Singletracks recently hosted a lively forum thread on whether a hip-pack is sufficient for mountain biking. Based on that discussion, we thought it would be helpful to offer packing tips for various ride lengths.
I once lined up at a race alongside a rider who had the last third of their dreadlocks tucked neatly in the center of three jersey pockets. For those of us with shorter hair commitments, choosing how to fill our pockets and packs depends on the weather, ride length, terrain, personal nutrition needs, and how far we will be from the gelato shop.
I personally find it helpful to keep a variety of ride-bags packed for specific uses, leaving adequate room to squeeze in food and water.
When it is possible to catch a bus or walk home from a ride in 30-40 minutes, I bring as little gear along as possible. For a spin in the hills behind my home, I wear a small hip-pack that holds my cell phone, wallet, 3-5 zip ties, and occasionally a water bottle if the bike I am on lacks a cage.
All of my flat repair and tool needs, along with some emergency calories, are crammed in a “tool-bottle” on my bike. This setup offers the bare essentials to keep me rolling and wards off the bonk-monster. I tape a quick-link to the backside of one brake lever and lash a tire-puncture plug to my front brake hose. Tubeless tire technology is so good today that I give away more tubes than I inflate. Regardless, it is good to bring one along.
When a loop or out-and-back takes you further than an hour’s hike from the car, you will want to carry supplies to fix nearly anything the rocks could bend. I have found myself lost in the forest on two different occasions, and I was happy to have the right gear to keep warm and safe.
Key additions to the backpack for longer “epic” rides include a fist-sized multi-tool, far more water, and sufficient calories for both the ride and the following morning, just in case. In addition to the items listed above, the hour+ bag gets stuffed with the following uber-lightweight goods.
- Map of the area
- Analog compass
- 5+ zip ties
- Spare derailleur hanger
- Hand pump
- Tubeless tire repair tool
- A second and possibly third tube, depending on terrain
- Tube patch kit
- A small packet of chain lube
- Lighter/waterproof matches
- Sharp pocket knife
- Space blanket
- Rain jacket or poncho
- An extra pair of gloves
- A warm hat
- Too much food and water. I like to have enough to offer some to everyone I am with or might encounter.
The best rides often dive deeper than two hours into the forest, and for these, I grab the lightest kitchen sink available and throw it into my pack. For day-long adventures, I will top off the above lists with the following accoutrements:
- Extra brake pad set
- Water purifier
- Electrical tape and tissue for repairs and bandages
- First aid kit
- Permanent marker to fix faded trail signs
- Emergency bivy sack (in place of a space blanket)
- Occasionally, a good book
- Definitely a decent camera
Enduro race ready pack
Given the steep and technical nature of many modern enduro races, participants are required to wear knee pads, full face helmets, and a certified back protector. Being covered like linebackers for 3-5 hours of pedaling drives a lot of racers to find methods to carry as little as possible. With ample feed-stations and a chance to wrench on the bike during the mid-race time-check, folks are getting away with packing next to nothing on their person.
Based on my limited enduro race experience, and what I have observed other riders doing, here is a list of what makes it on the bike and rider. Many of these bits are for emergency-use-only and are either taped to the frame or slotted neatly in a hip-pack or protection-vest pocket.
- Spare derailleur hanger
- Extra brake pads
- Minimal multitool
- Spare tube (taped under the top tube, stem, or above the BB)
- CO2 canister/inflator (wrapped inside the spare tube)
- Tubeless tire repair tool taped to a hose or cable housing
- Energy gels taped to the top tube
- Water bottle, either on the bike or in the smallest hip-pack or pocket possible
What’s in your pack?
Ultimately, what we pack to be safe and self-sufficient on rides and in events can vary greatly, and nearly everyone I meet has some cool tricks to store what they need. Please share some of your favorite ride accessories, gear hiding spots, or gear suggestions in the comments below.
Do you have a story of a time when the kitchen sink you packed saved the ride? Tell us about it!
Here is a printable checklist you can copy and adjust as you like.
|Multi tool||Multi tool||Multi tool||Derailleur hanger|
|Tire repair tool||Tire repair tool||3-5 zipties||Brake pads|
|2-3 tubes||2-3 tubes||Tire repair tool||Minimal multitool|
|Hand pump||Hand pump||Spare tube||Spare tube|
|Energy gel||Energy gel||Hand pump||CO2 canister/inflator|
|Quicklink||Quicklink||Energy gel||Tire repair tool|
|Map of the area||Map of the area||Water||Energy gels/sugar|
|Analog Compas||Analog Compas||Quicklink||Water|
|5+ zip ties||5+ zip ties||Quicklink|
|Derailleur hanger||Derailleur hanger|
|Hand pump||Hand pump|
|Tire repair tool||Tire repair tool|
|Tube patch kit||Tube patch kit|
|Chain lube||Chain lube|
|Sharp pocket knife||Sharp pocket knife|
|Rain jacket||Space blanket|
|Extra gloves||Rain jacket|
|A warm hat||Extra gloves|
|Food & water||A warm hat|
|Brake pads||Food & water|
|Electrical tape and tissue|
|First aid kit|
|A good book|
Add some Gorilla tape or similar. I’ve saved many a slashed tire with tape all the way around the rim and tire. For miles. On very rough terrain. At speed.
i don’t see beer listed anywhere on here
Hey Brian, what do you do about the spare derailleur hanger for your jeffsy? It seems to require a 19mm hex. I don’t take my spare on rides because I couldn’t change it on the trail anyways… 🙁
Gorilla tape (called American tape in Italy) and beer are savvy additions for sure!
This is a fantastic point @jgmtb. As for the YT Jeffsy hanger, fortunately, I never had to sort that out. It bent on a ride once, but I was able to straighten it well enough by hand. Thank goodness for uber soft alloy?
I sold that bike a few months back and am now riding a steel Nordest Bardino. The hanger on the Bardino takes 2 x 3mm hex-head bolts, so it would be a quick swap.
Keep up the sweet suggestions! I imagine that some readers have 6 things they carry that are not on my pack list. What are they? Safety pins?
Pump clips to the frame, tools and repair supplies in a waterproof seat pack, extra food in a waterproof top tube bag. Keep that extra weight on your bike, not on your back where it can alter your balance, or fatigue or injure you. Eddy King, pro BMX and downhill racer, was paralyzed by landing on his shock pump. Pump clips and seat bags are dorky but its way more comfortable.
In your jersey pockets, put your phone and keys in the side pockets and only put soft items like clothing or food in the center pocket. Do not put a pump in your jersey pocket. At what point in your ride are you going to reach back there and want to grab the pump while riding? Use those pockets for food.