A Tenba Roadie Hybrid Roller 21 showed up for a review almost one year to the day from my original request. I had asked about one in June of 2016, but Tenba was redesigning it, so I waited for the newest model. Turns out, it was well worth the wait. I already had a nice roller bag, and an excellent photo backpack. But both have been lacking, as I was forced to choose between rolling or carrying. No one wants to wear a backpack for a wedding or similar event. Just as rollers aren’t so great when you head off the beaten path, on to grass, dirt, or stairs. Tenba addressed that, and more, with the latest version of this bag.
It’s clear that Tenba listens to what photographers want, based on the huge features list. As a matter of fact, there are so many features, I’ve got to break them down by category.
Usability: Fit two pro DSLR bodies with grips, plus 8-10 lenses in this bag. Do you travel with a 400 f/2.8 lens often? No worries, that will fit. So will your laptop, up to 17 inches. A drop-in tripod carrier holds my tiniest portable to my full size carbon fiber model with ease. The interior dimensions are 12″ x 17″ x 6-7″ deep. That’s 30 X 43 X 15.2-17.7cm for you metric folk. And it comes with enough hook and loop dividers to configure it any way you could want.
Security: Without any giant logos, it could pass for a regular carry-on bag. Nothing about it screams “Thousands of dollars of photo gear inside”. Tenba was kind enough to include a TSA-approved padlock, and braided cable. So when it’s not under your seat, or in an overhead, you can lock it to something. I don’t fly often, so the TSA part isn’t as critical. But being able to secure my bag, even just to a table or chair, is an extra measure of security.
Protection: As mentioned, there are plenty of dividers to keep your gear safe. Plus, laptops or tablets have their own padded sleeve. All this is enclosed in a honeycomb frame that is rigid yet light. Taking it one step further, the exterior is 1680D ballistic nylon, which repels water. If you need even more protection from the weather, use the included rain cover.
Portability: When rolling, the two position handle offers adjustable comfort. Top and side handles make lifting and carrying for short distances easy. Use the hidden backpack harness if you need to carry it for longer stretches. Yes, Tenba has thought of everything.
Durability: YKK® RC-Fuse zippers are made to last. So is the reinforced stitching found throughout the Roadie. No matter how rough you, your assistant, or that ham-fisted baggage handler is, this bag can take it.
Longevity: For $400, you expect a bag to protect your gear for a long time. Tenba understands that. So the parts that may one day break or wear out are all user-replaceable. That includes the wheels and their housings, the feet, and the handle. My oldest bag cost me $200+ more than 25 years ago. I expect the same long life from the Roadie, making the initial cost very effective for most users.
Even though the Roadie arrived during what might be considered a “slow” time for me, I wanted to give it a thorough workout. So the review period was extended. During the months it took me to sort this bag out, I used it as a roller, backpack, and sometimes both in a single outing. It was dragged around Rice Eccles Stadium during the Nitro World Games. I wore it along dusty, dirty trails while I was out stalking mule deer. And for portraits at the park, it was rolled and worn. For a product shoot at a custom motorcycle shop, it held all the gear I needed. Pretty much everywhere I took my cameras, the Roadie went with me. It’s been nice to have one bag for everything.
While I didn’t bring my laptop for most shoots, it fits with ease. More importantly, the tripod carrier holds all but my video tripod, then zips out of the way. As a backpack, it does a decent job, even full of heavy glass. Everything about this bag has been well thought out. Give me a few more months, and maybe I’ll really find something to complain about. But right now, the Roadie is pretty much my ideal. Let me know your thoughts (or ask your questions) in the comments sections below.
I’d like to thank Tenba for sending me their Roadie Hybrid Roller 21 for this review. Of the dozen or so camera bags I own, it’s definitely my favorite so far. You can find it on the Tenba website, along with plenty of other great photo and video bags.