We all know there are things we should bring on EVERY ride–a pump, a spare tube, etc–but when we venture further from easy rescue, there are additional items we should carry to survive in the backcountry. In fact, it seems the further that one gets from a paved road, the more likely something is to go wrong: a mechanical, a crash, a freak summer storm. There’s no way to prepare for everything that could go wrong, but there are a few essential items that you can fit in a hydration pack that can certainly help when the going gets tough. Here are 13 items that you should pack for every backcountry ride.
Carry a good mini-pump that actually works. I spent several years carrying around a crappy pump that took an hour to fill a tire and created a lot of stress. My husband finally bought me a nice Lezyne pump* and I fit silly that I hadn’t bought one sooner. When you’re tired and 5 hours into a big mountain pass, you’ll appreciate an easy tire change.
A Spare Tube
This should be obvious, but now that more and more people are running tubeless we’ve noticed fewer and fewer people actually carrying a spare tube. Don’t rely just on patches when you’re in the backcountry, although those are good to carry along just in case too.
Invest in some good tire levers that aren’t going to snap on you 15 miles from your nearest escape route. We like steel core levers* — they won’t break and will last forever.
On a long backcountry ride, we like packing not only a bike multitool but also a multi-purpose multitool like a leatherman*. Pliers and a knife can come in handy for emergency repairs.
Tubeless tire repair kit
If you are running tubeless tires, you might want to consider carrying a tire plug or repair kit*. These are pretty easy to use on the trail and can stop a leak due to a small hole or gash.
Duct tape can be used for SO MANY THINGS out on the trail. I like to wrap several lengths of duct tape around my pump for safe keeping. Then if I need a piece, I just unpeel it from my pump. There’s probably a better way to do this that I haven’t discovered yet.
Like duct tape, zip ties* can help with a great many fixes in a pinch. I like to carry a couple different lengths and sizes in a baggy.
A couple assorted bolts and screws
Every time you end up with a couple extra bolts (like those cleat bolts that came with your newest pair of pedals), throw them in a little plastic baggie. My husband is great about this and has saved my hide on so many rides. I’ve lost rotor bolts, helmet bolts, cleat bolts, and more.
A spare chain link
A broken chain is one of the most common on-the-trail mechanicals, and a quick-link can make fixing it so much easier. Over the years, I’ve made use of a quick-link* several times, and have also helped save plenty of other riders I’ve come upon.
First Aid Kit
A first aid kit* should be so obvious and yet this is one thing I ride all too often without. There are some great ready-made first aid kits, or you can assemble one of your own. (Again, just throw everything in a plastic baggie). One thing that isn’t normally in a first aid kit that I’ve found to be super helpful for on the trail accidents is a bottle of liquid bandage. If you have a deep cut, you can basically use that stuff to glue your skin together until you can get to an urgent care.
On top of whatever food you’re packing for the day, make sure you have some extra emergency calories stashed away as well. Gels and gummy blocks work well for this.
Iodine Tablets or a Filter
Even if you think you have plenty of water for your ride, throw in some iodine tablets or a water filter as well. There is really nothing worse on a big ride than running out of water.
A space blanket
Hopefully, you’re not going to ever need to spend an unplanned night out in the open, but if you do, a space blanket* could quite literally save your life. I also used one once in a freak summer storm at high altitude. It started raining, and then hailing, and then snowing. In shorts and a short-sleeve jersey, the space blanket is the only thing that kept me from full-on hypothermia. You might only need it once in a decade, but carrying a space blanket is worth it for that seemingly impossible emergency.