For the World Traveler: Gura Gear Chobe 2.0 Review

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From designs that range from hiking to street photography, camera bags are becoming less one-size-fits-all and more specialized. The Gura Gear Chobe 2.0 is designed with the opposite idea in mind. Dubbed as an everyday bag, the Chobe 2.0 easily converts from a laptop bag to a camera bag to a carry-on bag. Even the design crosses genre boundaries. It has the shape and organization of a briefcase, yet the rugged sailcloth material feels like an upscale duffel bag. The bag comes in a 13-inch and 16-inch version, with narrow and wide camera cube options (only the wide cube will fit a mounted lens).

Gura Gear has gone the increasingly popular route for getting the bag to market — Kickstarter. Crowd-funding tends to be rife with overhyped marketing, so I spent a weekend with the Chobe 2.0, including tossing it in the shower, to see if the bag upholds its Kickstarter promises.

The Gura Gear Chobe 2.0 Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Durable, comfortable construction with water-resistant sailcloth
  • A simple swap from a photo bag to an everyday
  • Plenty of pockets, including an excellent laptop compartment
  • Zipper expansion adds a good three inches more depth
  • Easy access laptop compartment, with room for larger laptops

Cons

  • Stacked camera cube makes some lenses difficult to access
  • Camera cube is difficult to get in and out
  • Cube design is difficult to store a camera with the lens attached
  • Lacks water bottle pocket
  • Plastic strap adjustment clips can be uncomfortable
  • Zippers aren’t weather sealed

Gear Used

I primarily tested the Chobe 2.0 with the Nikon Z 6 II, the 24-70mm f4 kit lens and 24-70mm f2.8 Z lens. But, I also stuffed the big with a Nikon D850 and three lenses to see how they would fit, including a 24-70mm f2.8, a 70-300mm telephoto, and a 100mm f2.8 macro. I also slid my 15-inch MacBook Pro (circa 2015) into the laptop sleeve.

Gura Gear Chobe 2.0 16-inch Tech Specs

These technical specifications were sent to us directly from Gura Gear:

  • Weight: 2.11 lbs
  • External dimensions (L x W x H): 15.7 x 6.5 x 10.6 inches
  • External dimensions expanded: 15.7 x 8.5 x 10.6 inches
  • Internal dimensions 15.4 x 5.5 x 9.4 inches
  • Internal volume: 11.154 L, 681 cubic inches

13-inch version (not tested):

  • External measurements: 14.2 x 6.3 x 9.4 inches
  • External dimensions expanded: 14.2 x 8.9 x 9.4 inches
  • Internal dimensions: 13.8 x 5.5 x 9.1 inches
  • Internal volume: 7.735 L, 472 cubic inches

I put the bag in the shower with the rain cover (propped on a basket so it wouldn’t be sitting in a puddle) for several minutes. The inside was completely dry. Without the cover, water leaked in at the zippers, but the material did repel water and wiped dry.

A quote from this review

Ergonomics

The Chobe 2.0 is a single strap messenger bag that looks and feels like a cross between a laptop bag and a duffel bag. It has the professional look of a laptop bag designed for the office yet has the durable material of a bag designed for athletics. 

The Chobe 2.0, similar to the original version of the bag, is designed with one main expanding compartment that fits a removable camera cube in the center, a dedicated laptop compartment at the rear, and two smaller pockets for accessories at the front. 

Within those main areas, Gura Gear fit plenty more pockets for organization. There are pockets that are ideally sized for filters, slots for pens, zippered pockets for memory cards, a key ring, and more. It lacks a water bottle pocket and — like many messengers — doesn’t offer tripod straps. The smaller compartments inside the largest area are a little tougher to get to with the camera cube in. However, it’s not impossible to access when fully packed with gear.

The bag comes with a well-padded strap that helps cushion the weight of the bag quite well. I wish the padded section was a little larger, however. The plastic clips to adjust the strap’s length needed to be positioned in just the right spot, or they dig a little. Convenient carrying handles make it easy to grab the bag quickly without putting it on your shoulder.

Build Quality

Constructed from VX-21 and VX-42 sailcloth, the Chobe 2.0 is a bag that I didn’t hesitate to put my gear in. The sleek black exterior feels protective without creating an overly heavy bag. Leather-like details on the grab handles and a metallic logo mix with the sailcloth to create a bag that will blend on the streets and the office.

