I like to be prepared for anything on the trail from bike and body breakdowns to hunger meltdowns and over the years I’ve come up with a list of items to handle almost any emergency. As a rule of thumb I try to “expect the unexpected” and pack my trail bag accordingly. Here are my tips.
The first thing you need to be prepared for an epic ride is a backpack or a hydration pack that has room for carrying what you need. If you look at cycling-specific hydration packs regardless of brand they all do a pretty good job at carrying water and stuff so it’s important to find the most comfortable pack that’s the right size. I purchased the Camelbak Octane 14+ since it has a 100oz bladder, a comfortable strapping system that’s both secure and non-restrictive, and an expandable zipper system that effectively doubles the storage capacity on demand.
Once you’ve settled on a pack, it’s time to fill it up. First and foremost you should pack a comprehensive first aid kit – one that contains everything you need to take care of most major abrasions you may get. Inside my kit I have bug spray, alcohol pads and sanitized hand wipes (both for cleaning any wounds), 4 x 5 prep pads, 2 x 2 prep pads, band aids (assorted sizes), Advil extra strength, compression bandages, thread and needle (sterilized in bag), Polysporin, Benedril (poison ivy cream), a hot/cold pad (to reduce swelling), steri-strips 2nd skin patches (holds cuts closed like stitches), a very sharp diving knife with serrated edge, a sling, and splints. Now this is a worst-case-scenario first aid kit and works great if you know how to use it but for some folks it may be overkill.
In terms of trail tools I recommend a good quality multi-tool that includes a chain rivet tool. If you have special wheels like Mavics Crossmax carry the tools that are used to adjust the wheel and true them as well. A good quality pump for tires is a must and if you have full suspension bike you may want to bring the shock pump as well (for them pesky stuck down situations). I also like to bring spare parts like SRAM power links, derailleur cable, and a spare derailleur hanger. Tire irons and patches and/or tubes are a good idea, and if you have tubeless tires a spare 2 ounces of Stans and a tire inflator to blasts the beads in place could come in handy on the trail.
Extra items that you will want to consider are a spare pair of gloves in case the ones you are wearing get wet and a water resistant jacket that will keep you warm when the weather doesnt cooperate. A high power tail light that clips to the bag is a good idea in case you’re caught in the dark and need to be seen. Your wallet, cell phone and car keys are good to have as well – never leave home without ’em!
Now that we have medical and mechanical emergencies covered it’s important to talk about food. I like to carry fresh fruit on long rides which I like to consume first since fruits tend to get bruised easily on rocky trails. I also carry a variety of snack bars (taste them before you go off the deep end and buy a box) and gel for fast energy. Another good thing I like to carry is a bag of trail mix (that’s what it’s made for after all!). More important than any snacks, make sure your Camelbak has enough water for your ride. I have found 100oz it usually good for about 4 hours and if I think I’ll need more water I carry a 500ml bottle in my Camelbak as well.
One final note about packing for your epic ride: bring whatever you like on your ride but always pack out what you pack in (wrappers, etc.) Keep a small bag so that you can toss the wrappers in without messing the inside of your hydration pack. If I have extra room in my pack I’ll stop to pick up small trash I find on the trail as well.
Packing for an epic ride takes just a little planning but pays off big time in the event of a trail emergency!