Shimoda Action X v2 – A New High Bar In Outdoor and Adventure Photo Packs?

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The Shimoda Action X v2 is an updated version of the brand’s technical adventure and nature photography backpack. The v2 update sees two new sizes added to the lineup, a host of new features, Women’s specific models, and user-driven refinements to Core Units. In this review, I’ll be taking my usual in-depth look at the whole lineup to help you decide whether an Action X v2 is in your future. Buckle up. There’s a lot to talk about, so I think this will be a big one!

Disclosure: Shimoda sent me these bags to review. No money changed hands, and they did not get to see the content before it was published. These are my honest views about the Action X v2 bags.

Shimoda Designs has offered Shutter Muse readers a 10% discount on anything purchased through their online stores. US, Canadian, UK, French, or German residents should use the discount code ShutterMuse10 after clicking here to access the store. Australian readers should use the same code on the local Shimoda distributor’s site, Maxxum, instead.

Throughout this review, I will refer to these bags using their full name, i.e., Shimoda Action X50 v2, or shortened versions such as Action X50 or X50. Using v2 every time would be tedious to read, so it is safe to assume that I am always referring to the new v2 versions of the Action X bags unless I specifically say otherwise.

Shimoda Action X v2 Key Features

I’ll dig into these in more detail, but for now, here’s a quick rundown of the impressive list of features found on the Action X25 v2, Action X30 v2, Action X40 v2, and Action X50 v2.

  • Removable, adjustable hip belt
  • Adjustable torso length
  • Padded side, top and base handles
  • Luggage handle pass-through
  • Helmet holder
  • Apple AirTag pocket
  • 2x padded laptop sleeves
  • Ice Axe Loops
  • Shoulder strap pockets for phone and water bottle
  • Adjustable roll top for volume expansion
  • Reinforced padded base
  • Quick Access Zipper
  • Modular Core Unit camera insert system
  • Included rain cover
  • Removable tripod and water bottle pockets “Drop Pocket”
  • DWR and Carbonate Coating
  • YKK SplashGuard zippers
  • TPU Ski straps

Shimoda Action X v2 Colors and Sizes

shimoda action x v2 review colors
Shimoda Action X v2 Colors: Black, Teal, Yellow and Army Green
Shimoda Action X v2 sizes: 25L, 30L, 40L, 50L and 70L

The Action X v2 is available in five sizes and four colors. Action X25 v2 and Action X40 v2 are new sizes in the lineup, as is the existence of Women’s Action X25, X30, and X40. The Women’s Series bags, with specially shaped shoulder straps, are only available in Teal. The Action X25, X30, X40, and X50 are available in Black, Yellow, or Army Green. The Action X70 HD is only available in Black or Army Green.

The new yellow color is a bright, fun way to add to the Action X v2 options. It’s a great choice in the mountains or when you need a color that pops in photos and videos. I can see this being a popular choice for YouTube content creators that don’t want to blend into the background all the time in their videos. Of course, wildlife photographers will continue to love the stealthy Army Green color.

Special Note On the Action X70 HD

The X70 HD deserves its own review. So that’s what I did.

The X70 HD is a huge camera backpack designed primarily for cinematographers and wildlife photographers who carry heavy equipment and super-telephoto lenses. It’s also the best camera bag for people who want to go multi-day trekking with a camera and camping gear. While this bag is technically part of the Action X v2 lineup, featuring all the v2 updates, there are enough differences between it and the rest of the lineup that I decided to write a separate review for that model. Read on if you’re most interested in the Action X25, X30, X40, and X50. But divert and head to my Action X70 HD review if that is where your focus lies.

Shimoda Action X v2 Specifications

Action X25 v2Action X30 v2Action X40 v2Action X50 v2Action X70 HD
Weight (shell)3.9lbs / 2.01kg4.2lbs / 1.9kg4.6lbs / 2.1kg4.6lbs / 2.1kg6.2lbs / 2.8kg
Outside Dimensions (in):10.6W x 18.9H x 6.7D in.11.8W x 20.1H x 6.7D in.11.8W x 20.9H x 7.9D in.11.8W x 22H x 7.9D in.12.2W x 23.2H x 9.1D in.
Outside Dimensions (cm):27W x 48H x 17D cm30W x 51H x 17D cm30W x 53H x 20D cm30W x 56H x 20D cm31W x 59H x 23D cm
Inside Dimensions (in):10.4W x 18.7H x 6.3D in.11.6W x 19.9H x 6.3D in.11.6W x 20.7H x 7.5D in.11.6W x 21.9H x 7.5D in.12W x 23H x 8.9D in.
Inside Dimensions (cm):26.5W x 47.5H x 16D cm29.5W x 50.5H x 16D cm29.5W x 52.5H x 19D cm29.5W x 55.5H x 19D cm30.5W x 58.5H x 22.5D cm
Max Laptop Size14″16″16″16″16″
Compatible Core UnitsSmall MirrorlessSmall Mirrorless / Medium Mirrorless / Large MirrorlessSmall Mirrorless / Medium Mirrorless / Large Mirrorless / Medium DSLR / Large DSLRSmall Mirrorless / Medium Mirrorless / Large Mirrorless / Medium DSLR / Large DSLRAll Sizes

