Call of the Mild

Introducing a backpack even hiking haters could love

Link Hydro Pack

Skull Candy

On a scale of outdoor bravado, I fall closer to Disney's River Country then Sean Penn's Into the Wild. But, I wasn't about to let a lack of Eagle Scout skills keep from enjoying and evaluating a new backpack from Skull Candy. So this past Memorial Day, I took my own urban hike through downtown San Francisco from barbecue to beachfront.

The Link Hydro Pack features two key components intended for the enjoyment by "mountain bikers, hikers and snow enthusiasts," but easily altered to enhance a weekend of burgers, beaches and perhaps a few cold brews: speakers and a ½ gallon hydration pack.

Appropriate usage of the hydration pack requires no direction or formal training. More tactful and subtle then the beer helmet yet equally potent, our chosen form of hydration remained chilled after several hours in the sun.

A convenient straw is attached to the right strap just a head turn away from yourself or thirsty friends. The lone disappointment from the consumption capability was that a leaky bag of ice seeped through bottom of one of the pockets unfortunately wetting my backside.

The speakers offer an iPod connection powered by four AA batteries that also charge the player. The sound is sufficient for a small group on a windy beach and provides a mobile form of music a bit more classy than hoisting a three foot boombox onto your shoulder. With the iPod secure in a zipped pocket, users can switch songs and adjust volume using controls on the right strap. A secondary feature allows users to store, and charge, their cell phone in a separate pocket. An incoming call interrupts the tunes a la the iPhone allowing handsfree talk and hang-up. While potentially practical for someone more important than me, my phone wasn't supported by the handful of included connections and to be honest I can imagine no correspondence on a Saturday afternoon that justifies pausing Tom Petty.

At $149.99 the bag ain't cheap but by combining a cooler and a set of portable speakers and a decently spacious backpack into one package, justification this summer is merely a weekend away.