Review – Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag

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I love to hike. I love to head out into the backcountry, and I regularly take my camera gear with me. Funnily enough, my first article here on dPS discussed just this fact. So it seems rather fitting that I got to review the Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag.

The opportunity to review the bag was also timely because I’m currently in the market for a new backpack and had been looking at several brands before the arrival of this Shimoda pack.

Review - Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag

The view from my hike. I love this area of Ontario, Canada.

The Shimoda Explore 40 pack is designed to be used as a daypack. It’s not meant to be used for weeklong treks into the wilderness with your camera gear.

If you’re looking for a pack to suit those needs, Shimoda makes the Explore 60 which more resembles a trekking bag. It’s similar to my 55 L Vaude Bag but it’s designed to hold camera gear whereas my Vaude bag was designed solely to carry backpacking gear. That doesn’t mean I haven’t adapted the bag to carry my camera gear, but it’s nice to have something designed specifically for photographers.

Review - Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag

Here’s the complete Shimoda Explore 40 kit.

The Material

Review - Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag

Here’s a close up of the material. It’s smooth, not rough like my other bags.

The first thing I noticed about the pack was the material. It is distinctly different from the material of my other bags. I took the Shimoda Explore 40 out of the packaging and was surprised by the feel and texture. It’s a smoother surface that is deceptive at first.

I am used to a bag that has a sort of canvas type material that feels rough like an old tent. At first touch, I was a bit sceptical about the durability of this material. I needed time to get used to the differences. The material is, in fact, double-resin coated nylon. It does not feel like the material of my Vaude hiking pack or my Lowepro Backpack.

I tested it in my kitchen sink. The water easily beaded on the material and rolled off without soaking through. The zippers are also water-resistant. The Explore 40 does not come with a rain cover, though. Most of the time you won’t need one but to be on the safe side, there’s plenty of room to pack a generic rain cover, just in case.

Review - Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag

Here’s a close-up of the zippers with leather pulls. You’ll notice they are heavy-duty, not likely to break.

The Structure

The Shimoda Explore 40 is very well constructed of a heavy-duty material and also comes with a reinforced frame. Shimoda has inserted aluminum rods into the frame of the pack to help it maintain its shape and durability. I like the structure of the bag and how truly sturdy it feels.

The Core Units

Review - Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag

I packed the core unit just to see how everything fit. Later, I changed the configuration for my hike as I didn’t take my extension tubes or the flash components.

The Shimoda Explore 40 is designed for lighter travel. It comes with two small core units as well as a medium sized one. The units are strong and durable. The dividers are easy to use and configure to the needs of your camera gear. I was able to remove pieces and reposition them quickly and easily without the Velcro becoming stuck to the sides and annoying me.

The camera gear is quite safe within the core units. They are designed to protect the gear and cushion items from the bumps and bangs that often occur when out on the trail. On my hike, I slipped down a rocky section of the trail and landed at the bottom of a steep hill. My gear was safe and secure within the core unit.

Review - Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag

This is the interior of the small core unit.

The two smaller core units come with a very basic strap that allows you to turn the unit into a shoulder bag for carrying around one or two lenses and a camera body. But the strap isn’t designed for all day walking through a city.

I could see the bag possibly digging into my shoulder if I were to use it to peruse a city with my camera for 8 hours. The unit is designed more for quick jaunts around the campsite or for short walks.

Review - Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag

The inserts are very sturdy and I found the tapered edges made it easier to configure the unit for my camera gear.

Storage within the Bag

Review - Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag

Here’s a shot of the front compartment. I stuffed a trail guide in here.

The Shimoda Explore 40 is designed to hold more than just camera gear. I was able to pack food items as well as a water bottle. If need be the Explore 40 is equipped to carry a water bladder and hose. For this trip, I chose to take a small mug and water purifying drops, so I didn’t test out the water bladder compartment.

The bag comes equipped with tons of pockets. I was able to store my lunch, extra socks, my phone, a map, a rain cover, mug, and extra mittens within the pack. There was certainly room for more gear inside the pack.

