The following list contains items that you must have with you during every ride. Many riders find it unnecessary to carry all of these items on their local rides, but I have found that it is these rides where I end up needing most of the items on this list the most.
- Hydration Pack – There are several companies on the market that offer hydration packs. The most common is probably CamelBak. They have a ton of options, so make sure you pick the one that best suits your needs. I use a Dakine Nomad because of its unique ability to carry full face and conventional helmets. A hydration pack serves two very important purposes. 1) It carries your water. Most packs these days range around 70 oz to 100 oz with the 100 oz models being most popular because of their versatility. If you are planning on doing any mountain rides, opt for the 100 oz. 2) It carries all of the items that I am about to list.
- Spare Tube – There is nothing worse than being on the side of the trail with a flat tire and a long way to walk. Bring a spare tube with you on every ride. Even if you are running UST tires, a spare tube will get you home when you blow a sidewall.
- Tire Levers – Changing out a flat is much easier with the aid of some good tire levers. I have used Park Tools levers for years, but recently switched to the Maxxis brand. They are stronger than the Park’s.
- CO2 Cartridge – A CO2 cartridge will make filling up an empty tire/tube much faster on the side of the trail.
- Mini-Pump – You can pick these pumps up at any local bike shop or retail outlet. They are light and small enough to fit in your pack and some even offer a pressure gauge as an option. I would recommend buying one that has the pressure gauge so that you can be absolutely sure that your tire is pumped up correctly.
- SRAM PowerLink - A SRAM PowerLink is a single connecting link that SRAM provides with almost all of their new chains to connect one end to the other. This item could possibly be one of the most important things to carry while riding. If you break a chain on the trail, this is going to be your best friend. It allows you to remove the bad link with your multi-tool and then reconnect the chain without having to press in the pins. You can find these at almost any LBS on a red card for 4-5 dollars.
- Nutrition – While you ride, you are burning a lot of calories. You need to replenish these calories and nutrients during the ride. I use the Cliff Shot Bloks for short rides. They are light enough where they are not heavy on your stomach, but they include the necessary electrolytes to keep me going. Another good alternative are gels. This goo contains similar substances as the bars/bloks, but in a gel form. Many also include caffeine. On longer rides, I normally bring a peanut butter and honey sandwich.
- Spare Derailleur Hanger - Every recent bike in memory has the feature of a replaceable derailleur hanger. In the event that your rear derailleur hits a rock or other foreign object, the hanger is normally the first to give. These hangers bolt in to the rear triangle of your frame and can be easily replaced on the side of the trail. Carrying on of these will save your ride. You can have your LBS order you an extra or go by derailleurhanger.com and order one up.
- ID Card – Yes, that little card that allows you to drive on public roads may also save your life. If you get in a serious wreck on the trail, people need to know who you are and where you live. This information is also vital for hospital personnel. A company called RoadID also makes a wrist band that contains all of your necessary information.
- Multi-Tool - This “do-it-all” tool has almost everything you need for a trail side repair in a convenient and small package. I use the Multi-19 Tool from Crank Brothers. Be sure to pick up one that fits your needs, but I would recommend that it has a chain tool built in.
- Shock Pump – Most of today’s suspensions (rear and front) use air shocks. I carry a shock pump with me on the ride to make adjustments as needed. This may be considered optional by most riders, but I bring it on all rides.
- First Aid Kit – This one is pretty self explanatory. It is not if…it’s when you or someone you are riding with wrecks, it is good to have a small first aid kit available to clean everything up.
- Toilet Paper/Paper Towel – This multi-use item can be a life saver during a trail side restroom break, but it can also be used to wipe off anything. It is always a great idea to have a couple extra in your pack.
- Electrolyte Pills – Companies like Hammer Nutrition make electrolyte pills that can help prevent cramping and fatigue. These all natural pills are great on long rides to try to keep your legs fresh.
That is my comprehensive list. I consider everything on this list a must bring to make sure my rides go off without a hitch. It looks like a lot on paper, but the overall weight really isn’t a lot once you get loaded up.
One thing to remember…
You are going to run into riders on the trail that do not have the equipment necessary to make their repairs. As a mountain biker, we need to pay it forward by offering up a tube, tool or PowerLink to get the rider going again. When they offer to pay you for the help, tell them to carry one next time and give it to another rider if needed. This pay it forward attitude has saved countless rides over the years, and we need to do our part to make sure that everyone enjoys the sport as much as possible. It is pretty simple…treat others as you wish to be treated and as always…enjoy the ride.