Trail Riders – Backpack/Hydration Pack or no Pack

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    • #208640

      As the title says Trail Riders!

      Do you pack or no Pack?

      If you pack, what do you usually carry and why did you choose a pack?

      If your no pack do you carry tubes, water etc and if so how do you do it? Do you have a theshold of when you switch to a pack?

      Interested to know.

    • #208642

      No pack…BUT Most of my weekend trail rides are only 20-25miles(max). “After work” rides even shorter at 10-15.

      Used to have a hydration pack years ago but hated: 1) the huge greasy sweaty spot it created on my back in the spring/summer. 2) picking out all the twigs, leaves etc  that it collected as I rode.

      I wear cycling jerseys with the standard 3 pockets in the back. There’s room for one bottle of water and a ProBar chocolate coconut bar (personal fav).

      Tools (hex keys and CO2 carts) are kept in  small saddlebags on my bikes. (I went tubeless for all my bikes, road and MTB, 4-5 years ago)

    • #208643

      I always ride with a small hyrdo pack if planning on being in saddle for an hour plus, keep my multi and a spare tube in it.  If riding solo, I put my phone in as well.

    • #208645

      I always use a pack, so much so that it’s weird for me to ride without the feeling of something on my back. My pack usually contains:

      -Phone/Wallet/Keys; Multi tool/tube/pump; Water bottle(s); Gloves and goggles (in winter); Cliff Bar 0r other snacks.

      On rarer occasions I might have maps, a spare chain, brake pads (if the current ones are worn), also a small cable lock. Cable locks are essential if you or your group wants to get a drink or something to eat after a ride.

    • #208646

      I use a fanny pack + frame-mounted water bottles for every ride, even if it’s 30+ miles. I have a tube and pump in my pack plus plenty of room for tools, a light jacket, my phone, and a can of Mountain Dew.

      For water bottles I use the Zefal Magnum which holds 33 ounces. Two of those plus a can of Dew gets me close to 100 ounces of hydration.

      I’m also a fan of 3-pocket jerseys for additional storage.

    • #208647

      I fall into the same category as Nick, I feel very strange if I ride without my pack on. I use a small-ish camelback, it usually contains water(obviously), a tube (even though both of my bikes are tubeless-you never know), c02 cart, tire lever, multi-tool, a snack(usually clif bar), and my phone. I cant ever see riding without it. Its always packed and in my truck along with my bike because any second of free time that I have, I will be going for a ride.

    • #208660

      I always ride with a small pack that contains H2O, tube, levers, rain jacket and small amount of food.  I try to keep it as light and soft as possible because at my age (55) I like the added protection it provides if I crash.

    • #208664

      Depends on the ride. More than an hour? Pack. Less than an hour? Bottle cages.

      For those packless rides, I keep everything that I would need in my jersey pockets and a tube gets taped to the top tube at the seat post. With the pack, I am able to cram in much more, including a tire/shock pump as apposed to a CO2.

    • #208676

      Yep I use a pack, so easy to access my hydration! I have water (obviously), Gatorade gel’s, Protein bars, and phone….

    • #208699

      My rides usually is within an hour, so bottle. But for 2 hr or more, pack. Sometimes I do 2 bottles if I ride a fattie. I cram my jacket and shorts pockets with essentials on long rides, or tape them on the frame if I don’t use a pack. I just don’t like rinsing and drying bladders after every ride 🙂 and a conveniently located bottle cage is a big factor for me when buying a bike.

    • #208713

      Try to go without the pack as much as possible. I have my spare tube strapped under my seat, frame pump, and two bottle cages on my bike (perks of a hardtail). For shorter rides I use the Specialized KEG in one bottle cage with a multi-tool, keys, cash, a bar, and maybe CO2. On the longer rides I just stuff my pockets and bring two water bottles. If I start the ride with an extra layer, I’ll usually tie it around my waist if it gets too hot.

      I did a 30 mile ride at the end of the summer and was the only person to not bring a pack. I knew one of the trails we were riding I would be able to refill my water at. I didn’t feel the need to carry water for the whole day when two bottles could be filled and I could keep the weight off my back.

    • #208716

      I try to avoid wearing a pack as much as possible, however on rides over 2-3 hours or when it’s really hot, there’s not much choice.

      For rides on my local trails, I can get away with not carrying anything – food, water, or tools. If something does happen, I’m never more than a half mile or so from the parking lot. That’s not my typical MO though, as I usually carry a bottle, tube, inflation, and a multitool at minimum.

