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Review: Gura Gear Bataflae 18L Backpack

by Abram Goglanian on 08/02/2013

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The Gura Gear line of backpacks was conceived to haul gear, lots of gear, on photo-treks and safaris with their smartly designed bags that are relatively non-descript looking. The new Bataflae series is the replacement for its Kiboko predecessor and arrives in three distinct carrying capacities, denoted in the name by how many liters of space is available. Depending on how much gear you need to carry you can choose from three capacities, 18L / 26L / 32L, to haul your stash of glass and silicon. This review will be covering the 18L size. Head on past the break for our full review.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Great overall build quality
  • Attention to detail with pockets galore
  • Holds way more equipment than I ever expected.

Cons

  • Shape of the bag causes it to be uncomfortable on my 6’3″ tall frame
  • Main zippers are a little tough to open
  • Only has room for gear, no other supplies

Gear Used

I managed to fit a ton of equipment into this backpack without “pushing it” or having to cram things in. Needless to say that part did impress me significantly as I was able to fit practically as much as my large Think Tank Airport International roller bag (and that’s saying something!). I wanted to see just how much it could actually hold, so I went all out and tried to fit as many things in as possible before it became “stuffed”. Yet, I wouldn’t suggest packing this much stuff into the bag unless it was necessary as it got quite heavy for such a small object.

The Gura Gear Bataflae 18L was able to easily hold:

Whew. I felt that on my back.

Tech Specs

Copied from Adorama’s Product Page

Materials 420D dia square nylon with 2x PU backing
100D robic diamond nylon lining with 2x PU backing
YKK RC-FUSE zippers with water repellency
N/500D Spandura reinforcement
Woojin (WJ) hardware and pullers
Padded air mesh
70D 190T nylon w/ 2x PU backing
Volume 18 liters
Exterior Dimensions 12x17x9″ / 30.4×43.1×22.8cm
Interior Dimensions 11x16x6.5″ / 27.9×40.6×16.5cm
Weight Maximum: 4.0 – 4.9lbs / 1.81 – 2.22kg (Including the rain cover, waist belt and dividers)
Minimum: 3.0 – 3.1lbs / 1.36 – 1.40kg (Bag)

Ergonomics

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To re-use my initial image, you can see the basic form of the backpack, the name Bataflae actually translates to Butterfly (from Vanuatu) and you can kind of see the inspiration with the matching panels which open like “wings”. On the larger 26L and 32L bags you can actually open one side of the bag at a time, which is a cool feature. You’ll also notice that all of the zipper pulls are pretty sturdy and easy to grab onto.

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One thing that I like is that the main zippers are a different color than the auxiliary pocket zippers, this makes it easy to know which section of the back you’re opening if you’re in a hurry (or in the dark).

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Conveniently located right on the front of the bag is the removable rain-fly which is included with the bag. It’s really nice to have this be quickly accessible, though being in Southern California, I haven’t had a chance to try it out yet because all we get is heat and sunshine.

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The outer pockets have tons of organization pockets which is great for carrying things like batteries or memory card wallets. There’s additional sleeves for things like business cards as well. Both sides have adequate space for carrying your stuff, and while I didn’t try this yet, I suspect that it might be possible to roll up a lightweight jacket and fit it into one of the front pockets as well.

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Both sides of the bag have the same mesh pockets and MOLLE attachment loops (for extra side pouches from both Gura Gear and other companies, even military surplus). These pouches are great for carrying small items, or even things like flashes if you’re an outdoor strobist, but my typical item is a water bottle. Have to stay hydrated in this California heat.

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As mentioned, the opposite side has the same mesh pouch and MOLLE attachment loops, but there’s also a zippered panel along the back which will carry a 13″ laptop, but it also fits a tablet like the iPad perfectly.

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The back is nicely padded as are the straps, additionally there is a waist strap which you can tuck inside the back panel if you don’t want to use it (or can’t in my case).

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You can also use the attachment buckles to carry a tripod on the back of the back as well, and it’s very secure too. It is slightly strange to attach though as you have to loop the straps around the legs of the tripod which is definitely not as quick as other tripod carrying solutions I am accustomed to.

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Inside the main flap there are even MORE organization pockets for carrying the small essentials. There is seemingly no end to the amount of pockets that this bag has available.

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Finally we reach the main attraction. I couldn’t get over how easily this all fit into the bag, and I suspect that with careful organization one could fit even more stuff inside! It’s really quite impressive how much this small backpack will actually carry, which is what fuels my opinion that this is an outstanding storage and transport bag.

Build Quality

Gura Gear’s bags are designed with safari photographers in mind, and in that context I feel they excel. The construction of the bag is obviously tough (I would say that it is close to being as tough as my F-Stop Loka backpack) and well made. The materials all feel very tightly constructed and my only “construction” criticism is that the main zippers are a little tough to open. This is a small thing really, but it’s nice to just be able to grab the pull-tab on a zipper and be able to open a bag easily with one hand. I am sure though that this bag will hold up to pretty serious outdoor use over a long period of time.

In Use

I need to address the elephant in the room (with a personal side note) straight away. Despite how impressed I was with the carrying capacity of this bag, I did not find it comfortable to wear for any length of time with my gear inside (or even empty for that matter). Now I suspect that this boils down to a specific factor that has to do with the reality that I am both tall and broad shouldered. I found that it felt like I had a small box on my back and it just sat really uncomfortably no matter how I tried to adjust the straps (think back to 4th grade when you had to carry ALL of your books with you to and from school, that’s what it reminded me of). I’m conflicted in bringing this up because I know this won’t be the case for everyone, but if you are proportioned like me, this is not an ideal bag for you. As a transport bag, however, it is top notch. You can carry a borderline absurd amount of equipment in a small space. If you just want to haul around equipment from location to location, or if you’re on a photo-safari where you’ll be in a vehicle the majority of the time then this actually is a great solution because it is carry-on compatible and as I mentioned it will haul a bunch of gear!

Conclusions

I arrive at the end of this review with conflicted feelings regarding the Gura Gear Bataflae 18L. On one hand, I very much appreciate how much it can carry in so small a bag, and can think of no better solution for gear transport. But on the other, when it comes to having to haul said gear on your back, this was just not a pleasant solution for me personally. My gold-star-standard for large backpack comfort is the F-Stop Loka, and even though the Loka is noticeably larger than the Gura Gear, I feel that it is both more comfortable and more practical because it is easily able to carry more than just your camera gear. That being said, I do have a feeling that my discomfort with the bag has to do with the reality of being 6’3″ and broad shouldered> I would like to believe that if you are smaller than I, this bag may be more comfortable for you. At any rate, I find it to be an excellent bag for both gear storage and transport. You can fit a borderline-preposterous amount of equipment inside, considering the dimensions of this backpack, which means you can take a whole lot of stuff with you to location shoots. I’m fairly confident that this bag will withstand heavy use from travel photographers, but in my case it’ll carry my gear to a location and then likely stay in the car afterwards.

 

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