Think Tank Urban Disguise 40 Camera Bag Review

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, March 2009
Manufactured by: Think Tank Photo
Requires: An interest in photography and some photography gear to carry
MSRP: US$149.99

Think Tank Photo has developed its Urban Disguise series for people who need a serious shoulder bag for photo gear, but who also don't want to look like they're actually carrying such gear. Enter the popular shoulder/attache configuration, but with Think Tank's usual unique approach to design. With seven bags in the series, from the diminutive model 10 up to the large model 60, Think Tank has created a very complete line of shoulder bags with incremental sizing. What that means, simply, is that it's possible to find the exact size bag you need in this line. If you've ever had a concern about operating professionally in tough urban or regional locations or simply traveling with camera gear in or through rough urban areas or densely busy environments (airports, crowded street, events & exhibitions, etc.), the Urban Disguise series may be exactly what you need.

The Think Tank Urban Disguise 40 is a narrow profile, soft-side, attache-style shoulder bag. It is essentially an oblong main compartment secured by a top zipper. Two smaller compartments are attached to the front of the main compartment and covered by a front flap which itself contains a wide, zippered storage slot. The bag has two stretchable, non-zippered side pockets, and a pair of nested, flat, rear slot compartments, one of which has a zippered bottom edge that can be opened up in order to slide the bag over the handle of a luggage trolley or the handle of rolling luggage.


The shoulder strap features metal carabiner-type snap clips which attach to a d-ring on either end of the bag, or to a pair of d-rings at the top rear corners of the bag. There is another pair of d-rings on the lower rear edge of the bag which can either be hidden in their corner keepers or pulled out to combine with the upper pair as attachment points for an optional shoulder harness. A pair of leather-grip top handles provide a secure hand carry. A transparent, reinforced poly business card slot is located on the upper left back of the bag and has sufficient capacity to hold a dozen cards behind its velcro closure. Although the Urban Disguise 40 is not designed to carry a conventional laptop computer, the zippered front flap compartment holds an Acer Aspire One, Eee PC, or Dell Mini 9 netbook with a bit of room to spare. The exterior shell is made of treated and back-sealed Cordura. All outer shell seams are sealed. Zipper stitching is looped and heat-fused at the seams. All the zipper tabs have braided pulls. The zipper tabs for the main compartment have integrated loops which can be secured with a TSA lock, zip tie or cable tie. The bag is supplied with a PeeWee Pixel Pocket Rocket folding memory card holder on a tether, as well as a tethered all-weather cover made of nylon.

The Urban Disguise 40, like its brethren in the line, is relatively quiet bag. There are two patches of light duty velcro located on the lower edge of the front flap which augment the snap clip closure. The top quality YKK zippers have quiet nylon tracks and pulls silenced by braided cord. The outer flap accessory compartment and the inner accessory compartment on the front of the body are both zippered. The front camera body compartments are not zippered and can be used to carry anything from SLR bodies without a lens attached, or anything else that's moderately bulky (e.g., extension tubes, thick filter cases, a flashgun and so on). The Urban Disguise 40 does not have exterior accessory pouch loops of any kind, but has integrated stretchy side pockets instead. They're strong and very useful, but the attachment d-rings for the shoulder strap are mounted immediately above the top of the pouch openings which can occasionally interfere with quick access (depending on the size of whatever it is you've stuffed into the side pouches - they're very strong). If you're carrying bulk in the stretch pockets, attach the shoulder strap to the top rear d-rings instead. Providing a couple of choices for shoulder strap attachment points is an example of the thoughtfulness the designers bring to the Urban Disguise series.

The 1.5" (3.75cm) shoulder strap is the perfect width and its well-designed shoulder pad is in a fixed position, stitched to the strap. You'll need a couple of weeks of regular use to break in the pad, after which it will mold to your regular carry position quite nicely. The pad also features a very grippy, textured bottom surface which helps keep it in place at moderate angles on a variety of materials (we tried it on shirts, jackets and vests made variously of rip-stop nylon, wool, polyester, cotton and canvas). You can use the strap on either shoulder or use it sling style, but swinging the bag to the back means the stitched-in-place shoulder pad will shift enough to put the non-padded part of the strap on your shoulder. However, the width of the strap webbing is just big enough to distribute moderate loads effectively and without digging in too much. Think Tank appears to have sized the Urban Disguise 40 shoulder pad according to the maximum rated load for the bag. That's not a bad idea, but don't get discouraged when the shoulder pad still hasn't broken in fully after a couple of weeks of carrying relatively light loads. It will break in properly. You'll have to give it a bit more time.

To test the carrying capacity and integrity of the bag we loaded it with a Canon 1Ds MKII body and a Nikon D700 in the front body pouches, a Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS zoom (hood reversed), Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8 VR zoom (hood reversed), a Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 zoom (hood reversed), a Sigma 50mm f/1.4 (no hood), a Canon 430EX II flash in one side pocket, a Nikon SB-600 flash in the other side pocket, and an assortment of CF cards and other lightweight accessories. The load was ridiculous to say the least, and not something anyone at Kickstartnews would carry around for even half an hour without putting it down to rest. However, at events or specific location shoots, that's exactly the sort of load some Pros might haul. The Urban Disguise 40 held and protected the full load quite well and did not show any unusual deformation after a couple of days of hauling around all that kit. We carried the load at one outdoor and one indoor event. The outdoor event was the Toronto 175th birthday hoo-haw at Nathan Philips Square in front of Toronto city hall. The second event was an Indian wedding hosted by a business associate of ours for his daughter. After those two, half-day long events, we were thoroughly fed up with hauling all that gear, and for the rest of the review period dumped it in favor of a D700, 24-70 f/2.8, SB-600 flash, 70-200 VR zoom and the usual CF cards and accessories. Doing so allowed us to attach the 24-70 to the D700 and stow it in lens down in the center of the main compartment. The long top opening gapes slightly to move the kit in and out quickly. It absorbed some heavy duty abuse and came back for a lot more, looking good in the process. After three weeks of literally kicking it around, it still looked brand new . . . continued




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