The collective experience of the testers who tried the Patagonia Linked totals hundreds of Grade IV or longer rock routes. Many of them possess enough confidence and speed that they no longer like to climb with a pack, even on 1,000+ ft objectives. Fortunately for you, they all seemed to be fighting over whose turn it was to use this award-winner, and it was worn on everything from long rock routes to alpine adventures.
Below we explain all the reasons why it continues to hold our Editors' Choice position.
Our testers preferred this pack on rowdy alpine granite.
The Linked weighs in at 20oz, a little bit heavier than the Black Diamond Bullet (which is smaller) or Petzl Bug (which is less durable).
The two-ounce difference between the Linked and these packs won't make much of a difference on a route where you've decided to carry a pack in the first place, and the added capacity or durability can be well worth it. The featherweight REI Flash 18 is the lightest pack in our test, at 10 ounces. Climbers can trim an extra 2.1 ounces by removing the hip belt and sternum straps.
The plastic buckle that connects hip belt to pack body, with the gate open.
The new Linked has undergone a fabric upgrade. The old 16-liter version used 630 denier nylon on the pack body and 940 denier on the bottom. The new 18-liter version uses 940 denier on the body and bottom. It's pretty burly material for such a light bag and the only way we damaged it was by strapping a brand new pair of crampons to it. The bottom has a thin layer of foam built in, which our testers think greatly helps with the durability. Our only long-term fabric worry is the thinner ripstop nylon fabric on the extension collar. If you're chimneying or hauling while the pack is overfilled, this could rub against the rock. It's not built to withstand that kind of abrasion, so be sure to always use the rope/compression strap to keep things tidy.
Another minor concern is the attachment of the hip belt. It connects via a pair of plastic buckles—similar to wire-gate carabiners—that clip through corresponding nylon loops. These make adding or removing the hip belt a cinch, but we've also seen them come off unexpectedly. If this happens at the wrong time halfway up a cliff, you'll likely to lose the fancy hip belt. We preferred the simpler girth hitched hip belt of the BD Bullet Despite these two minor concerns this pack will last a long time in the hands of most climbers. The haulbag-like BD Creek 20 ties for durability and the Metolius Mescalito, which is a small haulbag, wins this metric.
The fabric that makes up the extension collar is much less durable than the body, chronic over-packers beware.
This pack has a decent offering of climbing specific features. Its dual haul loops are our favorite of any climbing backpack. They're strong and, unlike the Mountain Hardwear Hueco 20, long enough to reach each other when the bag is fully loaded. Combined with the rope strap to compress the load, this set-up is the one of the best for actual hauling—as opposed to clipping the bag into the anchor (what the loops on other packs seem to be designed for). The low profile exterior of the Linked makes for few snagging points when thrashing through manzanita, scrub oak, or slide alder, or when hauling.
The removable hip belt helps with controlling a heavy load on the approach while also coming off quickly to free up your movements on route. We like that the length is adjustable at the buckle where the hip belt attached to the pack body; this lets our testers minimize clutter on the front of their harness. The outside zippered pocket on the Linked pops out slightly from the main compartment and so was easier to use than most. Like many of the bags we tested, it is hydration system compatible and has a clip to secure your keys. We wish Patagonia had equipped the Linked with a whistle buckle on the sternum strap.
Patagonia has added two liters of carrying capacity to this version on the Linked. We found that this, combined with the stiffness of the foam-reinforced bottom, made packing a much easier proposition. The "Dolomite Blue" model is lined with a bright green nylon, which makes finding smaller items in the main body and pockets much easier. Our testers recommend this color choice over the black and gray model.
The two panels in the center of this photo are reinforced with a thin layer of foam on the inside. While this adds to durability and pack-ability, there is a small weight penalty.
Beyond rock climbing, the Linked has a plethora of uses and ties the Arc'teryx Cierzo 18 for versatility. It's stylish enough for a stroll to the coffee shop or an outdoor first date. Though it doesn't quite disappear into a larger overnight pack like the REI Flash or Trango Ration, it doesn't take up a ton of space and is significantly more durable than the either of those packs. Our testers took this pack mountain biking, scrambling, caving, hiking, and skiing; during each activity, it exceeded our expectations. The additional two liters of volume in the current iteration improved this pack's around-town and multisport versatility.
The daisy chains and lash points on the outside of the pack let us string up all sorts of attachment options for ice tools, crampons, big cams, etc. Patagonia has replaced some of the lash points on the previous model with two low-profile daisy chains and added four other clip in points that extend down from the haul loops. This pack now has the most attachment points of any pack in our test. When the bag isn't overstuffed, the top strap does an excellent job of securing a rope draped over the top.
The simple and durable top strap is our favorite way to attach rope to pack.
We're not entirely sure how the Linked does it, but this pack is comfortable. Perhaps it's the short length which keeps it high on your back and away from a harness. Or maybe it's the tapered shape. It could be the mesh composing the shoulder straps and the back panel that helps moisture evaporate. The shoulder strap foam is a good compromise of cushy and firm (to prevent uncomfortable rolling, like those on the Cierzo 18).
It is about average for comfort when loaded down for a long approach hike, and this moves its comfort score down a bit. The most comfortable pack in our review is the Petzl Bug.
This is our favorite pack for strenuous multi-pitch projects, casual, moderate adventures, or anything with chimneys or awkwardness that necessitate occasional hauling. The Linked also excels at any other activity requiring a small, comfy, backpack and we received several compliments about its styling while wearing it around town.
At $99, the Linked is not cheap. However, its performance warrants the price. It scored highly in all five comparison metrics. We also think the high denier nylon and other construction elements of the pack improve durability, so its longevity will be long, further increasing the value. After five months of testing, we didn't have a single reviewer who wasn't willing to shell out the extra money to get this pack instead of the cheaper options. Nonetheless, budget shoppers or occasional climbers should check out the more affordable, Best Buy winning, REI Co-op Flash 18.
In the simple category of rock climbing daypacks, the Patagonia Linked retains its grip on our Editors' Choice Award. This bag fulfills all the needs of today's multi-pitch climber without creating any glaring weaknesses. It's sturdy and compact while also comfortable, functional, and versatile. The only thing we would change is to incorporate a safety whistle into the buckle of the sternum strap. During this review, we had the privilege to try a selection of today's most popular climbing backpacks. We are pleased to report that the Linked 18L outperforms them all.
The Linked 18 was the favorite of our testing team, including for car-to-car backcountry climbing missions.