Usually, Kickstarter is a collection of scams and bad ideas for internet virgins to be separated from their money. Sometimes, if you know what you’re doing, it’s a source for good deals. In this case, Shimoda Designs has established itself as a reliable maker of durable, action oriented camera backpacks. Shimoda decided to use Kickstarter as a “group buy” for their new line of Action X backpacks and mine managed to arrive just after Xmas.
I chose a “DIY” kit since none of their pre-assembled kits met my needs. Included were the X70 backpack, mirrorless camera unit and Top Loader. The X70 features a rolltop closure design that allows it to expand beyond the advertised size of 70 liters, reaching as much as 85 liters of capacity, and also compacts down to as little as 50 liters.
This gives me all of the space I needed after spending a few months with my Shimoda Designs Explore 40 backpack. My older pack also gave me a lot of experience in just how versatile, durable and most of all, comfortable, their backpacks are. The internal frame and materials integrate to create a rigid platform that both keeps the pack in place while moving and stops packed items from poking out to create hotspots and more discomfort. Above all else, Shimoda backpacks have fully adjustable, and removable, shoulder straps that accommodate different torso lengths; this ensures the hip belt is placed in the correct position. Combining the internal frame with configurable torso length, the pack can then split the load between your shoulders and hips for greater comfort and endurance. This is the only consumer grade backpack I’ve ever used that doesn’t immediately cause me back and hip pain or leg numbness.
The Action X70 has all of this and more. Shimoda went back and redesigned the shoulder straps, making them wider, more rigid and precurved, as well as adding a thicker layer of memory foam in both the shoulder straps and hip belt. Less advantageous for the larger X70: the hip belt is now removable and slightly adjustable for height. They’ve included stabilizer straps that help secure the bottom of the bag to the belt, reducing lateral swaying of the bag by keeping the load centered. The improved hip belt design was to facilitate the ability to remove and replace the belt with optional designs offered but a knock-on effect was an increase in stability. This should especially help action sports users, as the swaying can throw a person off balance.
Shimoda also increased external capacity greatly. They’ve added more attachment points to both top, bottom, middle and rear, giving you greater flexibility with their accessory straps in securing more items externally in a far greater variety of ways. These loops also help you attach the optional Top Loader camera carrier in a variety of ways. Also included is a helmet carrier to secure a helmet externally, which is great for skiers, snowboarders, mountain bikers and climbers. They also doubled the number of zipped exterior pouches by putting one on each side and completely redesigning them. Neither pouch is removable, unlike the previous version, but they are now elasticated, expanding to a far larger size compared to before. I often used the one on the Explore 40 to securely transport my tripod despite creating an unbalanced load. Now you can fully balance the pack with a full sized tripod on one side and a tent in the other, something backpackers and through hikers will appreciate. Speaking of redesigned pouches, the elastic pouch on the right shoulder strap now includes a zipper at the top, making it more secure, but can also be unfolded to nearly as large as the old pouch design. On the opposite strap, the cellphone pocket has been enlarged to accommodate phones with extra large screens.
Internally, Shimoda has included more zipped storage points, with two large mesh pockets in the main compartment and two small windowed pockets in the outer compartment. Speaking of zippers, they now use a zip-in divider to separate the main compartment from the camera storage compartment, preventing items from falling into the camera area, an issue that was a source of annoyance in my Explore 40. Since it zips in and out, it can be removed for times you need to maximize the storage space. Lastly, they included a keychain clip in one of the mesh pockets in the main compartment.
So, a roll top? Sure, it can be especially annoying to get to what you need from the top of a large capacity pack. Shimoda has addressed this by adding an external access, weather resistant zip at the midway point of the main compartment, opening up right above the internal mesh zippered pockets. It gives you immediate access to items at the bottom of the storage space and one of the mesh pockets.
Making a return from their previous packs are provisions for a water bladder, top and side handles, pocket for 15″ laptops, self-standing base with waterproof layer, weatherproof external zips, side-opening camera compartment, and coated, water-resistant ripstop nylon exterior.
But it’s all about the tiny details when it comes to Shimoda’s backpacks: a passthrough port for bladder drink tube, passthrough port for phone charging cable in the bottom of the cellphone pocket, rubber coated accessory straps, internal sleeve for large, handled tools, magnetic clip for the hip belt stabilizer strap, etc.
Other than some stylistic choices, I feel like Shimoda really hit this out of the park. I like both of the new color choices (black and olive drab), adjustable capacity via the rolltop design and the expanded attachment points. Personally, I think the way the rolltop closes looks kinda weird, but I was able to solve that using an accessory strap. It’s an impressive backpack that’s comfortable, rugged, handsome and, most of all, extremely functional. The retail price is high but still provides excellent value. However, if you were able to get in on the Kickstarter sale, you got one hell of a deal.
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