I typically don’t write single product posts but when I find something I really love and use, I like to share.
Looking for the Best DSLR Backpack?
Nearly five years ago I was heading to Bhutan and I needed a decent camera bag.
I did my due diligence and went to B and H video in New York and spent WAY too long looking through a plethora of bags. After an hour or more, I finally bought one. The brand name escapes me because I ended up returning it a few days later. Why? Because I wasn’t satisfied. It was heavy and cumbersome and it just didn’t click with me. I was stymied.
Finding the Kiboko
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 the Gura Gear label. The Kiboko 22L.
It looked awesome, very streamlined, and sexy looking. It was made of lightweight nylon and far less bulky than bags I’d looked at before. There was a padded pocket for a 15″ laptop (I fit a reflector in there too); butterfly, dual-flap openings for easy retrieval and protection (meaning the gear in the side you don’t open isn’t exposed to the elements); two zippered external and internal pockets; two mesh side pockets with fasteners for water bottles, tripod or monopod; nicely padded shoulder straps; an attached rain cover; a wealth of padded dividers for endless configurations, and padded top and side handles.
It looked perfect but it was pricey so I held off. Two days later after the bag haunted my dreams (You know how that is, right?), I bought it and have used it religiously for nearly four years.
Then it happened.
The owner of Guru Gear bought Tamrac and Gura Gear and the brand was abandoned. I was so bummed. Many photographers complained and it took a few years but Gura Gear is back and the design is even better.
The New and Improved — Kiboko
An updated Kiboko 22L ($329.00) is here and it’s awesome. It has everything I love in the old bag but with a few great tweaks.
The new bag is lighter (3.7 lbs) and the 15″ laptop pocket is now on the side (it was behind the shoulder straps) for MUCH easier retrieval. There’s also a handy-dandy clip that holds the two butterfly wings open for packing.
I spoke to Andy Biggs, with whom I am now friends, and he sent me the new Kibokos for a recent trip to Kenya (I was leaving before the official launch). Because of weight limits in-country, I brought just a few lenses for portraits, landscapes, interiors, and wildlife. I borrowed the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM lens with Internal 1.4 Extender—the gargantuan 8lb lens you see in my profile photo. That filled the righthand compartment.
On the flip side, I packed 2 camera bodies a Canon 5D Mark 3 and 4, a 24-105mm f/4 for portraits etc., the 16 – 35 mm f2.8 for interiors and landscapes, and my 50mm f 1/8 as well as basic accouterments such as lens cleaners, memory cards, batteries, 2TB external hard drive and the like. It all worked perfectly. (BTW – the Kiboko 22L is one of the items on my Essential Gifts for Travel and Travel Photography lovers post.)
According to the stats on the B & H website, the bag holds “2 DSLR’s and 6 lenses. Also holds 2 DSLR’s and up to an attached 300mm f2.8 lens, unattached up to 500mm f4 lens.”
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For mirrorless systems, there’s a smaller 16L bag with all the same design elements, except the laptop pocket fits a 13″. “The bag holds 2 mirrorless cameras and two lenses. The bag also holds 2 mirrorless camera and four lenses up to full-frame 70-200 f/2.8.” $269.00 (3lbs)
For photographers with really long lenses (600mm+), there’s a larger 30L bag but in order to make it carry-on compliant there’s no laptop pocket. It holds “2 Pro DSLR’s and 7 lenses or medium format Kit. Also holds a Pro DSLR and up to an attached 400mm f2.8 lens, unattached up to 800mm f5.6 lens.” $399.00 (3.9 lbs)
(The photo from left to right: 16L, 22L, 30L)
Things to Note
For photographers who use pro-sized DSLR like the 1DX, the camera is a little higher than the depth of the bags. That said, you’re still able to close it without feeling like you’re cramming it in.
If you’re an avid hiker and looking for a bag that will work over long distances, I’m not sure this is the ticket. And I say I’m not sure because I’m not a big hiker. The design of the bag feels a little boxy when worn, and the waist straps aren’t padded, which makes me think it’s better for short hikes, everyday shoots, and wildlife where you work from a vehicle.
Airport Tip: I wheel my Kiboko on an inexpensive folding trolley. If I don’t have to stand in a god awful security line with a heavy bag on my shoulders, why would I?
Don’t Take My Word For It.
What Fstoppers has to say about the Kiboko “My favorite bags are back: Gura Gear has introduced, or I should say reintroduced their Gura Gear Kiboko bags. Now on version 2.0, they look to bring back everything that made the originals so highly regarded…”
And Canon Rumors “Our absolute favourite camera backpack manufacturer Gura Gear has returned with a new range of Kiboko backpacks…We’re excited to see the brand come back, and they truly make the best travel backpacks on the market. The second versions of the Kiboko bags have the same fantastic build quality and can carry pretty much anything you throw at them.”