The Patagonia Linked Pack 18L performed well across a range of areas and scored highly in all five of our evaluation criteria. The Linked is made of 940-denier polyurethane-coated Cordura nylon, which makes it one of the most durable packs in the test. Our testers find that it climbs better than the other contenders in our fleet.The exterior is sleek but includes a rope strap and well-placed anchor points for lashing on extra gear. The removable hip belt and sternum strap add some versatility. This pack deserves real consideration from anyone looking for an excellent multi-pitch climbing pack.
Patagonia Linked Pack 18L Review
Cons: Expensive, no emergency whistle
Our Analysis and Test Results
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.
The Linked weighs in at 20 ounces (566 grams). This puts it on the slightly heavier side of our range.
The two-ounce difference between the Linked and the other 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. Climbers can trim an extra 2.1 ounces by removing the hip belt and sternum straps.
This pack uses 940 denier nylon 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 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 found on some of the competition. Despite these two minor concerns, this pack will last a long time in the hands of most climbers.
This pack has a decent offering of climbing-specific features. Its dual haul loops are our favorite of any climbing backpack. They're sewn into the body of the pack in several places and 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 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.
We found the wide opening of the extension collar, combined with the stiffness of the foam-reinforced bottom, made packing an easy proposition. The Linked currently only comes in black. While we appreciate the low visual impact, darker colors make it slightly harder to find small items in the pack. It's partially lined with a grey fabric, which mitigates this problem slightly. We wish the pull tabs for the pack opening, the zipper pulls, and the webbing loop that the top strap hooks to were a contrasting color.
Beyond rock climbing, the Linked has a plethora of uses. 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, it doesn't take up a ton of space. Our testers took this pack mountain biking, scrambling, caving, hiking, and skiing; during each activity, it exceeded our expectations.
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. The Linked sports two low-profile daisy chains and 10 other possible attachment points on various parts of the pack. When the bag isn't overstuffed, the top strap does an excellent job of securing a rope draped over the top.
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.
It is about average for comfort when loaded down for a long approach hike, and this moves its comfort score down a bit.
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.
In the simple category of rock climbing daypacks, 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 many.
— Ian McEleney