The Gura Gear Bataflae backpack is no longer in production. Please check the current Gura Gear backpack lineup for alternative options, and save 10% when shopping in their store by using the coupon code ShutterMuse10. You can also find reviews of current Gura Gear bags at these links:
The Confusing History of the Bataflae Backpack
This bag has quite a history and has been sold under several different names, making it somewhat confusing for potential purchasers when they search for information on the internet.
Gura Gear’s original backpack, the Kiboko, was designed by renowned wildlife photographer Andy Biggs. He determined a lack of great solutions for carrying long lenses on his many safaris and endeavoured to create a pack to fill that gap. The original Kiboko was a great pack, but there was room for improvement in several areas, so a new version was developed. When this launched, it was somewhat confusing called the Bataflae instead of Kiboko 2.0. The Bataflae was sold in three configurations: 18L, 26L and 32L
For the Bataflae, the laptop pocket on the equivalent sized original Kiboko packs was removed and was only found on the smallest 18L backpack. This allowed for a better fit with pro-sized camera bodies than with the original Kiboko. The Bataflae also added the ability to open up the entire front of the pack instead of just one half of the pack at a time.
Following the launch of the Bataflae, Gura Gear acquired the Tamrac brand and merged the two companies. The Bataflae pack was renamed the G-Elite bag, and things went quiet for several years. It appears the name change confused things and killed the excellent reputation that Gura Gear had so far earned.
Fast-forward to 2018, and Gura Gear suddenly came back again. They ditched the Tamrac G-Elite name and re-launched the Kiboko backpack lineup with updated versions. This time, they called them the Kiboko V2.0. The Kiboko V2.0 is an amalgamation of the original Kiboko and the Bataflae, but the sizes have been changed slightly to reflect the decreasing carry-on allowances for air travel. The Kiboko V2 is available in three sizes: 16L, 22L and 30L.
For the Kiboko V2.0, the option to fully open the front of the bag has been removed, and a laptop sleeve is now present on both the 16L and 22L sizes. It’s not available in the 30L size because that bag needs all the depth for pro bodies and the lens hoods of 600mm and 800mm lenses. Check out the full set of Kiboko V2.0 in my in-depth review. While it took a heck of a long time to get here, this now looks to be the perfect combination of features from the previous iterations of the bags.
Note: This review was written many years ago when the Bataflae first came out. The bag in the photos is the Bataflae 26L. Since all versions of this bag (Kiboko, Bataflae, G-Elite, Kiboko V2) have been incredibly similar, the vast majority of the commentary in this review still holds for the latest versions of this pack.
I have the 26L version of the Bataflae, but there’s also an 18L and a 32L. In the photo above, the long lens is a Canon 200-400 f/4 L IS for reference. You can also fit a 500mm f/4 in there as well. If you plan on carrying a 600mm, 800mm or 500mm with a body attached, you should look at the larger 32L version.
The smaller 18L will carry a 300mm f/2.8. What makes these packs unique is their long lens carrying ability. You could very easily travel with two long lenses for a wildlife mission, perhaps a 600mm and a 300mm, or a 600mm and 200-400mm. That’s a pretty incredible capacity for a pack that fits into most airline carry-on limits!
On the inside of the lid, you’ll find four mesh pockets that come in handy for smaller items like lens cloths and spare batteries. On the outside of the pack are two long pockets that are surprisingly spacious. You can easily store large flashes in there like a Canon 600EX-RT, or even stash a spare jacket and waterproof pants in there as well. There’s also the usual assortment of slots and pockets for pens, business cards and a clip for your keys or memory card holder.
I’ve probably reviewed close to 30 outdoor photo packs over the last six years, and I’m a bit of a stickler for a solid tripod carrying solution. If you have a shorter travel-sized tripod, you can side mount it to the Bataflae, but longer and heavier tripods will give you a top-heavy feel. The suggested tripod mount for the back of the bag involves a system of three straps. One on each side, which wraps and clips around the legs’ upper portion, and then an elastic cord that secures the bottom part. I didn’t get on well with this system, though; I found it far too fiddly compared to a simple tripod cup and top strap that many other packs employ.
That kind of tripod cup system feels like a single motion to attach a tripod. You slide the feet in and cinch up a strap. The Bataflae was a three-part process that required me to lie the pack down on the back panel. For something you might do 30 times a day, it’s a process that is far too fiddly.
The tripod straps also didn’t secure very well to the pack, and I lost one of them almost immediately in Death Valley and just resorted to carrying the tripod over my shoulder. That said, mounting a large tripod to the back of an already deep pack isn’t going to be a comfortable option for long anyway. I side mount my small travel tripod to this thing all the time, and it works just fine.
Comfort & Carrying
Much like its predecessor, the Kiboko, I’ve never found the Bataflae a comfortable pack to wear on my back for any significant length of time. While the boxy design is excellent for maximizing useable space for air travel, it makes for an unwieldy feeling pack when you want to go for a hike. I still use the Bataflae a lot when I need to carry my Canon 200-400 f/4 around, but I’m always asking myself, “how far do I need to carry it?”.
The relatively low profile shoulder straps enable them to be tucked away flying. There will always be compromises with these kinds of bags, and I love the hideaway straps for storage and air travel, so it comes down to how you plan to use this pack. For safari usage, it doesn’t matter how comfortable it is because the bag will spend 90% of its time next to you on the seat.
With the back panel covered and the straps tucked away, it helps to make the bag look a lot less bulky. If you can summon the strength to carry the pack using the side handle for the few yards as you get onto a plane, you’ll stand a much lesser chance of getting the dreaded “Excuse me, Sir, can I weigh your bag?” question from the gate agents. This feature also makes it easier to tuck into luggage racks, squeeze under seats or store on a shelf at home.
- Extremely durable sailcloth material construction
- ‘Butterfly’ design allows exceptional long lens carrying ability
- Included rain cover
- Hide-away strap system is great for storage
- Plenty of storage in the front pockets for other items
- Top and side handles are great for lifting heavy bags into cupboard and airline stowage
- There’s no denying that the price will give some people a sticker shock, though they are on par with what I would consider the other options in the same market space.
- The hip belt is too thin and doesn’t support a heavy load on a long walk.
- The boxy design optimizes useable space but leaves the bag feeling unwieldy on your back when hiking.
- The front tripod attachment system is fiddly and too time-consuming.
Where to Buy and Save 10%
As I pointed out at the beginning of the page, the Bataflae pack is no longer available. Instead, Gura Gear has launched the Kiboko 2.0 as its replacement. This new bag takes the best parts of the Bataflae and combines them with the best parts of the original Kiboko. It also solves many of the issues that I had with the Bataflae. The Kiboko V2 is fantastic!
Buy Kiboko 2.0 from Gura Gear and Save 10%
You can save 10% when shopping in the Gura Gear store by using the coupon code ShutterMuse10.
Buy Kiboko V2 from Other Retailers
If you can’t shop directly with Gura Gear, the Kiboko V2 can also be purchased using the following links. However, you will not get that 10% discount.