Action X Vs. Action X v2 – New Features

You may have bought one of the original Action X packs, and now you’re wondering whether you should upgrade to one of the new v2 models. Or, you may remember seeing the Action X bags in the past, but they didn’t come in quite the right size for you or were missing a feature you needed. With multiple new sizes and a long list of new and updated features for v2, it’s worth revisiting this series. Here’s what’s new for v2.

  • Two new sizes: Action X25 v2 and Action X40 v2
  • Three new women’s specific sizes: Women’s Action X25, X30, and X40
  • New yellow color
  • There are now two padded laptop sleeves instead of one
  • A hidden AirTag pocket was added inside the bag
  • Side tripod/water bottle pockets are now removable to wear on the hip belt
  • Phone pocket expanded to fit iPhone 13 & 14 Pro Max
  • A rain cover is now included, and a new rain cover pocket has been added to the interior base of the bag
  • The hip/waist padding on the belt is now adjustable for smaller waists
  • Luggage handle pass-through added, and also acts as padded side handle
  • A base handle was added for 2-handed moving the bag around on the ground or into vehicles
  • Large DSLR Core Unit lengthened to fit better a mounted Sony 200-600mm lens and the Nikon Z 800mm lens

I enjoyed using the original Action X bag I bought from their Kickstarter launch campaign some years ago, so I was pleased that they didn’t make any drastic changes to the bags for v2. You won’t notice the difference from a distance unless you’re looking at the brand-new yellow color. Still, Ian Miller, Shimoda’s chief designer, has come up with a long list of carefully thought-out updates that each contribute meaningfully to the overall usability of the bags. Action X v2 is product refinement at its best, and by using it, you see how meticulous Ian has been with a redesign that has been two years in the making.

New X25 and X40 Sizes Welcomed

The new Action X25 v2.

When I first got details of the planned updates to the Action X lineup, I was particularly pleased to see the new X25 and X40 sizes on the list. Reviewing the Shimoda Explore v2 series, I underlined what a breath of fresh air the smallest Explore 25 v2 backpack was. Outdoor photography backpacks typically come in larger sizes, and trying to find a smaller pack usually means moving down through a brand’s product line to a cheaper, inevitably inferior product. People of smaller stature shouldn’t be forced to use inferior bags. Shimoda’s Explore 25 v2 finally gave those people a smaller camera backpack with the same features and high-quality materials as much larger bags. Now they have twice as many options with the Action X25 v2 introduction.

The Action X25 v2 isn’t just for smaller people, though. Sometimes I want to carry one camera with one or two lenses, and I want to do it in a bag that offers the same level of comfort and features as the bag I use when carrying two bodies, six lenses, and some camping gear. I can easily pack a small 2-lens camera kit, my laptop, and enough clothes and toiletries for a 3-4 day trip into the Action X25 v2.

Even as I sit here finishing this review a couple of days before the bag’s official public launch, that’s exactly my plan. Tomorrow, I hop on a plane from the Yukon to Vancouver, then from the West Coast to the East Coast, for a 4-day trip with only the Action X25 v2 on my back. This bag is a perfect solution for fast and light days in the mountains or multi-day travel excursions where you don’t want to feel weighed down as you hop from the airport to the city and back again.

So, we’ve established that I love the new Action X25. What’s the new Action X40 all about? Obviously, the X40 sits between the Action X30 and the Action X50, but it’s not quite as simple as that, and it all comes down to Core Units. The Core Unit system is discussed in greater depth later in the review, but the quick version is that the X30 uses the shallower Mirrorless Core Units. In contrast, the X40 and X50 use the deeper DSLR Core Units that accommodate gripped or pro-sized bodies.

EVA foam back panel

Both the X40 and X50 will hold the Large DSLR Core Unit, so their camera carrying capacity is identical. Though the X40 sits in the middle, it’s best to consider it a smaller X50 rather than a larger X30. The Action X40 has the same width and depth as the X50 but is 1.1 inches shorter. This slight height change also means that the X40 fits within the carry-on regulations for international flights with more airlines, and, as I mentioned, it does this while still being able to hold as much camera gear as the X50.

