Kiboko Bag by Gura Gear
Review by Gary W. Dowd
I’ll admit it up front – I love gear. Deny it if you want to, but we all know the truth – one can never have enough photo gear.
Thankfully, folks a lot more clever than me have made it their livelihood to produce ways to store, pack, and travel with my gear. If you’ve ever browsed around Samy’s Camera or B&H Photo, you know there are lots to choose from. While I’d much rather spend my $$ on a new lens or camera accessory, I can’t ignore that fact that I need a few different choices in gear bags as well – since I don’t take the exact same kit on every shoot. I also don’t want to have 6 different bags taking up space in the closet either. I just need a couple of good bags that are versatile and big enough to carry a couple bodies, a good selection of lenses plus peripherals. I’ve tried hard cases, soft cases, you name it, tried it or checked it out.
I thought I’d found a great bag in the Pelican RSV series bag. It fits the “size-wise” requirements for carry on luggage on virtually all airlines – unless you happen to have a regional jet in your itinerary. The Pelican simply does not fit. And, with more of these smaller commuter jets coming online, I’ve had to gate-check my gear bag more frequently than ever – which I hate. Not anymore.
On my most recent adventure to Senegal with Vancouver-based photographer, David duChemin, I noticed he was sporting a couple new Kiboko bags from Gura Gear. I liked the look immediately. Once David opened one up to let me check it out, I was envious. After helping David lug these bags around West Africa for two weeks, I knew I had to get my hands on one.
Well, my new Kiboko bag just showed up and many of the details I had forgotten jumped out immediately. I’ve been rock climbing and hiking for years and know good gear when I see it and this is a very well-made, well thought out bag. Gura Gear invested two years in prototype testing and it shows. Top and bottom compartments are accessible via a very neat, convenient butterfly design. The zipper pulls are easy to grab, even with heavy gloves on, and look bomb proof. The ergonomic carrying handles on top and sides are nicely shaped and padded. The stiffer padding on the sides is flexible but provides the right amount of protection. Hard to believe this is an incredibly lightweight bag – specs put the weight at just 4 lbs. The hidden backpack straps and harness are well designed and as comfortable as you’ll find on any top-of-the-line backpack. I’ll miss my roll-around but will love carrying this on my back through airports and in the field, the backpack design wins, hands-down.
The outside of the Koboko is covered in rip-stop nylon fabric that can take a beating. According to Gura Gear, the fabric is has such a high strength to weight ratio, it’s chosen for America’s Cup racing sails. The two long zippered compartments on the front of the bag open up to reveal several mesh pockets for stashing cords, batteries, and other small items. They’ve also stashed a rain cover in there. But when I opened up the right and left main compartments, my first thought was “Holy Cow! This bag can hold a LOT of gear.” The adjustable compartments are easy to rearrange for bodies, lenses attached or not, plus plenty of room for the Pocket Wizards, battery chargers, 580s, etc. I told my wife I might have to actually get more gear in order to fill up this bag. (OK – she didn’t buy that excuse either).
Right now I have it loaded with two Canon bodies with battery grips, my 17-35mm, 24-70mm, 80-200mm 2.8 (the old drain pipe), 200mm 2.8, 50mm 1.2, (all lenses with hoods), 2 580s, 1 430, 3 Pocket Wizards, about a dozen batteries, two chargers, 2 external USB drives, assorted cables – and I still have room for more. I’ve seen this bag hold a Canon 600mm quite nicely and still leave room for a couple bodies and an assortment of lenses. Very cool.
The fact that this loaded bag will fit into the overhead space on a CRJ makes me want to take a trip just to try it out.
A couple really minor details – I do wish the front compartment zippers went all the way around, allowing full access to the contents and compartments. I’m sure the designer had his reasons but it just seems a little odd to me that the zippers don’t open across the bottom. (Comment on this detail from product developer, Andy Biggs – not allowing the compartment to unzip all the way actually increases the capacity and decreases the likelihood of your stuff falling out). I have to admit it makes perfect sense. I do think a detachable laptop sleeve would be a nice touch. Maybe as an accessory or on the next version – Kiboko II – if there is one? Like I said – minor details. They certainly don’t detract from what I consider to be a really great gear bag. I’m looking forward to a long-term relationship.
Kudos to Andy Biggs and the crew at Gura Gear for helping to make our lives easier.
(Andy Biggs, designer of the Kiboko bag, is a fellow photographer and an avid adventurer, conservationist, teacher, and outdoor photographer whose photography celebrates the African landscape and its rich wildlife, people, and culture. His photography has been seen in Banana Republic stores around the world).