Shimoda just launched their new backpack lineup, the Explore V2 Series. It’s a travel-ready backpack that comes in three sizes and is built for travel and landscape photographers who spend their time globetrotting with a camera in tow. This feature-rich new bag by a brand specializing in adventure camera bags is definitely worth checking out!
Build: Rugged Yet Refined
I learned a long time ago that there isn’t one camera bag that can do everything. Each photography job is a little different, and that’s why I own several camera bags. Each has slightly different features that make it suited to holding more or less gear or keeping it organized in a different way.
Enter the Explore V2 series from Shimoda. This new line of bags is perfect for people who love to travel with their camera gear. Previous bags from Shimoda (Explore V1 and Action X) were tailored toward serious utility and durability, while the Explore V2 feels more refined and feature-rich.
If the original Explore series of bags launched in 2017 was the pickup truck of camera bags, the Explore V2 is the SUV. It’s still a rugged bag, ready to go off-road, but it has lots more features and comfort built for a smoother travel experience. Explore V2 is smaller and easier to navigate with more organization to keep your cameras and accessories in place.
All of the Shimoda bags are super high quality, but the Explore V2 series has many more features that make it stand apart from the original. The first thing I noticed was the addition of more pockets. It still has the ergonomically designed back panel and side access as well as pockets on the shoulder straps, but now includes several compartments on the front of the bag that allow you to store accessories and smaller items without the need for an accessory pouch.
There are two stowable water bottle pockets on the sides, which I often use for tripods or light stands. There is a medium-sized padded pocket on top, a full-height pocket on the front, and a half-height pocket on the front. Several of these contain internal zippered compartments, which are great for keeping small items stored. It may take a little time to find a system that works, but once you figure out how to consistently store everything, it will be dialed in.
My favorite feature, the laptop sleeve, remains unchanged from previous models. I love how you can zip the top section of the back panel open and quickly slide a laptop into the padded sleeve without having to fully unzip the camera compartment. This is perfect for airport security lines, where you don’t want to hold up the line.
This pack functions very similarly to previous Shimoda bags, feeling really comfortable, especially on long trips and giving you full access to your gear via the large back panel zipper. The fabric and zippers feel equally durable to previous models. My original Explore 40 is still looking good and resisting the elements (snow and rain) after three-plus years of heavy use!
When it comes to traveling, the Explore V2 is now designed with several features that make it perfect for airports. The Explore comes in three sizes, the 25-, 30-, and 35-liter versions. The Explore 25 is sized for global carry-on and will even fit under an airplane seat! Explore 30 is sized for EU carry-on and will fit under some seats. The Explore 35 is sized for US carry-on. Additionally, all the bags have YKK lockable zippers, dual access document pockets, and a hidden passport pocket. The luggage handle passes through, making it perfect for combining with a roller bag.
One thing that Shimoda is doing that few other manufactures consider is designing specifically for women. Shimoda offers women’s specific shoulder straps designed to be more comfortable and ergonomic for female body types. This attention to the market is another example of how Shimoda cares about customer feedback and serving photographers of all types.
Lastly, one of the hallmark features of Shimoda bags, the core unit system is expanded on this bag. It now comes with three different options of core units (removable padded camera cubes). They are all sized for mirrorless cameras and come in small, medium, and large. Having the flexibility to store your camera gear in cubes is very functional. It allows you to switch camera kits or take the camera gear out to carry other items in your bag if you’re not taking cameras on a particular outing.
There are probably lots of other features on this bag that I haven’t had a chance to explain in detail, but Shimoda is one of the leading camera bag makers and always makes excellent design choices. You can expect all the aspects of the bag to be top quality, with excellent attention to detail.
Usage and Examples
Although I haven’t had the chance to take this bag on a plane, I’ve been using it on road trips and adventures closer to home, and it has performed very well. As expected, I love all the access points and pockets on this bag as well as the sleek look.
I’ve found the Explore 25 to be perfect for smaller outings where I’m taking a camera, a few lenses, and a small drone. The pockets keep all the little items stowed neatly, and the suspension comfortably carries 20+ pounds of equipment.
I can’t wait to take this bag on bigger trips where airline travel is involved. I can already see how the pockets will keep my items organized and the travel-specific features like the side handle sliding over the top of a roller bag will make moving through the airport even easier.
If you’ve got a ton of camera gear or expect to carry lots of outdoor equipment into the mountains, you will likely want to look at one of the larger Shimoda bags like the Action X50 or X70. It would have been cool if there was a way to incorporate expandable capacity on this bag. I love how the Action X series is able to hold a little more gear in a pinch with the expandable roll top.
The Explore V2 bags are sized for the traveler who has a camera or two and a few lenses. I appreciate how nimble this bag feels and look forward to taking it on trips that involve exploring far-off places. Anyone else excited to trot the globe after 2020?!
Overall, this is an impressive camera bag for the globetrotting photographer who likes to travel light and see the world. It will be a perfect bag to move quickly through airports and keep all your stuff neatly tucked away in a variety of pockets. It is sleek, stylish, and suited to the travel photographer whose camera bag is part of his/her everyday carry.
What I Liked
- Sleek stylish design
- Travel/airport-ready features
- High-quality look and feel
- Excellent organization
- Back and side access to camera gear
- Modular core units
- Female-specific shoulder straps
What Could Be Improved
- Expandable capacity would be useful
- Color coding on pockets (red/green for charged/dead batteries)
- Hip belt pockets would be nice
Final Closing Thoughts
The Explore V2 from Shimoda is another excellent camera bag. Their bags are top of the line and perfect for travel and adventure photographers who want lightweight, functional camera carry options with plenty of protection and durability.
There are seemingly endless options when it comes to camera bags, but to me, Shimoda is the obvious choice because of the combination of features and high-quality design. I’ve used so many other camera bags that come close but can’t match the same level of function because they are always missing at least one key feature or have frivolous things that frustrate me. The bottom line is that Shimoda bags just work. Look for the Explore V2 in stores soon.
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Hip straps on smaller bags that don't have enough back length are funny to me. I own too many bags that hip belts do nothing because they end up around my ribs but if they didn't exist people wouldn't buy the product because they expect hip straps on any outdoor bag.
Here is a crazy though for a review: show the inside, the pockets etc.