Here’s a real example: The maximum height for international carry-on with Air Canada is 21.5″. An Action X50 v2 is 22″ tall, so the thought of using it on one of their flights gives me some anxiety. Perhaps I’ll get a gate agent that’s having a bad day and enforcing every rule. The Action X40 v2, on the other hand, has a height of 20.9″. I can still carry the same camera gear but be completely reassured that if they ask me to put my bag in the dreaded luggage cage, it’ll fit without an issue. The new Action X40 v2 might be the Goldilocks bag in the lineup, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out to be the most popular option.

Women’s Action X Series

Kait exploring the Chilkoot Trail in Alaska with the Action X30 v2.

Alongside the Action X v2, Shimoda also launched a new Women’s Series of backpacks, including three Women’s specific versions of the new v2 Action X25, X30, and X40, and two versions of the Explore v2 in 25L and 30L sizes. These bags are largely the same as their regular counterparts but come in an exclusive Teal color. They also feature specially contoured shoulder straps that use a twin sternum strap design to alleviate awkward pressure points around the chest. Shimoda has always been at the forefront of creating camera bags to fit a wider range of body types, and it’s great to see them continue this.

Twin sternum straps on the Shimoda Women’s Series bags.

When I unboxed a Women’s Action X30 as part of the package Shimoda sent me, my partner Kait–usually ambivalent about the constant stream of gear that arrives–grabbed it from me. She was smitten when I showed her the shoulder strap design and explained the features. With a big smile, she said, “I love it!!” Right then, I knew we’d be keeping that one for her because, as she said tp me, she’s never seen any backpack with straps designed for women. Let alone a camera bag.

Action X Design and Features In Depth

Roll Top Section

The top section of the Action X packs has a roll top design that adds a few liters of extra volume when it’s needed. Inside the top section is a suspended gear “bucket” that helps to separate all your non-photographic gear from the camera compartment below. Built into the sides of this, you’ll find two large zippered mesh pockets, with the rearmost also containing a quick-release key clip. This top gear bucket zips out of the bag if you want to convert your Action X pack into a single-volume hiking or travel pack.

Key clip in the rear mesh zippered pocket
Mesh zippered pocket in the top section of the bag.

Quick Access Zipper

A roll top is excellent for expandability and versatility, but it’s not the fastest way to get into a bag. Therefore, the Action X backpacks have a zipper that runs right across the top of the bag beneath the roll. In practice, you’ll use this quick-access zipper far more than the roll top entrance. When the zipper is open, it’s wide enough to insert or extract even large objects like drones or heavy down jackets.

Camera Access

Camera access on the Action X25, X30, X40, and X50 can be done through the zippered back panel of the pack or a side hatch. The rear hatch gives you direct access to everything stored in your protective Core Unit, while the side hatch is designed to provide you with fast access to a camera with a lens attached to it.

Front Pocket

The bag’s front pocket features a pair of zippered pockets for organizing small, flat items like circular filters. The large main area in this pocket is split in two by a padded divider. For backcountry skiers, this section is large enough for an avalanche shovel and probe. Everybody else will probably use it for storing layers or separating wet gear. Drainage holes in the bottom of the pocket give melt water a place to go.

Side Pocket

On the opposite side of the bag to the camera hatch is a slim pocket perfect for storing rectangular filters or other similarly flat items. You can also see the stowed water bottle/tripod pocket opposite in its own pocket. If you have the water bottle/tripod pocket deployed, that frees up another pocket for use.

AirTag Pocket

I’m a big fan of Apple AirTags for keeping track of essential items. I’ve written before about how I use these to keep track of my bags while I’m traveling, and now Shimoda has made that easier by adding a hidden AirTag pocket within the bag’s front pocket. Love this!

Torso Length Adjustment

The pack’s torso length can be adjusted between three different positions. When you get the pack, it’s worth trying all three. I wouldn’t have said I have a long torso, but I found the longest position most comfortable.

Shoulder Straps

The shoulder straps are made from EVA foam and forgo any Air Mesh to shed snow and dirt better, thus preventing it from being rubbed back onto your clothing. The straps are heavily contoured to the shape of your body and, despite looking a little thin, do an excellent job keeping things comfortable on a long hike. I particularly like the way the strap widens around the pockets. This extra surface area works wonders stabilizing the bag on your body while you hike, bike, or just generally move around in the outdoors.

Shoulder Strap Pockets

The shoulder straps feature two large pockets. A zippered phone pocket on the wearer’s left side will fit an iPhone 13 or 14 Pro Max. If you’re not using this for a phone, it’s a handy place for an InReach Mini or other small GPS device. While moving through airports, you can clip a pen onto the nylon webbing in this pocket to help you with the endless customs forms.

