Rolling bags are a great way to carry your camera gear when traveling by air, but if you’ve also packed your clothes into a separate rolling bag, dealing with two isn’t easy. That’s where the Tenba Roadie Hybrid Roller 21 comes in. It’s a bag that rolls when you want it to, but converts into a backpack for when you have another roller in tow.
At $400, the Roadie Hybrid isn’t cheap, but it’s built to last. It features a tough exterior shell and padded inserts to keep gear safe during travel, even when sliding around in an overhead bin on a turbulent flight. The back panel unzips to reveal two hidden backpack straps, making it easier to grab your additional luggage from baggage claim after you land. For our Tenba Roadie Hybrid Roller 21 review, we took it across country, through three airports and back again, and it kept our gear easy to access and, more importantly, safe.
The Tenba Roadie fits standard carry-on dimensions for most international and U.S. domestic airlines, yet can pack in two pro-sized DSLRs, 8-10 lenses, a 17-inch laptop, a tripod and lots of accessories. Or, if you don’t have quite so many lenses, you can fill the gaps with personal items to avoid extra baggage fees.
A separate padded insert accommodates a camera body, lens and flash, with handles that make it easy to remove your most important gear in a matter of seconds. That same insert can then be placed into a compatible messenger bag or backpack. The rest of the main compartment uses traditional velcro dividers, which can be arranged to meet your specific needs.
The dividers and roomy size of the main compartment allow for a nearly infinite number of possible combinations, with room for big telephoto lenses up to a 400mm f/2.8. Both a crop-sensor DSLR and a full frame body fit nicely, as well as a number of mid-sized zoom lenses and a hot shoe flash.
The Tenba Roadie Hybrid 21 has enough room for lenses up to a 400mm f/2.8 in size.
The lid, which houses the laptop compartment, is secured to the bag via two straps, so it won’t slam on the floor when opened. The lid also has four interior pockets constructed from a semi-translucent, stronger-than-average mesh liner, perfect for storing memory cards, batteries, and other accessories.
At the side with the handle, the bag has a TSA-approved cable and padlock that tucks away in a small pocket when not in use. On the opposite side, an expanding pocket can accommodate a small tripod — tripods longer than about 15 inches folded are going to extend past the height of the bag, which could prevent the bag from fitting in overhead compartments.
While it’s built to carry-on dimensions, the Roadie is designed to be tough enough to handle any curve balls in your travel plans (we had to gate check it on one flight as overhead bins were full, and our gear survived unscathed). The bottom and sides of the bag are so stiff that we had trouble even forcing them to bend. The top compartment is more flexible, but the interior top panels provide additional protection. The laptop sleeve doesn’t quite get the same level of protection, but is about the same as your average soft laptop bag .
We can’t vouch for what the bag will look like five years from now, but the material feels very durable and didn’t show signs of snags or wear after a week long trip. The zippers and handles all feel exactly like what you’d expect for a $400 bag. A weather cover is also included.
Comfort and accessibility
As a rolling camera bag, the Roadie Hybrid is simply excellent — but what about those backpack straps?
Wearing it as a backpack felt like, well, like strapping a suitcase to your back. To allow the most room inside, there’s no ergonomic padding, so the same stiff bottom panel that keeps gear safe also means there’s no contour to fit the bag to your back. That, combined with the potential for the bag to be incredibly heavy when it’s full of gear, means the backpack carry option isn’t what we’d call comfortable.
While we wouldn’t wear the bag on a long hike, the versatility of having both rolling and backpack options made traveling a bit simpler. Hopefully, you only need to wear it either before checking your other bag or after picking it up from baggage claim. Here, the hybrid capability proved easier than trying to roll two bags out of the airport at once. You can also carry the Roadie like an oversized briefcase thanks to grab handles on the top and side.
The Tenba Roadie Hybrid 21 is a bag that makes traveling with pricey camera gear a bit less stressful, thanks to its security, protection, and convenience (see our best travel cameras if you’d rather not lug a bag full of gear with you). It’s not cheap, but when it comes to protecting expensive gear on a long flight, its tough design offers some peace of mind — and that can be invaluable.