I know what you’re thinking… travel is still ridiculously expensive, and here we are doing a review of the Think Tank “Airport” Roller Derby.
I travel a lot, but I don’t take a lot of gear when I travel. When I travel I’m on holiday, so I’m not working, other than the occasional camera, lens or bag I have with me to test.
My wheeled bags are used for portrait shoots, and the same goes for many other photographers I know. I’m either wheeling two bags with lighting and camera gear or using a wheeled bag and backpack.
My last Think Tank Airport came compliments of some Elinchrom lighting gear I purchased second hand. It lasted near 5 years without missing a beat, and it was already fairly old when it got to me.
I parted with it as a gift to a fellow photographer when my new airport arrived. There was nothing wrong with the bag at that point.
It looked a little worse for wear, but nothing was physically broken, and nothing close to breaking on the bag. It was a testament to the durability of the bag.
When it came to the Roller Derby, I had high expectations of it being a great rolling camera bag.
Table of Contents
Think Tank Airport Roller Derby Specs
- Spacious and customizable interior
- Four-wheeled system for easy transportation
- Durable and high-quality materials
- Real workhorse of a bag for professionals
- Great value
- Tripod straps do not have retaining loops, so they flap around
- Limited external pockets
- Heavy – may exceed airline carry-on restrictions
- Material Exterior: Polyurethane coated 420D velocity nylon, 1680D ballistic nylon bottom panel, rubberized laminate reinforcement
- Interior: 210D nylon, polyurethane-backed velex liner and dividers, closed-cell foam and polyethylene board reinforced dividers
- Rain Cover: polyurethane coated nylon 210T seam-sealed taffeta
- Type of Closure Zippers
- Carrying/Transport Options Top and side grab handles
- Retractable handle
- Eight wheels (four sets of two)
- Exterior Dimensions 14 x 22 x 9″ (35.6 x 55.9 x 22.9 cm)
- Interior Dimensions Overall: 12.6 x 18.5 x 5.5-7.5″ (32 x 47 x 14-19 cm)
- Tablet Compartment: 10.5 x 10.3 x 0.6″ (26.7 x 26.1 x 1.5 cm)
- Laptop Compartment: 10.5 x 14.5 x 1.0″ (26.7 x 36.8 x 2.5 cm)
- Weight With accessories: 10.5-11.0 lb (4.8-5.0 kg)\
Build & Appearance
For those who haven’t seen the Think Tank Airport Roller Derby, it looks a lot like the sort of bag you would take to the airport as carry-on luggage. That obviously depends on how you pack.
To put it into perspective, I could take out the bag’s interior and use it as a piece of luggage. It has 8 wheels configuration, and you wheel it along, just like any other modern carry-on luggage.
It would be a costly choice, given the quality of padding on the interior, which is not required to protect clothing.
I like the aesthetic of the bag. I prefer it when my camera bags don’t look like camera bags, and this falls into that category. Advertising that you’re carrying camera gear, in particular, a large amount isn’t advisable.
The construction is as good as one could expect with this kind of bag and price range. Stitching is on the heavy side, and durability is outstanding.
The zips are high quality as with my previous model so I can’t see these failing any time soon.
The material is thick and durable like previous models, but not excessively weighty. This ensures that you have protected your camera gear but don’t sacrifice too much weight to get there.
When you look closely at the bag, it’s clear that this isn’t Think Tank first go at these types of bags. It’s the small things like the extended scuff protection for placing the bag down on the ground.
You’ll find the same quality of construction extending to the interior of the bag so you’ll be happy to know that Think Tank hasn’t cut any corners. I’ll cover this in more detail in the interior section.
As mentioned earlier, the bag is still fairly lightweight. This means you can carry more gear. A kilogram in bag weight equates to one lens, and sometimes that’s a compromise you don’t want to make.
I honestly can’t find anything on the construction of the bag. When a manufacturer releases a bag more than 6 years ago and hasn’t bothered to update it, it’s a good reflection that there isn’t much improvement to be made.
This bag isn’t like a backpack or messenger, so the external features are confined to the types of features you would find on a conventional piece of hand luggage.
In line with the “airport” name, you’ll find a little label pocket capable of carrying a business card to identify the bag. It also has a small compartment with a concealed security cable for attaching the bag to a fixed object.
This may be relevant to sitting at an airport where you may have concerns about someone walking off with your bag. It would also apply to shooting in a street where you may want to lock it down to prevent someone walking away with it.
Given this bag has a high capacity, it has a nice heavily padded carry handle. There is a second padded handle on the side allowing a variety of carrying options.
Obviously carrying a bag like this isn’t the preferred method of transporting. Unzip the zip found near the Airport Roller Derby label on the top of the bag, and you’ll find an extending handle.
You’ll find a similar shallow pocket under the side handle. There is also a tripod holder on the side which doubles as a water bottle holder.
One of my sole issues with the bag is the lack of retaining loops for the tripod strap. If you have a smaller tripod, the end of the loops flap around but there is a way to tuck them into the edge of the bag.
