Shimoda Explore v.2.0 Backpack

Back in 2002 I bought my first photo backpack. A Lowe-Pro that has served me well and been all over the world, but it’s getting full and a bit awkward for me to use in the field. I blame scope creep - that I’ve acquired a lot more gear over the years and actually use most of it every time I go out. For a few years I’ve casually eyed different backpacks and even had another Lowe-Pro in my B&H cart, but didn’t pull the trigger on it. There was something wrong with all of them that kept me from committing. Then I ran across a KickStarter campaign from Shimoda and fell in love. Behold the Explore v.2.0 -

Pardon my bad phone pics and my old deck furniture (cushions cover most of the wood when in use!)

Ok, granted I haven’t actually taken it into the field yet, but I already think it’s pretty great. Not only are there two stow-able pockets on the side for a water bottle and a tripod (or a spare pair of shoes, or whatever…), but there is an open compartment in the top for a jacket and lunch, etc. I love that. It has a pocket for a 16” laptop and/or a CamelBak if you so desire. Plenty of access both front, top and rear, solid construction and great looks. I’m not affiliated with them, but thought I’d share my first impressions and photos.

A big selling point for me is the adjustable harness - I have it in the middle because that’s where it’s most comfortable so far. It has a removable waist belt that really works. The harness is adjustable to fit close to the body and balances nicely. I have the women’s technical harness on the way - it was an option in the KickStarter campaign and is the same, but has two chest straps. One goes above and the other below the girls. I’ve never had a backpack company (or really almost any manufacturer) take women’s anatomical differences so seriously before and it’s great. Terrific pockets and stuff on the straps themselves and a nice comfy back plate. There are aluminum tubes that make up the outside frame and the core unit for the gear is soft, yet slim and the velcro grips really firmly.

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I went with the 30 liter medium mirrorless core unit. There are many other configurations available and the other color is Army green. It has a lot of pockets and you can even get to your camera from the side if you want.

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Otherwise it lays flat down and opens in the back. It has three carry handles - top, bottom and side. Great for moving the thing while it’s open. Oh and don’t you love the light blue interior? So much better for actually finding the stuff you cram into it.

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There’s a cover that fits over the core unit to keep your gear even more secure and it came with some extra straps if you need to carry camping or sporting gear as well and there’s a rain cover. I’ll get out with it when it stops raining and being humid and see how it does in the field. I can’t wait!

I think it starts shipping from Shimoda’s website and from B&H etc. in November. If you’re in the market for a Landscape or Nature Photographer oriented pack, give it a look. It’s so configurable that I’d be shocked it it wouldn’t work for you. It comes in one larger and one smaller size, too.

Happy trails to me!

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I bought the 35L black with the large DSLR core unit. Very comfortable when fully loaded. I definitely will limit the number of lenses and other gear when on longer hikes. Hope to get out this coming week and test it on the trail. Very high quality construction and materials.

@Kris_Smith - Is this from the most recent Kickstarter? I got notice and was debating. I’ve been very spendy lately, but I think I regret not backing it. I was going to go for the smaller version as I prefer something between 20-30L, although I don’t recall the exact size now. I’ve heard great things about these, so if you don’t mind updating after using it in the field that would be great. :slight_smile: My biggest drawbacks on new bags have been price and weight, but this one is supposed to carry really well which can make a huge difference. And as you said, women-specific straps would be great.

Is there room for a laptop in this backpack? I don’t like to carry onboard the laptop and camera bag separately. Well, I think that’s wishful thinking actually. I suspect this backpack is too large for onboard travel.

Yes, this came yesterday as part of the latest KickStarter campaign. I think it’s going to turn out to be a great pack. It takes a 16" laptop…a very slim one. Not my behemoth 17" Lenovo. Oh well. Maybe I can slim down with my next one.

Lightweight is a big advantage – I can barely pick up my old and much-used LowePro when it’s packed for an average trip, and it’s way too heavy empty. My real problem is needing to get over this full-frame thing.

As to laptops, I’m holding my breath for the new 14" MacBook Pro that will come out early next year. It will replace (and hugely upgrade!) my Mac Pro desktop computer – something I never thought I would be able to say. I’ll use it with the lid closed with my wireless keyboard, running my 27" MultiSync monitor and all peripherals.

Yeah, I toyed with the idea of ‘full frame’ (which is a silly term if you know the history of film and 35mm, but I digress), but gave up because - look at my kit. 3 lenses that go from 24mm to 800mm in 35mm terms, plus a macro and it weighs practically nothing. Two of my lenses are f2.8 through their zoom ranges and my super tele isn’t as big as a horse’s leg. IQ is top notch as are features, so…I can’t bring myself to get a bigger kit. Yeah, I’ve been a weight-lifter for 30 years and can manage it, but why should I?

The pack itself is heavier than my old one, but not as much as you’d think, I can weigh them empty if anyone wants me to.

First hike with the pack. After an hour or so my shoulders started to hurt because there was too much weight on the straps. Tightened the waist belt and pulled the pack closer to my back and it was better. Overall I have good access to my gear, but miss the side pockets on my LowePro where I could keep a lens in each and switch without taking the pack off. With this one the way it’s set up, I have to lay it down and open it to get another lens. Hm. Will have to think about this. I may be able to use the pocket for the tripod when I’m carrying it which I do often with the camera attached. But there are issues there, too (see below). Alternatively I could attach a separate pouch to the belt. I have a couple meant for water bottles and one could hold a lens or two (MFT lenses are little so I can do this pretty easily).

