Reviews |Shimoda Women’s Series Explore v2 Review

Shimoda Women’s Series Explore v2 Review

Shimoda Women’s Series Explore 30 v2 review
Review

Price when reviewed

£335

$373 / £369 / $385

Our Verdict

There’s a good range of adjustments available with the shoulder straps and waist belt of the Shimoda Women’s Series Explore 30 v2, which makes it comfortable to carry even when fully-laden. It also looks smart and has plenty of pockets and the opportunity to organise your gear.

For

  • Versatile with plenty of space
  • Female-specific and very comfortable
  • Durable materials and tough build

Against

  • You may want to by a larger Core Unit
  • Fairly expensive

What is the Shimoda Women’s Series Explore v2?

There are two sizes of backpack in the Shimoda Women’s Series Explore v2 range, the 25L Shimoda Women’s Series Explore 25 v2 and the 30L Shimoda Women’s Series Explore 30 v2. Apart from the difference in their capacity, they are identical and they are intended for travel and landscape photography. They are also designed specifically for use by female photographers.

Specification

  • Warranty: 5 Years
  • Weight: 25 starter kit (with Small Mirrorless Core Unit) 2.4kg , 30 starter kit (with Medium Mirrorless Core Unit) 2.5Kg
  • Colour options: Teal
  • Outside Dimensions : 25: 27W x 46.5H x 17D cm, 30: 29.5W x 51.5H x 17D cm
  • Inside Dimensions: 25: 26W x 45.5H x 16D cm, 30: 28.5W x 50.5H x 16D cm
Shimoda Women’s Series Explore 30 v2 review

Features

The Shimoda Women’s Series Explore v2 backpacks sit alongside the Shimoda Women’s Series Action X v2 backpacks which are meant for more adventurous use.

Like the Action X v2 backpacks, the Women’s Series Explore v2 backpacks are supplied with female-specific shoulder straps. These are designed accommodate female curves better than standard straps so the bags are more comfortable to carry for long periods of time.

The shoulder straps are attached to one of three loops at the top of the back of the Explore v2, they can be moved to suit the height of the photographer. They can also be exchanged for a different type of strap from Shimoda if necessary.

Shimoda Women’s Series Explore 30 v2 review

There’s also a removable waist-belt that enables some of the backpack’s weight to be carried on your hips if you want.

The Shimoda Women’s Series Explore v2 backpacks are rear-opening. This means that your kit is largely inaccessible while you carry the bag, you have to take it off your back to get full access to the main compartment. However, there’s a side opening that’s useful for swapping lenses without having to put the pack down.

Like Shimoda’s other backpacks, the Women’s Series Explore v2 has a modular design that means it can accept the company’s ‘Core Unit’s in th main compartment. These have padded inserts that can be fitted around your camera gear and they can be bought separately or as a kit with the bag.

There’s zippered section at the top of the Explore v2 which is perfect for carrying a few person effects like your purse, a light extra layer and a packed lunch. This has two air mesh zip-close pockets to help organise your gear and keep small items safe.

Perhaps more for travel than for landscape photography, the Women’s Series Explore 25 v2 and 30 v2 have two laptop/tablet sleeves that can accommodate laptops up to 16-inches. These are found at the front of the back and inside the rear opening section.

Both sides of the backpacks have zippered pockets and they each contain a removable mesh pocket that can be store a tripod (aided by a strap located above) or a water bottle. The front laptop sleeve also has a concealed Apple AirTag pocket.

Shimoda Women’s Series Explore 30 v2 review

Build and handling

The Shimoda Women’s Series Explore v2 feels tough and well-made. The outer fabric has DWR (Durable Water Repellant) and carbonate coatings to help keep out moisture, but the backpack comes with a rain cover to be on the safe side.

The top, bottom and the opening side of the Explore v2 each have comfortable handle. That’s useful for manoeuvring the backpack when it’s not being carried by the shoulder straps. The side handle can also function as a luggage pass-through strap, which is handy when you’re travelling with a suitcase.

As I mentioned earlier, the shoulder straps can be attached to one of three points to suit different height photographers. I’m around 5-foot 2-inches tall, so I use the ‘S’ fixing point designed for smaller people.

The first step in moving the strap to a new position is to undo a zip at the top to give access to the velcro fastening. Then the velcro can be peeled apart and the strap removed from its current loop and then threaded into another loop. With that done, the velcro is rejoined and the zip closed.

With the straps set to the correct height, the lifter straps at their top can be adjusted to make the load easier to carry. There are also two chest straps and a waist belt that are adjustable to suit the user.

Before you load the main compartment, it’s a good idea to unzip the side section of the Core Unit and slip it into the dedicated pocket in the side opening of the backpack. This enables you to reach the inside of the Core Unit just by opening the side of the Explore v2.

Shimoda Women’s Series Explore 30 v2 review

Performance

I’ve handled the entire Shimoda Women’s Series but I’ve had a sample of the Shimoda Women’s Series Explore 30 v2 kit in for testing. This comes with the Medium Mirrorless Core Unit which has room to hold a full-frame, single-grip mirrorless camera up to 12cm tall and a few lenses including a 70-200mm f/2.8. Amongst other things, I used it to carry a Sony A7RV with a 70-200mm f/8 lens mounted, plus four other lenses.

Shimoda Women’s Series Explore 30 v2 review

The Core Unit weighs just 500g, has EVA-laminated dividers and sidewalls, and a lightweight aluminium frame for extra rigidity and support. The side walls and dividers are thin, but the EVA gives excellent cushioning without bulk.

Being small means I have to pull the waist belt and sternum straps to their shortest lengths. My natural inclination would be to have both tighter if possible, but the waist belt sits on my hips nicely to take some of the weight off my shoulders. The chest straps don’t tighten as much as I like when I’m wearing a thin top, but the shoulder straps stay in position well and the Explore 30 v2 is very comfortable to carry even with a heavy load.

Shimoda Women’s Series Explore 30 v2 review

Verdict

The Shimoda Women’s Series Explore v2 is more traditional and neater-looking than the Shimoda Women’s Series Series Action X v2 because it has fewer straps and mounting points, and the top compartment opens via a zip rather than a roll top. Nevertheless, you get the same range of fit adjustment and the same comfortable carrying experience.

The Medium Mirrorless Core Unit doesn’t occupy the whole of the main compartment, there’s roughly a quarter of the capacity free above it. This can be taken up by whatever is in the top compartment. However, I would be inclined to invest in a larger core unit to maximise the camera and lens carrying capacity.