From its name, you could guess that the Think Tank Airport Accelerator is designed to get your photo gear through the airport quickly and safely. But it does that and a lot more. If you are a pro photographer, or even just a photo enthusiast that enjoys travel and the outdoors, this bag has got you covered from the time you pack, through your photo shoot, and back home. Whether that’s a portrait session across town, a wildlife shoot in some remote locale, or a wedding on the other side of the globe, you can trust it to make sure your camera bodies, lenses, flashes, and other gear arrives in one piece, and ready to go.
Several months ago, Think Tank sent me their Airport Accelerator for review. After a few months with it, I was confident it would be the right choice for travel, and not just by car. It’s sized to work as carry-on luggage for (most) domestic and international flights. At 14″ x 20.5″ x 9″, it will fit standard overhead bins. It’s got dividers and padding to make sure your gear is protected, and you can configure it to fit your needs. So what’s the best way to test out a camera bag designed for air travel? Take it to Alaska, a place so big and spread out, their state bird should be a small plane. Inside of two weeks, I took the Airport Accelerator on eight flights, and it rode in a packed truck or SUV for over 1,000 miles. I’m convinced that most Alaskans view a twin turbo-prop as a bus, and a float plane as a taxi cab.
As you can see from the photo, the Airport Accelerator can easily hold some really big glass. The squared top, unlike many rounded photo backpacks, provides a little extra room, which means you can pack a bit more into it, including the longer lenses. I didn’t have a 600 f/4 lens, but if I did, it’s good to know it would fit. Instead, I loaded it up with a Canon EOS 6D and 100-400 lens, EOS 7D with Sigma 150-600, plus a 17-40, 24-105, 50mm f/1.4, 40mm pancake, a Canon 1.4x, a 25mm extension tube, plus all sorts of other gear I thought I may need. This might not look like a lot, but fully loaded, my bag came in at 24 pounds on the airport scale. What you can’t see so well in the photo is that inside the lid are three large pockets for things like memory cards and batteries, which I brought plenty of. There is also a laptop and tablet pocket, which can be locked with the included cable lock which has its own zippered pocket. Rather than build it in under the bag, the rain cover with its own stuff sack is shipped loose. Most users will find it perfect to wedge under or next to some gear to keep it in place.
With the ability to hold that much gear, the top, side, and bottom handles made it easy to carry or load. For short treks the shoulder straps did a great job. For the 1.5 mile hike from our camp site to the falls above Brooks Lodge, I used the waist straps as well. They really help with the heavy loads, then tuck away when not in use. A handy pocket on the side held my water bottle, and if I had not forgotten the strap, there are loops on the side to secure a tripod. Working out of it when outdoors meant finding a clean place to set it down, as you access it from the front, so the straps are generally on the ground. I prefer this to packs that open from the back, even if it may result in getting a little dirt on me or my bag. Of course, if I spent a lot of time in muddy conditions, it might be different.
While I like the fact that it’s discreet enough to not attract thieves, I did worry that since the Airport Accelerator holds a fair amount of camera bodies and lenses, I would end up over the weight limit on some flights. This happened on the smaller planes, and of course the float planes. And I boarded, they would just take my camera bag, and place it in the cargo hold. The float plane pilots piled it with the rest of the luggage, behind seats that would look at home in a baseball stadium. This is not ideal for thousands of dollars in photo gear, but I never worried (well, maybe just a little). Even when it was almost within view, the potential to bounce around the back of the plane was still cause for concern. But it kept everything safe and secure from rough handling. And at the end of the day, that’s what counts. I trusted the Airport Accelerator to protect my gear, and it did not let me down. This is a brand many professionals trust, and it’s easy to see why. You can read the full spec for the Airport Accelerator here, or visit thinktankphoto.com and see all their great photo gear.