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Two hot selling backpacks from ThinkTankPhoto that are frequently out of stock are the Airport Commuter and StreetWalker® HardDrive. The reason why is simple – they are two great backpacks that not only hold your camera gear, but they can hold your laptop too!
In this article I give you a quick introduction to each bag and then I do a simple written and video comparison to help you decide which bag is right for you.
The Airport Commuter isn’t exactly the sexiest bag to look at, but it’s functional in a big way. With its deep storage it can easily story pro camera bodies or cameras with grips. It’s only designed for one camera with a lens attached, but multiple bodies can be stored elsewhere it its internal compartments.
The key to this bag is its support for up to a 17” MacBook Pro (despite the advertisement of “up to 15.4”), plus safe separate storage for an iPad.
The grab handles were greatly appreciated and this bag is totally functional – but in a brown suit kind of way. In short, it lacks style but it makes up for it in function.
The Airport Commuter was able to easily hold my 17” MacBook Pro as well as my New iPad, but it’s carried in the top flap pocket which made it more challenging opening and closing the main compartment. The weight just didn’t feel right up front like that, and if opened improperly (i.e., while standing up), then it could easily cause the laptop to be slammed onto the ground. This design was preferable to the StreetWalker HardDrive though for getting the laptop out of the bag on an airplane, so it’s got pros and cons for sure.
I love my StreetWalker Pro, so it’s no wonder that I liked this bag right off the bat. It took a little adjusting getting used to the larger bag, but it was easy once I saw much stuff I could comfortably fit inside.
This bag is designed for one camera body with a lens attached and it does that job well. I was easily able to fit all of my necessary gear for an average trip, and I loved having the zip pockets on the outside to get to the things I needed to in a hurry on the plane. With the default configuration I was easily able to store my Canon 1D X camera body with a 70-200mm attached, and the external tripod storage is really great for travel photography adventures.
I preferred the additional zip pockets and integrated tripod holder in this bag over the Airport Commuter. This is the bag that I’ll take traveling on trips where my gear load is light enough to fit in this bag.
The StreetWalker HardDrive was able to hold my 17” MacBook Pro with the storage compartment flap upright, so this means that you’d not be able to carry a pro body or camera with a battery grip if you had a 17” laptop. The recommended 15.4” size laptop includes the flap down, so this is really for 15” MacBook Pro’s or smaller. I wasn’t able comfortably fit my New iPad, but it’s could be squeezed in in a pinch. The challenge to the side rear loading design means it’s not easy to get your laptop out on an airplane. It’s also up against your back when walking which some might find bothersome (but it didn’t bother me much).
For my comparison I loaded both bags in an identical way with the same identical gear. The main camera was a Canon 1D X with the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens. Also included was a 100mm macro, a 16-35mm II lens, two 600EX-RT flashes, a BlackRapid RS-7, a Hoodman Loupe, a 1D Mark IV, and some accessories cables.
These are both great bags, but hands down my favorite is the StreetWalker® HardDrive. While its laptop storage isn’t as nice as that found on the Airport Commuter, the thing that matters the most to me is how it stores my camera gear. For the latter, the StreetWalker® series is one of ThinkTankPhoto’s best solutions for hauling gear and accessories, but the addition of being able to hold a laptop is really icing on the cake.
Neither of these bags are small enough to easily slide under the seat in front of you on the airplane (but it might fit in some), but both are easily stored overhead on airplanes. They are also large enough to hold a lot of gear without being obnoxiously large which makes them excellent travel companions.
For carrying laptops, I’d say if you have something the size of a 17” MacBook Pro then the best choice is the Airport Commuter. If your laptop is smaller, then I’d probably favor the StreetWalker HardDrive as it’s the better camera bag overall.
As backpacks, both are functionally the same so I didn’t find that I preferred one over the other in real-world use. They were both comfortable and handled the weight load very well.
Loaded with Gear
When loaded with gear, both bags did well and zipped up easily. However, the Airport Commuter was the one that swallowed gear the easiest.
The height advantage of the StreetWalker HardDrive made it easier to carry more gear, but it’s width is a bit cramped on the right side below so I didn’t feel super comfortable travelling with my gear as shown below. Since I wasn’t able to stand the flash up on end, the only choice was down.
In addition, with the laptop storage in the back of the bag, the depth of the pockets for this bag was much less than the Airport Commuter. While it could easily be zipped, the configuration below left me uneasy.
StreetWalker HardDrive stuggled to fit the pro camera and two flashes on the right
but it zipped and worked. I’d probably never do this though for fear of the safety
of the 1D Mark IV (bottom right).
Here’s my thoughts and walkthrough of both bags in another famously crappy video:
StreetWalker HardDrive vs Airport Commuter
Play in HD
If I had to pick one it would be the StreetWalker HardDrive for me. Camera gear storage and lots of external pockets are my primary concern when travelling. The StreetWalker HardDrive meets those needs, so it easily gets a high recommendation.
Of course, if you have a 17” MacBook Pro sized laptop that needs to travel with you then the Airport Commuter becomes the bag of choice. It’s also very iPad friendly and offers a greater width that comes in handy when carrying extra camera bodies.
In the end, both are great bags and you can’t go wrong with either.
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Other articles you may enjoy
Here are some other reviews of Think Tank Photo bags that can accommodate laptops:
- Think Tank Photo Streetwalker Pro vs Glass Taxi
- Think Tank Photo Shape Shifter
- Think Tank Photo Airport Security v2.0
- Think Tank Photo Airport TakeOff
Click here to learn more about my Think Tank Photo bag special offer and see my complete list of my bag reviews.
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