securing cable

All three of these locks are handy to have, although it has to be noted they don’t feel ultra heavy duty. Although, they are of course a very good deterrent for the casual thief. It’s fair to say though, that I have several Samsonite TSA locks of my own and none of those feel overly heavy duty either so I think it’s more down to the spec of the TSA locks than a money saving exercise on ThinkTanks part.

Laptop storage
The very front of the bag has a pocket made from the same stretchy material you can find on the side pockets of the StreetWalker HardDrive, for those of you familiar with that bag. And this area is where you can store your laptop. I was slightly unsure about using this pocket at first as it doesn’t completely hide my 15″ Macbook Pro, however once I put my MBP in it’s suede sleeve (from Water Field designs, aka the SF Bag Co), it was less obvious there was a laptop there.

Laptop on view in front pocket

Laptop on view in front pocket

Laptop stands out less in a sleeve or bag

Laptop stands out less in a sleeve or bag

The stretchy pocket also held the computer in place firmly in conjunction with the suede sleeve. So much so that I had to use two hands to pull it out again. My friend puts his 17″ MacBook Pro in there, so it can accommodate even the largest of screens – as far as slim line laptops go at least. As I mentioned above, using a bag such as the TTP Artificial Intelligence will give you the added security of being able to securely attach the laptop giving extra peace of mind.

Another optional accessory you can buy for this bag is a set of lower internal dividers, so that you can store the laptop inside the main compartment, should you wish to do that. Obviously that will use up some of your camera gear space but its nice to know the option is there should you need it.

I have to admit, I was planning on taking a separate laptop bag but I was so glad I just put it in the front of the v2.0 instead as again, it just gave me one less thing to have to carry and worry about.

Extendable handle
The top of the bag also contains another zip. Undo this and you are presented with the extendable main handle with which you pull the bag. This is a four section handle which extends out far enough to make the bag comfortable to pull around even when weighed down with a lot of equipment. Because this handle collapses inside the bag, it means the floor of the main compartment is slightly raised in the middle to roughly half way down the bag, to allow for the handle to be stored. It’s not a big problem, and something you can’t avoid, but it does mean lenses placed at the sides of the bag feel more natural laid down rather than stood on end. But, in an effort to make the most of this situation, the clever boys and girls at ThinkTank used the reverse of this occupied space to store the outer lock mentioned above, in it’s pocket (which is large enough for other smaller items).

Extendable handle stowed away on the Airport International v2.0

Extendable handle stowed away

Airport International v2.0 handle fully extended

Handle fully extended

Wheels
The v2.0 features quite nice sized, soft wheels. Not too soft, but soft enough to help reduce vibrations working through to your equipment. As mentioned they are user replaceable with the aid of an allen key, and removing them also makes the bag ever so slightly narrower at the bottom which may or may not help in an emergency if you need to squeeze it in an ultra small space.

The wheels on the Airport International are removebale and can be replaced by the user. They are also a little soft to help reduce vibrations.

User removeable soft wheels

What’s on the inside?

Storage space, lots of it!
Although this bag is designed to fit within most major airlines carry on bag sizes and given it’s relatively small footprint, you can fit a lot of gear in here! There are over 15 dividers as standard so the inside can be configured in every way you can think of, and some you probably never will! The dividers are also very chunky to help add extra protection to the contents whilst you are transporting it across the globe. If you remove all of them, you get one huge storage space should you ever find yourself needing to use the v2.0 as a normal travel bag.

Although listed as holding up to a 500mm f4, the Airport International can hold a 600mm with no problems at all.

Interior holds a 600mm f4 VR II

For some reason, this bag is officially listed as holding up to a 500mm f4 lens. I’m not really sure why that is, because as you can see in my photos and video, a 600mm will fit in absolutely fine! I put in this bag for my trip to Yellowstone: A 600mm, D3s, D7000, 14-24 f2.8, 50mm afs, My Bose headphones in their quite bulky case, a rocket blower, power cable for the MacBook, sunglasses in their case and a couple of filters, my memory card reader and memory card wallet. Oh and of course the MacBook on the outside! But that’s just one example, of which there are many. If you use smaller telephotos or just wide and mid-range primes/zooms then you’ll be able to get way more in here. The only problem you might have, is not being able to lift it to put it in the over head storage once you have filled the v2.0 up with goodies! But you get the idea..this bag can store everything.

