A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Guragear, a company that makes bags specifically designed for photographers but were branching out into travel. Designing camera bags was, according to the company’s website, their initial goal. Keep this is mind, it will become important, and apparent, shortly.
They thought their Chobe model would be the best one to test and they sent one here to OBOW Global Headquarters.
The Chobe is made of 200d nylon exterior with a 50d lining. It measure 15” x 11.5” x 6.5” and is expandable to 8.5”. It weighs 2 lbs, 9 oz. The zippers are “Ideal.” (For those of you unaware of “Ideal” zippers, they are the second largest maker of zippers after YKK.)
The front of the bag has two exterior pockets. On the left is an organizer pocket with slots and is designed to hold a tablet. (This pocket is not lined so a tablet in it alone, without protection, is not advisable.)
The right side pocket has slots for cards, pens and a key clip.
One one side of the Chobe is a water bottle pocket and the other side has a pocket for a cellphone (My Iphone 5 was too wide to fit in it.)
The rear has an open magazine pocket that can be unzipped tobecome a sleeve that wil fit onto the handles of a rolling bag.
The main compartment has smaller open pockets with velcro closures as well as a hanging mesh multipocket pouch. This compartment is lined.
Behind the main compartment is a lined, separate laptop compartment holding laptops up to 15”
Also available, and probably the main reason to get this bag, is the separate, removable photo insert. It’s fully padded on all sides, including the bottom and has a velcro strip running through the entire inside. It weighs 1 lb.
It comes with 15 dividers, in two different sizes, that also have velcro, allowing you to customize the layout of the insert to perfectly fit your equipment.
The photo insert fits perfectly inside the Chobe when in the expanded mode. It’s really nice.
While I am not a photographer, I can see how well this bag was thought out with the photographer in mind. (Now you see why I mentioned the reason these bags were originally designed in the opening of this review.)
If you have expensive photographic or other equipment that needs to be carried safely, and wish to take along a laptop, tablet, other small items, and possibly even a change of clothes, then this is a bag to consider.
Ever since 9/11, and one incident where I was almost snowed in at an airport away from home, I carry a change of clothes even if my trip is same day out and back. Just in case. This bag would fit the bill for that. It can carry what I need for work and also a change of clothes and toiletries.
Whether in its original size, or expanded, it should fit under the seat in front of you on most airliners. There are foam panels on the front and back of the bag that allows it to keep its shape.
The bag is made in Vietnam. It comes in black.
On the downside, only the main compartment has dual zippers so none of the other pockets are lockable at all.
Let’s see. Have I forgotten something? Oh, yeah. The price. The reason it took me so long to get to the price is because I had to wait for the all clear from the paramedics who were called to revive me after I took a look at the price.
The bag retails for $299 and the photo insert is an additional $50. Seriously? $299?
So I checked the Tom Bihn, Red Oxx and even Briggs & Riley websites for similar sized bags. What I found were bags made of better material, better zippers, and in some cases, made in the USA—for less than half what Guragear is charging.
My final verdict is this. If you are a photographer or someone who carries expensive equipment and wants to be able to tote it in a nicely padded, customizable bag, then I would say consider the Chobe with photo insert. And should you also travel occasionally without the equipment but want a decent overnight bag, then this one could do double duty.
But if you’re looking strictly for an overnight or day trip bag, I’m sorry to say you can do a lot better, and cheaper, with other bags.
Sidenote: After initially looking at the bag’s website I went back today and noticed that between now and the end of 2012, if you buy a Chobe, you’ll get $100 in Amazon gift certificates as a bonus. That helps a little.