Get Out! Bringing the essentials in a pack an important part of riding
One of the first things I grab before any bike ride is my backpack.
I fill the hydration bladder with enough water to get me through the ride, plus a little extra. This usually means one liter for a short, after-work ride, or at least two liters for longer rides.
Water, of course, is an essential item to have on any bike ride or when you’re exercising in any capacity for a prolonged period of time. For mountain biking though, what else is really essential? I unpacked my entire backpack to find out.
In the very front of my pack, in a mesh outer pocket, I keep a bandana. This weighs practically nothing and is useful for nose blows, blotting cuts and scrapes, and applying water to a hot face on a long ride. Maybe it’s not essential, but I like to have it with me.
In a middle, zippered pouch I keep a few snacks like a Honey Stinger Waffle or a Clif Bar, my phone and a small amount of first-aid items such as bandages, antiseptic wipes and gauze. I also have a bit of medical tape. There are “crash kits” and of course other prepackaged first-aid kits available as well.
It’s important to at least have a few items with you in case you, or someone you’re riding with, does crash. Again, that bandana might come in handy if you needed a larger bandage. Along with the items in this pocket, I have ibuprofen and antihistamines with me in a small plastic container elsewhere in the pack.
Some of the items you might need most on a ride, though, are bike-repair items. Whether you use tubes or run tubeless tires, you should still have the necessary supplies to repair a flat tire.
I keep a spare tube with me in a plastic bag (to protect it). I also have a small drawstring bag with the following tools: a multi-tool, bike tools for removing and returning a tire to its rim, a patch kit, duct tape and a small film canister with bolts, screws and a few chain links in it. Finally, I have a small portable pump.
While it may seem like I carry a lot of repair equipment, I find it’s better to be overprepared in this area than underprepared. I hate the thought of being in the middle of a ride on Horsethief Bench, breaking a chain and having no way to fix it. That would be a long and unpleasant walk back to the car. Also, if I have these items and encounter someone on the trail who needs them, I can help make their day a little better.
The last items in my pack are there as protection in various ways. I have sunscreen and lip balm with SPF and I also have a windbreaker. Even on warm days, if you get caught in a rainstorm, that windbreaker can come in handy.
With all of those items in my pack and two liters of water, my pack weighs about eight pounds. On a recent ride with my friend and co-worker Andy Smith, I weighed his pack, and we inventoried the supplies in it as well. Our packs contain almost the exact same set of items. Andy keeps a small tool kit attached to his bike, but still had a patch kit in his pack, a pump, first-aid kit, snacks and sunscreen. He did have a tube of chain lube that we both agreed was probably unnecessary.
So what is essential?
If I were listing five items to always have in my pack (water not included), I would say: a snack, first-aid kit, small repair kit, pump and sunscreen. If you check the weather you’ll know whether a rain coat might be necessary. Of course, if you’re on an unfamiliar trail, you’ll want to add a map or at least written directions, too.
Doublecheck your bike pack before your next ride, and make sure you’ve still got everything you need to ensure that ride is successful and fun and doesn’t leave you hiking to the car.