Amateur Photographer verdict

The Shimoda Urban Explore 20 is among the best backpacks we have seen. Its 20 litre capacity is almost perfect for travel photographers who want to pack their cameras, lenses, and tech accessories.
  • Good Capacity
  • High-quality materials and design
  • Multiple access points
  • Functional pockets and compartments
  • Premium comes at a price
  • Limited colour range

For a busy photographer working in the city, you must have a bag that looks as good in a meeting with a client as it is functional when you need to be shooting in the street or studio. The Shimoda Urban Explore range is designed to meet both those needs. Three sizes are available, 20L, 25L and 30L, and here we’re looking at the smallest 20L option.

Shimoda Urban Explore 20 at a glance:

  • $320 / £285
  • 20L Capacity
  • ‘Anthracite’ or ‘Boa’ colour choice
  • Rear and Side camera access
  • Hidden Apple Air Tag pocket
  • 27W x 43H x 20D cm
  • 1.8kg

Shimoda is an American brand founded in 2017 that has quickly become known for its premium-quality bags aimed at landscape, travel, and adventure photographers. However, the Urban Explore range is aimed more at the daily user who will be found shooting on a city break or jumping in and out of an Uber.

The bags are made from hardwearing Cordura fabric, with thick padded shoulder straps that make them comfortable to wear all day. The 20L version should meet airline carry-on bag guidelines. With a metal frame in the bag and the internal camera compartment, your valuable gear is protected from people trying to ram their bags into an overhead locker.

A large back opening provides access to all your camera kit. Credit: Andy Westlake

Shimoda Urban Explore 20 key features:

  • Laptop Compartment: The laptop compartment is accessible from the top and measures 23W x 31H x 2D cm. I found plenty of room for my 13″ Apple MacBook Air.
  • Air Tag Pocket: We won’t reveal where, but hidden in the bag is an Apple Air Tag pocket, which you can use to keep track of your bag and hopefully help recover it should it be lost or stolen.
  • Chest Straps: The chest straps have a hooked magnetic clasp, which is secure in use but quick to take on and off.
The shoulder straps and back are generously padded and mesh covered. Credit: Andy Westlake

The main camera compartment can be accessed via the rear or a side pocket when you just need to grab a camera. This main compartment will comfortably hold a mirrorless camera or small DSLR with up to 3-4 lenses or accessories. If you want to use a larger DSLR or carry some larger zoom lenses, you may want to look at the larger 30L bag. But the 20L model I tested has plenty of space for the average travel shooter.

The laptop compartment is accessed via the top opening. Credit: Andy Westlake

There are so many great design features on the bag that it is impossible to cover them all, but some of my favourites include a small strap on the shoulder harness that allows you to attach a camera clip comfortably. The waterproof cover is tucked in a neat compartment inside the bottom of the bag, keeping it out of the way yet always with you. The laptop compartment also has a magnetic flap to keep it shut.

You camera can be accessed via a zipped opening on the side. Credit: Andy Westlake

Small pockets have rubber at the top to prevent items inside from slipping out. There is a quick-release fob on one of the inside pockets to keep your keys or similar close to hand. Then, plastic pouch pockets inside the front and main compartments keep small items safe and secure. And there is also a hidden and secure passport pocket.

The backpack is comfortable to carry fully loaded. Credit: Andy Westlake

There are also all the usual features you would expect. This includes straps and pockets on either side of the bag for carrying a tripod or water bottle, a luggage strap on the rear for putting over a roller case handle, a separate pocket for a tablet, and a USB battery cable pass-through for charging your phone on the move. Finally, five elastic loops in the side pocket help to keep your cables neat.

A side pocket helps organise your cables and other accessories. Credit: Andy Westlake

Shimoda Urban Explore 20: Our Verdict

In a very competitive market, the Shimoda Urban Explore 20 is among the best backpacks we have seen. Its 20-litre capacity is almost perfect for most travel photographers who want to pack their cameras, lenses, and tech accessories. However those using DSLRs may need one of the larger versions.

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