Think Tank Airport Roller Derby

Hopefully this is the right spot for a quick gear review. If not, moderators please move or delete.

My wife and I are on the road at least 6 months each year, and midway through our trip last winter there was a startling development. Alaska Airlines reduced the allowable size of carry-on bags.

It emerged that our rolling camera cases were too large. Mine was 2" too long and my wife’s was 1" too long. She managed to squeeeeeeze her case into the measuring frame at the gate, but mine had to be gate-checked. Talk about an uneasy feeling, walking away from a soft bag stuffed with camera gear…

That “inspired” us to search for alternatives before starting our next 6-month jaunt in a few weeks. I’ll save you the list of brands and bags that didn’t pass our muster. Instead I’ll report that after using our new Think Tank Airport Roller Derby bags here at home to confirm, we’ve found a heck of a good roller bag for traveling photographers.

Let’s face it. None of us are getting any younger, and wheels are becoming more important even if the gear loads are no heavier than those of our youth. We’re yet to poke ours into a plane’s overhead bin, but an email exchange with Think Tank assured us that their dimensions included wheels and handle, meeting Alaska Airline’s carry-on requirements.

More to the point, the bags are extremely well built and detailed, their layout making them very easy to use in the field. Though slightly smaller than the bags they replaced, they in fact hold more gear more accessibly. Dunno how Think Tank managed that particular bit of engineering, but it’s proven true for both my gear array and my wife’s. All in all we’ve “traded up” in performance even as we traded down a small step in size.

If you’re sick of lugging a pack on long hikes between airport gates, you might consider a rolling bag. And if you’re considering a rolling bag for air travel, take a very hard look at the Think Tank Airport Roller Derby before settling on anything else. We’re glad we did.

Thanks, Hank. We got hit with that change by Alaska too. They implemented it the day before we flew to Nome this June and somehow didn’t see fit to send us an email about it even though they managed to inform us of three different flight time changes. I was lucky to be carrying a smaller bag that still fit, but some of the people in our group ended up gate checking 600 mm f/4 lenses and there’s an awful lot of money tied up in one of those.


Dunno whether a 600 would fit the Roller Derby, but my 500 f/4 fits just fine.

The dimensions at the bottom of the page in the link shows them to be identical to the full size Airport Security. 14x22x9. That bag easily fits the 600 maybe because it has only 2 wheels so they take up less space than the 4 wheel Roller Derby?
I have noticed Delta and United have smaller carryon sizes than Southwest for instance.

Good line of thought Jim, and I’ll know for sure in just 10 days. But when I quizzed the folks at Think Tank on that point, they were reassuring. The bag I’ve used for years has 2 wheels and is fine, but I opted for the Roller Derby and4 wheels cuzz I see so many other folks with 4 and wanted to try it. I’ve been snarled more than once going down the aisle of planes with two, and liked the idea of turning the bag sideways for that “leg” of a trip.

Another point I’ve failed to mention on the new bag: It weighs about half as much as its predecessor, which might be a good thing if the airlines ever start weighing carry-ons, too.

I do like the idea for moving on the plane for sure. Have thought about getting the International to be on the safe side. The 600 will fit in even that without the lens hood. Then you either pack that in checked luggage or pick up the collapsible one from LensCoat which is a nice product. Saves a lot of space.

Thanks for posting this Hank. I will be flying Alaska Airlines next summer and was looking for a new camera rolling bag for the trip.

I can report a little more on the new bag. Since it arrived we’ve been venturing out daily in pursuit of bears, and it’s spent a lot of time laying flat and open in the rear truck seat with the contents ready for use. It’s working out surprisingly well… And better than my old Tamrac roller for some reason. Something about the height of the compartments in combo with the stiffness of the dividers just makes it easier for quick grabs and stows. No fumbling around when quick gear changes can make a difference. As I said, I and much of my gear may be archaic, but I’m certainly having fun with the new. :smiley: