Thinktank Airport V2 to a Shapeshifter: What’s in my bag?

What happens when you get to a plane and realize that the camera bag that you have packed to the hilt will in no way shape or form fit into the plane you need to board?  Obviously you need to downsize.  I figured i’d document my downsizing in pictures. It would give a real world scenario of how these two bags fit in my workflow – a bit of gearwatch/nerdout, and a peek at whats in my bag.


Getting Ready To Go

So, a couple of weeks ago, I was trying to get to a tour stop over in North Carolina from Tampa.  I totally blanked on checking what kind of plane I was attempting to board.  Not checking this, I was thinking to myself “Hey.. you never know if you’re going to have a shoot.  Why dont I pack a little bit of things just in case. The two bags that I tend to use when traveling are the ThinkTank Airport Security V2 and the ThinkTank ShapeShifter


I Tend To Overpack Gear

Im always made fun of for being notorious about overpacking.  K.  4 SB800/900 lights, Three hard drives (2 keep Lightroom Images, one personal stuff), 70-200 lens, Camera, 24-70 lens, Mophie, plugs, cables, Flashlights, Elinchrom Skyports.. that kinda thing.  I usually rest my Macbook Pro and my Intuos4 Med Tablet on top of all of this and shut the lid.  This roller packs EVERYTHING.  I even get the front pocket to hold my iPad.  All seemed to be set.

Until you show up at the gate and you find out that the plane you are about to get on is an MD88.  These planes will not be able to hold this big bag.  The gate agent looks at me and says “i’ll be happy to check it for you”  I let the lady know i’d sooner miss the flight than have this gear checked.  She proceeds to rebook me (thank you sooo much!!) for a couple of hours down the road.  I usually plan my trips early enough for these kinds of contingencies, so I wasnt really bothered by it.  Got to go home, catch up with my sleeping child and wife.. have breakfast, and try again.

Now, I cant bring the big behemoth with me, so what Is there to do?

For many months now, I’ve been toting the Thinktank Shapeshifter bag.  I had gotten tired of using this old Swiss computer bag – it was looking long in the tooth.  I wanted to find something that looked sleek but wasn’t incredibly bulky.  I also wanted something that was able to let me haul gear in a pinch.  99% of the time around town, I usually keep it in its most compact state, with this expansion zipper way closed.  People usually comment as to how small my computer bag is.

However, I need this thing to transform.  Now!  How much will I be able to hold in this little bag? let the packing begin!

Deploy the ShapeShifter!

After opening up this zipper compartment in the middle of the bag, the bag expands and shows all of these pockets that you can use.  The pockets to one side are tall, letting you throw your lenses in it.  The pockets to the other side are wider, letting you put camera bodies or other accouterments in them.  This is my Nikon 70-200 2.8 VRII on top of one of the pockets.

24-70 will go in this section at the top.  The Nikon D800 will go in this bottom pocket.

Middle pocket will get the three hard drives, a mifi card (in the event I need wireless somewhere), USB3 cables, and a flashlight.

The last pocket gets chargers, wacom cables, extensions, and other stuff.  Here is a charger for the iPhone, a Plugbug that I use for my iPad (I love that thign) and the Nexus7 Charger.  Second Flashlight too..


The Front Pockets

Any other assorted cables get thrown in in the middle of the pockets.  Thats where I usually put the power supply for the Macbook Pro.  This means that this pocket is good to go.  Zip it up!

Now this still leaves three whole pockets at the front of the bag that you can use for other stuff.  I find that papers, business cards, and my Nexus7 fit there perfectly.  I even throw in my Element Case Joule stand for traveling (I like how sturdy it is).   The bottom pocket gets the ipad, any other drives and cables, and assorted junk.  Front front pocket gets business cards, or other small things.

This is the bag all packed and zipped up, ready to go back to the airport.



How Much Do you Bench?

This is the gutted bag.  Now full disclosure – at the last minute I actually went back and threw two of the SB800s in the bag, so it was even emptier.

You’ll notice that even with all of this stuff packed, the bag still had a bit of wiggle/pinch room in the middle.  Meaning that in a pinch, I could get just a couple of things more into it.

Now, is this a bag that you want to carry around with you everywhere?  Absolutely not.  I threw it on my bathroom scale, and this puppy weighed about 29 pounds!  Usually what I do is pack a smaller location bag (in this case the retrospective 30 from Thinktank) with undies and clothes in my main suitcase.  This way, when I get to the location, I can just dump some gear into this bag.

I sped out to the airport, breezed right through security, and comfortably placed almost as much gear as I had in a smaller compartment – thanks to that ShapeShifter.  I even had a chance to stop and get a frothy drink.  Mocha Cookie Crumble, Nexus 7, Element Case Joule stand and Klipsch headphones.  Total nerdout. 🙂



  1. I always travel light since all I have is my camera, 1 lens, a flash, & a couple PocketWizards. Could practically fit it all in my purse!
    Oh & btw…not total nerdout…Starbucks is for the cool kids!
    So is Red Bull! ; )~ HAHA! How you doin’? =D

  2. Awesome readout. I’m in the same situation as you are. Only I have a Think Tank V2 international roller. And the Shape Shifter. Thanks for sharing how much stuff you got into your Shape Shifter. It gave me ideas for mine. Awesome bags from Think Tank :))

  3. Thanksnas always RC. Love the blazing saddles touch at the end…:-)

    Your article has inspired me to wonder if someone has compiled a chart that lists TT bag / aircraft compatability?

    My air travel rig is usually an airstream and a retrospective…unless aircraft is a litle embrayer where i strip the gear down to just a shoulder bag. I havent had to fly an MD 88 recently but am wondering if a TT airstream would fit overhead?

    I would thing TT would have a compatability chart…maybe I’ll send them a note…but a note from you might carry a little more weight!?

    BTW, thanks for your post on packing and shipping prints. I just got my first shipment from ULINE yeaterday.

    Thanks for all you do!

  4. I am a BIG fan of Think Tank and have lots of their Stuff, back pack, hip pack, lens bags, belts, straps, you-name it. BUT I haven’t invested in their roller bags. Like you, I tend to overpack when traveling (even the three hard drive thing), but I learned to keep it to a smaller Delsey roller that is really not a problem in fitting into the puddle-jumper airplanes. The nice feature to the bag I have is that the main compartment has a padded bag with hand strap that can be lifted straight out. So, if I go into a REALLY tiny aircraft, I can lift out the interior bag for carry-on and check the larger case. That way, the precious cargo comes with me and the stuff that can take a trashing goes in the cargo hold. So far, I haven’t had to use the feature, but it gives me peace of mind.

  5. So after all the “iPod is what everyone travels with” comments that Scott makes on the shows, how did you ever explain the Nexus 7 on the first day you brought it in? 😉

  6. I am always on an RJ for the first leg of my trip so an airport security just doesn’t work for me. Thanks for this suggestion, but what about your tripod?

  7. RC, does the Shape Shifter have ample padding to protect your gear in case it gets bumped?

    Thanks for sharing this info. It’s much appreciated!

  8. Pingback: Think Tank « Imagements

  9. Hi RC,

    Thank you for inspiring me to write my post today about the Shape Shifter and my other Think Tank bags. Check out my blog at and comment if you feel like it.

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