Review: Shimano Hotaka Cycling Pack

When an opportunity to review a large (32 liter) hydration pack presented itself, I jumped on it!  My boyfriend and I travel a lot and often do 4-5 hour bike rides in mountainous terrain.  On those trips, I’d like to have a pack that will fit a 3L hydration bladder, raincoat (and perhaps rain pants,) plenty of snacks, repair gear, etc.  Trying to squeeze all that into any of the packs I currently have is, well, difficult.  Enter the Shimano Hotaka 32L ACCU-3D cycling pack:

Shimano touts this pack as having “generous capacity and smart features with the streamlined design and body fitting comfort of Shimano’s Accu-3D.”  This is the same technology Shimano uses in other gear and accessories to provide a comfortable, streamlined fit.

To be honest, I was skeptical at first.  The pack, as you can see in the image above, has a unique front fastening system.  It doesn’t go over your shoulders and fasten across your chest with a chest strap; it has a “rider fit cross harness” that is supposed to allow for “total freedom of movement.” Well, it seemed odd, so I wasn’t sure about it.

You can see that the harness fastens right in the center of the chest, and there is an elastic strap and plastic fastener for your hydration hose as well. The cross harness also has a spot for a gel pack or two, if you’re trying to bike ultralight.

I really like the hip belt pockets that this pack has.  Because it’s bigger than others, the hip belt is actually necessary to balance out the pack weight.  It’s nice that they included a little padding, and pockets big enough for an iPhone.  I love to take photos, and being able to just reach into that little pocket and grab my phone was nice.  The other side has a pocket too, and it would be great for a granola bar, chapstick, bandana, etc.

So what about the inside?  First, this pack seemed huge.  I had a windbreaker, gloves, 3L of water, repair gear, and more in there, and there was still a ton of space.  I”m pretty sure you could fit a small sleeping bag as well.

Looking down into the pack, you can see three small elastic pockets for repair gear.  I had a tube in one and a patch kit in the other.  The rest of my repair gear is already in a small bag, so I didn’t bother organizing too much.

The hydration bladder fits behind the repair kit area and another pocket (seen above) is felt lined to hold things like your camera or phone (if you care about it enough to put it there and not in your hip pocket).

Other unique features include a map storage compartment, stretchable waist pockets for water bottles, gels, etc., and a blinking light attachment loop for night riding or road riding.

As with their other hydration packs, Shimano’s Hotaka features a tried-and-true Hydrapak water reservoir. But since I hadn’t used one myself before, I kind of thought it was going to leak into my pack.

But you know what? After all that skepticism, here’s what I discovered:  this is a great pack. The water bladder didn’t leak.  The pack, while seeming huge, didn’t feel huge when I put it on.  That weird cross harness turned out to be very comfortable and, as I was riding, pushing, and carrying my bike through the snow and around the mud, I never once thought about a strap being in my way, or anything being uncomfortable.

In fact, the only time I adjusted anything at all was when I discovered my head was hitting the pack on steep downhills.  I loosened the harness straps a little and the problem was solved.

I’ve said before that if you are using something new and find yourself not thinking about it, then it must be working… and while I was biking, I didn’t think about this pack.  It was comfortable and roomy, and I had easy access to water, my phone, and my bandana.  Really, what more can you ask for?

Oh, wait, I know:

A place to store your helmet and some outer bungee straps too!

MSRP: $130

Many thanks to Shimano for letting us review this pack.  You can find this pack and the rest of Shimano’s cycling packs by clicking here.