On the wearer’s right side is an expandable pocket. This can be used for a small water bottle, a phone too big to fit into the other pocket, or even a can of bear spray. I find the latter option particularly useful since I live in a place called Grizzly Valley in the Yukon. There are no prizes for guessing how it got its name!

Sternum Strap

The sternum strap has an emergency whistle and an elasticated section to allow your chest to move while huffing and puffing up the next mountain.

Hip Belt

The hip belt is removable, and Shimoda has made this easier by providing a small plastic tool to slide into the back panel and loosen the hook-and-loop. Once removed, you’ll notice that the hip padding is in two sections, joined by a small adjustable nylon webbing. Loosening or tightening the webbing adjusts the positioning of the padding on your hips, and Shimoda says this will add comfort for people with smaller hips.


The Action X v2 has three padded handles on the top, side, and bottom to help you lift the bag into vehicles or move it around on the ground at your shooting location. The side handle is wide enough to use as a luggage handle pass-through for those traveling with a roller.

Laptop Carry

The Action X25 can carry up to a 14″ laptop, while the X30, X40, and X50 can carry up to a 16″ laptop. There are now two laptop pockets to choose from: The first is on the inside of the back panel, accessible through the rear camera access hatch. The second padded sleeve, new to the v2 bag, is in the bag’s front pocket. I like having both options. The rear sleeve has thicker padding and is a better place to store a laptop if you’re out in the field. On the other hand, the padded sleeve in the front is a better place to store a computer while traveling. It’s much easier to access for intermittent use and extraction at airport security.

Tripod Carry

A tripod can be carried on either side of the bag by folding the Drop Pockets out of their zippered compartments. Cleverly, the strap length on the Drop Pockets can be adjusted to move them up or down, better accommodating tall tripods. If you prefer, you can also strap a tripod to the front of the bag, although this isn’t my recommendation as it places the weight too far back from your center of gravity.

Water Carry

A 1L Nalgene bottle fits into the Drop Pockets on the side of the Action X v2. You can also relocate one or both of those pockets to the hip belt if you want to carry a larger water bottle up front. If water bladders are more your thing, there’s a bladder hanger in the front pocket and bladder hose routing ports on both sides, letting you feed the hose to your preferred side. The third option for carrying water is to use a small collapsible bottle stashed in the expandable pocket on the wearer’s right-hand side of the shoulder straps.

Rain Cover

Every Action X bag comes with a rain cover, and now there’s also a dedicated rain cover pocket on the inside of the main compartment beneath the Core Unit. Although the bag’s exterior materials are DWR coated for water resistance, it doesn’t hurt to have a rain cover if you get stuck in a prolonged downpour that would otherwise eventually find its way through the seams and zippers to your gear.

Helmet Holder

The Action X bags come with a helmet holder made from stretchy material that clips onto the front nylon webbing. Useful for skiers, snowboarders, climbers, and bikers riding, skinning, or hiking to the next line. It can also help secure large soft items to the front of the bag, such as a sleeping bag or a heavy down jacket.

Core Unit Choices

Shimoda Designs bags use Core Units of varying sizes to protect your gear.

Core Units are protective camera inserts designed for Shimoda’s range of photography backpacks and roller bags. By choosing different sizes of Core Units, you can customize your pack to carry varied camera gear and non-photographic equipment combinations. Shimoda’s Core Units have an internal frame that gives them a lot of structure. Consequently, the walls can be thinner than many other padded camera cells, maximizing the available space in your Action X backpack.

Core Units come in multiple sizes (S, M, L, XL, XXL) and three depths (DV, DSLR, and Mirrorless). The deepest Core Units, the DV lineup, only fit in the Action X70 HD, so I will skip those in this discussion. If you want to see those DV Units in action, check the X70 HD review.

Compatible Core Units

Small, Medium, and Large Mirrorless Core Units

Below is a list of Core Units compatible with the various Action X pack sizes. Core Units in bold are my favorite pairings, but by all means, get whatever you feel is right for your gear.

