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Shimoda Explore Collection: First Look

by , November 18, 2017

Photographer Will Hartl gets a sneak peek at the Shimoda Explore collection, camera backpacks designed for and by adventurers to adjust to a wide variety of needs, environments and users…

Shimoda – Explore Camera Bags

Shimoda is the new adventure camera bag about to hit the market. Born out of personal insights and needs of an adventure photographer, the well-considered range at Shimoda allows you to brilliantly ‘choose your own adventure’.

As photographers we fuss and nitpick over bags and ways to move our gear. Small kit? Medium kit plus other gear, big kit and the kitchen sink? Shimoda has embraced this conundrum and built a range of bags with an interchangeable core unit philosophy to adapt all their bags to perfectly suit your next adventure no matter how big or small.

Shimoda Explore Collection

Explore More

Shimoda founder Ian Millar (previously the lead designer and developer at f-stop Gear) is a lifelong explorer, snowboarder and adventure photographer based in Hakuba, Japan. Shimoda products are a direct reflection of and reaction to the outdoor lifestyle that Ian and his adventure photographer friends live and love.


The Shimoda brand was born out of extensive field testing and the desire for better product that can withstand harsh outdoor environments. Inspired by the technical advances in outdoor products from the past few years, Ian wanted to bring some of these advances into camera bags. Specifically: how trail-running bags tackled the side effects of long-distance running in harsh environments. So he made Shimoda more durable, lighter, easier to access and more breathable.

Shimoda utilizes the most advanced materials and technologies available to minimise the pain, fatigue and suffering that comes with challenging mountain conditions. The bags are optimized to reduce fatigue and to be accessible.

Shimoda Explore Collection


Available in a 40L and 60L, the Shimoda Explore backpacks are for the fast-moving, thrifty adventurer looking to be agile and functional. Built out of a carbonate Ether double-resin-coated nylon shell and water-resistant splashguard YKK® zippers, the exterior repels water and is durable. Perfect for the outdoor explorer.

I’m lucky enough to have received both the 40L and 60L backpacks and my first impression was that they look like hiking packs. I fricking love this! The last thing I want is a camera bag that screams ‘Expensive equipment!! Rob me!’

Every aspect of the bag has been extremely well considered to accommodate any number of photo/video and adventure gear needed. You can downsize and travel light with the 40L or pack everything into the 60L and disappear into the wild.

Shimoda Explore Collection

Core units

The interiors of the Shimoda bags are based around a ‘Core Units’ system. Available in small and medium units, each core unit is constructed with compression-moulded EVA with catch-free dividers, so it can be customised to all types of camera gear.

Shimoda Explore Collection

Each Core Unit comes with a removable skin. This Skin can double as a dust proofing for units when not in use and is also perfect for packing loose items of clothing around the units. The small units feature gear loops and a detachable strap, allowing you to convert the skin and unit into a convenient lightweight shoulder bag.

Shimoda Explore Collection

Bag access – Multiple access points

The Shimoda 40L allows side and rear access, perfect for smaller lighter trips. The side access when configured with a side-facing small core unit allows for quick camera access without the need for bag removal. The EVA compression moulded back panel allows for complete access to the gear within and holds a 13” laptop internally. What I love about this panel is that it opens horizontally rather than vertically, allowing greater protection from the elements.

Shimoda Explore Collection

Shimoda Explore Collection

The 60L pack includes the above as well as top access to facilitate a full bag of gear with camera access on top. The top access includes an additional 15L of extendable volume and a floating lid perfect for securing wet gear like jackets, wetsuits, or wet camping gear.

Shimoda Explore Collection

Both the 40L and 60L backpacks are constructed out of a lightweight nylon resin shell and have large front pockets able to hold jackets, tents, climbing gear, avalanche safety gear or even a 15” laptop. The front also features a multi-configurable front panel with two adjustable straps with YKK buckles. Perfect for a large variety of adventure items. Tripods, climbing tools, ropes, skis, or a snowboard.

The side of each pack includes two adjustable straps to secure gear. The (L or R) side of both packs allow for main compartment and core unit / camera access. The (L or R) side has a brilliant removable waterproof convertible pouch in the side panel pocket. The pouch can secure a tripod on the side or be mounted to the shoulder gear loops with gatekeeper straps and act as a drop-in holster that can carry up to a Canon body + 70-200 pro lens. Again, removing the need to constantly put the bag down to take a photo.

