How to ditch your backpack on MTB rides — six alternatives to lighten your load

Suggestions for riding light, fast and pack-free, without skimping on the essentials

There are several advantages to riding without a pack, from weight saving to improved freedom of movement on the bike and no more sweat patches on your back. Not to mention that on super-steep trails, the last thing you need is a fully-laden rucksack hitting you in the back of the head.

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Bags are useful for carrying stuff, but with the range of clever solutions on the market these days, most of what you need for short rides can be stashed on your bike and body — as long as you’re prepared to forego packing the kitchen sink.

6 ways to go pack free

How to ride light, fast and pack-free, without skimping on the essentials
There are lots of ways to store essentials on your person and bike
Andy Lloyd / Immediate Media

1. Stealth storage

Ingenious compact multi-tools are available that can be housed in your fork steerer (OneUp) or crank axle (All In). You can also get chain tools that fit in your headset (Specialized) or bar ends (Topeak), leaving less to stuff into your pockets.

2. Strapped on

Backcountry Research, MTB Strap-On and others make tough Velcro straps for attaching a spare inner tube and CO2 canisters to your bike. Tubes can be strapped to saddle rails too, but may get hit by the back wheel on long-travel bikes.

3. Bottle cage

The obvious way to stay well-watered without carrying a hydration pack is to fit a bottle cage. Try Specialized, Syncros or Topeak for ones with pump and/or tool integration. If you’re not bothered about water, Fabric’s Tool Keg mounts on your bottle bosses and lets you stow kit.

4. Baselayers and liners

Bib shorts and baselayers with integrated storage let you stash essentials subtly under your jersey. Stuffing the rear pockets won’t restrict movement, but be wary of stowing hard, sharp-edged objects that might stick into you in a crash.

5. On your cables

Spare master links for your chain can be taped onto brake or gear outers. Tubeless repair kits can be attached similarly.

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6. Taped in place

With a roll of electrical tape from your local DIY shop, just about anything can be attached to your bike: energy gels, a banana or even a pack of biscuits!