I was so excited to attend the Improve Photography Retreat last year in Arizona. For the first time EVER I was going to use a roller bag – the Airport International V3.0. It’s like a camera bag cadillac on rollerblade wheels as smooth as butter. (Not sure what that means, but it’s good!) Gone were the days of throwing that heavy weight over my shoulders feeling like my back was going to go out. Now, I would roll with the best of them.
And boy did I roll! It brought a little swagger to my walk as I strolled through the airport to board the bus. I could simply let go of the handle and stand there with no extra weight to hold me down. I even used the ThinkTank Signature 13 to slide over the handle so I literally held no additional weight, yet carried on all my luggage. I showed it off with pride at the conference, as I presented on Takeoff to Travel: Travel Photography Tips and showed how I pack my gear and clothes all in one bag to avoid checking anything.
After my presentation, a handful of us went to lunch across the street and that’s when it happened. As we walked through the lobby of the conference my swag started to limp. I had reached a snag — the dreaded stairs! Everyone else kept on walking, as I stood at the first step contemplating – do I grab it by the handle and waddle down the stairs or do I walk to the other side of the lobby to catch the escalator. The rest of the gang kept on walking, as if the Fresh Prince of Bel Air was there yelling, “Yo homes, Smell ya later!” As I declined down the escalator I thought to myself, never again. I need a roller bag that’s ALSO a backpack! Enter the Airport TakeOff V2.0.
The Airport TakeOff V2.0 is like the cadillac, with the buttery wheels, THAT’S ALSO A BACKPACK! There’s a time to roll and a time to run. Most bags give you one or the other, but this bag will let you do both. Let’s take a closer look.
What I love about this bag is that it has all the style and room of the Airport International V3.0 while hiding the shoulder straps in a zipped up cover. You access the straps by unzipping the back, which then folds under the bag to velcro to the bottom. This is great, but here’s where I have one of my two concerns about the design of the bag. Sometimes you want to roll and then quickly throw it on your back and then put it down to roll again. When I take it off to roll, the straps tend to hang down and drag on the dirty floor or sidewalk and often gets stuck under a wheel making me stop. If I take a second to tuck all the straps in, it’s not a problem. But when you’re rushing, it’s the little things like this that can become a quick frustration. And when the flap is velcroed under, if the floor is not level, the flap could rub on the ground. Although I have had the straps drag a few times, it honestly hasn’t been an issue. I love these straps and how compact they’ve designed it.
I’ve quickly learned that ThinkTank is synonymous with quality. The retractable handle is the sturdiest I’ve seen as I watch others in airports struggle. It doesn’t bend or twist as you wheel your way around. Although it’s never recommended to lift the bag from this retractable handle, I do it all the time and have never had any issues. One of the most important parts of a rolling bag is obviously the wheels. THIS IS WHERE THE SMOOTH BUTTER COMES IN. These wheels are truly amazing. Made with rollerblade-quality wheels, they are the quietest wheels on any bag by far. You know that annoying sound at the airport as people roll their bags on the “moving walkway”? If you own this bag, the noise is not coming from you! A bonus about these wheels is that they (along with the retractable handle) are replaceable to help the bag last even longer. You can even order colored “flair” to give some character to the wheels and bag.
The only other concern I have about the design is the lack of padding for the laptop. The cover allows plenty of room for up to a 17” laptop and even has a slot for a tablet or iPad. There’s just not padding. If you keep your laptop in a sleeve, this wouldn’t be a problem. Since I don’t have a sleeve for my 15” MacBook Pro, I just try to be more careful or keep a shirt or light jacket covering it for padding.
The inside of the bag is customizable to almost any design you need. You can see specifications on their site here. When I travel with this bag, I need it to hold all my photography gear ALONG WITH my clothes.
Here you can see my…
2 Canon Bodies: 5DIV & Canon 7DII
4 Canon Lenses: 70-200 2.8, 24-70 2.8, 16-35 2.8, 50 1.2
3 Yongnuo Flashes
Yongnuo YN560 TX II Trigger (inside MagSphere)
Feisol Tripod CT-3472
Really Right Stuff Ballhead BH-55
Pelican SD Card Case
Rechargeable AA batteries
My typical travel clothes that I pack inside my bag consists of a pair of pants that zipoff at the knees to function as shorts, two pairs of socks so one can be washed and drying, two quick drying shirts, and two pair of underwear. Anything that would be too bulky I wear on the plane. Brent Bergherm and I talk more about this on the LATITUDE Podcast.
This bag has been, and will continue to be, a “go-to” bag for any occasion. Recently I used it to travel to Europe for a wedding I shot in Sweden, Detroit to shoot an NFL football game, and Florida for a wedding in Ft. Myers. The only time I haven’t found myself reaching for this bag is when I’ve had some outdoors portrait shoots that did not require as much gear.