Review: Think Tank Airport HeliPak
Disclosure: I am not sponsored by Think Tank and they have not given me any money to do this review. This review and it’s contents is purely my personal opinion. It has not been shaped in any form by anybody.As you might have read in my previous post I travel the world with my DJI Phantom 3 Professional in a Think Tank Airport HeliPak. I’ve had it for quite a while now, so its time to write a review about it.
I’m breaking the review up in a few parts;
- Reason of purchase.
- Think Tank the company.
- Why this bag?
- Other options.
- Bag overview.
- What’s in your bag?
- When to use it and when not to.
- Overall thoughts/Conclusion.
Reason of purchase
When I first got my DJI Phantom 2 I purchased a cheap Chinese fake Peli case with it to house it. I had read somewhere online that it would fit. After I got the item I had to cut out the form to make sure it would fit. I was pretty pleased with it myself.
Until I went to South Africa for work and had to climb this mammoth also known as Lions Head in Cape Town. No Stairs, no cable cart up like table mountain, just a 1.5 hours (with all our camera gear) rock climb up. Once up there the views are truly one of a kind, Cape Town, Table Mountain, the Bays, you can see them all. (on the picture below we are just half way. Lionshead is on the left!)
Anyways, it became quite apparent to me that I needed something to put my drone on my back while traveling. Laziness ‘prevented’ me from actually getting a backpack for my DJI Phantom 2. But when I got my DJI Phantom 3 Professional I knew I was buying one as soon as possible. And so should you.
Think Tank the company
Think Tank is a massive company that specialises in designing carrying solutions for photographers. Originally founded in 2005 by two designers and two photographers it is a young brand that literally spread like wildfire among professional photographers. And are now among, if not the best in the industry. I highly encourage you to look at their products here.
Why this bag?
Good question, for me it was a couple of things;
- I wanted a bag that would fit more then just my drone and some spares.
- It had to meet airline carry-on regulations as I always fly it carry-on (find out why here).
- I already own a Think Tank product and highly recommend them.
- If it could work as a launch pad that would be a bonus.
- Among myself many of my friends and colleagues believe in the Think Tank products, they are tried and tested.
- Good protection of all items inside the bag, not just the drone.
Luckily for me the Think Tank Airport HeliPak fits everything that I was looking for in a bag for my drone.
I’ve obviously looked into other options. With a 239.75 dollar price tag it is a pretty heavy price for a bag.
Other bags I looked into;
- Alphapack backpack ($229)
- GoProfessional Phantom 3 Backpack ($189)
- DJI Phantom 3 hardshell ($149)
- EShine backpack ($109)
Unfortunately for me, all of these lacked one of the following: No extra space to pack anything else but the drone, to clunky build, hard to handle in the field. For me these are pretty important and in my case I don’t mind spending a bit extra on a bag if that back has exactly what I want. This does not mean any of these bags are a bad choice. They might be a very good option for your use case/price range.
On first sight it is a very strong and sturdy bag. It is however incredibly square and therefor looks rather bulky on your back. This might be an issue for some people. The build quality is what we can expect from Think Tank. Really well build and thought out. From the separate laptop compartment on the outside to the straps to get it easily out of the overhead cabins. This bag is made to fly.
The outside of the bag features 2 carry handles. One on the top and one on the side of the bag, there is an additional strap on the bottom of the bag for those times your bag is in the overhead cabin storage (very well thought out). There are two shoulder straps to wear the bag as a backpack and it features nice padding on the back which makes it comfortable to wear, even with a heavy payload inside.
There is an outside pocket which features a laptop storage that will fit 15inch laptops and all tablets. Here is also where you can keep things that you often have to reach for. Passport, documents (operations manual, local rules and regulations), pens, notepads, keys, etc.
When we open the Helipak you can see four see through pouches perfect for your (spare) props, sd cards, cloths and filters. The main compartment is where the drone sits and it is surprisingly big. It has padding that is shaped in the form of the DJI Phantom 3 (Standard, Advancedor Professional) and has a ton of extra compartments for batteries, controllers and other stuff.
This is the big advantage this bag has over lots of others. While it still has adequate protection for the drone it is not completely foamed up like most other drone backpacks. Which gives it a lot of space to carry extra’s. For me, this is especially useful because it means I can take my laptop, iPad and headphones with me in the airplane (or anywhere really).
In the main compartment is also where we find the rain cover that is provided with the bag. While the bag is not waterproof, the rain cover makes sure your drone stays dry should it start to rain when you are out in the field.
One thing to note is that your drone will not fit into the bag with it’s propellors on. This is probably a major downside for some. However it only takes 20 seconds to put on the propellors and thus shouldn’t add to much time. Because of this the bag also comes with thread protector caps (or rather bag protector caps) to make sure the threads don’t poke holes on the inside of the bag when it’s full.
Whats in your bag?
This is where the Think Tank Airport HeliPak is king. To show you how much fits in this bag I will list all the items I took with me on my recent trip to Istanbul, Turkey;
- DJI Phantom 3 Professional.
- DJI Controller.
- 4 x DJI Phantom 3 Batteries.
- Propellors + Spare set.
- Canon 7D mark II
- Canon 50mm F/1.8 STM II (fantastic little lens!)
- Canon 17-55mm IS
- 2 x Lacie rugged harddrives.
- 13 inch Macbook Air. (best purchase ever, writing this review on it!)
- iPad Air 2.
- GoPro Hero 4.
- GoPro Hero 3+.
- Couple of GoPro mounts.
- Iphone charger.
- Portable battery.
This obviously isn’t in my bag all day every day, but it gives a good insight to how much this bag can actually carry. Compare that to the DJI Phantom hardshell (yes it is half the price) but they are worlds apart. For me, that alone is worth every extra penny.
When to use it and when not to.
This bag is a great all round bag to carry your drone in. Wether it is on your normal day to day shoots, while camping, hiking, traveling or any other thing you can do. The only time I would swap the bag out for a Peli case is when you want to check in your bag when traveling abroad (consider taking it as hand luggage though).
After using this bag for quite a while now I have to say it’s about as perfect as a backpack for your drone can get. It fit’s an insane amount of equipment, feels comfortable on your back and shoulders and has a support belt should you need it. It’s perfect as the day to day carry for your drone and can even be used as a launchpad for your drone. I have yet to come across something I don’t like about the bag except maybe that it is a bit bulky (but what do you expect with all this room, right?). I can honestly say that I can not recommend this bag enough for any amateur or professional drone flyer. It’s build to last and will be with you for years to come when you buy it. Its the perfect companion to your drone.
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