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Shimano Hotaka 24 Hydration Pack: Quick Review- by Grannygear

From the Shimano website for the line of Lifestyle cycling bags, including the Hotaka 24:

Mt. Hotaka is known as one of the most challenging of all the mountains in Japan’s Northern Alps. Inspired by its rugged peaks, Shimano developed the HOTAKA collection of high-performance cycling bags. These bags combine generous capacity and smart features with the streamlined design and body-fitting comfort of Shimano’s Accu-3D. There’s room inside for all your essentials: food, tools, and extra clothes to handle the fickle alpine weather. All that, plus dedicated storage for your map, helmet, and hydration pack. When you strap on a HOTAKA bag, you’re already halfway up the mountain!

Ah, how I wish it were that simple to be halfway up the mountain.  Marketing guys!  Gotta’ love ’em!  Still and all, based on my experience with the Unzen 10, I was ready to absolutely stoked about the new, much bigger, Hotaka pack.  Available in a 24L (tested here) or a 32L capacity, the Hotaka 24L is a big pack.  It is bigger than something like a Camelbak HAWG NV.  This is more like an Osprey Manta 28 or possibly even closer to the much loved Osprey Talon 22, a fave of endurance riders and bike packers.  The Hotaka 24 is a lightweight pack with little structure, meaning that, at 2lbs or so, sans reservoir, the pack has no wires or frame or anything other than the straps and material of the pack to support it.  So for its size/capacity, it is a pretty light pack.

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It reminds me, and the ad copy kind of hints to that, of the Trans Alp type of pack…light enough for moving fast, but big and full featured enough to hold your stuff.  So let’s look at the Hotaka a bit and then we will talk about our experience with it on a good, half day ride.

First of all, it has very well thought out storage and organization features.  Hip belt pockets that are stretchy and easy to open (unlike the Unzen 10) and all zipper plus are easy to grab loops.  There is a hidden rain cover, a soft lined compartment for eyewear/cell phones, side pouches for water bottles, a large main pouch with some internal dividers, a tool section, a hidden map pocket, a separate hydration compartment, and a front panel that can be a helmet holder or extra stuff space for pads, jackets, etc., along with the bungee strap on the outside.  Well done, Shimano.

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The Hotaka 24 has the adjustable harness for rider height, although I do wish they included a bit more about how/why you do that on the hang tag for the pack.  That was not all that obvious, even though I knew about it from past experience.  The back panel is a molded section for venting air through there.  Now a few words about the graphics on the green color version we have:  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Right?  Leonardo and the guys would be proud.

The reservoir is a 100oz/3.0L Hydrapack item, which means easy cleaning, a decent bite valve, and good tasting water.  It sits in its own compartment.

hotaka 24This is a big pack and it was bit early in the year for spring epics.  But I did have a ride come up that would be in mid winter desert conditions, and with no support.  That meant carrying it all, including pads, for a 5 hour day.  I grabbed the Hotaka 24 and packed it up, realizing I barely was pushing the storage limits of the pack.  The soft pads stayed in the ‘helmet storage’ flap.  After all this, by the days end I had some impressions of the pack.

After I had the Hodaka 24 pretty well packed up, but not really to capacity, I filled the Hydrapack 100oz bladder and tried to insert it into its compartment.  That was way too hard to do, especially if I wanted to use the hook-and-loop strap that holds the bladder upright in the pack as it empties.  I could not get my fingers in there with all the gear in the pack pressing into the area.  I noticed that the pack took on a very round shape, as in stuffed sausage.  That is not so good.

And that was, for me, the biggest let down of the Hotaka 24.  I had issues getting the pack to be stable on my back when descending steep switchbacks, etc.  While overall it was comfy, the pack just was not stable.  As water emptied out of the reservoir, it improved, but that took a while.  I also was not as enamored with the support of the pack overall, wishing for a wider or somehow more significant waist strap to keep the weight on my hips and not on my shoulders, despite the best efforts of the Cross Harness, which seemed to work a bit better for me on the smaller Unzen 10 pack.

The good:

  • Light weight to start with.
  • Very good organization.  A place for most everything.
  • Adjustable for rider size/height/weight.
  • The Cross Harness technology is unique.
  • Good attention to detail…nice zipper pulls, rain cover, etc.
  • Good reservoir in that Hydrapak item.

The not so good:

  • The reservoir is difficult to insert into a fully packed, pack.
  • It all gets too round and unstable when the reservoir is at capacity.
  • It might be able to carry more stuff capacity-wise than the support system/chassis can handle.
  • I would not mind a thicker waist belt.

I have to say that, despite the really good features of the pack in many areas…weight, storage, etc…it needs to do better when I actually come close to putting 24L of stuff in it, especially the water reservoir issue.  I might take a Camelbak Antidote reservoir, the one with the integrated welded seam that keeps it from ballooning into a sausage casing, and try it in there.  I can’t help but think that it would help the Hotaka 24 be the pack I hoped it would be.

This video does not say much about the packs, but the trail is so sublime that I had to put it in anyway.  I want to ride there.

Look for the Shimano “Rokko” hydration pack review from Guitar Ted tomorrow.

Note: Shimano sent over this pack 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.