Think Tank Airport AirStream Rolling Camera Bag Review

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, (with Kippy Rensalaer and Don Krawchuk) June 2009
Manufactured by: Think Tank Photo
Requires: A need to travel with photography gear
MSRP: US$289.00

Think Tank Photo has succeeded in carving out a fat piece of the rolling camera bag market for itself. That happened because the company consistently offers tough, good looking, well designed products offering a high degree of functionality and general utility. Among the toughest nuts to crack is the aircraft carry-on. The reason? Maximum sizes keep changing - they're a bit of a moving target - and carry-on weight limits are restrictive. Serious camera bag designers and manufacturers who choose to jump into this rapidly growing segment of the market have to make difficult decisions between real utility and making a bag too small or too heavy to be of use to the broadest range of traveling professional photographers and travelers who are photography hobbyists and enthusiasts. Think Tank Photo makes three carry-on rollers (from largest to smallest): The Airport Security, Airport International, and the AirStream reviewed here.


The AirStream has been designed with a set of features clearly aimed at allaying travels' fears about security. A pair of TSA combination locks - a back one for the bag itself, and a front one to secure a second item such as a shoulder bag - are mounted on high tensile steel security cables permanently attached to the internal frame of the AirStream. Each AirStream is also supplied with a riveted security plate (with a rubber edge gasket so the corners can't nick you) containing the bag's unique serial number. The AirStream shell construction integrates what appears to be hard, injection molded, high impact plastic feet, protective bottom plates, and wheel wells. Wheel well guards extend and taper up the rear edges of the bag and the bottom plate extends several inches up the outer back of the bag to act as a kick plate.

The AirStream also offers a wide range of convenience features of particular use to travelers. The upper front organizer pocket is secured by a dual zipper and is deep enough to carry travel papers (tickets, boarding passes, reservation forms, declaration forms), accessories (lenspens, regular pens, cleaning cloth) and you-name-it. The organizer pocket does not lock. In addition to the dual-post extension handle for rolling use (dual post being better than single post when you want to slip a small bag onto the handle - a single post often won't hold the smaller bag in place), there are side and top grab handles and a bottom handle, one of which will offer the grip point you need no matter what sort of awkward angle you're at when lifting the AirStream. The business card holder on the top panel (underneath the top handle) is useful too, but it's not weather sealed.

Construction is excellent. All Think Tank products seem to be made sufficiently well to withstand extreme abuse. In over 26 trips with our Think Tank Airport International, we've put the bag through every kind of scanner, watched horrified as it was dropped onto hard pavement by distracted taxi drivers, rolled it through filthy puddles, dragged it over many kilometers of broken pavement, stuffed it to bursting with heavy and sensitive photography gear, worried over it when security alerts at various airports forced us to check-in the bag, and marveled at how often it fit perfectly into overhead bins in some rather questionable looking aircraft. The AirStream is the newer, younger brother to the International, and after three hectic trips it appears to us to be every bit as good, more compact and equipped with more security.

Think Tank AirStream Dimensions:

13.5” W x 6.5-7.5” D x 15.5” H
34 x 16.5 x 39.5 cm

14” W x 8” D x 17.5” H
36 x 20.5 x 44.5 cm

9 - 10.5 lbs
(weight varies depending on accessories) . . . continued




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