This is a guest review of the Think Tank Airport Commuter Backpack by wedding photographer Jesse La Plante.
The sun rises over the Eastern Plains as we walk to the terminal, matching backpacks in tow. We’re flying to Seattle for our third destination wedding of the month.
We skip the ticket line and enter TSA Pre Check, circumventing a sea of weary travelers, and we jump on the tram that takes us to our gate.
Moira pulls a book out of her backpack. I pull a snack out of mine.
We board the plane and Moira stashes her backpack in the last available overhead space. Not a problem. I slide my bag easily under the seat in front of me.
Twenty minutes into the flight, I decide I’d like to get some editing done, so I slip my laptop out of my backpack. A bit later, I grab another snack. Then I take out my cell phone, earbuds and an old Kurt Vonnegut novel.
I sit back and drift away into a literary reverie, filled with a sense of contentment because everything I need for this trip lies comfortably inside a single piece of luggage: my Think Tank Airport Commuter Backpack.
Think Tank Airport Commuter | Build Quality
The Think Tank Airport Commuter Backpack is extremely well-made and highly durable. I put this bag through hell on a weekly basis and have yet to see a single rip or tear—barely even a scuff mark.
The skeleton of the bag is constructed out of a firm yet flexible material that does a wonderful job protecting your gear. The main dividers that keep your camera(s) secure are made of the same material.
The Airport Commuter has outstanding interior and exterior zippers. There’s nothing I hate more than getting a zipper caught in a piece of cloth or even worse, accidentally bending one of the zipper teeth.
I’m happy to report that out of thousands of uses, I haven’t had a single mishap with this bag.
It really is the small things in life that make a difference.
Finally, this backpack seems to be somewhat water resistant. I’ve been through torrential downpours during which I didn’t have the time to bust out the rain cover, and my gear has always stayed dry.
The caveat here is that this isn’t something Think Tank claims to be true. Just my own personal experience.
Airport Commuter | Ergonomics & Ease of Use
One of my favorite things about the Think Tank Airport Commuter Backpack is how high up it sits on your back. By tightening the shoulder straps, you can shift the weight further up your shoulders to relieve strain on your spine.
This has been a godsend for me, considering how many hours I spend walking about with twenty pounds (~9kgs) of gear on my back.
There are handles on the top and on the side of the bag, making it super quick and easy to pick up and move during a fast-paced wedding shoot.
I’m not a huge fan of all the ancillary straps and buckles (i.e. the ones that clasp around your chest and waist). They tend to unravel and get in the way when not in use.
This is a small grievance, though, because you can always just cut them off if you don’t like them—which is exactly what I’m going to do when I finish writing this sentence…
Airport Commuter | Size & Space
The Think Tank Airport Commuter Backpack has three primary compartments: the main compartment that holds all of your camera gear, the laptop sleeve, and a small pouch where I keep all of my personal stuff such as pens, notebooks, ear plugs, vitamins and so forth.
The real magic of the Airport Commuter is that it holds a TON of stuff, but somehow it doesn’t feel that large.
How much stuff, you ask? Here’s what I can comfortably fit into my bag:
- 2 DSLRs
- 2 or 3 lenses (depending on focal length)
- Radio triggers
- Clamp/ball head
- Extra batteries
- Memory card wallet
- Shutter release cord
- Laptop/charger cord
- Portable Hard Drive
- Card reader
- And a whole bunch of miscellaneous stuff…
I will say that the Think Tank Airport Commuter Backpack looks a bit unwieldy on my wife/business partner who is a tiny human being, but I feel like it’s the perfect size for six-foot-tall me.
The best part is the fact that the Airport Commuter fits perfectly under the seat in front of you on just about every major airline.
Even if you’re in the last boarding group, you won’t have to worry about overhead storage.
That said, it fits better without a laptop, but you can make it work either way.
Pro tip: When I have a late boarding group and I want to keep my foot space, I’ll politely mention to the agent at the gate that I have expensive camera gear that can’t be transported in the cargo hold.
Three times out of four, they’ll let me get on the plane earlier than my boarding group.
Airport Commuter | Other Features
The Think Tank Airport Commuter Backpack has all sorts of little nooks and crannies built seamlessly into the bag that have really come in handy for me.
There’s a zippered pouch on the top of the bag that perfectly holds my passport and other papers/documents. There’s also a low-profile water bottle pouch on the side of bag that stretches, so it form-fits onto the bag when not in use.
My favorite little extra would be the cable lock that unravels from a small pouch on the corner of the bag. I use this lock all of the time in the car and in hotel rooms and coffee shops, etc.—just about anywhere I need to leave my bag for a few minutes.
The lock has a hook that goes through the zippers of the main pouch, and acts as a deterrent for anyone looking to snatch and grab. That said, if they have wire cutters, you’re f*cked.
The only thing I’m not in love with is the rain cover. It’s a separate item that you have to stash somewhere inside the bag.
I’ve had other camera backpacks that came with the rain cover stitched into a pouch on the bottom of the bag, so it wouldn’t take up any space inside the bag itself. I’ve found myself just using it for extra padding at times.
I will say this, though: the rain covers saved us when we were trapped in Hanalei Bay, Kauai during a massive thunderstorm that dropped a record-breaking 48 inches of water in 24 hours.
The whole town flooded. I’d never experienced a torrential downpour of that magnitude. We were soaked from head to toe, but our camera gear was unscathed.
Airport Commuter | Style and Value
If I had to compare the Think Tank Airport Commuter Backpack to an automobile, it would have to be a Cadillac. It’s a bit boxy, but also has a lot of class.
It’s my favorite color (black), so it matches all of my other gear and most of my clothing. Yes, I understand that black isn’t technically a color, but I’m not going to let semantics ruin my day.
In reading through Think Tank’s website, I came across the following disclaimer: “Due to a manufacturing mistake, some name tags on the outside of the bag have a typo that reads, ‘Airport Computer.’ Please accept our apology.”
Not only do I find this highly amusing, I kind of want to request one of the mistake bags now.
The Think Tank Airport Commuter Backpack is expensive, but it’s worth every penny in my opinion. Moira and I have used these bags for three full weddings seasons and I don’t anticipate having to replace them anytime soon.
I’ll probably need a new hip before I need a new camera backpack…
Think Tank Airport Commuter | Conclusion
I’ve used a lot of different camera backpacks in my 11 years shooting weddings, but the Think Tank Airport Commuter Backpack is by far my favorite.
It’s compact, yet spacious. Stylish, yet practical. Plus, it has all of the accoutrements a traveling wedding photographer could possibly hope for.
If you’re a hobbyist, there are plenty of budget backpack options available, but if you’re a serious professional who travels frequently for work, look no further than the Think Tank Airport Commuter Backpack.