Shimano Unzen 10 Hydration Pack: Quick Review- by Grannygear and Guitar Ted

Recently we received two Shimano Unzen 10 hydration packs which went to Guitar Ted and Grannygear. (See post here) Following is a brief introduction to the features and technical data on the pack. Then Grannygear and Guitar Ted will each give you their impressions of this somewhat unknown hydration pack.

First, some detail shots that show the features.

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You can see the unique, stretchy and slightly adjustable non-chest straps.   The hydration hose also clips to the clasp.

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Note how you can access either side of the internal contents from the full side zips.

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shimano unzen 10 hydration pack

There is an internal adjustment for the shoulder strap for rider height.  Both Guitar Ted and Grannygear ran it in the XL range. As the name implies, the Unzen 10 is a 10 liter capacity pack, although you might be able to “stretch” that a bit more due to the fabric Shimano uses here. The pack comes with a 2 liter hydration bladder. Weight of the pack with the included hydration bladder and hose is 680 grams. The Unzen 10 comes in Red/Black, Orange/Black, and Black with red piping and accents.(as tested) The Unzen 10 sells for about $140.00 USD, but we’ve seen it listed at significantly less than that too. Now on to the review…

Guitar Ted’s Take:

First of all, the mere fact that Shimano was getting into hydration packs seemed……curious, and I raised my eyebrows a bit at the initial news of them. Once the Shimano Unzen 10 actually reached my doorstep, I was even more skeptical. One buckle? The “flimsy” feel when it was empty also made me think this might be a novelty item more than a “real” pack. But as testers, we are obligated to at least give products a fighting chance, so I tried not to dislike this pack too much before using it, although I must say that I was fully prepared to have my initial feelings justified after only one or two rides.

However; I am here to say that I was completely and utterly wrong about this pack. It turns out that after a few rides with it, I had discovered that the Unzen 10 works, and it works very well, if you have shorter rides, or need some of the unique features this pack presents. First off, there is the one buckle design.

To my mind, this is the central feature that separates this pack from the……well, pack! :) The Unzen 10 is one click from being either on or off, which may seem to be no big deal, but if you are racing, let’s say, this might save you precious seconds if you flat, or have a mechanical. For me it was brilliant in that I could unbuckle the pack, sling it around to the front, and access the item I wanted quickly, all without having to set the pack down, or risk dumping everything out of it.

Which leads me to the side openings. The Unzen 10’s side opening main compartment, which seemed rather odd to my mind at first, was actually another of the more enlightened features of this design after all. Referring to the above example, the reason I didn’t lose everything out of the pack standing up with it slung around in front of me is because the pack opens the way it does. Which it can do from either side, by the way. As Grannygear also found, I liked the way you could find things without unloading half your cargo.

The pack is also versatile enough to stretch out when you over stuff it, and yet be fine with little to nothing inside of it. Organization of tools, clothing, and accessories is decent enough, but it is the access to everything that really shines here. The side “wing” pockets work well. They are stretchable, and close with some crazy sticky Velcro. You won’t lose anything out of these! As far as hydration goes, the bladder, a zip top type, is secure, doesn’t leak, and is easily cleansed. The bite valve is one of the smaller ones I’ve seen, which may be of appeal to those with smaller, dainty mouths. It flowed water just fine despite the smaller size.

Comfort on the bike is really good. My only concern, and Grannygear mentioned this as well, was that with no waist strap, and therefore no way to stabilize the pack in a vertical direction, the pack can unweight and shift if you get airborne, or get into very high speed, rough terrain. But for day rides, or short rides after work, this pack is light, versatile, and unique to the point that I have gravitated towards grabbing it for all my quick rides and up to 3 hour training sessions. For rides requiring more water or more gear, I will use something bigger, but Shimano does make a slightly larger Unzen 15, in case you were wondering.

Grannygear’s thoughts:

shimano hydration pack

I too had the same initial reactions as GT…”Shimano is doing hydration packs?”.  But this unique little pack has completely won me over and it is all I have used for any ride since I received it.  Not perfect, it has some tweaks and approaches that really have been revelatory and not just marketing-speak.

The good:

  • Light weight.  Yes, you do trade off some internal structure for heavy loads but this pack is not about heavy loads.
  • It rides light but scales up very well.  So if it is nearly empty it is barely there on your back.  I have had it with an extra set of winter gloves, head wrap, Gore jacket, leg warmers, snacks, full reservoir and of course Lezyne pump and multi tool and the stretchy material took that all in stride.
  • Love…LOVE the dual side zippers that allow you to get things at the bottom of the pack without digging and lets you ‘stack’ items in there in columns for each side of the pack, if you get that meaning.
  • The shockcord webbing deal will indeed hold pads or a jacket, etc.  Nice.  I was barely able to stuff some 661 elbow and knee pads in there and close the hook fastener but it worked.
  • Comfy to wear, Shimano makes a big deal about how the non-chest chest strap does not cross the pectorals or diaphragm  and keeps the chest open for breathing and better use of the muscles…something like that.  I don’t know if this pack allowed my chiseled  pecs to do more work, but it is unique and does not restrain rise and fall of the rib cage for breathing.  So yes, it does do something good in that sense.
  • Nice internal/external organization.  A useful pump sleeve that holds my Lezyne Micro Floor Drive HV, a tool pouch, external pocket with key clip and a deep, softly lined media pocket are just right for this size pack.  The side pockets on the single strap are sealed like a bank vault and decently sized for smaller snacks, etc.
  • Good reservoir.  A 70oz Hydrapak is a smart choice here…no reason for Shimano to reinvent the wheel and do their own.
The not so good:
  • Get air while wearing this pack and it will rise up and hit you in the back of the helmet.  The single strap does nothing to keep it in place vertically when you unweight, especially if you have a slick fabric on like a windbreaker.
  • The shock cord should have a way to adjust tension in it as well as replace it if it breaks of wears out over time…loses its ‘bounce’, so to speak.  Right now it is a closed loop of cord.  If you want to strap something thinner on there, like a slim jacket, there is no way to take up the slack that I see.
  • The side pockets with the velcro closure….give me a break already!  Talk about hard to open!  Industrial velcro going on here big time.  I appreciate the thought, but maybe we could back that off just a bit so I can open it without tendon damage.
Other than that stuff, and they are kinda’ minimal, I love this pack and it is a keeper until the ride demands a lot of capacity or cargo hauling.  Shimano…huh, who would have known?
Note: Shimano sent over this pack(s) at no charge to Twenty Nine Inches for test and review. We are not being paid, nor bribed for these reviews and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.