Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Shimano U10 Hydration pack review.

Recently I was lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time (Quick n Dirty winter series held right here in the San Dieguito River Park) and received a new Shimano U10 hydration pack. While on patrol in the park it’s essential to have a good all around pack to haul all the necessities of a patrol ride. For the last 2 years I’ve been using a CamelBak M.U.L.E. While I have no complaints with the CamelBak it was getting a little long in the tooth so I decided to give the Shimano pack a try.

My first impression when I was handed the pack was “cool a new hydration pack” followed by “huh? It’s made by Shimano”. Upon further inspection I found that it had some unique elements that could possibly set it apart from the norm.

The Features:
The main compartment was a nice size and I could fit tubes, pump, tools, clothing and I’m sure a lot more very easily( Shimano says 10 liters thus the name U10) . The material is super stretchy and allows for a lot of gear. The side zippers really open the main compartment up making it super easy to load and unload gear and the loops on the zippers make them easy to find and grab with gloves on. There is an outside pocket towards the bottom that I used to store nutrition and keys that also has an elastic cord for extra gear storage. There’s also a nice fleece lined pocket for your cell phone or other tech gear you want a little cushioning for.

The pack straps are adjustable for different rider heights and connect in the front with a single buckle that is slightly below the upper chest line in an x-pattern. This eliminates the chest strap and waist strap found on most packs and was probably the best feature I found on this pack. It really opened my chest up and I found it much easier to breath. The straps include two small side pockets for miscellaneous gear but they take a bit muscle getting into it because of the of the Velcro closure.
The bladder is a 3 liter reservoir that can be filled from the top. The bite valve was adequate and worked but the flow could be improved, it seemed a little restricted.
The Ride:
My first ride on it was a fairly short 17mi ride. The pack felt stable enough but wanted to move around a bit on steep rocky descents. It did vent well but hung a little low on my back at the strap setting indicated for riders of my height. I adjusted the straps a little shorter and really got to load it up for my next ride.

The true test was an all day 65mi ride through some rugged terrain around North County San Diego. The new strap adjustment set up the pack much better on my back and the first set of hills reconfirmed the brilliance of the strap design by letting me get an unrestricted flow of air to my lungs. Throughout the day I was able to get the pack on and off with little to no effort. Most of the ride the weight was not that noticeable and my back and shoulders felt fine during the ride. Again the only downside of this pack so far is that it will move around on you during aggressive riding but not to the point that it will throw your whole ride off. If you tinker with the adjustment of the straps enough you can get to a comfortable stable place.

The verdict:
Since those first rides I have put an additional 150 miles on the pack riding on some pretty diverse trails and my overall impression of it is a positive one. The benefits this pack gives me over other packs outweigh the small issues that I have it. I would be glad include this piece equipment in my mountain bike patrol as well as any other ride for some time to come.

Ranger Dave

Note: Any review of an product given on this blog will only be given if I personally have put at least two hundred miles on said product.

Update:3/24- Ok so I was talking with a friend of mine that also has this pack and we were discussing how the only real problem was the size of the bite valve. The solution would simply be to switch it out with another. While making a pit stop at North of the Border Bike Shop I noticed an valve kit for an Osprey pack. While the tube looked a little bigger I was sure I could make the valve fit. Sure enough with a little pressure it was on. You can see in the picture that it is a lot larger and made a great improvement on the the flow. It also has a magnetic clip that was a little easier to use.

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