Hands-free, ultra-lightweight and high performance By the staff of Dirt Wheels
Until you have experienced the advantages of clear and effortless communication while riding your ATV or driving your UTV, it is hard to imagine how much it adds to the recreation experience. Helmet-to-helmet communicators have been around for many years now, but recent advances have produced units that are ultralight and compact yet effective. We’ve been spending time with Scala Rider’s PackTalk helmet intercom system.
Scala Rider packages the PackTalk Duo kit in a slick box upholstered in faux leather with flip-open ends. Inside are an instruction book and other printed material, a matching pair of Scala communicator units and a variety of installation parts, light ear speakers, boom mics and stick-on mics. There are also clip-on and stick-on Scala mounts. As we just played with an installation in an open-face helmet with the boom mic, everything went pretty easy. The problem is the open face. When you get up to speed, there is so much wind noise that you can’t really hear much at any speed at all. We easily removed the kit and made the move to a GMAX GM11 ADV helmet with a face shield. We swapped to a stick-on mic and the install seemed easy.
As always with one-fits-all products, it wasn’t that easy. With the speakers in place, the ear holes were no longer deep enough. The GMAX EPS liner around the ears is separate and removable, so we removed them and made openings in the EPS for the speakers. After that, the installation was a breeze and the fit was comfortable. You simply charge the PackTalk units with a USB and a micro USB cell phone charging cord, and you are ready to go. The second PackTalk was mounted in an LS2 full-face motocross helmet. It went right in that helmet. Helmet design and the size of your ears will be the issues that may complicate the install.
HOW IT WORKS
The Scala PackTalk units clip on and off of the helmet mounts. We removed them to charge them, and they came off easily, but we never lost one during use, but they were mostly used in UTVs where we weren’t getting hit by bushes and branches. Each unit has a flip-up antenna for more range. There are provisions to add additional PackTalk units to the group, and the more units integrated into a group, the greater the possible communication distance. You can also answer your phone using only the PackTalk controls. If your phone is also your music storage device, you can play music over the PackTalk, and the same with GPS directions. If a call comes in, the music or direction continues to play in the background. You can get up to 13 hours of talk time on a full charge, and the units are water- and dust-proof.
Most of our off-roading is in areas without cell service, and we had only the two radios, so we used them only as communication between two helmets. Once you have powered the units on, there is really nothing to think about—perhaps playing with the sound levels, but otherwise you simply talk. Communication is clear and crisp. Generally, the communication distance is line-of-sight or perhaps a bit more. At times ambient noise will overcome the volume of the PackTalk speakers and you don’t hear the other person. For the most part, though, communication is very reliable.
SAFETY AND FUN
As nice as it is to talk effortlessly to your passenger or another machine without shouting, we enjoyed the safety aspect the most. It is easy to keep track of other riders in the group, to warn them of oncoming or side traffic or trail hazards. We could also discuss directions and make course choices without stopping. While testing, we even smoked a CVT belt and wasted less than a minute getting back, breaking out the tow rope and getting underway back to camp. We can’t vouch for the 13-hour talk time, but we never lost juice on a full day of riding.
At $579.99 for the PackTalk Duo pack, the Scala Rider is not the cheapest option, but they are loaded with features, are easy to use and truly work well. The PackTalk is the pinnacle of Scala Rider communicators, and there are cheaper options available from Scala Rider if you don’t need all the features of the PackTalk set.