Review: Think Tank FirstLight 46L+

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If you’re a travelling photographer, and like me, hate having to check-in any of your camera equipment when flying - especially any expensive large prime lenses - the Think Tank FirstLight 46L+ might really be something to consider.

Why? Simply, it’s not only a comfortable in-field camera backpack, but it pushes to the limit, without going over, the current allowable size for carry-on luggage for many Australian domestic carriers.

Image: ThinkTank


First and foremost the thing to note for this bag are its dimensions. With an external length of 55cm, width of 35cm, and a depth of 23cm, the FirstLight 46L dimensions virtually match (without going over) the maximum carry-on luggage allowance for many Australia’s major domestic airlines.

This is great, and I’ll give you a big prime example (excuse the pun) below!

The way it’s designed also allows you to securely wrap the shoulder straps and waist belt around the front, allowing for more compact storage in an overhead locker as well reducing the chance these will become entangled with other people’s baggage.

Here, I've packed a Sony 600mm f/4 prime (detached), a 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6, a 24-70mm f/2.8 and two camera bodies with batteries into it, and all for a weight under 10kg. Image: Doug Gimesy
Here, I've packed a Sony 600mm f/4 prime (detached), a 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6, a 24-70mm f/2.8 and two camera bodies with batteries into it, and all for a weight under 10kg. Image: Doug Gimesy

And unlike most traditional backpacks, it also comes with grab handles placed on the top, the bottom and the side, making it much easier for you to put in and take out of an overhead locker (or any compartment really like the boot of a taxi).

As the name implies, the FirstLight 46L+ has a 46L capacity (which due to an expandable front pocket, actually increase this by another 4 litres).

It comes with water bottle pockets on both sides, a waist-belt stash pocket and a 3.5 litre removable floating top pocket, allowing you to pack soft items under it, or can be taken off and be converted into a belt pack.

There are also more than ten different organizational pockets that are sized and placed for various purposes, and the inside is very very configurable.

But what does this size and configurability mean in a practical sense?

Well on one recent trip I could easily pack in a Sony 600mm f/4 prime (detached), a 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6, a 24-70mm f/2.8 and two camera bodies with batteries into it, and all for a weight that was under 10kg.

I could of course have included much more into the space left over (e.g. 6 camera batteries, 2 flashes, a flash trigger, 4 lens filters, a laptop, as well as another small prime lens), but that would have taken me well over the 10kg carry on limit or my carrier, and I would never do that...!).

Construction/ In the field

Made of ballistic nylon, ripstop nylon, using 3 ply bonded thread and abrasion resistant YKKRCC zippers, a durable water-repellent coating on the outside (and it does come with a rain cover if required), and sturdy sides, the FirstLight 46L+ is - like all Think Tank products that I have tried – easily tough enough for what I put my equipment through.

With a contoured, 11-point adjustable harness system, weight distribution was fine and it felt pretty comfortable, however I didn’t take it on multi-day long hikes which ThinkTank suggest it could be used for.

Image: ThinkTank

As with many other ThinkTank backpacks, a feature it had and I always like, is the option to carry a tripod both on the front or side, and when carrying it on the front, the really cool tuck-away 'cup' system that supports the tripod base. 

‘Throwing it off’ onto the ground to get quick access to my equipment (and I must stop doing that), everything seemed well protected in the sturdy padded construction, and I had no equipment issues.

But speaking of needing to take it off to get equipment access, if there was one thing that niggled me, was exactly that requirement; having to take it off to get access to equipment.

Image: ThinkTank

Having used ThinkTank’s BackLight Series for years, I’m now a big fan of the ability to access my equipment without having to take my bag off (and in doing so potentially getting it dirty or wet).


Everything in life is a compromise of course. So if you don’t need to carry a large piece of glass onto a plane, or don’t want to max out potential carry-on baggage dimensions when flying, then whilst the ThinkTank is a solid performer, I’m guessing there may be other bags in the ThinkTank family that could be better for you.

For example, something in the excellent BackLight Range that I mentioned above (and has been reviewed before) as they are lighter, a little more comfortable for me, and give you the option to access to your equipment whilst still wearing it.

But if you need a camera bag that will allow you to easily take and protect a large lens onto a plane, or a bag that will allow you space to carry lots of equipment in one bag without exceeding many of Australia’s current domestic carrier dimension limits, and also having a very functional backpack style bag to use once you get off the plane, then I’d say the FirstLight 46L+ is really something to consider.

How is works and handles as a piece of carry-on luggage - its sturdiness, as well as its functionality as an in-field backpack - is excellent, and is now my go-to bag when travelling on a plane and taking a large prime lens, or lots of photography equipment.

The Think Tank FirstLight 46L+ has an RRP of $829, and is distributed locally by Blonde Robot. 

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