For many travel, outdoor and wildlife photographers, a suitable camera bag is an essential part of the equipment. Because a camera bag should not only protect your precious camera and lenses, but the bag should also be comfortable to wear and possibly also offer space to take outdoor gear such as walking poles or even camping gear. The search for the perfect camera bag for these kinds of outdoor adventures can therefore be quite a challenge, but I think the Shimoda Explore V2 is definitely a bag to consider!
With my photography I mainly focus on travel, outdoor and documentary. As a result, I am spending a lot of time on the road and the outdoors. A good camera bag is therefore essential for me. Because not only do I want to be able to carry enough camera equipment (and protect it), but the bag must also be comfortable to wear during long hikes and I would like to be able to carry items such as hiking poles, snowshoes and/or camping gear. Like many other photographers, I have therefore been looking for the perfect camera bag for a long time, specifically a camera backpack that is suitable for outdoor activities such as hiking, camping and winter sports. But as every photographer knows, the perfect camera bag doesn’t exist, although I have finally found one that comes close. That’s why you can read more about my favorite camera backpack in this blog review: the Shimoda Explore V2!
Review Shimoda Explore V2
You may have seen this camera backpack before. It is therefore a popular camera bag worldwide among photographers who travel a lot and love the outdoors. But this bag also comes with a high price tag. Depending on the size of the bag and the core unit to divide your camera and lenses, the price quickly rises to more than a few hundred euros. That is of course a lot of money and also a lot more expensive than most other brands of camera bags. The big question is therefore: is the Shimoda Explore V2 worth the money? After several trips with this camera bag I can now say yes, but I can imagine that you still have your doubts. After all, I did that for a long time. Hopefully this camera bag review will provide some more clarity about the quality and applicability of the Shimoda so that you can then decide for yourself whether this camera backpack is also an option for you.
Shimoda Explore V2 Camera Backpack
But first, let’s start with some general information about this camera bag. The Shimoda Explore V2 is a camera backpack especially for photographers who are involved in photographing themes such as travel, outdoor, adventure, wildlife, landscape, nature and documentary in their work or hobby. So it seems like the perfect camera bag for those who travel a lot, are often on the road and like to be in the great outdoors. The Shimoda Explore V2 is available in three different sizes: the E25, E30 and E35 where you have the choice to purchase only the bag or also a starter kit with core unit to organize your camera and lenses. All versions are available in the colors black or army green.
- Size suitable for hand luggage
- Different handles (top, side and bottom + suitable for over trolley)
- TSA-Lock friendly and YKK Splash Guard zippers
- Included rain cover
- Height adjustable harness (optional harness for women)
- Removable belt
- 2 supplied accessory straps
- 12 attachment points for accessories
- Stowable water bottle and tripod pouches
- Different core unit options to organize camera gear
- Core unit access from rear and side
- 16” inch laptop sleeve (E30 and E35)
- 13” inch laptop sleeve (E25)
27 cm (b) x 46,5 cm (h) x 17 cm (d). The bag weighs 1.57 kg, is compatible with a Small Mirrorless core unit and suitable for carrying a 13” inch laptop.
29,5 cm (b) x 51,5 cm (h) x 17 cm (d). The bag weighs 1.65 kg, is compatible with a Small, Medium and Large Mirrorless core unit and is suitable for carrying a 16” inch laptop.
29,5 cm (b) x 54 cm (h) x 20 cm (d). The bag weighs 2 kg, is compatible with a Small, Medium and Large Mirrorless and the Small, Medium and Large DSLR core unit and is suitable for carrying a 16” inch laptop.
Shimoda’s camera backpacks are quite large (especially very wide), which is why I chose the smallest version, the E25. I’m only 1.55m/5 feet 1 tall (or small actually) and didn’t want to feel like “where is that big bag going with that little woman”. As a result, I can take less camera gear with me than my husband Niels, who opted for the E30, but because I like to pack minimalistic and we can often divide stuff because we go on the road together, the E25 is perfect for me. Niels found the E30, the most popular version, a bit more pleasant. For this review we can therefore also make a good comparison between the different versions.
Design and layout
The first thing you notice about the Shimoda Explore V2 is the design. The bag looks and feels super solid, which gives the feeling that the bag is of good quality, can handle many conditions (such as different weather conditions because the bag is also water-repellent) and lasts a long time. That’s a nice idea given the price tag attached to it. Furthermore, the bag is also very practical and you can store a lot of camera gear in it, even in the smallest version I have, the E25. In addition to the core unit to organize your camera and lenses, there is also enough space to take some outdoor gear with you. Think of an extra raincoat, a jetboil to make a hot meal or a cup of tea/coffee on the go, walking poles and even larger items such as camping gear and/or snowshoes with the included straps.
You also have extra compartments for snacks, filters, and a laptop or iPad, for example. The laptop compartment of the E25 is only suitable for 13″ inch laptops, so my 14″ inch Macbook Pro unfortunately just doesn’t fit properly. I only take my laptop with me when I travel by plane and not when hiking, but I do like having a bag that fits my laptop so I have the option to put it in my carry hand luggage. Fortunately, there is a deep compartment at the front of the bag that fits my laptop. It’s not ideal because my laptop is less well protected in that place, but it’s fine for what I want with it. A 16” inch laptop fits in the E30 and E35.
On both sides of the bag you will also find a stowable pocket for a water bottle and tripod, which is very nice to take with you during walks or other (small) outdoor adventures. Personally, I would have found a stretch box a better option. You don’t have to store such a stretch box because it can simply remain in a fixed place without getting in the way. That is of course different with a bag that can be folded and unfolded and it therefore feels a bit cheap to me, precisely because it hangs loose from the bag. But overall I’m very happy with how practical the Shimoda Explore V2 is and how many storage options there are to carry so much stuff. And of course the E25 I have is smaller than the E30 Niels has and the even bigger version, the E35. But because of the many storage compartments and straps that you can add, you can still take a lot of stuff with you even with the smallest version of this bag.
