Storage on shoulder straps can be a marmite feature
Smaller ICU limited for bigger cameras/lenses
Laptop size limited
WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR
Generally when looking for a camera rucksack I’m looking for something pretty commodious to swallow a big camera setup and all my mountain stuff. However, as part of an overall article on camera gear packing, I wanted to look at some smaller bags for fast and light trips out or for mountain biking and climbing photography. The requirement would be for a bag able to carry a small, mirrorless camera setup, a couple of lenses and possibly a drone. In addition, it needed to accommodate clothing and equipment for a spring/summer day in the hills scrambling or biking without compromising on ruggedness and features. Sometimes it’s nice to drop the weight and bulk and keep things simple, just working with one camera and a spare lens.
In addition to all the adventurous stuff, I was also looking for a bag that would double as a travel bag for the trains and planes of commuting life. I travel quite a bit for my other work (non-photographic, joys of the gig economy) and in addition to my laptop and travel stuff I like to pack a camera just in case, not something my current bag always allows.
I’m looking for something pretty commodious to swallow a big camera setup and all my mountain stuff
The Shimoda X25 v2 is part of Shimoda’s Action X v2 range of camera bags and is the smallest and newest in the range, which comprises 5 sizes in 3 colourways which are available as bag-only or starter kits. The Action X range is marketed at outdoor adventure users; the water-resistant YKK SplashGuard® zips, tough fabric, roll-top closure and ice axe loops all point to a bag for the outdoors. With the v2 range some updates have been added to make it a little more travel-friendly too.
I tested the X25 v2 starter kit, which comes with a camera insert ICU (Internal Core Unit) including dividers that can be organised to suit your kit. It’s definitely worth taking your time to get the most efficient configuration for your kit, and don’t try and cram in too much gear! The ICU is accessed from the big zipper at the back or can be configured for side access (worth considering for biking). The ICU and bag are pretty compact and aren’t designed for a big camera setup, there are plenty of bigger bags in Shimoda’s range that will take up to a full cine rig with big lenses, however for a compact, mirrorless set up and a couple of lenses and kit, this is ideal.
The bag is 25 Litres capacity, but with the roll-top you can expand it and squeeze in some extra equipment or clothing, there’s a hydration sleeve, a pull-out rain cover and helmet holder included. For when you are out of adventure mode and travelling, the bag has plenty of spaces to organise your stuff into, and the padded laptop sleeve and side carry handle make it a useful carry-on bag.
The carry system is fairly adjustable, I’ve used the Shimoda Explore 30 previously and was impressed with the back system – the X25 is similarly comfortable and Shimoda have done an impressive job with the comfort of these bags.
The test – shooting on Dinas Cromlech, North Wales.
The bag was used for some springtime photographic trips in the hills, some climbing photography and maybe a spell on the bike. I also had some work trips planned, so some travelling with the camera and laptops was also in order. Using a smaller bag can be good for ‘gear discipline’ and personally I quite often fall into the trap of over-packing when it comes to photographic kit. The ICU took my Nikon Z6 with a 24-120mm zoom, a spare wide-angle zoom and an additional prime lens. There are a couple of options for storage of spare batteries, camera accessories as well as a laptop, and your general equipment is kept separate from your camera gear in the main compartment.
In the spirit of keeping things lightweight, I kept the gear pretty minimalist, but the bag took everything I needed for the hills without any compromise on clothing, bothy bag and all the relevant headtorches and mountain gubbins! The handy water bottle and tripod holder took care of business for external carrying.
Although this is the smallest bag in the range, it was roomier than I first thought. Using it for a climbing shoot, I managed to fit the camera, 3 lenses, drone, accessories and some spare clothes in. It comfortably carried my camera gear up to Dinas Cromlech on a hot, sweaty slog, once again confirming the comfort of the back system.
The conditions whilst using this bag have been pretty clement so it hasn’t had a real beating from the weather just yet, but I’m confident that it would deal with rain and snow showers fairly comfortably before the rain cover had to come out.
The bag also did a little travelling and comfortably carried my camera a couple of lenses and my 13” Macbook (which was at the limit of the laptop storage), headphones and work stuff without any issues.
WHO IS THIS BAG FOR?
The Shimoda Action X range is marketed at the adventure sports photographers and the X25 would be an ideal bag for photographers looking for a good day bag that also double as a plane-friendly camera travel bag. If you were out for a day’s skiing, mountain biking, bouldering, hiking or indeed anything adventurous and needed a bag that protects your gear from weather and knocks, has enough versatile carry points to take on skis, helmets, tripods, axes etc., then this bag should be considered. Obviously if you are carrying bigger camera systems there are larger bags that are more suitable.
WHAT STANDS OUT?
All day comfort
From commuting to carrying climbing and camera kit up hills – Shimoda’s designs are brilliant in terms of comfort. You can wear this pack all day and even with a relatively heavy load, it doesn’t feel too arduous.
Designed with adventure in mind
The ruggedness and outdoor-specific features such as ice axe loops and ski straps mean this isn’t just a bag for fair-weather photographers, but it’s built to withstand a rough, outdoor lifestyle.
Versatile for all your gigs
…but that said, it’s equally user-friendly and aesthetically clean for the ‘day job’ or ‘side hustle’, depending on which way you look at it!
Fast and light adventure-friendly
As the smallest capacity bag in the range, you’ve got to be pretty strict on what you’re packing. It’s a good skill to have, gear discipline, but if you need a larger setup or extra kit on board, you might be better off looking into one of the larger versions.
The laptop compartment on the X25 is quite compact, so worth checking it’s adequate for your needs.
VALUE FOR MONEY
The bag is relatively expensive in today’s financial climate, and of course, there are cheaper products out there. Bear in mind however, that they inevitably don’t have the same quality materials, workmanship and the adventure-specific features that the Shimoda Action X25 v2 has.
It’s a premium product and in actual fact, is competitively priced compared to similar products from competitors on what is quite a niche market.
BASE BOTTOM LINE
The Shimoda Action X25 v2 is equally at home on the mountain as it is at the airport, however it is definitely more at the adventure end of the spectrum – which in my profession is no bad thing. It’s comfortable, durable, versatile and overall, a worthwhile investment for adventure photographers.