Shimoda Urban Explore review

Smart, stylish everyday camera bag: Shimoda Urban Explore

Lightweight, stylish, and perfect for packing and carrying camera gear around town, on day hikes, and weekend trips.

Shimoda has introduced the Urban Explore, a new camera backpack designed for use around town, short day hikes, and weekend trips. The bag shares similar features with Shimoda's Explore outdoor camera backpack, but is simpler, lighter, and more streamlined. For photographers who've been wanting a Shimoda bag they can wear without looking like they just came down from a mountain, the Urban Explore may be just right.

Disclaimer: Shimoda provided me with a 25 liter Urban Explore for the purposes of creating this review. All opinions are my own.

The Urban Explore is available in 20, 25 and 30 liter sizes. These are purposely smaller than the conventional 35 liter size of most camera backpacks so they're lighter, easier to carry and stow while traveling. I traveled with the 25 liter size on a trip that included air travel and light hiking in a national park, and the Urban Explore was perfect for every situation.

It doesn't carry a full arsenal of camera gear, but can pack a 16 inch laptop (25 and 30 liter sizes), and has just enough room for a mirrorless camera body, a couple of lenses, a drone, and various accessories. The bag works best when packing light, for it doesn't provide a waist belt, and the shoulder straps are thinner are less adjustable compared to Shimoda's outdoor-centric bags.

Packing the 25 liter Urban Explore with camera gear
Packing the 25 liter Urban Explore with camera gear

What makes the Urban Explore different from most other "everyday" camera backpacks is Shimoda's experience designing rugged outdoor packs. That experience has contributed to the Urban Explore a number of surprisingly robust features, including weather-sealed YKK zippers to help block moisture, a rain cover inclement weather and keeping the bag clean when traveling, durable DWR-coated 302D nylon construction, a removable camera core unit, plus dual side pockets for carrying a tripod and water bottle.

Urban Explore's limitations are its size and relative comfort for long periods of time. The bag is a bit small for average-sized tripods, but works great with small, compact travel tripods (eg, the Ulanzi Zero-Y or Peak Design Travel Tripod). The interior core unit is also more shallow, which means larger cameras must be stored horizontal, not upright. The shoulder straps are not as well padded or comfortable as Shimoda's outdoor bags for long periods of time, but adequate for general, lightweight use.

Urban Explore performs best when it isn't stuffed to the gills with a weighty laptop and lots of camera gear and accessories. For that type of use, a bag with more substantive support (eg, Shimoda's outdoor bags) would be a better option. I also wouldn't pack the Urban Explore for an extended landscape photography trip with lots of hiking involved, but would absolutely use the bag around town, on a day hike, vacation with my family, or any situation where I simply need to pack a camera, a couple of lenses, plus few small accessories (eg, batteries, SD cards, etc).

I very much like the look and feel of the Urban Explore. Its outer shell has a fine, woven texture designed to help minimize scratches and abrasions, while also lending the bag a more modern, technical appearance. Bonus points for being constructed mostly from recycled plastics. I like the matte black colorway, but there's also a tan option for those who'd prefer a lighter color.

Overall, I'm a fan of the Urban Explore. Like other Shimoda bags, it's well built, smartly designed, and includes a number of small, thoughtful details. I think the 25 liter size is perfect, for it can carry a little more than 20 liters, but is smaller than other 35 liter camera backpacks I already own.