Compatible Core Units

  • Action X25 v2Small Mirrorless
  • Action X30 v2 – Small Mirrorless / Medium Mirrorless / Large Mirrorless
  • Action X40 v2 – Small Mirrorless / Medium Mirrorless / Large Mirrorless / Medium DSLR / Large DSLR
  • Action X50 v2 – Small Mirrorless / Medium Mirrorless / Large Mirrorless / Medium DSLR / Large DSLR
  • Action X70 HD – Small Mirrorless / Medium Mirrorless / Large Mirrorless / Medium DSLR / Large DSLR / Large DV / Extra-Large DV / Extra-Extra-Large DV
Shimoda Core UnitInternal Dimensions (W x H x D)Weight
Small Mirrorless8.7″ X 10.6″ X 4.7″1lbs / 0.49kg
Medium Mirrorless10.6″ X 10.6″ X 4.7″1.1lbs / 0.5kg
Large Mirrorless10.6″ X 14.6″ X 4.7″1.7lbs / 0.77kg
Small DSLR10.6″ X 4.1″ X 6.3″0.58lb / 0.29kg
Medium DSLR V210.6″ X 10.6″ X 6.7″1.3lbs / 0.6kg
Large DSLR V310.6″ X 15.7″ X 6.7″2.2lbs / 1.02kg
Large DV V211.4″ X 15.7″ X 7.9″2.6lbs / 1.2kg
Extra-Large DV V211.4″ X 18.9″ X 7.9″3.1lbs / 1.39kg
Extra-Extra-Large DV11.4″ X 21.7″ X 7.9″2.9lbs / 1.33kg
When assessing which camera and lenses will fit into the Core Units, the internal dimension is what matters.

Shimoda’s choice of names for the three different Core Unit depths is confusing. The shallowest Mirrorless depth is perfectly deep enough to hold a regular-sized DSLR like a Canon 5D or Nikon D850 and all non-gripped mirrorless cameras. The additional depth of the middle DSLR Core Unit series is only necessary when carrying a gripped mirrorless camera, gripped DSLR, or a pro-sized camera like a Nikon Z9 or Canon R3. The deepest DV depth is for cine cameras and super-telephoto lenses carried in the Action X70 HD. My summary of depth choice would be as follows:

  • Mirrorless Core Units (S, M, L) – For mirrorless cameras or DSLRs
  • DSLR Core Units (S, M, L) – For gripped mirrorless cameras, gripped DSLRs, or pro-sized DSLRs/Mirrorless (Canon R3, Nikon Z9, etc.)
  • DV Core Units (L, XL, XXL) – For super-telephoto lenses. Only for Action X70 HD.

Action X25 v2 Core Unit

Showing the depth of the Small Mirrorless Core Unit

The Action X25 is narrower than all of the other bags in the series. As a result, the Small Mirrorless Core Unit is the only one that fits in this bag. While all other sizes of Action X bags are available as “Shell Only” or “Kit” with a Core Unit, the X25 is only available as a kit with the Small Mirrorless Core Unit. This Core Unit is sized to fit an unattached 70-200 f/2.8 and a 24-70mm attached to a body. With those in place, there’s still extra room for another lens standing vertically, like a 16-35mm or 20-70mm. This Core Unit is also a good size for a DJI Mavic, alongside a camera with an attached lens.

Action X30 v2 Core Unit Choice

The Large Mirrorless Core Unit with a Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 lens and a Z8 camera for scale.

The Action X30 only has the depth to accommodate Mirrorless Core Units. If you buy the bag as “shell only,” ensure you don’t add any DSLR Core Units to your cart. They will not fit. If you buy the Action X30 kit, it’ll come with a Medium Mirrorless Core Unit.

Your other options would be a Small Mirrorless Core Unit, discussed above in the Action X25, or the Large Mirrorless Core Unit. The Small can also be an excellent choice for this pack if you plan to go fast and light with a minimal kit. The Large Mirrorless Core Unit isn’t my favorite option in this bag because it leaves little space in its top section and makes using the internal organizational pockets harder.

When I use the Action X packs, I’m always happiest with how they work in the field when I have plenty of room left in the top of the bag to quickly stuff clothing, store food, or stash things like filter cases. Only choose the Large Mirrorless Core Unit for the Action X30 if you don’t need much room for non-photographic gear.

Action X40 v2 Core Unit Choice

The X40 is deep enough to carry DSLR depth Core Units, which means you can carry a gripped or a pro-sized camera body. You could still opt to use a shallower Mirrorless Core Unit, but be aware that there is no mechanism in an Action X packs for securing the Core Units in place. When you pick a Core Unit that matches the bag’s depth, this doesn’t matter. They wedge nicely in place. However, if you choose a shallower Unit, it will float around inside the bag unless you are wedging it in with other gear. If you do that, you should leave the dust cover on the Core Unit to prevent things from falling out into the pack’s main body.

If you buy the kit and not the “shell only” option, the Medium DSLR Core Unit comes with the X40. This takes up almost exactly half the bag’s interior volume, leaving plenty of room in the top half of the bag for multiple layers, a drone, or other supplies for a day of hiking, biking, climbing, or skiing in the mountains.

The Action X40 V2 with the Large Mirrorless Core Unit and a Nikon Z 600mm f/6.3 lens.

