“Meet you at the bottom!” I told my friend one stormy powder day at Mammoth last season. We were at the top of a glade off of the Gold Rush Express chairlift – they were taking a groomer out and around the trees while I was going powder-searching. After a couple of tasty face shots I popped out at the bottom of the glade and waited for them to arrive. And waited, and waited. After five minutes or so I assumed they must have continued on to the bottom of the lift and headed down to meet them, but with no luck. Our phones were dead and there was no service anyways. I waited for another fifteen minutes or more before my friend finally arrived, almost in tears because they were convinced I was still in the trees and probably in need of help. If only we had a couple of Packtalks.
Cardo has been making helmet audio communication systems for motorcycle riding since 2004. Its products have been trusted by riders for years to stay in contact while out on the road, but this year, Cardo decided to take helmet comms in another direction — snow. Enter the Cardo Systems Packtalk Ski, the ultimate winter sports communicator. I got hooked up with four of these beauties to try out, and while I did get some free gear out of the bargain, I’m not being paid to say nice things and these are my honest thoughts on the Packtalk.
–Incredible audio software. Able to hold a full conversation without touching any buttons or being anywhere near one another.
–Pairs with your phone to play music, and turns down the volume when others are talking.
–Great battery life and great sound (better than many headphones I’ve owned).
–Surprisingly unobtrusive and easy to forget it’s there.
–Pricey, one unit runs you $200 (and doesn’t do much good by itself), but well worth the price.
–Complicated controls give you a lot of functionality, but are difficult to remember.
–Harder to wear without a helmet, but can be connected to a backpack, hood or jacket.
The Packtalk can be used by a group of up to 15 skiers and riders, with up to a kilometer of distance in between units. They’re a great tool for families who want to stay connected on the mountain, ski school instruction, friends, backcountry communication, the list goes on. Once set up, just talk normally into the microphone, and your group will hear you as if you were right next to them. It’s almost spooky how well it works – at one point during testing I was standing maybe 20 yards away from my friend on either side of a groomer, facing each other and chatting at normal volume as if we were right next to each other. I’m sure we got plenty of confused looks that day. “What kind of intergalactic communicator is that?” A liftie asked me at one point.
Despite the strange glances, these devices were pure gold once we started down the hill. For me, there’s always this choice of do I plug into my music or leave my ears open to chat with friends, and with the Packtalk, I could do both with ease. My friend passed me as I skidded to a stop above a fluffy-looking jump. “Hey Skyler!” I said without even raising my voice, “how does the landing look?”
“Great!” Came the reply. Sadly, the Packtalk doesn’t screen for blatant lies, and I wiped out on a gnarly patch of ice.
The Packtalk Ski comes with the electronic unit itself, a microphone, two 32 mm speakers with velcro to attach to the earflaps of your helmet (you can also use your own plug-in headphones), and two options for attaching the unit to your helmet, a clip or a glue plate. It can be connected to your phone via Bluetooth for tunes, and automatically manages the volume when others are talking. With full waterproofing, the ability to operate in temps as low as -4 Fahrenheit, and an eight-hour battery life, the Packtalk is ready for whatever the mountain throws at you. Order yours on Amazon today, and spend the season shredding – and communicating – in style.