Tested: Shimano Unzen Pack

The not-so-minor details


Shimano Unzen 6lt Hydration Pack


Shimano Australia Cycling


Hydrapack bladder.


Vulnerable fabric shell.
Side loading.

Let’s be honest. How much technology can one fit into the design of a backpack? Coupla straps, a pouch and a zip are where it’s been for the last, let’s say, few decades. But a bit of creative thinking from the guys and girls at Shimano have altered this successful formula and their kooky X strap hydration pack throws a pedal spanner at convention.


The new pack series, the Unzen, comes in 15L, 10L, and 6L capacity. We tested the smaller of the range on the steaming trails of sunny Adelaide and we felt good about how the pack both felt and performed.

The design keeps it simple inside- one main storage space with mesh webbing for tools and tubes, a front felt lined pocket for sunnies, bottom pocket for keys, side pockets for gels, and looped zips for gloved hands. A Hydrapack bladder holds a 2 litre capacity that’s perfect for a 1-4 hour XC ride.

The pack may be small but it’s plenty functional with lots of little features for storage and management of all your trail riding needs.
Shimano has several innovations moulded into this pack but the biggest standout is with the way you wear it. The X fit strap system is exactly as the name suggests and the straps are more like a harness from a fighter jet. Adjust the pack to your height and your ready to roll. Out on the trail the X system works well, it’s comfortable and holds securely. One negative we found was on steep rollers the pack can slide a little forward towards the back of your helmet. Because the pack doesn’t feature a lower strap there is nothing that stops it from floating forward once its weight shifts. As this pack is designed more the the XC/endurance rider, any such shifting would be less frequent and less of an issue.
The pack is designed to swing down from the shoulder for side access. The zips are also only on the sides. It’s good in theory, the process of side loading and unloading works ok. It’s something you need to get used to.
The outer fabric membrane is made to expand so that the pack can lose a few grams. No straps or clips to be seen here. It is also said that the pack is more aero that a traditional pack. However, we did experience an issue with the membrane during our test as the membrane received a puncture hole from a tube value (being stored inside the pack).
Credit must be served as it did survive a big over the bars into a granite field. The fear of holes is still something that you shouldn’t have to be worried about as we have seen competitors packs last years with utter neglect. In the end the hole was easily fixed (with a tube patch) and maybe we were just unlucky for it to happen.
The Hydrapack bladder was simple to use.

The Shimano Unzen pack ticks most boxes. It has big ideas and good design features. It’s light, fits ample stuff, and with size options to suit most mountain bikers so you should see it more on the trail. All this from peeps that usually focus their energy on the stop, go and roll.


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