Shimano's hydration pack crisscrosses the shoulder straps
Shimano is one of the most well known names in cycling thanks to a component line that appears on bicycles around the world. The company is determined to appear on bicycle riders as well. Its new Unzen hydration pack line rethinks pack design in an effort to make it less restrictive and more comfortable.
The main feature that separates Unzen hydration packs from competitor offerings is the Rider Fit Cross Harness. Typical backpack straps loop straight around your shoulders and underams, a route that Shimano says can restrict the pectoral muscles actively used during mountain biking.
The Rider Fit Cross Harness re-routes the shoulder straps so that they meet on the chest. Shimano says that running them across the center of the pectoral muscles eliminates restriction and empowers more aggressive off-road riding. The harness is fully adjustable, letting you get a snug, personalized fit.
The configuration of the straps eliminates the need for a waist strap, which Shimano says promotes freer breathing. By pulling the straps out from under the arms, the design also aims to keep the underarms cooler and drier.
The pack itself is designed with what Shimano calls ACCU3D technology, which aims to create an ergonomic shape that hugs the body and limits bouncing and rustling. The 3D design also raises the center of the pack up off the body to promote air circulation and cooling.
Other Unzen features include a stretchy body that expands around its contents, a side zipper for quick access and a felt-lined pocket for storing sensitive items. The pack comes with a Hydrapak water reservoir that uses an open clipped top, making it reversible for cleaning.
Shimano's system certainly sounds interesting, but after years of mountain biking with a regular hydration pack, I can't say I have ever felt all that restricted by the shoulder straps. I think a full head-to-head comparison would really be necessary to identify the Rider Fit Cross Harness as superior to standard shoulder strap systems.
The Unzen is part of a greater bag line that Shimano announced earlier this year. It will be hitting the market in the coming weeks in several different sizes.