I can’t speak for Canon, but for Nikon shooters, it’s worth saying if you use the old 600 AFS II you can keep the first part of the stage two lens hood on if you want and still get a laptop in the front, and with the 600 VR you can keep both sections on.

The inside of the main compartment flap also has the usual array of zipped pockets allowing you to store filters, cables, memory cards etc.

Summary, pro’s and cons

If I could complain about anything it would be the collapsible handle. Although it performs perfectly well, even when the bag is loaded up with over 10kg of gear plus the 4kg of the bag itself, it does feel very flimsy which is a big contrast to the rock solid build of the rest of the bag. But this is in part due to the use of a 4 section handle to reduce the amount of space it takes up when stored inside the bag.

The other negative for some might be the weight of the bag itself, which when empty of equipment still weighs over 4kg! Of course being a roller bag this weight isn’t really noticed, but it’s something to consider if you find yourself flying with an airline that enforces a strict hand luggage weight limit – although I’ve always been lucky and not had that problem.

But as I’ve said, I love this bag. It’s been a revelation in air travel with camera gear for me and I can’t see myself going to back to a rucksack for hand luggage again as once you experience wheeling a heavy bag vs carrying one, there really is no contest. If you need to fly with your camera gear, you really cannot go wrong with the Airport International v2.0. The build quality and materials are first class, despite it’s relatively small size it’s got enough storage space for even the largest of telephotos and it has several locks built in. Added to that every little detail has been carefully thought out making the v2.0 highly practical and speedy to gain access to when you need something from within it.

There really isn’t anything else you can ask for in a camera bag for air travel, it’s as simple as that!

So, head over to ThinkTank Photo if you want to buy in the USA or Adorama or Clifton Cameras and Play.com in the UK and check it out for yourself.

Dean

I need to transport all my photo gear to the USA this year as I am relocating over there. Is the ThinkTank Photo Streetwalker HardDrive, which I already own, suitable for such a one off trip. I was thinking of any restrictions on hand luggage size to take on plane. Is it too big to take on board?

Adam

Good stuff mate. Looks like a nice case. I’m using a Lowepro Vertex 200, which is very good. Although looking at how this one’s designed, I think the Think Tank might just pip it.

Richard Peters

Hi Dean. The StreetWalker HardDrive will be fine if you can fit all the gear in and it’s comfortable to carry. It’s actually a little smaller than the AI v2.0 so you shouldn’t have any worries! And until using the Ai v2.0 I had taken it on several trips abroad as hand luggage, both International flights and to Europe.

Richard Peters

Adam, cheers buddy good to hear from you. Never looked at that Lowepro. I have to admit having used several TTP bags now I think I am well a truly converted! Hope all is well :)

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Lisa O

I have had the V1 version of this bag for several years and I love it I am just getting ready to configure it for my upcoming travels this spring. FYI B&H carries almost everything photographic EXCEPT Think Tank Bags. I’m in the NY area and buy my TT gear from Adorama, Berger Bros on L.I. or Unique Photo in N.J.

Richard Peters

Lisa, thanks so much for pointing that out! I just put B&H in on autopilot and of course you are right, they don’t stock them!! Oops. Good spot.

Jay

Hi Richard,

Great review. I’m from the UK, so probably looking to purchase the AI v2.0 over the AS v2.0 as I travel internationally. However, I noticed that on the AS v2.0 there are hideaway shoulder straps. Are there any on the AI v2.0? I always though that it was a nice option (albeit being a bit thin). Is this something you feel the AI v2.0 could perhaps benefit from if it hasn’t got it already?

If the AI v2.0 hasn’t got it, can it be retro-fitted?

