The Bottom Line: The Mountainsmith Boarding Pass FX is specialized rolling luggage with the photographer in mind. With this piece, outdoor manufacturer Mountainsmith worked with one of its brand pros, nature photographer Keith Ladzinski, to design a case for photographers who find themselves frequently on the go.
With a dual-shaft telescoping handle and rolling wheels on the bottom, this case is capable of air travel. The dimensions fall within carry-on size requirements, but the case has a build that is tough enough for it to be checked as well. A few features of the case include zippered-expansion capabilities along with four exterior compression straps, water resistant exterior fabric panels, neoprene-padded handles, a TSA-approved lock for the main compartment, a removable padded daypack that fits into the main compartment for camera body and gear, an exterior pocket with straps for a tripod, and an ID card sleeves. In short, what Mountainsmith has built is a rugged case combining the company's experience with outdoor pack and case manufacturing with an aim geared toward traveling photographers.
I'm going to assume that most other photographers share my sense of picky specificity when considering a new camera bag or case. And at prices that rival those of camera accessories themselves, I usually have to be sure that a larger case will work for me before going through with the purchase. I travel frequently, both by car and plane, and need a case that can be relied on to soften the shifting and banging of constant movement for my assortment of lenses and camera bodies that can easily stack up against the price of a car. On top of that, I'm pretty particular about wanting a lot of small pockets so that I know exactly where each accessory of mine is located at any given time.
Mountainsmith's Boarding Pass FX was honestly a surprisingly good fit for my specific demands for a case! Prior to the Boarding Pass FX, I was using a large waterproof hardcase with adjustable dividers. This case was fine for lenses, but it had only one additional pocket for everything else. The Boarding Pass FX, meanwhile, has pockets everywhere! But I'll get to that in a second...
The Boarding Pass FX is two separate cases. There is an outer case containing two wheels for rolling and a telescoping dual-shafted handle along with three zippered inner pockets and a couple of large sleeve-type compartments for a laptop or tablet. The outer case has a water resistant finish to it with straps to guarantee against accidental opening and a TSA-approved locking mechanism. Neoprene handles on the top and side edges give it a rugged feel. It was definitely manufactured with the intention of being able to be checked as luggage - I've always opted to carry mine on, as it fits the carry on dimensions and I tend to just not trust allowing my camera gear to leave my side.
The inner case is a firm canvas that nestles perfectly inside the outer case. This also has a rectangular build, and there are additional zippered compartments that are suitable for small pieces of gear like batteries and memory cards as well as larger ones that can also fit a tablet or laptop. The main bulk of this case is made up of a space with cushioned customizable dividers. These can be adjusted in nearly any fashion desired, limited only by the dividers' shapes of two long dividers with multiple small ones.
To satisfy my craving for different compartments and pockets, this rolling case has 10 different pockets and sleeves, not counting a couple of use-specific pockets like the one for a tripod on the outside of the inner case or the ID card pocket on the outer case.
One feature that I initially assumed would just be excessive was the backpack straps on the back of the inner case. However, having had shoots where I park a couple of blocks away from the location, I opted to throw on the backpack rather than rolling the entire case along with me. I've changed my mind and decided that the backpack feature is a great added bonus to this case.
This has quickly become my go-to case for travel, as well as local shoots. If I'm to name any negatives, it's that the water-resistant surface of the outer case will quickly get dirty. Only available in black, mine soon became a magnet for dusty abrasions and whatnot, though this doesn't affect the functionality of the case at all.
The second would just be that the backpack aspect of the inner case doesn't feel like it could be an everyday outdoor backpack for camera gear. Walking a few blocks would be fine, but there is only a single large flap to access the gear inside, requiring the entire front end to be unzipped in order to open it. This would prevent the wearer from grabbing anything quickly or on the go. Those things aside though, this case has been great for transporting gear on my trips. In terms of unzipping, the outer case unzips and opens with hinges on the side length, while the inner case unzips and opens with hinges on the bottom, so the outer case must be opened completely to then open the inner case. Not a huge deal, but it means if you're digging into the back of your car, you won't be able to pack anything on top of this and still get it open. A possible time-saver would have been to have both open the same way.
The ruggedness, the customizable large compartment, the numerous stash pockets and gear compartments, and the feel of how solidly the neoprene-coated handles and dual-shafted telescoping handle are built have left me pretty satisfied with this taking over as my new traveling case. In the past, I've found Mountainsmith's photography-line of products to be developed with a specific type of use in mind, and sometimes that aligns with my habits and needs and sometimes it doesn't. But as far as my desires in a case that is both protective and portable for frequent trips where photography is a primary activity, the Boarding Pass FX seems to have been made with my desires in mind.