A few months ago I began searching for a new backpack, since my previous workhorse bag, the Kata K102 was becoming too small and limited for me. As many landscape and outdoor photographers know all too well, finding the right backpack can be a frustrating experience, and I’ve tried and purchased more than I want to admit. These include bags from Kata, Lowepro, Tamrac, and Thinktank. I was beginning to give up until I discovered the GuraGear Kiboko bag designed by wildlife photographer Andy Biggs. It has become my primary backpack for both local hikes and extended trips, especially when I travel.
The perfect backpack for me doesn’t exist , but the GuraGear Kiboko bag is the closest I’ve found so far. This has to do with a combination of factors I look for in a bag including room for gear and extras, access to the gear when I need it, weight, comfort, and overall usability. On a whole the Kiboko excels in all of the areas. While it may not be the most comfortable backpack I own (my Osprey Talon takes the prize easily in that department, but it is not a camera bag), it provides most if not all of the functionality I need in a bag.
The first thing that struck me is the weight, which is important for me since I hike into most of my photo locations. It’s made of an incredibly strong and lightweight material which has held up well to the elements so far. At just under 4 pounds, this is the lightest backpack I’ve ever owned, and combined with a sturdy and relatively comfortable harness, it makes a real difference after a few miles on the trail. Another plus is that the shoulder and waist harness can be stowed away inside the back of the backpack, turning it into a regular bag that can be carried from the top or side.
Another big feature is the ease of getting access to my camera gear. Instead of having to open one big flap like other bags, the Kiboko uses a unique butterfly opening which means I only have to open one side or the other to get what I need. This prevents having everything fall out of my bag if I forget to close it, and also helps me organize my gear depending on the shoot. The inside compartments are highly configurable, and extra dividers are included for more customization. I tend to keep my main camera on one side with lenses and accessories, and a second camera used primarily for video on the other with accessories as well. On long hikes, I will trim down the gear and use the extra space for clothing and/or food, a luxury I rarely had with other camera backpacks, and a really important when heading out on long hikes. On road trips, I pack the following with ease:
- Canon 1Ds Mk III
- Canon 5D (backup body)
- Canon 17-40L Lens
- Canon 24-105L Lens
- Canon 70-200L 2.8 IS
- Panasonic GH1 w/ 14-140 lens (video)
- Canon 21mm FC lens
- Zoom H4n Audio Recorder
- Various filters (polarizers and ND grads)
- Extra batteries for all bodies
- lens hoods for all lenses
It also includes a built-in rain cover, and pockets on the outside for extra small items. like filters, extra batteries, and snacks. The zippers are easy to operate, and feel sturdy and strong. Overall, I really like this bag, and would have no hesitation recommending it to those who need a versatile, well designed backpack that can carry lots of gear on and off your back.
As most of you who are regular readers know, I rarely review products, and I have no affiliation with GuraGear. I paid the full price for the bag and while it the most expensive bag I have purchased, it has been worth every penny to me. On my recent Acadia workshop, several students had asked about the bag, so I figured I would write about it here for the benefit of other readers.
If you have any questions let me know, and I’m also curious about whether you’d like to see more reviews and recommendations about the gear I use day in and out in the field – I have very high standards. Let me know what you think in the comments!
Thanks for reading!