Neville Black is an award winning wedding and portrait photographer living on Vancouver Island in the Pacific North West. A photographer who believes the more risk one takes and the more uncomfortable they feel, the more potential is given to produce a great photograph.
It’s not often, if ever, that I come across a bag that I can say compares to a bag from Think Tank Photo, but it looks like I’ve found a backpack that’s pretty darn close. Heading out into the mountains, or even traveling where I can’t use a roller, this becomes my bag of choice. Why? Gura’s Bataflae has many features your other big backpacks would, plus adjustment straps on the shoulders, chest and waist so that you can shift the weight off your back and shoulders. It’s also apparently made from very lightweight materials without compromising its strength and durability, but it seems to be roughly the same weight as my Think Tank Airport Accelerator which is a comparable size, just a little smaller. Yet, in my opinion, while the Bataflae material seems to be more water resistant, the Think Tank material feels more durable.
Having said that, the Bataflae would fit more. The internal design is pretty amazing (I’m using the 26L model). It’s layout is really nice and clean and allows for storing a ton of gear. I can fit more than I need inside and still have room. Padding is great and comes with customizable pads which aren’t super thick, but they do the job well. The Bataflae (which, when translated means butterfly) opens up like most backpacks, a full zip around the pack opening up the full compartment for access. What makes the Bataflae unique is that you can also set it up with their butterfly design. There’s a sturdy divider in the middle of the back lined with velcro to stick to the main lid. This and a snap buckle on the top outside of the lid divides the compartments in two, allowing access to now, two separate compartments. One side for lenses, the other for bodies and lighting. If you’re out in the winter shooting landscape maybe you need to bring extra clothing and food for those big treks. Very handy.
This is where I found my first issue with the pack. Some of the exterior zippers. I’m not sure if it’s just my pack, but damn they were hard to open. It felt like I needed the power of two people to zip up the bag. I thought maybe in time it would wear in and glide better but so far, very little has improved. Thankfully, the zippers have large loops you can pull on. They’re even easy to open with thick gloves on when your out in the cold. The reason for the stiffness is because the zipper is a very water resistant YKK RC FUSE zipper. To combat the problem, Gura sent out two rings that attach to the pull allowing for a wider loop, thus reducing some of the stiffness. Still, not a quick zip but it’s a low price to pay for water resistance. How water resistant?
I tested it with a hose, left the water running over the bag for a minute straight and nothing got in. It was very impressive. The material of the bag has a water resistant coating and seems to be fairly water resistant, and after my test most of the water just beaded off the bag. The only problem I found was the accessory pouches on the front of the bag. The zippers are very waterproof but they don’t have a hood at the top to place the zippers in and since the zipper doesn’t completely shut, it leaves a very small hole for the water to get in. I would recommend since Gura went out of the way to design such an element resistant pack that they add some protective cover over the top of the zippers in the future.
Having said that, it also has a protective rain cover for the back which is in its own pocket, so when the elements hit hard you can pull it out quickly. (The rain cover can also be used as a ground cover for those times you want to sit on damp ground.)
The inside of the main lid has 2 large mesh pockets, 4 in total. They can fit your filters and cloths etc, very roomy. There’s also two large vertical pockets on the front of the main lid that can fit a fair amount of miscellaneous gear such as notes, pens, wires and so on. There are also mesh zippered pockets on the inside of these for more miscellaneous gear.
There are two stretchy pockets on the side for bottles or tripods. Speaking of, the pack comes with tripod attachment straps. You can attach a tripod to the side of the pack or, if you prefer, on the back of the bag. This works for a better weight distribution overall. Having extra weight can throw you off balance at times which can be dangerous if you are rock climbing etc. All accessories to attach a tripod are included.
The pack is fairly comfortable on longer hauls. The straps and strap adjustments shift the weight off the shoulders and allow for a more comfortable trek. There’s nice thick padding against your back that breathes fairly well. I took a good hour long hike with this bag fully packed including water and a tripod. It felt like I had packed a bag of lead and bricks. Once all the adjustments were made, the pack felt very comfortable and I didn’t notice any strain until about 35 min of hiking. From there, I wish I just packed one body and one lens. Still, the one thing the Bataflae has over my other bags is that it’s the most comfortable when fully packed.
The two main handles on the bag are uniquely designed and very sturdy. They’re really comfortable to use and easy to grab in a hurry. I really like them. The side handle is on an angle and I’m not sure what the reasoning for this was, but I can tell you it really helps while traveling when loading the bag into an overhead compartment. The backpack’s shoulder and hip straps can be tucked inside the bag and zipped up which also helps when stowing your bags on an airplane, car, etc.
Another thing I enjoy about the Bataflae is the adjustment straps. Aside from doing the obvious adjustments to your comfort level, they have velcro ties at the end so you can roll the excess strap into a tight little ball leaving no mess dandling from the bag. I’ve seen this appearing on a few other bags as well and it’s genius. I hate loose straps hanging from me.
Overall, the Bataflae from Gura Gear is one of the better backpacks I’ve used, especially for longer hauls. If you’re a landscape photographer or plan on traveling with your gear, definitely check out Gura Gears packs.
– Fits a lot of gear
– Butterfly lid
– Very water resistant (aside from the zipper issue)
– Very comfortable
– Meets most airline carry-on restrictions
– Lots of pockets
– Material feels less durable than most packs
– Zippers are stiff
– Zippers don’t fully close