The Think Tank Video Tripod Manager 44 was unveiled towards the end of 2017 and it immediately garnered my interest. When it comes to good tripod bags that are designed to be put into the hull of an aircraft, there aren’t many choices. The Think Tank Video Tripod 44 was designed for this very purpose.
As someone who spent many years travelling continually around the world with equipment, one of the biggest headaches was always when it came to transporting my tripod. A large 100mm bowl head professional tripod by its very nature takes up a lot of space no matter how you decide to pack it. You could always go the lightweight solution of just putting it in a soft tripod bag, but while that may save you some excess bag charges, it offers almost no protection for your tripod. The other option is to put your tripod in a heavier, larger case that offers a lot more protection but then you may face quite hefty excess luggage charges.
Most modern-day tripod legs are made out of carbon fibre, as weight for weight, carbon fibre offers 2 to 5 times more rigidity (depending on the fibre used) than aluminium and steel. This rigidity is great, but carbon fibre can crack, splinter or break like most other materials. At a network organisation I used to work for, we had several cases of tripods that were packed in soft Sachtler bags that turned up at the luggage carousel damaged or in some cases totally destroyed. One such tripod bag was just full of shards of broken carbon fibre. According to the airlines report the tripod had fallen off the baggage transport truck and had been run over by a truck. Needless to say, if you don’t have gear insurance an airline is only going to pay you out around $300 USD, which is little compensation for a destroyed professional tripod.
Over the years I have tried a variety of solutions for transporting my tripod. Everything from the soft Sachtler bag to a slightly more padded Petrol tripod bag, a Sachtler Cover ENG II Hard Shipping Case and even the large Sachtler Roll-Along Tripod Cage. I found the soft Sachtler bag just lead to my tripod getting damaged. The Sachtler Cover ENG II Hard Shipping Case was great but it had no wheels and it was always getting checked by customs officials. The Petrol bag was pretty good as it almost looked like a golf bag, but it was awkward to use and get your tripod in and out of. For the past few years I have been using the large Sachtler Roll-Along Tripod Cage, and while it has done the job, I have been frustrated by how hard it is to pull your tripod in and out of the case and the wheels on the bag aren’t particularly great.
So this leads me to the Think Tank Video Tripod Manager 44. It’s no secret that I like Think Tank bags. I’ve been using their bags over the last few years mainly because they are built for punishment and the equipment I use not only fits inside well, but also securely. I’m a sucker for equipment that is built to last and isn’t going to fall apart in a few years time.
The Think Tank Video Tripod 44 is made specifically to hold cinema sized tripods, stands, sliders and anything else up to 40″ (101.6cm) in length. The case is a well-cushioned, and the rolling case provides hard case protection with soft case convenience. Some of the other key features of the bag include:
- Crush-resistant ABS twin-wall reinforcement for impact protection
- Shock-absorbing wheels
- Protective zipper flap
- Internal pockets
- Straps so that the lid stays open
While you do get the soft case convenience, the Video Tripod Manager 44 shouldn’t be confused with being lightweight, it’s far from it. The bag alone, before you put anything in it weighs 8kg (17.8lb). To put that weight in perspective below is a list of some of the other options available and their weight:
- Sachtler Cover ENG II Hard Shipping Case – 3.8kg (8.4lb)
- Sachtler Roll-Along Tripod Cage (Large) – 5.3kg (11.6lb)
- Sachtler ENG 2 Padded Bag – 1.65kg (3.6lb)
- HPRC 6500TRIB Wheeled Hard Case for Tripods with Soft Interiors Kit – 6.2 kg (13.6lb)
- Nalpak TP-1141WH 11″ Tuffpak Series Hard Tripod Case with Wheels – 7.71kg (17lb)
- Tenba 48″ Rolling Tripod/Grip Case – 5.4kg (12lb)
- Porta Brace TLQB-39XT Quick Tripod/Light Case – 2.3kg (5.0lb)
As you can see the Video Tripod 44 is heavier than a lot of the other options that are available and this is something you do need to take into account if you plan on getting one.
More handles than Kyrie Irving
What I like about Think Tank bags is that they always carefully think (no pun intended) through how someone is going to use the bag. In the case of the Video Tripod Manager 44, Think Tank has put eight handles (a top handle, a bottom handle, and six side handles), on four sides. This makes picking it up and loading the bag into a vehicle a lot easier. The four handles also allow someone else to help you pick the bag up and carry it if need be.
These handles are very robust and are easy to hold onto. I found it a lot more convenient to pick it up by myself when comparing to other large tripod bags I have used despite the weight. Sometimes if you are walking up or down stairs you need to hold the tripod bag on the top & side to get it around corners and having the ability to grab the case on any side in this way was a big advantage.
The rectangular shape is also nicer than having a tubular design as it’s easier to stack things on top of the bag when you are transporting it inside vehicles. Tubular cases are horrible because you can’t put anything on top of them or place them on top of anything else without having them roll around. I like the rectangular design, but you do have to take into account that the physical length of the bag is 44.5″ (113cm) so it may not fit in the back of some smaller vehicles.
The Video Tripod Manager 44 has very robust shock-absorbing wheels that are protected inside tall wheel housings. These wheel housings protect the wheels from impacts on escalators as well as curbs. In another nice touch, if the wheels wear out over time they can user-replaced. I’m not 100% sure, but I believe this is the only tripod bag available where you can replace the wheels by yourself.
I found the wheels to be really good and it makes transporting the bag over uneven terrain such as pebbles or dirt a lot easier. You need to remember that the wheels have to be able to support a lot of weight, as they are bearing all of the load of the case when it’s being wheeled. With most other tripod bags the wheels always seem like an afterthought. I have had quite a few wheels break on other tripod bags over the years. There is almost no point in making a rolling tripod bag if the wheels are crap, fortunately, Think Tank have incorporated some of the best wheels I’ve ever used on a case.
