Your riding pack is one of the single most important pieces of kit you'll ever buy. It can house your vital water supply on epic rides, the spares to fix your stricken stead on some far-flung moor or even a bag of dog food for, well, your dog... Obviously. Here's what to look out for;
1 Hydrate or die
Sounds dramatic, isn't. Staying properly hydrated is essential whether you're on an after-work spin or a stage of the Enduro World Series. Riding packs come both with and without hydration bladders. If you're an experienced rider, chances are you have a prefered brand of bladder but otherwise going for a pack with one included is recommended.
2 Size matters
Riding packs generally range in capacity between 6-30L in capacity. How they account for it though is perhaps more important. Some bags have a massive main pocket with no external or smaller ones whilst others are all cubby holes with no main payload capacity - you need to balance the two.
3 Essential kit
Forget taking three or four jerseys so that you don't clash with your mates! You'll need a decent multi-tool, a reliable pump, an inner tube, tyre levers and an energy bar or gel for emergencies. We also pack zip-ties and a little box of extra bits such as a spare MasterLink and cleat bolts.
4 Compact is king
Go to any trail centre and you'll quickly spot guys winching their way out of the car park with a full-on commando-spec pack on. We say, go for a smaller pack and reap the benefits of a cooler back and a lighter load.
It'll force you to only take the essentials and won't smack you on the back of the head as much.
5 Pack management
It sounds a touch anally retentive but knowing that you have a set collection of kit ALWAYS in your pack is a sure-fire way to limit trail disasters. If you swap out a tube on a ride, don't put your pack away until there's a new spare tube in there. Packs with good external tool pockets make this easier. Trust us, the one time you don't have something will be the one time you're certain to need it.