(The Gear Loop) - Camera bags are like a good pair of hiking boots. Find a bag that works best for you and you’ll probably never look anywhere else. The problem is, finding that perfect bag can be a long and frustrating process, let alone an expensive one.
We are no strangers to that fact that camera bags come in all shapes and sizes, from cavernous packs designed for multiday expeditions, to fast, run-and-gun set-ups with multiple access points for easy access to your kit.
Chrome Industries might be better known for its urban luggage, seeing as its rucksacks and messenger bags adorn the backs of bike couriers and urban dwellers from New York to Tokyo. But the same robust nature and ingenious practicality has also been applied to this Niko 3.0 camera bag - a handy camera rucksack that will please urban photographers just as much as it will those who like to venture a little further.
We really enjoyed our time with the Chrome IndustriesNiko 3.0. The thoughtful design touches made it a pleasure to work from on a range of shoots we carried out and we never felt like it looked out of place, from commercial photoshoots to trudging through the forests capturing walking boots.
If you’re looking for something that can carry camera kit plus additional camping or hiking kit, this probably isn’t the bag for you, but if city hopping and travel photography is more your game, the Niko 3.0 could be the ideal bag. However, it's expensive.
Chrome Industries Niko Camera Backpack 3.0
- Understated looks
- Built like a tank
- Fits a 15in laptop
- Carries an impressive amount of gear
- It's pricey
- No space for accessories
- Lumbar strap is too minimalistic
In the Loop
Everything you need to know about the Chrome Industries Niko 3.0 camera bag in short:
- Padded sleeve fits 15” laptop
- Carries two bodies and four or five lenses
- Plenty of pockets
- Tripod straps on both sides.
- Rear and side entry
- Water resistant 1050D nylon
- Lifetime warranty
Flying under the radar
On first impression, the Niko 3.0 is a very unassuming backpack, completely blacked out apart from the small Chrome Industries logo on the front. Unless you were a camera bag enthusiast (there’s got to be one out there) passers-by will be none the wiser of its valuable contents. However, the black finish does pick up dirt and dust.
Taking a quick tour around the bag, there are two large reflective loops on the front, which can be used to carry a U-Lock to secure your bike when darting around the city. On either side of are two large buckles, which make an ideal spot to lash a tripod to, and if you prefer to go tripod-less, there’s a mesh pouch that fits a large water bottle.
In a similar fashion to the Manfrotto Pro Light Multiloader we tested, there’s a zipped access flap into the camera compartment at the front, so you don’t need to completely remove the bag to change lens. On the back of the bag, you'll find the main access into the bulk of the camera stowage area.
We’ve previously made our thoughts on front vs back access clear and felt much more relaxed knowing light-fingered folk couldn't access our kit from behind without our knowledge. It also means that when laying the bag on the floor, the back of the bag doesn’t come into contact with mud, water or dust, which then won’t be transferred to your clothes when you sling the bag back on.
Minimalist construction, maximum comfort
The straps attached to the Chrome Industries Niko 3.0 are quite slim but generously padded with a foam that feels like it’ll last for years without compressing and becoming useless. There’s a lumbar belt, which has no padding at all, so we’d only really see ourselves using this in dire situations when the going got really rough.
Fortunately, it’s removable thanks to some velcro straps, and we found ourselves removing it for most of the test. It's not really durable or supportive enough for big hikes. The chest strap is similarly minimalist and has a very sturdy metal buckle, which should keep going for many years. The height is adjustable via a sliding strap setup to properly dial in a comfortable fit.
It's what’s on the inside that matters
Unzipping the large flap affords access into the main body of the bag. A cocoon of softness ensures that your precious cameras and lenses don’t get damaged, and thanks to the removable velcro dividers, we managed to squeeze in two mirrorless bodies with lenses and a further four lenses along with batteries and filters. The dividers didn’t appear to be as "engineered" as, say, Manfrott's dividers, but this isn’t to say that they won’t do any less of a job protecting your kit. We’d prefer our gear to be snug with normal dividers than a bit loose with more technical dividers.
We did find the access flap tended to flop shut, which was occasionally frustrating when changing a lens or rummaging in the many pockets inside, but it does mean that your kit is protected from the elements if you need to step away from the bag with it unzipped.
Only the essentials
Aside from camera transportation, the Niko 3.0 has a compartment at the top of the bag that was ideally sized to throw a charger and cables in. Unless you were very packing very lightweight, there’s no chance of getting an overnight change of clothes in there, but that’s not really the point of the bag. Located along the front of the bag is a laptop sleeve, which is accessed through the zippered lid and easily fit out 15-inch MacBook Pro. A strap secures the laptop to prevent it sliding out.
Pockets festoon the interior of the top section, so there’s plenty of space to keep spare memory cards, pens and even a small flash drive.
The overriding theme with the Niko 3.0 is exceptional build quality. All the zips feel chunky and durable, the fabrics could last a lifetime and if you do damage it, Chrome Industries offer a lifetime warranty for added peace of mind.
It's a solid bag that's fantastic for shorter trips where the hiking isn't too strenuous. We fear that light scrambling and the odd climb probably isn’t what this bag has been designed for, purely because the strapping isn’t comfortable or secure enough.
But then Chrome Industries is adored by couriers, who tend to give this sort of thing a hell of a workout on a daily basis. So maybe we are just being too fussy.
The Niko 3.0 from urban luggage experts Chrome Industries is one of the most well-made camera bags we’ve ever used. Everything is built to last, from the fastenings to the fabrics. We managed to squeeze an impressive amount of gear inside, but we’d look elsewhere if you need to carry lots of non-camera equipment, too. The ability to carry a laptop is a big plus though.