Think Tank uses two skid rails on the back of the bag that help elevate it off the ground when you put the Video Tripod 44 on the ground. This helps protect the bag from both moisture and getting damaged on an uneven surface.
The Little Things Make All The Difference
The main compartment can be opened by pulling up the integrated touch-tab that protects the zippers during transportation. All you do after that is pull the zippers around the bag and pull up the front panel.
The front panel stays up by itself thanks to the touch-tab straps that create two hinges. These hinges prevent the front panel from opening upwards at an angle greater than approximately 90°. This is one of the nicest features of this bag as it makes it easy to access everything within the case without fighting to keep the lid open all the time. The Sachtler Roll-Along Tripod Cage that I had previously been using was horrible in this regard. As that bag uses fold over flaps the lid doesn’t stay open and it makes getting your tripod in and out a real pain.
On the underside of the top panel there are two zippered, mesh pockets which can be used to store and organize gaffer tape, cables, tools, or in my case, the tripod plate and pan handle. It is really handy having these mesh pockets as they allow you to keep some of those necessary items that you need to have with your tripod.
Where the tripod feet sit Think Tank have used an internal bottom lining that features an easy-to-clean surface. This is smart as tripod feet inevitably come into contact with all sorts of nasty substances.
Plenty Of Extra Space
I was using the Video Tripod Manager 44 with my Sachtler 18P S2 and I found that not only was there enough room for the tripod, but also enough space to have a small segmented divider above the position of the tripod head where I could put a bag with a bunch of grips and mounts. If I’m going to use a larger tripod bag then I want to take advantage of that added size, so usually, I also keep an extra light stand, boom pole, and Matthews Road Rag frame in there as well. This is exactly what I was dong when I was using the Sachtler Roll-Along Tripod Cage, and it’s what I’m now doing with the Video Tripod 44.
Other nice little touches include tie-down straps for the tripod which cleverly Think Tank have designed with velcro on the top of them so that the buckles can be fastened to stay out of your way when you are putting the tripod in or taking it out of the bag.
There is also adjustable cushions in the main compartment that can be moved around to support your tripod head or legs depending on what your personal preference may be.
Like most Think Tank bags the Video Tripod Manager 44 comes with a lock and cable system that secures the entire rolling case to a fixed object. This is a nice feature if you are at an event and don’t want someone just walking off with your tripod bag. You may think this sort of thing doesn’t happen, but it has happened to me before.
On the top of the bag, there is a clear pocket that can be used to hold documents for easy retrieval, a contents label, or owner information. This is handy for rental facilities or TV stations so they can clearly identify what is in the bag.
So How Much Is This Going To Set Me Back?
The Video Tripod manager 44 retails for $379.45 USD, and if you happen to live in the US, and you buy directly from Think Tank, then that includes free shipping. The $379.45 USD price tag makes the Video Tripod manager 44 competitively priced against other similar options that can be seen below:
- Sachtler Cover ENG II Hard Shipping Case- $427.50 USD
- Sachtler Roll-Along Tripod Cage (Large)- $337.25 USD
- HPRC 6500TRIB Wheeled Hard Case for Tripods with Soft Interiors Kit- $388.40 USD
- Nalpak TP-1141WH 11″ Tuffpak Series Hard Tripod Case with Wheels- $324.95 USD
What’s important to remember here, and something that shouldn’t be overlooked, is that if you are the original owner, Think Tank guarantees and warrants their products against any defects in material or workmanship for as for long as you use the product. This is impressive as there aren’t many companies around that offer this sort of guarantee on any product. Bags are like tripods, if you buy a good one it’s going to last you a very long time.
Real World Usability
All these features are great, but what is it actually like to use the Video Tripod Manager 44 out in the field? In all honesty, I have found some things that I like and some that I don’t. I love the construction of the bag, the features, the great wheels, and all the other small details that make Think Tank bags so good. The biggest downside for me is the weight, and a lot of potential buyers really do need to be aware of it, because it could be a deal breaker. By the time you take into consideration the weight of the bag (8kg), and the weight of say a Sachtler Video 18 S2 Fluid Head & ENG 2 CF Tripod System with Mid-Level Spreader (7.25kg) you are already up to 15.25Kg. While this may not sound like a lot, it is, as the weight is spread out over a larger area. This does mean it’s harder to pick up and carry than say a smaller bag with the same weight. Although picking it up is relatively easy given all of the handles on the bag, carrying it down a few flights of stairs is still a challenge, and you really do need to be careful of your back.
The other problem is due to the physical length and weight of the bag. Because the wheels are located on the bottom, the centre of gravity when you are wheeling it is halfway along the bag and not where the wheels are located. This means that a lot of the weight is going to be felt directly by the person wheeling the bag. This isn’t a dig at Think Tank because every bag like this faces the exact same problem.
Despite the issue of weight, the Video Tripod Manager 44 still offers a ton of features that other tripod bags don’t. If you travel a lot (especially on planes) then this bag makes a lot of sense, especially because of the additional space it has that allows you to put other equipment in there as well as your tripod. If you are using vehicles a lot, the bag also works well as you can pack other items on top, if need be. If you are a run and gun operator who takes a lot of public transport then this bag probably isn’t for you.
Unfortunately, in my opinion, there really isn’t one perfect tripod bag that covers all situations. To go lightweight you sacrifice protection, to go protection, you sacrifice lightweight. This is why I still go between using the Sachtler ENG 2 Padded Bag, and the Video Tripod Manager 44. It really is a case of choosing the right tool for the job, and while the Video Tripod Manager 44 is going to be great for some shooters and applications, it’s certainly not for everyone.