Chrome Industries always makes a big splash at Interbike with tattoo artists, DJs, and free beer. So naturally the first thing that came to mind when thinking about Chrome gear was the urban bike messenger. Yes, Chrome Industries does produce bags and clothing for messengers but there is much more to their product line. After testing the the Niko bag and Storm Cobra jacket, I can say Chrome is really about bombproof, simple, functional gear.
Lately I’ve been doing a lot of photography during my outings and travels. Unlike most, I tend to bring everything plus the kitchen sink when I take photos. And for that, I need a tough bag that can take weight and keep my gear safe, especially in Ontario, where the weather changes dramatically from morning to afternoon. Rain, cold weather, and hot sun can all be in the forecast for the same day. The Niko bag and the Storm Cobra jacket fit my needs and work well together.
The Niko bag is a dedicated camera bag that’s made to last. Constructed from a weatherproof 1000 denier military grade nylon, all the zippers are YKK Nylon coated with polyurethane to keep the water out. The interior features a softer 600D lining with 10mm of padded foam to help keep things from bumping into each other. The size of this bag is quoted as 11″ x 17.75″ x 8″, but when full is a bit bigger.
To help with pack fitting you have an EVA foam backed bag with a triangular pattern that does allow some breathing. The straps are a comfortable 2.5″ in width, also backed with foam. Metal adjustable buckles securely hold themselves from coming out of adjustment. Add to that an adjustable sternum strap to keep everything aligned.
The inside layout has a large camera cavity which is adjustable for lens placement. Along with enough room to hold most all DSLR’s including Pro models like the Canon 1Dx or Nikon D90, Chrome has tested many of the popular brands in the Niko for fit. I found space for 3-4 lenses depending on which ones you have. You can safely store a 70-200 F2.8 with no worries.
On the top of the bag you have a big enough compartment to carry food, camera gear, or a jacket or two. The top compartment opens into a padded laptop sleeve.
The pack is big enough for a 15″ Macbook Pro. The inside flap of the main body has a few neat see-through pockets allowing space for things like memory cards, cords, gels, and other smaller items.
Off the back of the pack there are two very strong Velcro straps that hold everything from camera stands to helmets.
Storm Cobra Jacket
Ontario weather requires you to have a back-up plan at all times. One minute you can have a sunny sky, but look down into your wallet and back up and here comes the rain.
The Storm Cobra is a beast for such occasions. The Cobra is made with a bike-based longer torso and arms for riding position. Made from a nylon twill construction, the Storm’s seams are all taped making this 100% waterproof and still breathable. To help manage heat, pit zips (using the same YKK nylon zips) and a two-way main zipper allow for venting. There are two forward pockets and a back cargo pocket as well for things like a wallet or keys. Fine details like the embroidered logo and pulls for the hood all make for a nice-looking jacket as well.
Out on the Trail
Having used both items for a few months, I have enjoyed both the Niko and the Storm. I did find the lack of a waist belt made the Niko a bit unstable if I was using it on my bike when the terrain got steep. The bag tended to bounce off my helmet.
Carrying my gear was a non-issue. I could comfortably carry my camera and all my lenses. Along with my lenses, I carry two flashes, four remotes, a few filters, and various other small items for the maintenance of my gear. The two outer straps easily carry tripods without worrying about them coming loose. The wraparound flap opens easily to remove your gear (all of it), so be sure to open the bag with the back on the floor or parallel to the ground to avoid spillage.
With the Storm Jacket, I found the cut to be on the slimmer side. A caution here would be to try before you buy. Other than that, and losing a few pounds (I blame my wife for this one), the Storm Cobra feels great. The Nylon twill material feels a bit more substantial than other jackets. Whether walking, riding, or taking pictures, I did not feel inhibited in my arm positioning. On cold, windy days, the material did its job at keeping the wind out. I did wish the arms had either an elastic or adjustable closure to keep wind from blowing up the arms when riding.
Overall, I would say if you’re looking for a bit of a change in the style of clothing you choose to wear, or you’re thinking about extending you bike wear into everyday wear, the Storm jacket is it. As far as the Niko bag is concerned, it is truly built to last. The Niko really is a good quality camera bag, but due to the lack of a waist strap, I only use it on easier trail rides.
How much is this gear going to cost you? The Storm Cobra goes for about $299, and the Niko bag comes in at about $250. The great thing about the Niko is that it carries a lifetime warranty, while the Storm Cobra has a one-year warranty against defects.
Many thanks to the folks at Chrome Industries for providing this gear for review.