The pursuit of outdoor adventure and lifestyle photography involves making frequent decisions about what camera gear to take for a particular location or shoot, and the transportation method chosen for that equipment is just as important. Splitting my time between Australia and the USA means that I am always looking to minimize the effort and maximize the ease with which I can securely get all of my expensive, heavy gear across the Pacific.
As light and simple as possible is my mantra, and I have an aversion to checking expensive items in my luggage after a bad experience a few years ago when a duffel containing all of my climbing equipment went missing, never to be found by the airline. Aaargh! So lugging a too-heavy camera backpack over my shoulder and carrying a laptop bag in one hand as my carry-on items has been my usual approach.
This does look awkward though and is not kind to my shoulders when waiting in the immigration line. In addition, the eagle-eyed Qantas staff at Brisbane International Airport are known for stopping commuters and weighing their carry-on items to make sure they don’t exceed their 7kg limit—not the case in the USA. I’d be guilty as charged if caught, so escaping their notice is now going to be a lot easier when I cruise past them breezily with my cameras, lenses, laptop and iPad all neatly contained in the latest carry-on-size roller bag from Think Tank, the Airport Roller Derby. For those of us who will need off-road capability to carry photo equipment into the wilds at our destination, a backpack will have to find its way into the packing scenario somehow.
For this review I didn’t have the chance to take the bag for an airport concourse stroll, as I was busy climbing and photographing in California’s beautiful Sierra Nevada range. I tried it out instead on nature’s concourse, the glacial carved granite rock near Tuolumne Meadows campground. I’m happy to report that the four sets of dual wheels moved a heavy load (including a tripod attached externally) with aplomb across the irregular surface; it seems solid in construction and will surely stand the test of time. The handle, as expected, is adjustable to a few different lengths.
The bag itself weighs 5kgs, which is a little heavy but reflects the sturdy construction materials and design—and let’s face it, there is no way I can meet the maximum weight limit allowed anyway when carrying my complete photography kit on a flight from Australia, so the bag weight is not an issue for me.
Think Tank makes bags that look simple in appearance but do the job they’ve been designed for very well. This model is no exception, and the ability to fit two DSLR bodies plus numerous lenses and other accessories along with a 15 inch laptop and an iPad means only the rare sport or nature photographer with one or two lenses at the extreme telephoto range need look elsewhere for their equipment transport needs. There are many options for individualising how you pack items securely by moving around the Velcro dividers within the bag. There are two main slots that are fixed and where DSLR bodies with attached lenses fit snugly. It’s simple to secure a medium size tripod along the side of the bag with the included straps. A nice touch is the inclusion of a cable tether and TSA combination padlock tucked away in an external pocket. So when my flight is delayed and I am napping at the gate, the bag can be secured to the seat post for peace of mind!
All in all, the Think Tank Airport Roller Derby bag suits my needs very well for a frequent flyer with a professional kit of photographic equipment. I like the sturdy construction, there is plenty of interior space, and my shoulders are going to thank me as the wheels take over the strain of getting me from A to B.
Andrew Peacock takes adventure travel to a new level. As a medical doctor who volunteers his time in far-reaching places like India and Nepal, he feeds his photo habit by capturing the beauty and grandeur of every place he visits. With a gift for helping people as well as creating breathtaking images, Andrew has found his calling as a traveling adventure shooter. You will find the Australia-based photographer all over the globe using medicine and photography to make the world a better place. Check out Andrew’s extensive portfolio here: https://www.footloosefotography.com/