      On rides in the mountains, I tend to bring a lot more with me. More water, more food, more tools and spares.

      I’ve been using a Cascadia fanny pack (lumbar bag, hip pack, whatever) from High Above and it’s been phenomenal. It has a wide waist strap so it’s comfortable, it stays in place, and it’s large enough to carry plenty of gear. The one I’m using has their Bottle Rocket so I can stash one bottle there and have another one on the bike. The interior is large enough though that you could fit another bottle inside it or at least some way to purify water you find in the woods. On my hardtail with two bottle cages and another in the Cascadia pack, I can get through a 3-5 hour ride.


    • #208731

      I really don’t like wearing a back pack so any rides under 100 to 12 miles or  longer rides where we can swing back by the parking lot for refills I only use a bottle. But longer rides and even shorter rides in the heat I use both a bottle and a back pack hydration unit.

    • #208735

      I always wear a pack when the ride is longer. When the ride is shorter, like just some random aft. then I will just throw a bottle in the cage, and pack up my pockets or underseat storage. Then I have SWAT which allows me to fit even more on my bike when doing short rides.

    • #208793

      Wow thanks for all the responses guys! Some really useful info.


      From what I can draw the majority of us don’t use a pack for our shorter rides (up to two hours)  and that’s the same approach I would like to take. As I will be focusing on doing 1-2 hour trail rides most of the time (and a few Superflow races [think of it as less gnarly downhill but instead of 1 track we ride 4]) I was aiming to go packless.


      Now follow up question, if you use a underseat bag, have you seen it affect your dropper post?

    • #208794

      Oh and do you find it comes into contact with your rear wheel when your hooking it.


    • #208796

      Yeahhhhhh, you need to use a small bag with a dropper or it will hit the tire when the dropper is fully compressed . My seatbag has just enough room for a CO2 unit w/2 cartridges and my truck keys. –I also had to cut off the velcro mount that wraps around the seatpost to keep it from getting mashed against the top of the seat tube with the dropper compressed.

      ….that said as I’ve gone through 5 droppers the last 3 seasons my patience with the dropper vendor world is wearing very thin and I’m thinking of dropping my dropper (pun intended) — but that’s a whole other topic. 🙁

    • #208806

      Good forum Spooky.  I think for me one of Aaron’s comments is most relevant.  He said that when he rides in the mountains he tends to bring a lot more.  Where you ride is a part of the equation too.  For me, riding mostly in Mongolia, nearly every ride requires a high level of preparedness and thus a pack.  Nearly all rides are in the mountains, have long high speed descents, are isolated, on unmaintained trail, an unexpected hike out would usually be arduous, nights are cold even in the summer, and more often than not I ride alone.

      The other really relevant or helpful comment to me was Jeff’s comment that he carries a Mountain Dew.  LOL.  I’m going to start doing that.  Awesome idea.

    • #208862

      no under saddle bag for me with the dropper. If shorts/jacket pockets not enough, it means its a longer ride and I need a pack.

    • #208869

      @Spookyshoes check out the products from Backcountry Research:

      They make some handy-dandy straps that allow you to mount a tube, 2 CO2 cartridges, and a multitool to your saddle’s rails. This keeps the gear high and tight to your saddle where it will be out of the way when the post is dropped. I use them on several of my bikes as it allows me to just grab them and go instead of searching for the right gear before a ride.

    • #208906
    • #208958

      Awesome answers guys!

      Ive only recently returned to the MTB world, when I was a young fella I rode Trails on my Trusty GT Rebound! Usually with a Camelbak and underseat bag. But these rides were usually 3-4 hours once you factored in riding to the trail (to young to drive). When I was able to drive I went into  DH and never rode with a backpack and all spares were in the car, reason being no time to repair on trail, your in a race if you flat your out, chain breaks well guess what no brakes, maintain speed!


      Now returning to trail riding with a new Canyon Spectral and doing these Superflow events there seems to be a cross over between both trail Rides and DH.

      Looks like im turning into an Enduro Bro, Bumbags/Fannypacks all the way BRAH’s!!! Lets get gnarly.

      PS. Thanks for all the replies I actually ordered one of these last night along with a cage and bottle for my smaller 1-2 hr rides and will buy a Hydro Backpack when I go on an Adventure!

    • #208961

      Whether or not you use a pack, I think one helpful tip is to always prep your gear for your next ride immediately after your current ride.  The exceptions are water/fluids, any foods that may spoil, and any gear that may need to dry out or be washed.  After I get back from a ride, I try to wash the bike first, repack gear second and then take a shower third.  In the summer I will also prep fluid and freeze it.

