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Question of the Month
October 2009

What is the Kiboko backpack?

Is it the New Best Backpack?

keboko bag

Recently, on either our trip for coastal brown bears in Alaska, or for jaguars in the Pantanal, someone commented upon my camera backpack, saying, in effect, 'You must have the oldest backpack still in existence!' I was using my favorite Lowepro Phototrekker backpack that I've had for over ten years, and perhaps closer to 15 or more. The zippers are failing and catch -- though I could still pull the zipper passed the 'catching point' and the front pockets and raingear pouches have gaps where stuff sticks out, but the pack was roomy, flexible, and comfortable. Later versions of this pack went towards greater padding, but in doing so lost a lot of the flexibility that made the original Phototrekker great. I vowed I'd use it until it died.

My Lowepro didn't die, but I just retired it. This summer, two participants of our trips showed up with a new photo backpack that I hadn't seen before. It was called the Kiboko backpack, made by guragear, and designed by professional photographer Andy Biggs. What stood out with the bag is that it was divided into two vertical compartments, divisions large enough to accommodate a 500mm lens with a lens hood reversed, but mounted on the lens, and with a camera attached. It looked like the perfect pack for carrying equipment and I ordered one.

I love the pack.

The first thing I noticed about the pack is that it is light. It's made of a high-tech sail cloth material, making a bag of this size and functionality about a third the weight of an equivalent bag. Although I hate carrying a lot of weight, finding that taking too much sometimes gets me so tired and unenthusiastic that I shoot less than I would if I traveled lighter (call me lazy), when I got my Keboko I loaded it with all the items that I might carry on a serious shoot. That included:

500mm mounted to camera
28-300mm mounted to camera
extra camera body (I normally wouldn't carry an extra, but instead
I would simply change lenses)
100mm macro lens
16-35mm wide-angle lens

All of this fit into the two main compartments of the backpack.

In the front pouches, or the inside zippered pockets, I added:

580 TTL flash
off-camera cord
Singh-Ray Variable Neutral Density filter
Tiffen filter pack with Polarizers
25mm extension tube
1.4X tele-converter

contents in keboko

joe w contents500contents 2
Here's the pack with all the stuff stacked inside. The lens hood of my 500mm
is reversed, which is fine with me since I'm carrying it, not using it! On the
right side of the bag I have my other two camera bodies and three lenses.
Normally I wouldn't carry three bodies, but I wanted to see if I could comfortably
fit it in. I did, even with a RRS L-shaped camera bracket attached.

dividersdividers 2
The pack came with a complete set of dividers, far more than I would
use or need if I'm packing a couple of big lenses. I've included these
here, however, so that you can see that the options for packing, and for
protecting or separating your gear, are endless.

filter pocket

Each side of the pack also has an outside pouch which, when unzippered, reveals several hidden zippered pouches to insert filters, cable releases, etc. The outside pouches themselves are large enough to fit a flash, extension tube, cable release, etc. There isn't a lot of padding on the outside, but I wouldn't expect padding here, nor would I want it because of the added weight that would entail. Remember, inside my pack I had a lot of equipment, and under normal circumstances I'd have had room inside the pack itself for some or all of that gear.

The pack also has a rain cover that slips into its own side pocket in the front of the pack, which I thought was a very nifty and convenient feature. There is a very comfortable and sturdy handle on the top of the pack, and another on the side, that is canted at a 45 degree angle for a very comfortable fit when carrying the pack down an airline aisle.

The back of the pack has a cover where the backpack straps are hidden and contained when you first receive the pack. Simple instructions explain how to attach the straps -- absolutely simple to do and taking seconds, but I could see reinserting the backpack straps into the hidden compartment if I wanted to have a slim profile for travel. Most likely, though, if I'm carrying this bag in an airport I'd probably wear it, as I found that I'm virtually never stopped or hassled when I'm wearing gear, as opposed to carrying a bag.

joe w bagjoe w pack 2

The pack is very comfortable, and custom fitting it was simple and easy with both the belt and shoulder straps. For my test, I still had the bag completely loaded with all of the items shown above and I didn't feel weighted down by the bag. With less gear, as I'm more likely to carry, well, it'd be even more comfortable, if that'd be possible.

I contacted Andy Biggs after receiving the bag and told him I'd tell my workshop and photo tour and safari participants, and website readers about the pack, as I really liked it. If you are interested, you can also contact our office for a discount code for a discount from Gura Gear. To be clear, I'm not getting a commission or kickback for an order, but you'll get free shipping and you'll get a spectacular photo backpack. For me, it couldn't have happened at a better time, finding a new, great pack. My old Lowepro was looking even longer in the tooth than I do, and I worried about what I'd do when that bag finally just couldn't take it any more. Now, I don't have to worry. The Kiboko will be my new field backpack.

For more information and to order the Kiboko Camera Bag, contact gura gear at
Gura Gear
9219 Katy Freeway Suite 179
Houston, Texas 77024
1 832 295 0709

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