20 essentials for epic mountain bike rides

What to pack for long rides

One of the best parts of mountain biking is that it enables you to journey farther and faster into the backcountry than you could on foot. This also means that when something goes wrong, such as an injury or a mechanical, it will likely be up to you to address the problem.

If you enjoy spending all day on the trails you should plan and pack accordingly.

Like most tools, these items are only useful if you know how to use them. It’s always best to ride with a group, but if venturing deep into the woods alone, be sure you have a basic understanding of first aid and also know how to:

In addition to nutrition, hydration and identification, here are 20 items you should consider bringing with you on your next backcountry mountain bike ride.

1. Spare tubes (Two)

Two spare tubes are a must for long rides
Two spare tubes are a must for long rides

Carrying two spare tubes is a must for long mountain bike rides. Double flats happen — usually a split second after you call out to your riding buddies "Hey! Watch this!" High-speed descents through rock gardens and jumps with flat run-outs are notorious for pinching tubes andtires.

When riding with a group, I carry one tube for my wheel size and, regardless of what bike I'm riding, also carry a 27.5in tube. Why? Because in a jam a ‘tweener’ tube works well enough for both 26in and 29er tires that I can help out a fellow mountain biker in need.

2. Patch kit

Patch kits take up very little room in your pack and are a necessity when you’ve used your last tube
Patch kits take up very little room in your pack and are a necessity when you’ve used your last tube

Patch kits take up very little room in your pack and are a necessity when you’ve used your last tube. Glueless patches (shown here) are much faster to apply but don't have the longevity of patches that use a vulcanizing agent.

3. Tire pump

A CO2 inflator and cartridges will get you rolling quicker, but a pump will work every time
A CO2 inflator and cartridges will get you rolling quicker, but a pump will work every time

The first two items are pretty useless without a pump. A CO2 inflator and cartridges are optional. They will get you up and rolling quicker, but a mini pump will work every time.

4. Multi-tool

Never leave home without a good multi-tool, preferably one with a built-in chain tool
Never leave home without a good multi-tool, preferably one with a built-in chain tool

Never leave home without a good multi-tool. I always opt for a multi-tool with a built-in chain tool, a T25 torx, flathead and Philips screwdrivers, and at least 2.5 3,4,5,6 and 8mm Allen keys, and the most common spoke tool sizes. The Crankbrothers multi-tool shown here is good; a multi-tool that also has a built in pair of pliers and wire cutters is even better.

5. Tire lever

Many multi-tools have a tire lever built into them, they’re generally not as useful, nor as well constructed, as standalone levers
Many multi-tools have a tire lever built into them, they’re generally not as useful, nor as well constructed, as standalone levers

6. Shock pump

While modern air shocks are quite reliable, it’s still a good idea to pack a shock pump in case you develop a slow leak, or (more likely) if you find you need to fine-tune your suspension
While modern air shocks are quite reliable, it’s still a good idea to pack a shock pump in case you develop a slow leak, or (more likely) if you find you need to fine-tune your suspension

7. Chain lube

If you're likely to encounter multiple stream crossings or a chance of showers, a small bottle of chain lube with a peice of cloth to clean the chain is a good addition to your kit
If you're likely to encounter multiple stream crossings or a chance of showers, a small bottle of chain lube with a peice of cloth to clean the chain is a good addition to your kit

If you're likely to encounter multiple stream crossings, dusty trail conditions, or a chance of showers on your ride then pack a small bottle of chain lube. 

Tip: use a rubber band to wrap a section of cloth from a rag or old shirt around the bottle -— use it to clean grime off the chain before applying fresh chain lube, as well as to wipe off excess lube after application.

8. Lip balm

Keeping a stick of lip balm (preferably with an SPF rating) in your pack is a good idea when riding in dry environments
Keeping a stick of lip balm (preferably with an SPF rating) in your pack is a good idea when riding in dry environments

9. Sunscreen

Even on cloudy days, a small stick or bottle of sunscreen (SPF 30 or greater) is something you should bring with you
Even on cloudy days, a small stick or bottle of sunscreen (SPF 30 or greater) is something you should bring with you

10. Phone

Smartphones can do a lot of things (such as allow you to leave snarky comments on BikeRadar) but the most important function is the ability to phone home in case of an emergency. Consider carrying a SPOT or a similar beacon if you're venturing beyond the reach of cell service
Smartphones can do a lot of things (such as allow you to leave snarky comments on BikeRadar) but the most important function is the ability to phone home in case of an emergency. Consider carrying a SPOT or a similar beacon if you're venturing beyond the reach of cell service

