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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Backpack Shootout - Tenba vs ThinkTank

backpack shootout - tenba vs. thinktank

Hello everyone!

So today I am writing my first ever review!  And of course I had to go big so it's a backpack shootout between Tenba and ThinkTank.  Both are backpacks that I own and have used extensively.  Instead of giving you "the facts", I thought I'd tell you why *I* chose my personal backpack and why.  There are plenty of other sites telling you all the fancy details, etc. so I might not repeat a lot of that. 

First off, the two backpacks I'm reviewing are the Tenba Shootout Medium backpack and the ThinkTank Airport Addicted v2.  BOTH are amazing backpacks and I can definitely say that I would be happy with either. 

I've owned MANY backpacks and camera bags over the years.  As my skills and collection have grown, my needs have changed and evolved.  Last year, I purchased the Tenba Shootout because I had several needs:
  • BACKPACK and not a carry bag
  • Ability to carry all of my photo gear
    • Cameras: Canon 5D mkII w/Battery Grip, Canon 50D w/Battery Grip
    • Lenses: Sigma 20mm f1.8, Canon 35mm f1.4L, Canon 50mm f1.2L, Canon 100mm f2.8 macro, Canon 135mm f2.0L, Canon 28-70 f2.8L
    • Flashes: 580ex II, 580ex, Lightsphere
    • Pocket Wizards
    • Miscellaneous Small Gear
  • Ability to carry my laptop
Some of the things I really like about the Tenba are that the laptop compartment is easily accessible and has room to hold a power supply and travel mouse.  It also has side compartments that you can "reach through" to access the internal compartments.  This means you can grab a lens without having to open up the entire bag.  When I first read that I thought it was sooo cool!  Unfortunately for me I was never able to make much use of it because A) when the backpack is on my back I can't bend that way, B) I am usually in situations where I can just open the main compartment , and C) I usually have stuff shoved in those side compartments to eek every last bit of travel capacity. Also, the whole innards of the backpack can be pulled out to transform the backpack into a ....... backpack :) 

Two other things that are really nice about the Tenba are that it works great for a hiking type backpack because you can easily carry different size tripods and other gear like a jack or things that you can strap in.  This backpack is also water resistant with weather sealed zippers.  And it has a rain jack thingie that you can wrap around the entire backpack for even more weather resistance. Perfect if you live anywhere OTHER than San Diego where it's sunny most of the year.

A few things I felt were lacking about the Tenba are that it didn't have as much miscellaneous storage as I wanted.  The inner pocket has a weird V shape that doesn't quite maximize the use of space.  Also, the pens that I stored always seemed to get pushed out. 
Here's a photo I stole from Tenba's site:

One day I read a review about the ThinkTank Airport Addicted v2.0 and thought I'd try it out. So I bought it and switched over to it for a little while.

One thing I really like about the ThinkTank is its rectangular shape which really maximizes what you can carry within the size confines.  I can fit quite a bit more in the ThinkTank than I can in the Tenba.  The ThinkTank also has two huge pockets that I can throw all kinds of random things like cables, CF Cards, etc.  There's also another flip-down pocket that I can put other things and there are a few other outside small pockets that I throw business cards and napkins in.

thinktank airport addicted v2.0 inside

For my laptop, the ThinkTank comes with a little mini carrying case.  It is cool except for the fact that you can't really carry everything you need like a power supply and travel mouse.  You can kind of jam it into the external pouch but it makes the laptop case look like it's pregnant.  It also makes life a little more difficult when you want to fly with this backpack and also take your laptop.  When I've traveled with this backpack I ended up putting my laptop in a different bag. 

A few things on my wish list for v3: the Tenba has click-straps that secure the backpack in addition to the zipper.  Every time I throw my backpack on I'm worried if I forgot to zip up the backpack or if the zipper will break.  Having the cinch straps is a nice sanity check.  Also, many times I'll just click the straps and not zip up the zippers when I just need to quickly transport the backpack from one end of the room to the other.  I also wish that cameras were stored on its side like I can with the Tenba.  The two reasons for this is that I feel space is maximized just a touch more this way.  Also, I really like being able to pop in and out CF cards without having to remove the entire camera. 

I have traveled a medium amount with both backpacks.  Both are small enough to be carry-ons and can barely fit underneath the seats of most planes. 

Without much hoopla, I'll just announce that my personal choice of backpack is the ThinkTank Airport Addicted v2.  It just seems to fit my needs a little better as it carries much more gear than the Tenba and it has many more useful pockets.  Also, it actually is slightly smaller in overall space it takes up than the Tenba so it is easier to travel with.   One thing to note is that on Amazon the Tenba is $189 and the ThinkTank is $329.  That's quite a substantial difference.  For me, the benefits are more than worth the price difference. 

That's it folks! These were just some of my random thoughts about both backpacks. Definitely hit me up with comments or questions about anything and I can weigh in on any more personal questions you might have for either. 

Thanks for Reading!