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Traveling with Think Tank Photo's Urban Access 15

Traveling with Think Tank Photo's Urban Access 15

Urban Access™ 15 Backpack

After years (actually decades) of relying mostly on shoulder bags and some messenger bags for travel photography my back and shoulders finally rebelled. Backpacks, like I've used quite a bit for my wildlife photography, are an obvious answer. But most of them don't provide a handy way to work directly from the pack. Or if they do, like Think Tank's own Trifecta, they aren't large enough to accommodate my 15-inch laptop (currently a , before that a ). So I was excited to get the new to use on my extended European trip.

The trip was a combination of business meetings, travel photography projects, drone flights, and some visiting with friends, so it included a bit of everything. The was versatile enough to handle all of that. For travel, I packed it with my laptop, Nikon D850 DSLR, Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, a good array of adapters, chargers, food for the flight, and spare batteries (which you can't check in baggage any more). My jacket and a water bottle went on the outside. In that configuration, my drone, controller, Osmo Mobile 3 gimbal, and Nikon 70-200mm f/4 lens were carefully packed in cases in my checked luggage. The top pocket had room for my sunglasses, portable translator, SD card wallet (in the separate little velcro-closed pocket), sunscreen, and protein bars. There is a pocket on the front of the backpack, also, where I sometimes stored a rain jacket.

When planning to fly one of my Mavic Pro drones, it went in the along with its controller. Conversely, if I was out on a photo expedition, my Nikon 70-200mm f/4 took the place of the drone. My laptop stayed back at the hotel, but there was room for my Surface Pro or 10-inch tablet in the laptop sleeve. In both cases, there was also room for the Osmo Mobile 3 gimbal for my phone. In a pinch I probably could have packed all of this at once, but it was nice not to have the bag crammed too full.

I found it easy to shift the pack off one shoulder and move it around to the front for quick access to my D850. It'd be even easier with a mirrorless or smaller DSLR. I'm not sure I'd want to try it with a D5, though. Traveling across 6 countries in 3 weeks, everything was well protected, and the bag held together perfectly. The shoulder straps are extremely comfortable, even with the pack stuffed full of gear. As you'd expect, it fit nicely in the overhead compartments of both the regional and long-haul jets I took it on.

The pack has a fairly plain black exterior, but the black cloth look gives it a nice feel compared to the Trifecta, in my opinion. Dust and dirt brushed off it pretty easily. There is an included rain cover, which I tested to make sure it fit, but I haven’t needed to use it yet. There is a nice tripod attachment system, but I wound up using the top strap portion of it simply to lash my jacket to the pack as I really don't like trying to pack around a full-size tripod unless I have to.

In general, the bag is easy to work out of. The one thing that takes a little getting used to is the opening of the main compartment from the back side. You need to be careful that when you grab the bag by the straps to lift it up that you’ve remembered to re-zip the main compartment. Similarly, if you are working with the main compartment open it isn’t easy to get into the small top pocket without spilling something.

Think Tank Urban Access 15: My New Photo Travel Backpack

For trips where I'm bringing my laptop along, the is definitely my new go-to backpack. If you don't need the capacity of the 15, and don't have a 15-inch laptop, it is also available as the Urban Access 13, which obviously holds up to 13-inch laptop.