Review: Chrome Niko Camera BackpackGear
ITEM: Chrome Niko Camera Backpack
PRICE: £160 ($200USD)
STYLE: Camera Backpack
WHAT THEY SAY: They’re low-profile, unassuming but with tons of features, our Niko bags have been favourites of photographers – from city shooters to those who are always on the go.
Who knows what Robert Doisneau would have thought of this backpack, flitting around the streets of Paris with his little Leica, or Walker Evans with his concealed Contax camera? But photography today – especially at places such as Sidetracked – is a more elaborate affair, even when we’re trying to cut down on weight. On a recent outing to the Faroe Islands our photographer had two SLR cameras, three lenses, a Panasonic GH5 for video, and a drone, and that was minimalist. It’s a significant amount of weight on your back, or space taken up in your overnight bag.
Outdoor photography, especially of the kind our photographers make at Sidetracked magazine, requires gear. Sometimes plenty of it. Chrome Industries say that the Niko Camera Backpack is a bag built for the city – for street action photography – and the styling is low profile and unassuming as a result. But, action and adventure photography (particularly in our case) often involves traipsing up Scottish Munros or along Peak District plateaus for a day – which was where we initially tested the Chrome Niko Camera Backpack. We wanted to take it out of its comfort zone.
Before we get to the many features of the bag, it means nothing until you wear it fully loaded on your back. Comfort is all important. We loaded it with two SLR cameras, four lenses and a Mavic Air drone, plus lunch and a waterproof jacket, and set off into the craggy Peak District.
For reasons we’ll move onto below, the Chrome Niko Camera Backpack looks boxy – but on the back it’s proven to be comfortable. The back system is fairly basic, with cushioned straps, a sternum strap, and a small hip belt. The straps are comfortable and the sternum strap works well to shift some of the weight (hip belts don’t do much at this size of backpack). The back of the bag is EVA foam, padded and comfortable. It moves well with the body. In terms of comfort there’s little to worry about for day-long shoots with this bag.
The interior is cavernous, with a large zipped pocket that opens all the way around the part of the rucksack that sits against your back. Once open, as you’d expect for a backpack focused on photography, the padded section is modular and separated with moveable Velcro dividers, so you can set it up specifically for your gear. The opening isn’t as big as the bag section, so stuff in the corners is a little trickier to access. The front of the rucksack has a large, padded laptop pocket.
There are also smaller zipped pockets all around the backpack – this is for organised photographers! It’s worth saying that if you’re a photographer who likes to swing a bag off your back and whip out the camera, the lack of side access means it isn’t for you. That said, the backpack straps do have plenty of loops – you can fasten cameras to these, which will reduce the weight in your hands.
There is a strap with a buckle on either side of the bag for a tripod. You need to pull it pretty tight to make sure the tripod doesn’t slip, and it may have benefitted from another loop to ensure it doesn’t swing. You’ll also find pockets on each side, ostensibly for water bottles, but they are not big or elasticated enough to be very useful for that. It’s a minor niggle, nothing more.
The material, a 1,050-denier ballistic nylon, is super tough – this is a bag that should last for ages. There’s also a waterproof tarp interior. Although it couldn’t be described as 100 per cent waterproof, water would have a hard time getting in. We also found the zip stuck from time to time. But even with those niggles, we have come to love it. We love how it stands up on its own, how it can swallow all we need for a day, blending in from mountain to city with its low profile. We love how tough it feels. It’s not perfect, but impressive nonetheless.