Another point that is very important to me is the overall comfort of the bag. Not only because I sometimes walk outside all day for work, but I’m also quite short (I’m only 1.55m/5 feet 1) and that’s why it’s often difficult for me to find a camera bag that is really comfortable to wear anyway. But the great thing about the Shimoda Explore V2 is that it is equipped with a removable belt that ensures that the weight does not pull on my shoulders and that as a woman or smaller person you can order a women’s shoulder strap for free. Because of my height I chose the women’s simple petite version and it fits perfectly. The women’s shoulder strap, at least this petite version, has a slightly different design than the original harness. For example, the shoulder/chest strap is narrower, so there is no compartment for storing a smartphone, for example. I always carry my phone in my trouser or jacket pocket, so this is not a problem for me. In fact, I like the narrower straps better because it makes the bag more minimalist. Without the straps, the bag does not look like an exaggerated camera bag, so you can also use it as a normal backpack at home, for example.
Core Unit & Dividers
Then more about the core unit as Shimoda calls them. This is a compartment in the bag with separate dividers to organize your camera and lenses. There are different versions and formats available: the Mirrorless and DSLR which are available in small, medium and large formats, and the DV (digital video) which is available in large and extra large formats. Enough to choose from, although you may also have too much choice. Anyway, the choice was pretty easy for me. The Small Mirrorless is the only core unit that fits in the small E25. Via this link you will find more information about the different core units and which format is compatible with which bag. In any case, the smallest version is enough for carrying my Sony A7Riii with a 24-70mm zoom lens and an additional lens such as the 16-35mm. There is still a little bit of room left for taking some small accessories with you, especially if you pack more compactly than I usually do. I personally prefer to pack more spaciously so that I can quickly reach my camera and/or lenses. If I still want to take other lenses, such as the Sony 100-400mm telephoto lens or a drone, they also easily fit in the top compartment of the bag. There are plenty of other compartments available throughout the bag for small accessories. So I do have the option to take an extra lens with me, but I also like that I have to choose. It ensures that I don’t take everything with me and go out with a heavy camera bag, just because I can.
The core unit is a separate compartment, by the way. You can therefore also remove it from the backpack to use it in a travel suitcase when you travel by plane or remove it to use the bag as a normal backpack instead of a camera backpack. In the bag you have access to the core unit from both the back and the right side (when you have the bag on). There is a storage option for filters on the left side, which is also the biggest drawback of the Shimoda Explore V2 if you ask me. Since I spend a lot of time outdoors shooting and hiking, camping and stuff like that, I strongly prefer a backpack with access to the camera section from both sides. This way I always have quick access to my camera gear and I don’t have to put my bag on the ground, which is often wet or full of sand, mud, snow or other dirt. Because well, I walk outside and often in nature… So I would have preferred that the left side would also give access to the core unit. Also because there is already a storage compartment at the front of the bag that is also very suitable for storing filters, so it’s a bit disappointing that Shimoda sacrificed an entire side access for that.
I also find the core unit itself a serious flaw. The strong frame around the core unit mainly gets in the way when I want to grab my camera (including lens) from the side. The same applies to the flap on the core unit that serves as an opening. Due to the rounded corners and the sturdiness of the frame, my camera gets stuck behind it, so I can’t take it out of the bag in one smooth movement. This is extra difficult because the opening of the side access is not very large either. Because I could never easily get my camera out of the bag, I (sorry Shimoda) cut the filter option out of the bag with a knife and replaced the core unit for the Quick Shelf System of my Lowepro Freeline. Maybe it’s a bit of a no go, but I now have both sides fully open and quick access to my camera gear. That makes it just a bit more of the perfect camera backpack for me.
Overall I am very happy with the Shimoda Explore V2! The camera bag looks good, feels very solid and almost completely meets my wish to take other (outdoor) items with me in addition to my camera and lenses. We regularly go hiking and take the jetboil with us for a hot meal or tea. It was no problem to attach hiking poles and snowshoes to the bag during our winter trips in Scandinavia. And I like having so many different compartments so that there is always a suitable option for storing keys, a wallet, passport, snacks, camera accessories, etc. I have never had a camera backpack with so many options before! Furthermore, Shimoda is the only brand that has thought about the comfort of the bag for different genders. For example, in addition to a removable belt and adjustable harness, as a woman or small person you also have the option to order a suitable shoulder strap for your height / posture free of charge (note: this only seems to be possible if you order via the Shimoda website). That is definitely a big plus! A major drawback for me is the sacrifice of one side access for a filter option and the separate pockets on the side for carrying a water bottle or tripod. I was able to solve the first problem, although it feels not right to cut into a brand new (and expensive) bag. But I certainly don’t regret it, because this just made sure that almost everything came together for my perfect camera bag.
Of course I cannot determine whether the Shimoda Explore V2 is the perfect camera bag for you, but if you are looking for a camera backpack that is suitable for the outdoors and small adventures such as hiking, cycling, camping and winter sports, then the Shimoda Explore V2 will certainly also be a suitable camera bag for you. Depending on your wishes, the Shimoda may not be your perfect camera bag, but I think this bag for travel, outdoor and wildlife photographers comes very close!
- Order the Shimoda Explore V2 E25 in black or army green
- Order the Shimoda Explore V2 E30 in black or army green
- Order the Shimoda Explore V2 E35 in black or army green
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