A few weeks back, I was sent a Link Hydro Pack from Skullcandy to put through its paces and write my thoughts. When the pack arrived, I wasn’t sure what to expect, as Skullcandy isn’t exactly a household name in the outdoor industry, let alone the mainstream as a whole. I did know that Skullcandy made wireless earbuds that get favorable reviews with the younger crowd, but knew almost nothing about their packs.
Now, regular readers know that I love my outdoor gear and packs especially. So when I opened up the box that contained the Link Pack, I was pleasantly surprised at the item’s quality inside.
The backpack was of higher quality than I had expected, with solid construction and durable build quality. Furthermore, the pack came with a 1-liter hydration bladder and a built-in pouch to carry it.
Inside, the high quality is maintained with a well-padded cargo area that is perfect for holding a laptop, along with a variety of other items. There are several smaller storage pouches on the pack as well, allowing you plenty of room to carry your gear.
While so far I’ve mentioned that I’ve been impressed with the Link Pack, it’s mostly because I had fairly low expectations. However, when comparing this to true outdoor packs, it really doesn’t do much new or different, and the packs from the traditional outdoor companies.
North Face or even REI, are much better for true outdoor pursuits, such as climbing, hiking, or even mountain biking. In fact, the Link Pack’s strengths are better served in the Urban Environments rather than the backcountry.
Skullcandy did give the Link Pack a few surprises, though, that really enhance its position as a top urban daypack. Applying their headphones expertise has allowed them to integrate a set of speakers directly into the straps, so you can jam to your tunes without even needing headphones.
One of the storage pockets conveniently marked with a music note is where you can plug in your iPod or any other mp3 player. Turning on the built-in, battery-powered amp gets the tunes rockin’.
On top of that, if your iPod has a dock connector, and they all have for the past several generations, you can control the tunes with a series of cleverly designed buttons that are also integrated into one of the straps.
Without having to take the pack off, you can turn your iPod on or off, skip tracks, pause, adjust volume, and so on. And if you prefer to use a set of headphones over the built-in speakers, there is even a place for you to plug in your own set.
If that wasn’t enough, another storage pocket, this one conveniently marked with a tiny phone icon, allows you to plug in your cell phone. When the phone is in place, you can pick up calls and talk to friends over a built-in mic.
Their voices come through on the speakers or headphones. The system reportedly works with all phones, and Skullcandy has provided adapters for all the major cell manufacturers to aid in the process.
Make no mistake, the Link Pack is a pretty cool, high tech device. iPod integration is excellent, and I can see that it can be handy in the right setting. However, the “right setting” for me is not on the trail.
As much as I liked this pack, it had one problem that quickly turned me off. With that integrated set of speakers and powered amp, all the wiring for the cell phone and iPod, plus all the traditional stuff you’d find in a pack, this gets to be quite heavy.
You don’t really notice it when the pack is empty, but add a laptop, power supply, some snacks, and a book or two, and suddenly it starts to feel quite heavy. I never filled up the water bladder and can’t imagine how heavy the pack is when carrying around a liter of water.
That doesn’t even consider if it’s a good idea to carry a liter of water with all that other electronic stuff in the same pack.
All of that said, if you’re looking for a really cool pack with great iPod integration, then look no further than the Link Pack. It really is a high-quality product, and perfect for kicking around town with, as long as you don’t mind the extra weight.
Just don’t plan on taking this thing out on the trail. It’s really not a product for the backcountry setting. You can buy a much better and lighter daypack for the same amount of money, about $140.
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