Even a classic sometimes needs updating. Although it's been around for the best part of a decade, Chrome’s Niko Camera Backpack has never been one of our favorite camera backpacks – until now.
By adding a couple of key new additions to its design – notably new side access flaps and a tablet sleeve – this new 3.0 version widens its appeal to all kinds of landscape and outdoor photographers after the perfect outdoor camera bag (opens in new tab) to protect their gear against the elements.
See current price at Dressinn (opens in new tab)
See price at Wildbounds (opens in new tab)
Here’s everything you need to know about one of the best camera backpacks available right now:
As camera backpacks (opens in new tab) go, the Niko 3.0 is physically a big deal. Clearly aimed at photographers and videographers that carry a lot of gear and live and/or work in areas with wet weather, the Nico 3.0 is fashioned largely from weather-proof 1050 denier 'bluesign-approved' Nylon. It’s heavy-duty stuff and it contributes to this backpack’s empty weight of 2kg. It’s fair to say that it has a pretty industrial, functional look.
The all-important main compartment is chiefly opened from the back-panel. It houses the usual Velcro-attached dividers and in its most basic design it’s got seven small zones, though it can easily be customized to mould around whatever gear you have. We managed to create an area for a full-frame DSLR (opens in new tab) wearing a wide-angle lens inside alongside a couple of other lenses and some other accessories. It’s big enough for a decent amount of gear, but it’s not particularly space-efficient; there’s a large gap between the sides of the padded compartment and the side of the actual bag. It’s presumably there to help guard gear against knocks and drops, but it means the camera you’re trying to extract quickly is quite some distance into the bag itself.
Though you do have to customize the main compartment to make sensible use of them, perhaps the most practical additions to the new design are those new side-openings. Both U-shaped flaps have waterproof zips, with pouches on the inside for storing sundries. They also both feature stretch pockets on the outside for taking a water bottle or an umbrella.
The sides each have two straps and clips, presumably to secure a tripod (and there’s enough room here to take some hefty tripods), though the lower straps are at the bottom of the bag. It’s not clear why they’re ranged so low.
On the top of the bag is something quite unusual. While most camera bags dedicate their entirety to camera gear, the Niko 3.0 includes an area at the top that’s less specific. It can, of course, be used to store camera gear and accessories (such as a drone), but it’s actually very useful for storing food, an extra layer or a waterproof jacket, things that are usually tricky to fit into the main compartment of most camera bags.
Although the bag’s ballistic nylon build pretty much makes it waterproof whatever conditions you use it in, there’s a completely impermeable plastic panel across the lower part of the front of the bag. It’s there in case you want to sling a tripod or two on the front (there are loops provided that make this easy), but later need to wipe-off the inevitable muddy marks. That’s clever, though it would be nice if the panel wrapped across the entire bottom of the bag could be set down on really wet ground, and even in puddles. However, it didn’t escape our notice that four (yes, FOUR) tripods can pretty easily be attached to the Niko 3.0 … though it certainly can’t take four DSLR or mirrorless cameras.
Aside from the side-access one of the other major changes on the Niko 3.0 is the laptop pocket, which is accessed from the front. It also acts as a lid for that handy top compartment. New additions to this generously-sized area include a larger laptop sleeve, which this time can take up to a 16-inch laptop (complete with a strap that secures it in place), and a sleeve on top of that for a tablet. Both areas are super-soft and slightly padded. In the lid is a completely watertight pocket.
As befits a camera backpack designed to take a lot of gear into challenging landscapes, the Nico 3.0 has some pretty tough looking shoulder straps. They’re fully adjustable and cushioned, with those two things that actually make a camera backpack fit for hiking with; a sternum strap and a hip belt. That sternum strap comes with a tough metal buckle, though the hip belt is disappointingly weedy. Where’s the padding?
The Niko 3.0 isn’t much of a looker, but its straight boxy design is there for a reason. It can cope with a lot of stuff, protecting it well and making it as comfortable as possible to carry.
We managed to use it to schlep a couple of DSLRs and a trio of lenses, a GoPro in the top and a couple of tripods, and though we wouldn’t want to carry much more with the Niko 3.0, we could have done. Our only complaint is that the side-flap sits proud of the main compartment so isn’t as convenient as it looks.
The Niko 3.0 is a great bag for landscape and astrophotography. It’s tough and weather-proof, and comfortable to wear, though the hip-belt does little more than stop a heavy bag from moving around too much. It certainly doesn’t help support and spread the weight, as it should. That’s probably because it’s positioned as a backpack for urban street photography, though since the side access isn’t as easy as it should be – and camera gear is best accessed from the back of the Niko 3.0 laying flat on the ground – we think there are better options for the street.
What we do love is the plethora of small zipped pockets, the tough straps for securing tripods and the fact that its boxy design means it stands up on its own when left on the ground.
Chrome Niko 3.0 Camera Backpack: Verdict
It doesn’t look like anything flash – and it’s not the most space-efficient camera bag around – but what you get in return from the Niko 3.0 is a very tough camera bag. Comfortable to wear when heavy and able to both project gear and take a lot of it – particularly accessories and tripods – the Niko 3.0 is definitely worth considering as your next backpack for landscape and astrophotography duties.
Chrome Niko 3.0 Camera Backpack prices
• See current price at Dressinn (opens in new tab)
• See price at Wildbounds (opens in new tab)
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