The outer straps allow you to attach items to the exterior of the pack. You could choose to carry a small tent at the bottom of the bag.

Review - Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag

The bag is pretty spacious when opened.

The bag also comes equipped with a sleeve in which you can fit a 13” laptop. The padding of the back panel would protect the laptop from any bumps or bangs that might cause possible damage to the gear.

The Shoulder Straps

The pack comes with several different adjustable should heights. I put the bag on the smallest setting. To give you an idea I am 165cm (5’5″) tall.

The pack fit nicely on my torso at the smallest setting. The hip belt rested just above my hip bones, and the adjustable straps allowed me to set the shoulders comfortably so that I felt no strain and carried the majority of the weight on my waist.

The last thing you want is a bag that places most of the stress on your shoulders, and by the end of the day, you’re regretting your decision to take your gear.

Review - Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag

There are four different settings for the height of the torso.

My one complaint about the strap configuration has to do with the chest strap. It comes across the front and helps to keep the shoulder straps in place. This takes some strain off the top of the shoulders.

The issue is pretty much based on anatomy. The bag is designed as a unisex item. It does not take into consideration the female chest. Many women’s bags are designed so that this strap sits above the bust. I was able to slide the strap up somewhat but not enough to keep it from resting on the bust.

It’s a minor complaint that only female photographers will struggle to overcome. Believe me, we are used to this. It would be nice one day for someone to take the risk and design a camera bag specifically for the shape of a woman (hint, hint, Shimoda).

Review - Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag

The bag sits comfortably on the body, even when you’re wearing a thick sweater.

Accessing Camera Gear

The Explore 40 comes equipped with both side and rear access to your camera gear. For my test hike, I used the medium core unit and tested out the rear access. It was easy to get to my camera and to switch lenses when needed.

The core unit easily held my 5D Mark III, a 70-200mm, a 16- 35mm and a 50mm prime lens. The side access works quite well also. At home, I inserted the small core unit and stuffed the bag with towels to hold it in place. It was easy to sling the bag sideways and remove my 70-200mm while it was attached to my camera body.

In Conclusion

Overall the bag is beautifully designed. I tested it on the Bruce Trail. It was a cold and rainy day. I completed a 15km hike over rough terrain. The design of the bag ensured it fit snuggly to my body. I didn’t ever feel burdened by the gear I was carrying.

The hard frame of the core unit did slightly dig into my lower back, but I was able to make a few adjustments to the straps and solved the issue. Over time I can see myself breaking some of the plastic clips, but this is pretty common in most bags. I have replaced the clips on my Vaude trekking bag on several occasions.

Review - Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag

At the start of the trail with the Shimoda Explore 40 pack.

I wouldn’t use the Shimoda Explore 40 for long overnight hikes. The shoulder straps are not designed to carry the weight of camera gear plus all of the items necessary for a backcountry trip. Shimoda recommends their Explore 60 for those types of activities.

After looking on their website I discovered that they also offer a carry-on unit for planes as well as several accessory packs that can help make packing your gear easier to manage. I’ll be honest, I’m considering the carry-on the unit. The core units fit into this bag, so it’s easy to transfer items from carry-on to your pack once you arrive at your destination. I like this feature an awful lot. It would have helped me out a great deal last year during my trips.

Review - Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag

The straps are comfortable and durable but definitely designed as a daypack. I’m told the Explore 60 has much heftier straps for longer hikes.

See the bag overview in this video:

Shimoda recently completely a Kickstarter campaign. Check them out and see what you think of their products.

Summary
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Reviewed Item
Review - Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag
Author Rating
4

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Erin Fitzgibbon is a freelance photographer, writer, and teacher, from Ontario, Canada. She specialises in portrait, sport, and fine art photography. In her free time, she escapes to the backcountry or the beach with her family.

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  • Oscar

    Awesome review. Really liked the Style of the bag. I found a similar one online at https://creatorsattic.com/ under bags. Enjoy!