Shimoda Explore Collection


The shoulder straps perfectly hug the body. Wider panels across the chest help support bag weight and reduce shoulder fatigue, allowing the photographer to feel comfortable, supported and go further. My favourite features here are the four height adjustments available to custom fit the shoulder strap height to suit your build and body size. Genius!

Shimoda Explore Collection

The wider panels also feature storage space for quick-access items such as a mobile phone, radio, water bottle or a muesli bar, removing the need to remove the pack for small essentials and simple tasks like sending a message.

Shimoda Explore Collection

The adjustable waist strap helps support bag weight and snugly holds the back panel into the lower back, further embracing the body to the bag. On either side there are gear loops for carabiners or ropes. Also there are mesh pockets either side, perfect for extra storage of smaller items such as snacks, coins or food wrappers/rubbish. Genius features like this are evidence of insight gained through hours of field R&D.

Shimoda Explore Collection

Additional items

Both backpacks have glove-friendly YKK® side-release buckles. Perfect for not having to take off your gloves to access gear or tie gear down. Older style buckles can be bulky and make securing a tripod difficult, the smaller YKK buckles are the perfect size for securing gear.

Shimoda Explore Collection

Space in any bag whilst in the field is a premium so with the inclusion of gatekeeper straps, the top and bottom of the 60L and bottom of the 40L can attach additional items like tents, sleeping bags, and camping mats. The eyelets on the bags have been redesigned from flat to 90 degrees, making it easier to attach and detach the clips. 

Backpack conclusion

Camera technology has changed, the way people are choosing to shoot has changed and that’s how the packs have been designed – for us, by us. The different sizes and versatility of both bags allows you to cater the bag to your amount of gear and choose your own adventure.

The Shimoda packs have the versatility to do everything you could imagine, the durability to go anywhere, and the intelligent functionality to capture the journey, a moment or the whole adventure.

Shimoda Explore Collection


Staying organised when living out of a bag can be the difference between sanity and anarchy, especially when it’s dark and you need to find the extra battery or the last memory card.

Shimoda have created bright blue modular accessory cases. Available in small, medium and large, the cases include a large zippered compartment and 2-3 mesh sub pockets. The cases feature a YKK zipped clamshell opening and TPU (see-through windows) allowing you to easily access and see contents within. They perfectly fit into both packs and luggage, minimising wasted space and preventing loss of smaller items in a large bag.

Shimoda Explore Collection

So just like the packs, depending on your needs, gear and adventure these can cater to exactly what you need to take. These are perfect for storage of smaller items like filters, hard drives, memory cards, small on-camera flashes or toiletries and fit in the top compartments of the 40L and 60L packs. Along with the core units and skins the accessory cases are a must and make the packing experience much easier!


Shimoda completes their range of adventure bags with a brilliant carry-on roller. Able to be fitted with the medium, small core units, or a variation of both, this bag can be used either for studio shoots, weekends away or for non-valuable items like clothing to accompany a pack.

The carry-on roller is the perfect accompaniment to the other packs in the range. Utilizing the same lightweight water-resistant materials as the packs, the roller offers superior water resistance and durability.

The Doctor bag style opening with YKK zips makes access to gear and clothing simple, the frame holds solid and along with the leather and nylon carry handles and rugged wheel tread it leaves the bag feeling robust and ready for the road.

Shimoda Explore Collection

The side panel pockets provide space for smaller items and passport storage while the left side pocket features a compression strap inside the pocket to secure a tripod.

Shimoda Explore Collection

I really like this bag, but at 3.4kgs it pushes the limit of carry-on. Most airlines allow 7kgs, so you don’t need much inside to be over the ‘acceptable’ carry weight. If flying is not the purpose for this bag, then it’s a great addition to the roaming photographer.


Shimoda has created an intelligent modular system allowing the creative explorer to ‘choose your own adventure’. The ability to pack as light or as heavy as you need, fix any number of items to your pack, all whilst feeling stable, supported and functional opens the door to ‘explore more’ – and I’m totally stoked on this release!

Get on Kickstarter and get yours now!

Shimoda Explore Collection


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