Sometimes I review travel gear that is not exactly aimed at my demographic. Exhibit A: the Link Hydro Pack from Skullcandy. I had to check it out though, because it definitely qualifies as "double duty travel gear." More like "triple-duty" actually.
This is a small backpack and a hydration pack, which let's admit is pretty ho-hum on its own. But the kicker here really kicks: your own person stereo blasting tunes out of your shoulder straps! I've tried out a few bags with speakers over the years and this is the best one so far. The instructions actually explain things well, the speakers don't sound like vibrating tin cans (though don't expect booming bass), and the fact the pack plays music doesn't seem to make it noticeably heavier or bulkier.
First you pop in the included four AA batteries. (Please promise you'll switch to recyclable ones after these wear out.) Then you plug in your iPod, turn it on, and you're biking or walking with tunes blasting right by your ears. While it could be annoying to others if you're on the Appalachian Trail, for an urban bike ride it makes more sense than sealing yourself off with headphones. You can still hear what's going on around you. But you can plug in headphones if you want, using the same volume and skip/back buttons you would use with the speakers.
The controls are right on the shoulder straps, so you can adjust the volume right there or skip to the next track without touching your music player. You can also hook your cell phone up to it, though I didn't try this out since as usual, the supplied connectors only work with a fraction of the phones out there. (And once again, the handset makers' fault, not these guys'.)
And oh yeah, it's a hydration pack, holding a half gallon of water. Easy to fill in my tests and well, you suck on a tube attached to the water pouch, so there's not much that can go wrong if you keep it clean.
Skullcandy's marketing tag line of "Slash the silence of the great outdoors" worries me though. Call me a cranky old fart, but the last thing we need in the real outdoors is some lunkhead bombarding us with more media just as we're trying to get away from, well, constant bombardment from media. But used responsibly this would make a nice daypack to carry along on a short trip to enable an instant stereo---in your own private quarters or with willing company.
The Skullcandy Link Hydro Pack comes in orange/gray or camouflage and has a (rather steep) list price of $150. Get it for a tad less here:
Order the Link Hydro from Amazon