The Large DSLR Core Unit (v3) will also fit in the Action X40. When the Action X v2 series was launched, Shimoda updated the length of that Core Unit to work better with a few popular telephoto lenses used by wildlife photographers. If you use a Sony 200-600mm lens, you can fit that into the Large DSLR Core Unit attached to a camera. If you shoot with the Nikon Z 800mm lens, this will fit unattached into this Core Unit. The new Canon RF 100-300mm f/2.8 L IS and the Olympus 150-400mm, along with older lenses like the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8, EF 400mm f/4 DO II, and Nikon 120-300mm f/2.8 will also fit.

If you use the Large DSLR Core Unit in the Action X40, be aware that it will consume 15.7″ of the bag’s 20.7″ internal height. This doesn’t leave you much room in the bag’s top section. Still, this combination is an intriguing option as it represents a very efficient way to travel with a large amount of camera gear while still remaining within international carry-on baggage limits.

Action X50 v2 Core Unit Choice

The Action X50 v2 has the same width and depth as the Action X40 but is 1.1 inches taller. The same Core Units will fit in the X50 as the X40 and the pros and cons are largely the same. The biggest difference is the extra 1.1 inches of depth in the bag’s top section when pairing the bag with the Large DSLR Core Unit.

The Large DSLR Core Unit is an excellent fit for this bag, and I’m surprised that it is not the Core Unit that comes with the X50 if you buy the kit. If you buy the kit, it comes with the Medium DSLR Core Unit.

Is There a Missing Core Unit?

Proof that a 600mm f/4 fits the Action X50 (and X40). Just not with a Shimoda Core Unit, sadly.

The Shimoda Action X lineup and Core Unit selection create one of the most comprehensive camera bag choices for landscape, adventure sports, and nature photographers. Still, after my testing, I couldn’t help feeling one option was missing, albeit a relatively niche one.

Carrying a 600mm f/4 in the Action X40 or X50

With how things are currently set up, if you shoot with a 600mm f/4 lens, you must jump to the Action X70 HD to use the XL DV Core Unit. The problem is the huge X70 HD isn’t carry-on compliant with any airline. A 600mm lens is roughly 18″ long, so theoretically, it could fit into the Action X40 or Action X50 if an XL DSLR Core Unit was available with the same 18.9″ length as the XL DV Core Unit.

One good reason I know this could work is the existence of F-Stop’s XL Pro ICU (F-Stop’s version of a Core Unit) for their Tilopa backpack. That ICU is 19″ long, and I have one on my shelf. Its width is the same as a Shimoda Core Unit, so it fits into the Action X40 or X50 with no issue. I tested my Sony 600mm f/4 in it and discovered it fits very nicely.

f-stop xl pro icu in action x50 v2
This is an F-Stop XL Pro ICU in the Action X50 v2, loaded with my Sony 600mm f/4 GM.

The simple trick is to slip the lens in with its hood at the top. While the hood sits slightly above the edge of the ICU, placing it at the top means the subsequent slight bulge doesn’t go into your back. Instead, it sits unnoticeably in the space above the Action X’s back panel. If you swap the native lens hood for an aftermarket, lower profile hood from Zemlin Photo or use a collapsible LensCoat TravelHood, the lens fits perfectly, and you don’t need to worry about its orientation. So, if you’d like an XL DSLR Core Unit to be added to the Core Unit lineup, shoot me an email, and perhaps we can petition Shimoda to make one 🙂

Shimoda Action X v2 vs. Explore v2

shimoda explore vs action x
Explore 25 v2 (left) vs. Action X 25 v2 (right)

If you’re considering a Shimoda Action X v2 pack, there’s a good chance you’re also considering a Shimoda Explore v2 pack. The Action X v2 is available in 25L, 30L, 40L, 50L, and 70L capacities, so there is a considerable size crossover with the Explore v2 lineup’s 25L, 30L, and 35L sizes. Women’s versions of the Action X v2 are available in 25L, 30L, and 40L, compared to the Women’s Explore v2, which is available in 25L and 30L sizes.

Spot the difference? Explore 25 v2 (left) vs. Action X 25 v2 (right)
Explore 25 v2 (left) vs. Action X 25 v2 (right)

On the face of it, these two bags are very similar. Both bags are ruggedly built, weather-resistant backpacks for outdoor and nature photography. They both feature a similar harness system with torso length adjustment and the same back panel camera access for use with Shimoda’s range of Core Unit camera inserts. Dig a little deeper, though, and some differences stand out. If you’re on the fence, I recommend you read my Explore v2 review once you’re done with this one or read this detailed Action X vs. Explore comparison. A feature summary and comparison can also be found in the table below.

