Being adequately prepared and equipped can easily make or break an all-day trail ride.
What you bring along in your pack depends on the weather, the trail, and the length of time you plan to be out on the trails. I’ll break down the essentials you should have with you on extended (4-6 hour) rides.
Spare Tubes or a Patch Kit
Even if you’ve gone tubeless, I usually have at least one tube and patch kit in my pack on a long ride. It’s a little quicker and easier to replace a tube than patching a tube on the trail. If the popped tube is worth salvaging, I’ll patch it up later when I get home from the ride.
You can’t fix a flat tire without a pump. I use the Blackburn Airstik 2 Stage Pump because it’s very small and lightweight, but still powerful enough that it won’t tire you out just pumping up your tube. Or for an even more minimalist and time-saving option, a CO2 inflator is worth checking out. I’d recommend keeping a couple of full cartridges on hand if you’re going this route.
You can assemble your own, or pick up a pre-assembled kit. At minimum, it should include the following:
First Aid Kit
You’ll probably need it when you don’t have it. Keeping a bike-specific first aid kit stowed away in your pack enables you to be at least somewhat prepared for the unexpected.
On a long ride, one setback can leave you racing to beat sundown. A headlamp or handlebar light is good to throw in the pack. If I know I’ll be cutting it close, I’ll bring my NiteRider Pro 1200 along for the ride.
As many of us know from staring at forecasts all winter long, the weather won’t always turn out how you expect. When heading out on that all day ride, there are a few things I always try to carry with me.
Extra Layer or Jacket
A long sleeve jersey or a light cycling jacket with a bit of weather defense is a good choice. Depending on where you ride you may opt for more or less wind or water protection.
Are you expecting a little mud or water on your ride? Socks are easy to throw in the pack and would be nice to change into on your lunch break or when things dry out.
It seems like every time I forget my gloves, I crash and cut up my hands. Keep them in your pack so you don’t make the mistake I’ve made too many times!
Even if it’s not a sunny day, glasses with clear or light-colored lenses are essential protection, coming in handy when you roll through a cloud of gnats or are banging through an overgrown trail. No-slip nosepads and grippy temples on sunglasses are kind of a must so they’re not slipping or bouncing around on your face. Interchangeable or, better still, photochromic lenses are ideal for changing light conditions over the course of a long ride.
Hydration packs are the best option for these long rides. But if you already have a regular pack and aren’t looking to get a new one, you can do what I did and just purchase a hydration bladder separately. For long rides, you’re probably going to want a three-liter one.
To go all day, it’s good to have more than just water. An extra water bottle with a Skratch Labs mix will keep you replenished and less fatigued so you don’t get sloppy at the end of the trail.
Aside from packing a sandwich for lunch, energy bars are good to throw in the pack. I usually bring a couple Clif Bars with me, but protein bars and energy gels will also keep you pedaling.
Your pack is stocked and ready to go, but there’s always that off chance you’ll need to get creative to in order to make it down the trail. Zip ties are at the top of the list when it comes to bike gear hacks—they’re small, lightweight, and can be used to fix all kinds of things—like busted derailleur hangers, flapping fenders, and broken shoelaces—well enough to get you down from the mountain. Voile straps are great for repairs requiring heavier-duty support.
Be sure to bring along the other gear hack hall of famer, duct tape. If a zip tie can’t fix it, duct tape probably can, from sticking things onto your bike to bracing or splinting injured body parts like wrists or ankles. There’s no need to weigh down your pack with a huge 60-yard roll; bring along one of these emergency-sized rolls or wind 4-5 feet around a golf pencil or small stick and throw it in with the rest of your gear.
My own personal don’t-leave-home-without-it item is my wallet. The chances may seem remote, but you never know when you might need access to emergency funds. Also, you never know when a random item in your wallet might come in handy. Another Gearhead here once found that a business card tucked into his wallet saved the day on a ride on the Wasatch Crest Trail. After a second flat on the same tire, he discovered a small slash in the sidewall (the replacement tube blew out because of that hole). It was a long way back in either direction, so he took the card out of his wallet, folded it up, and placed it on the inside of the tire against the slashed sidewall. He aired up the second tube inside of that, and it held for the remainder of the ride. Moral of the story is, bring your wallet along instead of leaving it in the car, because it just might save the day.