Also have to reorganize it a little. I have a small rectangular bag that holds filters, batteries, spare SD card, cable release and a few other bits. It moves from bag to bag so I know I always have the essentials. I stuck it in a top section that can’t be accessed through the back so I have to close it up, stand it up and then get to filters or a lens cloth or whatever. There is a mesh pocket that is just above the core unit and accessible from the back that I could make use of, but it doesn’t expand far enough to take my accessory bag. I can try to refigure the core unit and see if it can go in there.

I’m going to try using one of my CamelBaks next time because when I lifted the bag higher to get the weight off my shoulders, it put the water bottle just out of reach which is another pain since I don’t have a contortionist’s level of flexibility, especially in my shoulders that have each been injured. I could loosen the pack enough to let me get the water and put it back, then tighten it up again. More fiddling is required.

Overall though it was a good experience. Fully loaded the bag is comfortable and the weight well distributed. Laying the bag flat down gets it dirty fast, but it cleaned up with a wet paper towel. So far so good!

I got the Action X in the previous Kickstarter, and have been absolutely delighted with it. The thing with Shimoda bags is that they are awesomely configurable, so play around with your configuration until you get it just right.

I also backed the Explore V2 in the recent Kickstarter, and am patiently awaiting mine. Happy (but also a bit jealous) to hear others are already receiving theirs.

For tripods, I would recommend using the accessory straps to carry these externally on the rear of the pack. I love them being balanced in the middle of the pack, especially when also carrying water.

I have my bladder in the rear compartment. Always a bit nervous, and although I have never had an issue, I have given myself a bit of extra peace of mine by having the bladder inside one of the F-stop bladder sleeves.

Enjoy your pack. Shimoda is pretty awesome.

I’m looking forward to a report on the Camelbak. Being able to use my 3L is part of my wish list for a camera daypack. I know there’s risk of a blowout. I’ve used a big Ziploc before, but I might need to check out the bladder sleeve that that @Des_Paroz mentioned. I do prefer to be able to access more lenses without setting the bag down, but it might be a sacrifice to make. Thanks for keeping us updated as you make new discoveries!

My previous backpack was the PD Everyday Backpack, and I could access through both sides of the bag. When moving to the Shimoda I was concerned that I would miss that.

I’ve actually come to enjoy the freedom of setting the bag down and being mindful about my choice of lens, rather than ‘running and gunning’. Horses for course of course, but I no longer miss this.

@Des_Paroz I’m generally traveling with people who aren’t as interested in taking time, and I also have my own issues about making people wait. However, maybe it’s a good test of whether I think it’s worth trying to get the image. :slight_smile: I currently use a Peak Design pack most of the times as my go-to, but I don’t think it’s ideal for longer day hikes for me. Thanks for sharing your experience with side access.

@karlag Agree that PD bags are pretty good for travel and being around town, but aren’t great for hiking! That’s why I went with the Shimoda, and have never looked back.

BTW, I do regularly use the side access on the Shimoda, but generally for the camera already setup.

@Des_Paroz Thanks for the additional comment on the side access. I do think that most of the time it would be sufficient for me and if I wanted to change lenses, then take time to set the bag down. I think I’m going to put this on my gear wish list. :smiley:

So I said I’d have to re-organize the main gear box to accommodate my small satchel of accessories and here it is -

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Stuffed that bag in the top right and the camera fits next to it - here I have the 12-35 f/2.8 on it with the hood oriented for use. I can also put it in there with the 35-100 f/2.8 attached, but with the lens hood flipped backward. In this shot that lens is next to the 45mm f/2 macro in their own cubby. There isn’t a strip of padding between, but for most of my travels it won’t matter. I can probably sandwich one in there if needed.

There is a mesh zipped pocket accessible from the back, but it is very shallow and doesn’t extend into the upper section space much at all. So now I have my neck knife and a brush in it -

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These strap pockets are handy, but I have only used them for stashing sunglasses, lens caps and/or batteries so far. The flat pocket works for the latter and the one that folds out handles my Oakleys just fine. An Apple iPhone 11 fits fine in the flat pocket. I’ve attached a locking hook that resembles a D-ring to the right strap (upper left) that I’ve used for years to either hang my camera on (by the wrist strap) or winter gloves that hook together. Occasionally I hang my hat on it as well. Very handy. It opens and locks closed.

How much does it weigh when fully packed. I like the features and would like to compare it to my camera bag. I really like the front pockets. Is it small enough to be a carry on for a flight? Will it fit in the overhead bins?

In the shots above w/all gear and tripod it’s 24 pounds.

Shimoda says they designed these bags to be airplane friendly. The smallest will go on pretty much all European flights they say. This one (the 30 liter with the medium mirrorless core unit) should go into most overhead bins - regional jets excluded. Depending on the seat, you can probably get it under one though. I haven’t flown with it yet, but will in November. The waist belt is removable and you could use the side handle to go over the pull handle on a rolling bag.

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Update!

So I hiked for a few hours today and have two things to report -

First, a camelback will fit ok, but the tube can’t be threaded without taking the bite valve off. It was too much of a pain so I went with a water bottle instead. Probably if I had more patience or regularly took apart my CamelBak, I’d have gotten it done. The water bottle pocket really needs to be tightly cinched or it swings and sways and bangs against the bag in a most annoying manner. I did manage to get it in and out without taking the pack off though, so progress!

Second, the slimmer of the two strap pockets might be designed to hold a cell phone, but it’s so snug that either the volume button gets mashed resulting in near deafness or the power button does and it constantly thinks I want to talk to Siri. Really annoying. If I hadn’t been trying to listen to an audio book I might not have noticed, but I was and I did. Moved it to a pants pocket for the duration.