FeatureExplore v2Women’s Explore v2Action X v2Women’s Action X v2Action X70 HD
2nd laptop sleeve in front pocketNoYesYesYesNo
Luggage handle pass-throughYesYesYesYesYes
Adjustable length waist belt paddingNoYesYesYesYes
Adjustable torso lengthYesYesYesYesYes
Base handleNoYesYesYesYes
Secondary zippered front pocketYesYesNoNoNo
Hidden passport pocketYesYesNoNoNo
Hidden AirTag PocketNoYesYesYesYes
Rain cover pocketNoYesYesYesYes
Rain cover included with bagOptionalYesYesYesYes
Helmet HolderNoNoYesYesYes
Metal buckle hardwareNoNoNoNoYes
HD Belt with pocketsOptionalOptionalOptionalOptionalYes
Shovel handle/avalanche probe pocketNoNoNoYesYes
Ice axe loopsNoNoYesYesYes
Hydration tube compatibleYesYesYesYesYes
Removable tripod/water bottle pocketsNoYesYesYesOptional
Front straps across the bagOptionalOptionalYesYesYes
Side camera accessYesYesYesYesNo
Top closureZipZipRollRollRoll
Lockable zippersYesYesNoNoNo
Shoulder and hip paddingAir MeshAir MeshEVA FoamAir MeshAir Mesh

What About the Urban Explore Backpack?

Shimoda Urban Explore (left) and Explore v2 (right).

Shimoda launched the Urban Explore backpack long after the Explore and Action X bag as an everyday carry option for photography enthusiasts who spend most of their time in urban environments. As I discovered when I wrote my review of the Shimoda Urban Explore, it’s a great bag. However, it’s a camera bag designed for a broader market and lacks many of the adventure-focused features of the Action X bags. Few people considering the Action X will find the Urban Explore a better choice.

Still, if you’ve read this Action X review and wish there were a less technical-looking, simpler, and slightly cheaper bag that still maintained Shimoda’s style, the Urban Explore might be for you. Alternatively, there’s enough design, size, and functionality gap between the Urban Explore and Action X bags that hardcore Shimoda fans may find a good reason to own both—one for everyday work-week carry and one for weekend mountain adventures. I fall into this category, as I usually use the Action X70 HD or X50, which are far too large for everyday city use. The Urban Explore 25 makes a nice companion bag for those larger packs.

Action X50 Vs X70 HD

Weight (shell)Dimensions (in):Compatible Core UnitsPrice
Action X50 v24.6lbs / 2.1kg11.8W x 22H x 7.9D in.Small Mirrorless / Medium Mirrorless / Large Mirrorless / Medium DSLR / Large DSLR$Check Price
Action X70 HD6.2lbs / 2.8kg12.2W x 23.2H x 9.1D in.Small Mirrorless / Medium Mirrorless / Large Mirrorless / Medium DSLR / Large DSLR / Large DV / Extra-Large DV / Extra-Extra-Large DV$Check Price
Action X50 v2 (left) vs. Action X70 HD (right) – photo courtesy of Shimoda Designs.

I don’t think comparing all Action X v2 sizes to the Action X70 HD is necessary. There is too much of a size difference between most of them. However, some people will undoubtedly try to decide between the two largest models, the X50 v2 and X70 HD. If you are looking at the X50 v2 and thinking it might not be big enough, I would first encourage you to read my dedicated review of the Action X70 HD. Unlike the Action X25, X30, X40, and X50, which all have the same features, the X70 HD does have enough differences to warrant its own review. I’ll summarize some differences here if you’re unsure if you should consider the X70 HD.

Shimoda Action X50 vs X70 HD
Strap thickness difference between the Action X50 v2 and X70 HD

Stepping up to the Action X70 HD from the Action X50 gives you thicker, more comfortable shoulder straps that use Air Mesh instead of EVA foam. You also get a thicker, more comfortable hip belt featuring more Air Mesh and two large zippered pockets. What you lose by choosing the X70 HD are the second laptop pocket in the front of the bag and the side camera access. Instead, the X70 HD has two substantial side pockets to carry large tripods.

Looking at the Core Unit compatibility, the significant change is that choosing the X70 HD opens up the possibility of using the three sizes of DV Core Unit. These are deeper than the DSLR Core Units compatible with the X50. That extra depth and their extra length make them suitable for super-telephoto lenses from a 400mm f/2.8 up to a mounted 600mm f/4. The largest XXL DV Core Unit also gives you top access to a camera body mounted to a long lens.

It’s also worth noting that the size of the X70 HD exceeds any international or domestic US carry-on regulations. My review contains some options and workarounds for that potential issue, but it will always be more of a consideration than trying to travel with an Action X50 v2.

Shimoda Backpack Accessories

Shimoda has excellent accessories for the Action X v2 backpack lineup.

