What to pack for a mountain bike ride

Mountain biking often means being off the beaten track for extended periods. Your pack needs to contain the necessary kit to look after you and your bike, and to get you home, whatever the trail might throw at you. Here’s my essential guide on what to pack.

Your Pack

Choose a pack roomy enough to fit your gear, but that doesn’t move about when you ride. Your pack should sit snug to your back as your body moves around. A bulky mass flying around on your back can cause you to crash.

I use the awesome FR Enduro Blackline. It has a built in back protector and airflow ridges to keep me cool on hot days. It’s roomy, has loads of separate pockets (including a waterproof one) and compartments for getting organised . More importantly it’s designed for enduro racing, and as such it stays put on my back.

Taking care of you (and maybe your fellow riders)

Water

How much water you take is dependent on a multitude of factors: How far are you riding? How warm is it likely to be? Running out of water when you’re miles from anywhere is no joke. I’d suggest erring on the side of taking a little more than you need, for any ride that takes you more than 30 minutes walk from a drink.

Food

Regular refuelling will keep you riding at your peak for longer and help with concentration levels. If you wait until you’re hungry, you’ve left it too long! Keep a good supply of whatever snack you enjoy in your pack. I like Naked bars and trail mix. I have friends who like the sugar fix of jelly babies etc. Take whatever works for you.

Warmth

If it’s a cold day, start feeling slightly cold. You’ll warm up as you ride. If you start warm, you’ll sweat. That sweat will then chill you and make you cold. That said, you should also pack for eventualities: What if you had to stand still for an hour to tend an injured friend? What if the heavens open? (a likely scenario in Britain’s mountains and hills). Stash a foil blanket and an extra layer on those cold days, and bear in mind that it can be good deal colder on hill tops than in the valley bottoms. If there’s a slight chance of rain or you’re heading into mountainous terrain, take a waterproof.

First aid kit

I rode for years without a first aid kit. It never really occured to me. But as part of my qualifying to coach and guide, I had to take a 2 day outdoor first aid course. It was an eye opener. For the sake of a few quid and a few extra grams, a first aid kit is a good addition to your pack. I’ve planned mine like this:

Cleaning wounds

  • Antiseptic wipes for small cuts and scratches
  • Plastic vials of saline for washing out bigger cuts

Stopping bleeding

  • Swabs for mopping up claret
  • Celox Haemostatic Granules – These are for stopping life threatening bleeds (think arterial). They promote rapid coagulation

Dressing wounds

  • Plasters in various sizes
  • Low adhesive dressing pads
  • Cohesive bandage
  • Blister plasters
  • Tape for sticking dressings down
  • Safety pins

Miscellaneous

  • Scissors (for cutting dressings, clothes etc)
  • Tweezers
  • Tick remover
  • Insect bite wipes
  • Ibuprofen
  • Antihistamines
  • First aid manual
  • Casualty card (and pen)
  • Foil blanket

I put mine in a tough, clear plastic waterproof wallet that I found on Amazon. I found the bigger waterproof first aid bags too bulky.

I know this is a quite a big list of first aid kit, but it weighs next to nothing. Up until last week I’d barely had cause to use it; a few plasters here and there for scratches and minor cuts. Then I managed to catch my shin on my flat pedal and gouge a 3″ gash, almost down to the bone! I was so glad I had the right kit to deal with it. A good first aid kit is like insurance; better to have and not need it, than need it and not have it!

Taking care of your bike (and maybe your mates’)

Multi tool (make sure the hex keys fit the bolts on your bike)

Spare tubes OR Tyre plugs for tubeless setups
If you run tubes, take at least 2 tubes. If you run tubeless you can either take a tube in case you get a hold too big for your sealant to fill. Alternatively you could take a tyre plug tool. Much lighter and smaller than spare tubes, and very effective – this is what I use now.

Spare brake pads
Always worth keeping at least 1 set in your pack, just in case…

Pump or CO2 canisters
I prefer the canisters, but if you have to use them, remember to stock up your pack with more.

Electrical tape
This is an awesome piece of kit and has helped me home on many occasions!

Cable ties
As with electrical tape. If you ride for years, you’ll be amazed just how often cable ties come in useful.

Chain quick links
Much easier than breaking your chain. Make sure you have the right size for your chain brand and number of gears (9, 10,11, 12).

Patches
Only really useful if you run inner-tubes.

Spare derailleur hanger
This might sound like overkill, but if I had a pound for every time a mate has bent or broken a mech hanger… I’d have enough money for at least a pint or two!

Screwdriver

Rubber Gloves
Saves you getting oil all over your hands while your mate watches you mend their chain. Also useful for stashing stuff in to keep dry.

Small folding knife
The sharp eyed among you might notice I haven’t got one. Well I’m going to because they’re super useful!

Navigation

Map & compass, phone, GPS device… Whatever works for you. Just bear in mind that electronic devices can break and batteries can run out. I carry a compass just in case.

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