Three years ago I was heading to Bhutan and I needed a decent camera bag.
I did all my due diligence. I went to B and H video in New York, spent waaaaayyyy to long looking through a plethora of bags and finally bought one. I don’t remember the brand name anymore because I ended up returning it a few days later. Why? Because I wasn’t quite satisfied. It was heavy and a bit cumbersome, and it just didn’t click with me. I was stymied.
One night I was looking at some wildlife images online and I came across a video of professional wildlife photographer, Andy Biggs, talking about a bag he helped to design under for the Gura Gear label. The Kiboko 22L. It looked awesome. It was slim, kind of sexy looking, lightweight, far less bulky than bags I’d looked at before, had a padded pocket for a computer, and these great butterfly style openings that seemed spot on to me in terms of target retrieval. All amazing things but it was pricey at $300, so I held off. Two days later after the bag haunted my dreams (You know how that is, right? You like something so much that you can’t get it out of your mind), I bought it and loved it.
Flash forward a year, and I’m headed to Kenya and I decide to rent the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM lens with Internal 1.4 Extender. It’s the gargantuan 8lb lens you see in my profile photo. I reconfigured the Kiboko bag so that one entire side of the butterfly opening held the lens. On the flip side I had 2 camera bodies, a 16-35mm f2.8 for landscapes and a 24-105mm f/4 for portraits etc., as well as some other accoutrement. I also knew that I would have the use of the photo tours 70-200mm f/2.8, enabling me to leave mine at home. It all worked perfectly. My Kiboko, and my kit got me through Kenya (twice) and two more safaris in Timbavati and Amboseli. Genius.
In early March of this year, as I prepared for my trip to Namibia and South Africa, I realized that I was going to need a bigger bag. My journey was going to take me to a variety of different environments – from remote desert regions along the Skeleton Coast of Namibia to Cape Town in South Africa, and I wanted to take more lenses with me. One side of the bag needed to house a longer lens for wildlife (This go round the Canon 500mm f/4, which is rounder than the 200-400mm, but a teensy bit lighter), the other side needed to carry everything else. Plus, I needed to bring my own 70-200mm lens because I wasn’t going on a photo tour. My Kiboko finally said, “Uncle!” The real problem was, I didn’t realize that I was going to need the extra room until 4 days before my trip.
Panic set in.
I emailed Andy Biggs, who I met a year after I saw him in the Gura Gear video and we’d become friendly, to see if he could connect me with someone at Gura Gear. I was hoping they might loan me a bag for the trip. He did and the team there sent me a brand new Bataflae 32L within two days and told me to keep it. How cool is that?
SAVED. MY. LIFE.
It has all the features that I love about the Kiboko: Butterfly opening, converts to a backpack, rain cover, lightweight, sleek, plenty of pockets for lens cleaners, camera manuals, memory cards etc., plus a new feature which turned out to be awesome: the two butterfly openings can be secured so that the entire top of the bag folds back as one. The only drawback is that the Bataflae doesn’t have a computer pocket. I had to put mine in my carry on bag. I guess you can’t have everything. Also, due to the rubber waterproofing, the zippers were a bit sticky. It was annoying at times but then my bag and I were caught in an unexpected torrential downpour—no opportunity to put on the rain cover— and I was grateful that my cameras were still protected.
Now, you may think that I am only writing about this bag because they gave it to me. Actually, they made no such demand. All they asked for was a picture of me using it in the field, which I took. Sort of. I rarely take selfies, so this is what they’ll get.
(Sorry Gura Gear) Frankly, I completely forgot they wanted me in the shot. Whoops.
But what I knew from the get-go was that I loved the bag. I may be crazy but I think it’s more ergonomic than my Kiboko. It was very comfortable and easy to manage even though I had more weight and equipment inside. That, or over the last few months I’ve managed to put on some serious muscle typing on the computer. You decide.
Anyway, if Gura Gear had taken me up on my request for a “loaner” and I had to return it. I have no doubt I would have bought my own by Bataflae by now.
It’s that simple.