Good photo backpacks are a dime a dozen. Truly great photo backpacks are a rare breed. Put Gura Gear’s Kiboko 22L+, designed by wildlife and safari photographer Andy Biggs based on input from his customers, in the uncommon “great” category.
Though it may not look flashy, the Kiboko 22L+ is an extremely well thought out pack featuring some clever innovations. (And I didn’t think more innovations were possible in the already well-trod territory of photo bags.)
The Kiboko 22L+ is the baby brother to the larger Kiboko 30L from several years ago. According to Biggs, who founded Gura Gear, photographers who’ve attended his safaris told him they liked the bigger bag but were looking for a more petite pack that would also fit a laptop.
Enter the lightweight Kiboko 22L+, which, like the bigger bag, meets international carry-on airline requirements and can house a 15-inch laptop computer, up to a 500mm f/4 lens and multiple pro bodies.
Light and Lean
Overall, the Kiboko 22L+’s dimensions are 14 x 18 x 19 inches, and I liked how light and lean it felt when lifted by the stiff but generous, curved handle on top. There’s also a curved handle on the side for easy carrying. The bag weighs less than three pounds and is two-thirds the size of the 30L but holds nearly the same amount of gear.
While the bigger version is nice, the 22L+ is probably the one I’d use for short travel, or one-camera set-ups where I might do some significant hiking or want to bring my laptop for photo editing. (The 30L doesn’t have a laptop slot.)
If you like to go really long with your telephoto lenses, using a lens such as Canon 800mm f/5.6 or even a jumbo Nikon 400mm f/2.8, you’ll want the 30L. Also, if you keep an L-bracket attached to a pro camera body, go with the bigger bag.
For everything else, the 22L+ is a little gem. One of the great choices in the design of this bag is the decision to go with durable but lightweight VX-21 sailcloth rather than regular old nylon. The water-shedding sailcloth is abrasion and tear resistant, making it ideal for a bag that gets tossed around a lot and, potentially, drenched during travel and trekking.
A nice touch for cold-weather shooters is the wide grabber rings around the zippers, which are easy to slip a finger through when you’re wearing winter gloves. I actually like this set-up even when I’m not wearing gloves because of how quickly the rings let me open the bag when I’m in a hurry.
Another great design element is the simple butterfly flap system that opens only half of the main storage compartment, letting you grab the important gear quickly while keeping other stuff stowed away safely.
The Kiboko 22L+ is also extremely comfortable thanks to a more robust harness system that uses memory-foam shoulder straps. One minor quibble: When the harness is fully latched in, you can’t get to the laptop compartment.
On the other hand, I liked the vented and padded pack panel, into which you can tuck the shoulder straps during storage, such as when stashed in an overhead airline bin. The removable waist belt is also appreciated; there are times when you just don’t need all that support and the belt can get in the way.
The Bottom Line
You may only think you’ve bought the last photo backpack you’re ever going to need. Gura Gear’s Kiboko 22L+, the smaller sibling to the 30L, is an extremely well designed pack for adventure photographers who hike and travel as much as they take photos. Saddle up.
Pros: Lightweight, durable and comfortable pack designed for long photo treks; has a padded sleeve for laptops unlike its big brother; and made from lightweight, water-shedding sailcloth that’s abrasion and tear resistant.
Cons: When the harness is fully latched, you can’t access laptop compartment and a bit pricey.
Price: $379; www.guragear.com