  • Erin Fitzgibbon

    Hey, so glad you like the review. I checked out your link. The bags are certainly shaped similarily but the Shimoda is a much larger pack. They don’t have very much in common other than the rounded top.

  • Clive Young

    My wife would agree that the “Booby Strap” is uncomfortable but I would add in the summer the backpack design gives me a sweater back.To over come this I use some foam pipe insulating and Velco on the back of the backpack so I have a bit more airflow in the summer.

  • Erin Fitzgibbon

    LOL “Booby Strap” good name. Yeah the sweaty back issue. I find it happens with just about every pack I own. Seems like hot days and heavy gear make for lovely marks all over clothing.

  • Ian Millar

    Hi Clive and Erin, just an FYI we have enlisted our female Kickstarter Backers to help develop straps for female torso’s. Varina Patel is also a big part of this. Our straps are removable and our plan is too offer options to fit different torso shapes. Once we get the straps into the Kickstarter Backers hands and finalize the design, we will then look to release them for sale. Thanks again for the review. – Ian

  • Erin Fitzgibbon

    Love the bag Ian. I’m heading to Wales in a month for a bunch of hikes. I plan on taking the bag. Will take a look at the Women’s straps :)))

  • Dan Higgins

    I received this bag about a week ago and have only had a chance to take it out for one hike. (I think I spent more time organizing and reorganizing various options than actually using it at this point. But I do very much like the bag. Here are a couple of high points for me. (I have the 40L. I use it for a Canon 5D4, 16-35L f4, 70-300L and a Sony a72 w/ 24-70 which I’ll mention later.)
    – The pack fits great. I am 5’8″ but with a long torso (and short legs). I use the Large setting for the straps and it is perfect.
    – Some don’t care for hip belts but I need them due to shoulder issues. The ability to adjust the fit allows me to let more of the weight sit on my hips rather than my shoulders.
    – Currently I am using the Medium core unit (almost said ICU) as I like my camera w/ lens attached sitting on its bottom rather than on its side. The small units are too narrow for that. This precludes me using the side access to get at my camera but I generally doing do that anyway as you’ll see in a moment.
    – I didn’t know if I would use the tripod pouch on the side but it actually works quite well. I carry a Feisol 3442 with a Markins Q20 head. I flip the legs around so they are protecting the ball head then put the whole thing upside down in the pouch (with the legs sticking up). Works well and avoids having the legs protruding lower than the bottom of the pack when I set it on the floor or the ground or the seat of my vehicle.
    – Shoulder straps feel great and having the attachment points is very helpful
    – And now the big thing for me. I’m a huge fan of some of the Peak Design gear. Especially the Capture clips. And sure enough, the Peak Design Capture fits well on the left backpack strap just above the point where the strap widens out. In fact, the widening of the strap keeps the Capture clip from sliding down as was happing on my previous backpacks. I use the clip to old my Sony A72 and it is in the perfect spot for a quick snap. I can even have it there with the 24-240 lens on if I think I am going to be seeing wildlife and I want to take a quick pic. If I don’t put my Sony on it, I can use the lens quick-change/carrier thingy from Peak Designs and have an alternate lens hanging right there at my shoulder. If I choose to use the tripod pouch on the front to hold my camera and lens then I can have that second lens ready at hand. I don’t usually hike with that much out of the bag but if I need it there is a great option.
    – My one “learning” about the bag was when I first arranged it with a small core unit across the top where I placed a somewhat longer lens. I then though I was being clever by using the side opening panel on the back to stand the bag up. But it doesn’t stand straight up. Silly me. The lens rolled right out of the core unit. Note to self – don’t do that and may get a couple of those small elastic straps with velcro on each end to put across the openings to certain parts of the core unit so really expensive stuff doesn’t fall out!
    Anyway, enjoy the bag, Erin, and thanks for sharing your insights!

  • Erin Fitzgibbon

    Wow… great feed back. I recently took the pack with me to Wales. It’s was brilliant in the rain. everything was dry. We were out all day. Well done Shimoda. :))

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