The sailcloth material is water-repellent, but the zippers are not. A rain cover is included. I put the bag in the shower with the rain cover (propped on a basket so it wouldn’t be sitting in a puddle) for several minutes. The inside was completely dry. Without the cover, water leaked in at the zippers, but the material did repel water and wiped dry.

The camera insert is stiff, and, with laptop pockets on one side and accessory pockets on the other, offers a good bit of protection against bumps. While the bag is pretty lightweight, the rigid camera cube and durable exterior fabric offer excellent protection. The vertical dividers can bend to shorten the compartment for working with mounted lenses. (The narrow insert is not designed for mounted lenses, only the wide insert.) 

The wide insert has four slots that are large enough to fit a 70-300mm. Many lenses could fit upright or horizontally. For smaller lenses or flashes, those four slots can be further divided. Both the vertical and horizontal dividers can be re-positioned easily.

Ease of Use

The Chobe 2.0 is easy to switch from a camera bag to an everyday bag. While several bags on the market offer removable camera inserts, the accessory pouches make it effortless to pull out smaller items like batteries and memory cards. I love the expanding pocket — while a lot of expanding bags don’t get much bigger, the expansion adds quite a bit of extra room.

The height of the bag and access from the top means that, if you are carrying shorter lenses, you’ll need to stack them. Then, to swap lenses, you’ll need to pull out the lens that’s on top, pull out the divider, and then get to the lens. That’s far from ideal, but common for messenger bags.

Pulling out the laptop, on the other hand, was simple and easy. Many messengers have the laptop sleeve in the main compartment, which is difficult to access and makes it tougher to pull out in small spaces like on an airplane. That’s not the case here — the sleeve opens wide to facilitate quick access. With the Chobe 2.0, the laptop sleeve doesn’t feel secondary to the camera storage.

For a bag that puts the weight of the gear all one shoulder, the Chobe 2.0 is comfortable. I didn’t want to carry it for very long fully loaded with my DSLR, lenses, and a laptop, but I haven’t yet met a messenger that didn’t make me wish for a backpack when carrying more than a mirrorless body and lens or two. 

The pieces to adjust the strap height needed to be positioned just right on my small torso or the plastic dug into my skin. It’s worth taking a few extra seconds to get the bag perfectly situated, but I do wonder if those clips could have been designed just a bit differently. Those clips will likely be further down the strap — eliminating the issue entirely — on someone who is taller or wider and needs that longer strap. While the stiff bag is more protective, bags with flexible canvas sides mold your body slightly better.

The Chobe 2.0 without the expansion panel

 

The Chobe 2.0 with the expansion panel

Conclusions

Likes

  • Easy access to the laptop compartment
  • Removable inserts for both gear and accessories to quickly switch to non-camera bag
  • Durable materials and included rain cover
  • Plenty of pockets
  • Thick padding on the shoulder strap

Dislikes

  • Difficult to access some lenses if stacked inside the cube
  • Strap adjustment piece needs to be perfectly placed to be comfortable
  • It’s quite expensive

I love the versatility and expandability of the Gura Gear Chobe 2.0. The bag is well made, there’s plenty of pockets, and the shoulder pad is thickly padded. Unlike many of the other shoulder bags that I’ve tried, the laptop compartment is easy to access and has enough room for a larger 15-inch laptop.

The strap needs to be precisely placed to be comfortable. However, I’m petite. And it could also be an issue with strap length. Further, this bag is very roomy! But if you’re the type to stack lenses like we are, your accessibility will vary. And where’s exactly am I supposed to place a water bottle?

While I enjoyed using the Chobe 2.0, it’s not my favorite bag (that goes to a backpack), or my favorite messenger (that goes to a canvas-sided bag). But, I can easily see the bag being a go-to for the photographer regularly hauling both camera gear and a laptop. The bag is also excellent for creatives looking to haul camera gear one day, a laptop the next, and clothing for an overnight trip the next. It’s highly versatile and well built.

Launching on Kickstarter, the Chobe 2.0 is expected to list at $299.95 for the 16-inch and $249.99 for the 13-inch if the crowdfunding is successful. That’s a bit pricey, considering many bags at that price are leather, though the bag’s versatility helps justify the price a bit. That doesn’t include the camera insert, which adds another $20.95 for either the wide or narrow. 

The Gura Gear Chobe 2.0 earns 4 out of 5 stars. Want one? On Kickstarter, early backers can pick up the bag for $50 off the 13-inch and $60 off the 16-inch.