Photo backpacks are like tripods. It just seems like you need more than one, or maybe many, to have the right one for the specific photo shoot. I have used numerous photo backpacks through the years, and still am finding new ones that fit a specific need. Currently I love my Mindshift Backlight 18L for most of my shooting. This pack is big enough for multiple bodies and lenses, has a laptop compartment and comes with rain cover. Most important this pack opens from the backside (against your back), which is fantastic for travel. I have seen people’s photo backpacks be unzipped in crowded international markets…and have some of their gear stolen. With the zipper against you back, unwanted visitors can’t access your gear…and you can twist the backpack to your frontside and unzip it to get gear without putting it on the ground.
But recently I was photographing grizzly bears in Alaska, and as usual it was raining on and off during my trip. While I had a rain cover for my camera, I wanted to put it in my bag at points to carry it as well as protect it from the rain. To do this I had to open the entire flap of my pack exposing all my gear to the rain until I could get my camera inside. Not good.
But then I saw a new pack in the field, and this has become my new go-to pack for backcountry and wildlife shooting, the Guru Gear Kiboko 2.0 22L. Let’s just cut to the chase. Check out the image above…this is the only pack I know that opens one half side while keeping the other side totally sealed and closed. This was the answer I was looking for in putting away my camera and not exposing all my other gear to the elements.
This pack holds a lot. You can configure it a lot of ways, but currently I have one side totally open for my long glass, and the other side with dividers for other camera gear. I read reviews that said you couldn’t close the zip flap with a pro body with grip, but my D850 with grip and the 500mm F5.6 PF fit just fine. The body did stick out a little, but the flap zipped shut without issues.
One big gripe of mine coming from a climbing guide background is suspension systems on a lot of packs are not good. But the Kiboko has a great harness system, and carries heavy loads very nicely. The pack is about 3.6 pounds without gear, very light. The sail cloth material used on the outside is water resistant, lightweight and probably more durable than most any other fabric used in photo packs. There is a laptop compartment for 15″ laptops. Side mesh pouches and fastex buckles can carry a small tripod on the side.
I don’t think I will ever find a pack that does everything perfectly. But the Guru Gear Kiboko is now my pack of choice when it comes to hiking in the backcountry, and really handy for wildlife shoots with the 500mm 5.6 PF. Guru Gear does make a larger version (30L) if you want to carry your 600mm in your pack. The Kiboko 2.0 22L costs $330. You won’t be disappointed.