Shimoda HD Belt

The Shimoda HD Belt is an optional heavy-duty hip belt that provides increased comfort and stability with heavy loads. It also features two zippered pockets, suitable for quick-access items such as snacks, GPS devices, thin gloves, or a winter hat. This is the same belt that comes as standard on the X70 HD and is available in Black, Yellow, and Army Green.

Shimoda Booster Kit

The Shimoda Booster Kit allows you to fine-tune the fit of your Action X backpack by extending the straps in three key areas. It’s particularly handy for taller and broader photographers who need more room in the backpack’s harness.

Shimoda Top Loader

The Top Loader is Shimoda’s camera holster. You can wear it as a chest harness or attach it to the hip belt. Check out our review of the Shimoda Top Loader (includes video) for more information.

Shimoda Accessory Pouch

The Accessory Pouch organizes your batteries and other small items. An internal zippered pocket lets you sort dead batteries from fresh ones. Check out our review of the Shimoda Accessory Pouch for more information.

Shimoda Panel Wraps

The Panel Wraps are a great way to organize sets of accessories for you to grab depending on the shoot that day. They are available in three different sizes. Check out our review of the Shimoda Panel Wraps for more information.


Alaskan Action X adventures. Me with the X50 v2, and Kait with her Women’s Action X30 v2.

The new Action X v2 series offers an unprecedented choice for the outdoor photographer. With five different sizes and three women’s specific versions, there should be a size that’s right for everyone. Features such as adjustable torso length, adjustable hip padding, and the strap Booster Kit help comfortably fit the Action X packs to all body shapes and sizes. Shimoda needs to be applauded for the efforts they have gone to in this area, including several features I have never seen on any backpack before. Let alone a camera bag.

Adding this inclusive design philosophy to what was already a great backpack and then sprinkling in a long list of carefully thought-out updates makes the Shimoda Action X v2 series an easy recommendation. Whether you are a landscape, adventure sports, travel, or wildlife photographer or anyone else that ventures outside to take photos, these bags should be on your wish list.

Where to Buy (+ Save 10%)

Shimoda Designs has offered Shutter Muse readers a 10% discount on anything purchased through their online stores. US, Canadian, UK, French, or German residents should use the discount code ShutterMuse10 after clicking here to access the store. Australian readers should use the same code on the local Shimoda distributor’s site, Maxxum, instead.

I recommend shopping directly with Shimoda, if you can, to take advantage of that 10% discount. However, using one of our other links is always appreciated if you can’t do that. Shimoda doesn’t ship directly to Canada, so fellow Canadians should buy from B&H Photo using the links below to take advantage of their free shipping and easy pre-paid duties.

Action X v2 Packs

Note that because the Action X 25 v2 bag is only compatible with the Small Mirrorless Core Unit, this bag is not available as “shell only”, only in a kit containing the Small Mirrorless Core Unit.

Action X v2 Series

Shimoda Core Units

If you’re buying the “Shell Only” option of the pack, you’ll need to choose a Core Unit.

Shimoda Pack Accessories

Photo of author
Professional photographer based in Yukon, Canada, and founder of Shutter Muse. His editorial work has been featured in publications all over the world, and his commercial clients include brands such as Nike, Apple, Adobe and Red Bull.

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4 thoughts on “Shimoda Action X v2 – A New High Bar In Outdoor and Adventure Photo Packs?”

  1. Yet another great review of what appears to be a superb product family. Thank you, Dan.
    Here are my general thoughts on camera backpacks. Ever since I coincidently stumbled over the Osprey backpack brand I compare every other backpack with their unique carrying system that leaves the wearer’s back fully ventilated. That carrying system remains unchallenged in terms of comfort. However, the big downside is quite obviously the fact that Osprey does not offer any backpacks for photographers. I guess combining their carrying system with the so important back-loading feature that photographers love and need, is a challenge, though far from impossible, I think. To me the Adventure X40 or 50 photo gear packing features combined with an Osprey carrying system along with Osprey’s ultimate drive for light weight design would probably create the ultimate and as close to perfect photo gear backpack as possible.

    • Thanks for the positive words about the review, Urs. I always get comments about how much people love the Osprey carrying system, but there are two important things to consider. Firstly, I believe Osprey has a patent on this “floating” system, so I don’t think we will ever see it in a camera bag. Secondly, these floating systems eat massively in the bag’s depth. If you add a floating system to a bag with the camera capacity of any Shimoda Action X packs, hardly any of them would be carry-on compliant for travel. They would be too deep to fit into overhead lockers. Perhaps the X25 and X30 would fit, as they are shallower. But then, everyone would complain that you can’t carry a pro-sized or gripped body in any of Shimoda’s carry-on-friendly bags, as this would eliminate the X40 and X50 from being carry-on compliant.


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