- Buyer's Guide
As with most categories of consumer products these days, there is a plethora of camera bags. Honestly, as a photographer, I find it to be too many. Just as I begin to bed into a new set up, how it works, and what nuances there are, I’m bombarded with the latest and greatest that I must have. Honestly, it’s tiring.However, occasionally, there is a camera bag that really does get your attention. Sometimes it’s the access, sometimes it’s the weight, or sometimes it’s the materials. For Gura Gear’s new Kiboko City Commuter 18L+, it has the trifecta.
When it comes to carrying expensive camera gear, I have three key criteria that must be met: Durability/Protection, Functionality, Materials. How does the Kiboko City Commuter 18L+ do here?
One of the biggest selling points of the Gura Gear line is their use of excellent materials. Infact, they were one the first bag companies to use Dimension Polyant® X-PAC® in their products. On the Kiboko City Commuter+ they use VX21, the climate neutral fabric from the manufacturer. A 210 denier face fabric is low stretch, waterproof, and backed with a 50 denier taffeta backing. It is a fabric that is balanced well between weight and durability.
These are obviously good properties for a camera bag, when you want your gear reliably protected so that you can focus on the job at hand and capture the shots rather than worrying about if your thousands of dollars of equipment are safe from the weather. I think VX21 is a great choice for a camera bag intended for city use too. City shooting often involves chucking your gear down on abrasive surfaces at a moments notice and VX21 can take that kind of abuse without flinching.
Elsewhere on the City Commuter you’ll find excellent hardware from Fidlock®. Their magnetic fasteners are very satisfying to use. Not only do they provide great tactile relief, their engagement is very audible and allows you to be sure that your bag is closed. There are two on the rolltop, one internally for the laptop sleeve, and one on the adjustable sternum strap. Fidlock and VX21 are a great aesthetic pairing too, not just a functional one. Plus, there is a premium leather grab handle that sits atop the back panel and is well positioned for a quick grab at any given moment.
Durability & Protection
When it comes to protection, the Kiboko City Commuter feels very robust. Protection for camera gear doesn’t have to mean a hard case, and in the last few years there has been a great step forward on internal camera “cubes” or built in protection. In the city commuter that is very much the case with their fully customisable camera compartment. With a variety of different sized dividers, you can make this work for almost any setup comfortably.
I carried two full frame Mirrorless cameras with lenses attached, along with two more prime lenses. I don’t think it would hold a mounted super tele zoom, but you’re unlikely to use that in an urban setting anyway. Your mileage may vary based on your camera loadout, but the main compartment is a healthy size at 11” x 11” x 4”. The depth is critical to your gear’s protection, nothing sticks out just above the dividers which is historically a pet peeve of mine as it can either lead to damage or hot spots when carrying. The dividers themselves are a happy medium between rigid and flexible, and thanks to the velcro panels mounted in the middle of each divider, you should have no problem making it fit your workflow.
The laptop sleeve is on the wall of the rear entry clamshell, and is one of the cleanest I have encountered while reviewing bags. This sleeve can technically hold both a 16” MacBook Pro and an iPad Pro 12.9”, however in reality I only find myself using one or the other rather than both. However, it’s great to know that the City Commuter can accommodate both and keep them protected. The Tablet sleeve is fleece lined to avoid scratches and both are secured by the Fidlock® closure I mentioned earlier. On the front of the sleeve are two large zippered mesh pockets, the natural spot for your hard-drives, card readers, and charging bricks.
Personally, this is where I find good camera bag separate themselves from the rest of the pack. It’s easy to attempt to cram in a plethora of features that might sound great on the marketing pages, but don’t necessarily translate to good functionality. After all, if you’re using a camera bag for professional work, speed and efficiency are key, particularly when on the move.
Thankfully, the Gura gear does this well, the quick access side entry isn’t usually a favourite feature of mine, but on a smaller 18L bag, it really works quite well. It makes sense that it would work on a smaller volume, as you aren’t swinging an extra 20lbs off your shoulder like you would on a 30L plus bag. The side entry door does include a mesh pocket for your lens cap, I absolutely love this feature, it saves me frantically searching my pockets before I move to the next location.
The Fidlock® access point for the roll-top are quick and easy to engage, giving you access to an extra 7”/4L of storage. The closure here is more magnet magic which makes access and closure very quick. This small rectangular compartment does have elasticated mesh slip pockets which are designed for filters and lens caps, however I found myself using this space for accoutrement associated with shooting in the city, such as batteries (which I carry in an extra pouch), straps, and a rocket blower. On top of that I can comfortably stick a raincoat or extra layer. Essentially thanks to the roll-top, I can adjust based on my needs for that day’s shooting.
Aside from the main features of this camera bag, the Gura Gear Kiboko City Commuter 18L+ is full of small thoughtful features that enhance your user experience. The two vertical front pockets aren’t just places to dump gear, but instead they are full of clever features for your safety. There is an RFID pocket for your wallet and passport and a dedicated AirTag pocket so that you can keep track of your gear at all times as well as lockable zippers for the main compartment. The vertical pockets also house a key loop, four small zip pockets and two elasticated slip pockets. During my testing I found it easy to separate the two vertical pockets for different tasks. I used the left side for the accessories that you can get for the Kiboko (Rain cover, tripod straps, and hip belt) and the right side for keys, wallet, knife and pen. During my use of the Kiboko, I very quickly got used to how this bag works. As I mentioned earlier, efficiency is key when working on the go, and the backpack excels here.
Comfort is somewhat subjective, some of you reading will not want to feel like you’re wearing anything when carrying a bag, while some of you will overpack and be prepared for the discomfort that comes with that. Well, thankfully I think the Kiboko is a good middle ground. Firstly, it’s a lightweight bag at 3lbs 11oz before you put anything in it, particularly considering its feature set. Secondly, the improved shoulder straps from their previous bags are really very pleasant and work well with the 3D spacer mesh back panel. Of course, like all bags if you overload this bag you’ll have hot-spots, but for the intended load and size of this bag, discomfort wasn’t an issue at all. In-between the three sections of the back panel, you’ll also find a luggage pass through for when you take this on the road. The straps also have magnetic strap keepers, which may look like overkill at first glance, but in use it is a joy. I wish all of my backpacks had them now!
Gura Gear were highly commended by our readers and writers in the Carry Awards VII for their previous line. With this new design, and thoughtful updates, could the Kiboko City Commuter 18L+ be another contender? We think that if you’re looking for a smaller camera bag that is tough, functional, and reliable, you won’t go wrong with this well designed bag and it is now live on Kickstarter at discounted launch prices!
Thanks to our friends at Gura Gear for being a curated sponsor.