The Best Camera Backpack Money Can Buy
Updated on 3/17/22 - I still love this backpack and it is my daily bag plus the one I use for almost all of my backpacking adventures into the Colorado backcountry.
Updated 3/16/23 - I am on my second backpack after using it heavily for 2 years and I have zero complaints. My zipper did get worn out but Shimoda replaced it at no expense to me - great customer service!
Over the past two years I have been using the new Shimoda Designs Action X50 Camera Backpack and the larger Action X70 and am ready to share my thoughts with you. Shimoda has launched a new line of backpacks called the "Action X" collection. It is a huge upgrade from their previous models of backpacks and refines on some things that photographers have been asking them to work on. They really delivered!
Overview of the Shimoda Action X50
As many readers and podcast listeners are aware, I enjoy backpacking with my camera gear. There's nothing quite like reaching a mountain vista away from the huge crowds in order to bring life to your vision as a landscape photographer. One of the toughest things about being a landscape photographer that enjoys backpacking is figuring out the most efficient and painless way to carry all that gear over long distances. Many backpacks try but fail to overcome the challenges that come with carrying several lenses, a camera or two, all of your food, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tent, water, and other essential equipment needed to camp at high elevations. Classic backpacks are great; however, they make it really hard to reach all of your camera gear which is usually buried at the bottom of the bag. Other camera backpacks I've tried are good, but often feel quite heavy on the shoulders and hips and hug your back, making it really sweaty on those long hauls. Additionally, other packs store your water reservoir in the same section as your camera gear - which to me seems like a disaster waiting to happen. You can watch my review video below.
Who is the Shimoda Action X50 For?
Being the glutton for punishment that I am, I decided to test the new Shimoda Action X50 Camera Backpack on a grueling 16-mile backpacking trip into the West Elk Wilderness here in Colorado during my 11-day fall color photography expedition. I used the backpack extensively throughout this trip, putting it through the paces and trying out all of the features of the bag. Props to my friend Scott Bacon for the intel on this hike! After my 16-mile trip, I came away with this very unique vantage of a scene in Colorado known as the Castles. All thanks to the Shimoda Action X50!
In 2020, I used my Shimoda Action X50 for an extensive 4-day backpacking trip into the Grenadier Mountain Range of Colorado. It carried my heavy load quite nicely and gave me fast and easy access to all of my camera gear. I honestly could not be happier with it as both an everyday camera bag as well as a backpacking camera bag. I also have the larger X70 which I use for longer trips or on trips where I need to take more gear (like a drone).
Shimoda Action X50 Features
Let's talk about the amazing features this bag boasts:
- Adjustable torso-height
- Expandable Roll-Top with 7L of extra storage
- 15-inch laptop sleeve
- Removable/Swappable Harness Straps compatible with the Women’s Strap Collection as well as “Extra Cushion” Plus Straps
- Two tripod or water bottle pockets
- Large side-access opening
- Removable waist belt
- TPU ski straps (these are pretty awesome for a tripod or tent to I might add)
- Removable helmet holder (awesome for mountain climbers like me)
- Padded, shoulder strap mounted phone pocket (this was absolutely awesome to have)
- Shoulder strap mounted water bottle or accessory pocket
- Numerous accessory attachment points and straps
- Two heavy duty carry handles
- Weatherproof YKK SplashGuard zippers
I hiked and photographed in some light rain and snow and never had any issues with water whatsoever. If you encounter light rain or snow, this thing will keep your gear dry for sure, but you'll still want to carry a rain cover, which Shimoda also sells.
Shimoda Action X50 Core Unit Selection
One of the nicest features of the Shimoda system is their wide variety of core units, designed to protect your gear and make it easily accessibly during all those days of adventuring.
Shimoda’s newly revised Medium Mirrorless Core Unit v2 is specifically designed to work with the Action X series. Its depth easily accommodates non-gripped Mirrorless and DSLR bodies.
The updated v2 Medium and Large DSLR sized Core Units are designed to match perfectly with the X50. The DSLR depth is built to accommodate gripped bodies whether DSLR or Mirrorless and are ideally suited for those wishing to carry compact video setups with a cage or those using L-Brackets.
As you can see below, I used the Mirrorless Core Unit v2 and it worked really well to accommodate all of my lenses, including an attached Sony 100-400 (and the Sony A7R4). I also brought the Sony 90mm macro, the Zeiss Loxia 21mm, the Sony 55mm f/1.8, the Sony 24-105, and the Laowa 15 f/2.
In retrospect, I think I would have liked the flexibility of the Medium DSLR core unit since my Sony has an L-bracket; however, this core unit worked like a charm. For longer hikes, I opted for the smaller core unit to keep my weight down. As an update - I also bought the larger core unit as my go-to for daily use.
Is the Shimoda Action X50 Good for Backpacking?
Since writing this review, I've taken my Shimoda Action X50 on many backpacking trips, and I'm still very fond of the backpack! If you are doing 1 to 4 day overnight trips and have a packable sleep system, I think you'll be more than fine with the Shimoda Action X50 but you'll want to get two straps for the bottom of the bag to attach your tent. Your pad, bag, food, and clothes should all fit inside the pack but it will be very tight - this is my go-to bag for multi day trips under 5 days but the key is to have smaller stuff that's compressed down nicely. Watching my tear down my tent and pack my bag in my YouTube video is also useful to see how I make it all work. Of note, my tent for my solo adventures is the REI quarter Dome 1 and I am using a Western Mountaineering Megalite sleeping bag. All of my gear is linked on that video above so you can really see my set-up if that's of value to you.
You can check out the great promo video from the Shimoda team below or check out their website to get your own backpack(s) and core units! And don't forget, you can use the code "Payne10" at checkout for a 10% discount. Enjoy your pack!