Smartphones can do a lot of things (such as allow you to leave snarky comments on BikeRadar), but the most important function is the ability to phone home in case of an emergency. Consider carrying a SPOT or a similar beacon if you're venturing beyond the reach of cell service

11. Packable rain jacket

A packable shell is a good item to carry any time you're riding in the mountains
A packable shell is a good item to carry any time you're riding in the mountains

Weather can be unpredictable, particularly in the mountains. A lightweight, packable shell will keep your core dry and warm should you encounter a sudden downpour.

12. First-aid kit

Accidents happen: carry a first aid kit in a waterproof pouch or container
Accidents happen: carry a first aid kit in a waterproof pouch or container

A small first aid kit in a waterproof package is a must. Bandages, gauze, disinfecting wipes and tweezers are all items to include in your kit. Like the tools in this list, a first-aid kit is only useful if you know how to use it — a basic understanding of first aid and CPR may come in handy.

13. Derailleur hanger

Bending or breaking a derailleur hanger is one of the most common mechanicals — keep a spare on hand just in case
Bending or breaking a derailleur hanger is one of the most common mechanicals — keep a spare on hand just in case

A bent or broken derailleur hanger can mean the end of your ride (or an impromptu singlespeed conversion). Carry a spare hanger with mounting bolts just in case. 

Problem Solvers' Universal Derailleur Hanger is a good backup option, if you’re packing for more than just yourself.

14. Master link

A master link can be used to replace bent or broken links and allow you to pedal home
A master link can be used to replace bent or broken links and allow you to pedal home

15. Chainring bolt

Carrying a spare chainring bolt will keep you spinning smoothly
Carrying a spare chainring bolt will keep you spinning smoothly

Chainring bolts occasionally shear off or rattle loose. Keeping a spare in your pack will allow you to continue on with all your rings intact.

16. Zip-ties

Zip-ties are useful for a number of small repairs
Zip-ties are useful for a number of small repairs

Zip-ties come in handy in many situations. They can be used to wrangle errant cables and keep your shoe tight if a buckle breaks.

17. Spare spoke with nipple

A spare spoke and nipple can come in handy
A spare spoke and nipple can come in handy

Thankfully, many modern mountain bike wheelsets are designed to require the use of a single spoke length for the entire wheelset — front, rear, drive- and non-drive sides. This makes it easier to carry a single spoke to replace a broken one. 

A spare spoke can also come in handy for cleaning grass and other debris from a derailleur or cassette. 

18. Money

Carry the coin of your realm (in paper form) in your pack. In addition to being useful for post ride beers and burritos, it can also be used as a tire boot
Carry the coin of your realm (in paper form) in your pack. In addition to being useful for post ride beers and burritos, it can also be used as a tire boot

Money, that stuff that makes the world go 'round, can also make your bike go 'round. Dollars, Pounds or Pesos — carry the coin of your realm (in paper form) in your pack. 

19. Small but bright headlight

If there's a chance you won't make it home before sunset a small high output light will lead you safely home
If there's a chance you won't make it home before sunset a small high output light will lead you safely home

20. Tool roll or pouch

Many packs come with tool rolls that keep all your repair items organized. If yours doesn't, consider using a small bag or pouch to keep track of smaller bits of kit
Many packs come with tool rolls that keep all your repair items organized. If yours doesn't, consider using a small bag or pouch to keep track of smaller bits of kit

Josh Patterson

Tech Editor, US
Josh has been riding and racing mountain bikes since 1998. Being stubborn, endurance racing was a natural fit. Josh bankrolled his two-wheeled addiction by wrenching at various bike shops across the US for 10 years and even tried his hand at frame building. These days Josh spends most of his time riding the trails around his home in Fort Collins, Colorado.
  • Discipline: Mountain, cyclocross, road
  • Preferred Terrain: Anywhere with rock- and root-infested technical singletrack. He also enjoys unnecessarily long gravel races.
  • Current Bikes: Trek Remedy 29 9.9, Yeti ASRc, Specialized CruX, Spot singlespeed, Trek District 9
  • Dream Bike: Evil The Following, a custom Moots 27.5+ for bikepacking adventures
  • Beer of Choice: PBR
  • Location: Fort Collins, CO, USA

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