Aside from the major compartments, the exterior offers several small compartments suitable for wallets or passports. Under the handle (and the top identification tag) there is a shallow pocket.
Let’s start with the easy bit, the front pocket. The front pocket provides access to a laptop section along with several small pockets.
This allows you to store a stylus for your laptop or more than one if you’re carrying a tablet. Yes, that means it does offer both a laptop and tablet compartment in the front area, which is great.
Outside of the laptop sleeves, the front area is a little tight, making it difficult to store anything other than flat objects so save some space for cables in the main section of your bag. I found it stored small items like RGB lights, but my laptop power adapter with the cable wrapped around was too large.
It is wide enough for some of the more narrow strobes like the AD200, but I would have concerns about damaging the laptop if you combined both. I would recommend strobes or a laptop, not both.
Unzipping the main compartment, you’ll find your camera area along with three transparent areas on the lid for storing smaller items. I like the use of the transparent material as you can see which pocket to open.
These areas would be suitable for filters, memory cards, spare batteries, cleaning cloths.
The layout of the bag is extremely flexible, with many dividers to allow for any size system. This would suit both APSC, full-frame or medium format systems. The bag is deep enough for a gripped full-frame camera.
The Think Tank Airport Roller Derby is one of the highest capacity bags as shown by this photo. I have excluded my AD200’s due to the laptop, but I could easily have fit in a couple of RGB lights.In terms of actual capacity, this bag is pretty much on the top of the pedestal, bested by only like likes of production manager series in Think Tank’s range or the likes of your larger Pelicans.
For most amateur photographers, this bag will hold more photography gear than they own, offering the perfect travel companion. For some of the more gear heavy photographers, this will be one of many bags, and that’s where the versatility of the storage helps.
The layout allows the bag to be used for pretty much anything from lighting gear to carrying big 400mm f /2. 8 primes. It’s so versatile that you could remove the inner padding and use it as an overnight travel bag.
In this bag, I could easily fit:
- Two gripped full-frame cameras (A7riii and A7iii in this case)
- Sony FE 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 GM OSS
- Sigma 24-70 f/2.8 DG DN ART
- Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG DN ART
- Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN ART
- Laowa 105mm f/2.8 Macro
- Tamron 28-200mm F/2.8-5.6 Di III RXD
- Sony 24mm f/1.4 GM
- Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG ART
- Gitzo Tripod
- HP Dragonfly Laptop
- Charger and cables
- Memory cards, filters etc
Ease of Use/Comfort
Compared to my old version, this is a substantial improvement in most use cases. The 4 wheel design takes a load off your shoulder while wheeling the bag around.
Over a period of 6 months that I have given it a fair workout. The 4 wheel design reduces the risk of gear falling out. Occasionally I will shift the bag from flat to vertical only to notice the zip isn’t properly closed.
The design keeps it perfectly flat, meaning the gear is unlikely to fall out unless you accidentally pick up the bag. While it’s not recommended, it has saved me from some scratches a few times.
It’s also helpful to take something out quickly without having to lie the bag flat. The straps on the top and side are heavily padded, and while the bottom strap is light, it will only be used occasionally, and I don’t see this as an issue.
The wheeled design allows you to push the bag on four wheels or drag it on two. There are times both are required.
In addition to the protection, Think Tank included a good quality raincoat to make sure your camera gear is safe and sound in heavy showers. I would expect this bag to weather the storm without the cover, but the cover is added insurance.
Value for Money
The Think Tank Airport Roller Derby retails for $399 which is reasonable for the bag’s size and quality. You can expect this bag to last for 5 years plus, probably ten depending on how much you abuse your bags.
If you are planning to buy something like this, most people would typically have the same minimum requirements:
- High capacity
- Good quality wheels
The Think Tank Airport Roller Derby covers all of those, which doesn’t normally come at the low end of the price range.
The major competitor would be something like a Pelican which would be priced a little higher and doesn’t really suit carrying a laptop. I prefer Pelicans for long term storage and the Think Tank for taking to shoots.
Think Tank Airport Roller Derby Review | Conclusion
It’s hard not to like Think Tank Roller Derby. It’s the epitome of a well-executed bag.
It’s a big step up from the previous Airport Range and the 8 wheeled design is a welcome addition. The interior offers such a high degree of customisation that I have found myself taking it many times when I don’t need to.
Normally using a bag of this type would be confined to shoots when I am taking a lot of gear, but it’s so easy to wheel around that I often take it for a weekend away (along with more lenses than I need).
This in itself is challenging because I’ve spent the better part of 10 years telling my wife she overpacks and here I am taking along enough gear to supply 12 photographers.
My personal issues are easier to spot, the issues with the bag, less so. They are so minor that you really have to nitpick to find them.
If you have a look at the cons section, you’ll find it strangely empty (or poorly thought our cons) and that’s not an accident. It’s just that good a camera bag.