    • #209004

      I don’t usually carry a hydration pack on day rides. I usually carry one when I have my camera with me, since I don’t really have another good way of carrying it. I found it to provide quite a bit of shade on open areas during those sunny summer days.

      Here’s a review I did on the CamelBak Skyline:

    • #209006

      I got a frame bag from Pretty awesome.

      A Waterbottle on my frame gets me through most workday rides. For longer rides I’ll wear a jersey and throw in an extra bottle.

      When I take trips out west (I live in VT), we ride for 4-6hrs. I need more water. I may end up using a pack, but am thinking about getting an EVOC Hip Race pack that has 1.5l bladder and can hold a water bottle as well (+ the bottle in my frame). That just about gets me to the 100l my osprey holds

      My biggest annoyance with packs is the sweat factor and I need to cinch it so tight to not bounce around or ride up my back on downhills.

      However, when I ride in Fruita/Moab or other big, very rocky terrain, I appreciate the extra back protection. riding with nothing out there feels a bit bare.


    • #209103

      I started going without the backpack for my quick 5-7 miles rides. I like not having it but I’ve blown out my rear tubeless tire and didn’t have the quick tool to get the rear tire off, or tube, and pump. Had to walk it out. Just need a bag for tire levers, tube, pump and quick tool. I just ordered this off little frame bag off ebay. $2.20 total. I’ll let you know what I think of it.


    • #209119

      I use a a seatpost-mounted bag for my tube, parktool, wallet, and keys.  I keep my pump in my jersey’s squirrel pouch and I use the frame mounts for water bottles.

    • #209128

      Hey All

      Thanks for the responses. So I got my Raceface RipStrip. Didnt like it, nothing wrong with it looks good, feels Ok to wear doesnt fit a Galaxy S7 cell phone so instant return. Glad I only test fit it. So I will be returning that.

      I also ordered…. as per Aarons recommendation the Back Country Research Tube Tarp and Race Strap. I was lukcy to find an online retailer in Australia who had stock.

      I can comfortably fit a spare tube, 2 tyre levers and 2 CO2 cans, I also have a Lezyne cage with a Camelback 700ml water bottle. This means im only left with the need to carry a spare chain link and a multi tool, plus phone/wallet/keys.

      Thinking I should of ordered the BCR Tulbag as well.

    • #209141

      I ride with hydration pack always. It’s very small but keep all necessary gear with me and ready for a ride anytime.

      If I was looking for a way to go pack less, I’d choose a frame bag and/or gas tank bag over seat bag or fanny pack.

      Frame bag can fit an extra layer, doesn’t interfere with dropper post and rear wheel, and keep weight centered and lower to the ground.

    • #209199

      I am a recreational rider, and I always ride with my CamelBak M.U.L.E. It can handle up to 3L of water, and has plenty of storage space. I have had the same pack since 2005, and it never let me down.

    • #209274

      So thought I would deliver a bit of an update. Took the Spectral out for a spin on the trails after some rain (naughty naughty) about 1 1/2 hours worth of unfit, heavy breathing, slow peddaling muddy nonsense (had a blast, sorry not sorry).


      No pack and loved it, sweaty but not super sweaty had just enough water in my 700ml camelback water bottle for that ride and my BackCountry Research performed flawlessly and silently. The tubetarp kept my tube clean and the racestrap kept my tyre levers, 2 CO2 inflators and the tubetarp wrapped spare tube well secured and completely immobile.


      Highly recommend both those products. I think with my new (on the way) High Above Cascadia Hip pack (with bottle rocket) and another 700ml water bottle I doubt the pack will come out for anything under 3 hours.

      Tell you what I now know why all those Endurobro guys ride with no pack, it feels so free like going commando!


    • #210079

      I only use hydro pack w/bladder when I take my trail dog with me (use the water bottle for her) and when weather is extremely hot and rides are over an hour.  Whatever the case may be, I always have a water bottle on my bike.  My hydro pack is a Camelback flashflo waistpack.  I don’t like the ones sliding around on my back.  I always wear it…for longer rides, it has the bladder, but shorter rides, I use my water bottle for hydration.  The pack has spare tube, inflator, mini pump, tire levers, tube patches, presta to schrader valve adapter, spare chain link connector, and multitool.  The drawbacks to the waist pack are limited water amount and the hose is awkwardly attached to your clothing.

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