Shimoda Explore 60 Camera Pack Review

An adventure oriented pack designed to get you deep into the backcountry.

By: Jason Hatfield + Save to a List

As a long time owner of a well-used 2010 F-Stop Loka pack, created by Ian Miller, I was immediately interested when he started his own company, Shimoda Designs. He developed a new series of packs designed with features that are especially useful for big winter pursuits or long summer hikes. I finally got a chance to test one out, the Explore 60, over a couple weeks of winter wildlife photography in Yellowstone, backcountry skiing in the Tetons, and a ski ascent attempt of 14er Culebra Peak. I came away with a lot of love for the improvements over my old pack, especially the extra space, and it's modern design.

The first thing I noticed when I received the pack was the material and it's vibrant dark blue; it feels tough, slightly stiff, and very water resistant. Through heavy snow, wet snow, dry snow, being set down repeatedly in snow, and some light mist, it never wetted out. I'll definitely use the rain cover in heavy downpours for extra safety, but I don't see having to worry in light mist or sporadic showers. I didn't have to worry about how I set the pack down either, as the back-panel folds to the side! That may not sound like a big deal but not having to step around the panel to get to gear is a definite improvement when you repeat the action hundreds of times a year. There's a sleeve on the panel that only fits a 13" laptop (I don't recommend putting a water bladder in there so close to your gear), but if needed I can put my 15" laptop in the large back pocket sleeve. The large back pocket also has a couple small drain holes and is perfect for carrying a shovel, probe, skins, water bladder, extra layers, or camping gear.

The main benefit of Shimoda packs over traditional camera bags or standard hiking packs is the modular system that uses different sized core units to customize how you carry your gear. I primarily have mine configured with two small core units that carry my a7R III with 24-105 f/4, 16-35 f/2.8, 100-400mm, and a few accessories. This is where the other big feature comes in really handy for me, I can rotate the right core unit for side zipper access to grab my camera without taking the pack off! I typically use a chest pack or Peak Design clip for quick access but neither of those options are great for protecting the camera while backcountry skiing; now I can just unbuckle the pack and swing it one side to grab my camera. The only time that doesn't work is if I mount my skis in A-frame style using the side pack straps. With two straps on the back as well and an expandable left-side pocket the Explore 60 can also carry tripods, a snowboard, time-lapse rails, water bottle, trekking poles, and more.

The hip belt strap is comfortable and has a couple small open stretch pockets useful for small items or trash, but I'd prefer larger zip stretch pockets similar to my backpacking pack. The shoulder straps also include a pocket each, a stretch mesh on the right and zippered water-resistant phone pocket on the left. Unfortunately, the phone pocket is slightly too small for my iPhone 7 Plus, but the mesh pocket holds it well. The shoulder straps additionally have attachment points for using the removable side pocket as a camera carry for quick access, or mounting other gear like chest packs. I can't find a manual or setup video to show the chest holder configuration but there are other helpful videos here.

The top of the pack features a large lid pocket with inner mesh pocket. I really like having a separate top pocket for easy access to headlamps, batteries, snacks, sunglasses, goggles, etc. Underneath the lid is an expandable and removable stuff liner that can hold a lot of winter or summer mountain layers. While backcountry skiing I was able to store a helmet, goggles, gloves, puffy, and soft-shell. The liner closes at the top with a side-squeeze cinch that took a little getting used to at first, a bigger one would be easier to use with gloves. Skiing up Culebra Peak I removed the liner to create one compartment and cinched down the side straps to keep the pack's profile slimmer.

I only have one big issue, the large lumbar pad on the back lid. Through genetics and lots of outdoor activity I have fairly developed glutes. The large lumbar pad causes the pack to sit away from my lower back and rest on my butt, causing me to lift the pack a little with my glutes on each stride. I was able to minimize it some by adjusting the shoulder straps to the small position, but I still notice it. Now this is a personal preference and body-type issue as other people like that kind of support, but I prefer a mostly flat back or trampoline panel support. I might see about removing the padding as it does bug me on anything longer than 8 miles, but only more months of use will tell me if it's necessary. 

Overall I'm really impressed with the pack and look forward to putting it to hard use this summer! The safe and quick camera access means I'll get more shots, and the extra storage means I'll be able to bring almost any gear I need.

PSA: Help the environment and fight climate change! Consider your requirements before every purchase and only buy what you need. Look at second-hand markets, repair what you have, and spend more if it means you'll be buying a product that lasts longer! I used my old pack to the point of it falling apart and wetting out at the slightest drop of water!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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