Finally, capacity wise, are the AS and AI virtually the same internally, with the AI appearing (and being) smaller from the outside?

briand

the bag itself weight 4kg.

i thought there is limitation for cabin bag is 7,5 kg

Steven Schwartz

I wrestled with which bag to get for local and long-distance shoots. Since I’m flying both domestic and international in the next month, I decided to give the TTP Intl a try. At first I was shocked at how small it was coming out of its shipping box and worried about fitting my Sony EX1r with custom base and wireless bracket, on camera LED light, ext. short shotgun microphone, 2 brick batteries, dual wireless mics, D7000 body w/3 batteries, rt angle viewer, wired remote trigger, ultra-wide zoom, normal prime, tele zoom, 90mm macro, SB-800, 2 LCD loupes, flash bracket, filter wallet, misc tripod plates, wires, cables, and 10″ netbook, etc. After some head scratching and experimentation it all fit nicely. What I couldn’t fit in (TTP Urban Disguise shoulder bag, snorkeling gear/wetsuit, clothing, toiletries, more batteries, chargers, AC power bricks, and pan head/tripod) will go in a checked roller bag big enough to put the TTP Intl inside as well. Now I’m looking forward to upcoming air trips because I’m armed with this fantastic rolling bag.

Richard Peters

It depends on the airline. Some have a strict rule in place (6kg for some) and some have no weight limit, just a size limit.

Richard Peters

No straps on the AI v2.0 but to be honest, it doesn’t need them IMO. For a start it helps keep the size and bulk of the bag down and secondly, I don’t think it would be very comfortable to wear as a back back as it’s ultimately a rolling bag. If you NEED a back back at the other end, then stuffing your usual bag with clothes and putting that in your suitcase is the way to go. I’ve no experience of the AS but it is larger in size and advertised as a bag that fits within USA domestic restrictions. The AI v2.0 is for International restrictions, which are different. So ultimately go for the one that suits your travel needs :)

Olivier

Hi,
I’m a french pro photographer, and i have used many photo bags in my life.
I was looking for a roller to travel by plane with my 500 mm and a lot more of stuff. I’ve just baught this bag after seeing your excellent review and i’m perfectly satisfied about it.
I just wanted to thank you for your video, that is the best about this bag i found on the internet.

Many thanks again.

Olivier.
Ps: Excuse me for my so poor english ;)

Richard Peters

Hi Olivier, glad to hear you like the bag as much as I do, and thanks for taking the time out to write and let me know :)

chirp-chirp

I too have purchased, and today received, my TT International V2 based on your review. No stocks in Australia so I imported mine from the USA which was no cheap order. So thanks very much for your time and effort in helping others with gear choice. Mine looks a little crushed on the handle side but not sure it could be any other way so perhaps one side is slanted like that. Anyway, happy with it as it solves the flight-travelling difficulties. [so long as they let me on board next month]

Furthermore, I read about the Gitzo NS plate and thought what ‘fastest way to make a buck’ scare-monging people with that. Well, I had my Nikon 70-200 mounted and noticed one day when putting it down by the car after a shoot that the hook was a bit loose and nearly carked it at the time. Came across it on your blog also and shortly after ordered one. Arrived a few months back and after locking that down with a nice bolt have felt a little more comfortable so again, thanks for comments on that expensive metal plate [but cheaper than a pacemaker or lens repair].

Richard Peters

Glad I could be of help, as that’s the aim when I do my reviews. To give my readers some informed information to help make (or not make) a purchase!

Ian

Richard, thanks for the review. I am due to go to India for about 1 month but when i checked with Emirates they told me that hand luggage was limited to 7kg??? Over that and it needs to be checked in.
Have you had this problem as i guess the equipment you carry is over this limit
Thanks
Ian

Richard Peters

Hi Ian. Are you going to do the Tigers there by any chance?. I’ve never had any trouble with airlines and hand luggage weight, but then the last big trip I took I flew BA who have no limit. I appreciate the concern though as I fly with Virgin quite a bit who have a 6kg limit, but I’ve flown with them maybe 11 times in the last three years and never had my bag weighed! My hand luggage usually weighs anywhere from 6kg to 11kg depending on what’s in it. It’s up to you really, maybe risk it but make sure you have spare room in the suitcase just in case they weigh everything.

Heidi

Great point about how the Suede Jacket can help conceal your laptop. Glad you are enjoying it. Thanks for the mention and photo.