Pack your backpack right and it won't be in your way

How to pack your backpack to get the most out of your trail rides

© Callum Wood
Going on a one-hour, three-hour or full day ride? Here's what you need to bring with you.
Written by Hanna JonssonPublished on
Is there a technique to packing your riding backpack? Of course there is! It is all about knowing what to bring in order to be prepared for unforeseen mechanicals out on the trail, keeping energy levels high and minimising the weight of the pack so that it stays as light and comfortable as possible. 
Depending on how long you’re going riding for, you can (and probably should) bring different amount of things with you. Here is a quick guide on what to bring when going on a one to two hour ride, three to four hour ride or if you’re about to spend five hours plus in the saddle.

Length of ride: One or two hours

Some basic MTB trail equipment.
The lightest you can go on your ride
If you’re only going for a short ride you can go two ways when it comes to packing – with or without a backpack. The lightest way is obviously to go with no pack. Then you can use a strap around your frame to hold a tube, pump or CO2 canister and some tyre levers. Put a multi-tool in one pocket, an energy bar in the other and fill up a water bottle to go in the bottle cage on your frame and you are ready to go.
A MTB trail pack ready for a short spin.
A well-packed small backpack will set you up for a short-ish ride
If you feel like you want to be more prepared it is smart to bring a backpack. You can keep it really light and only bring necessities on short rides, but you’ll be able to bring a few more items with you.
Items to pack in your bag:
  • Water bladder: Depending on how much you normally drink, fill up with enough to keep you going for two hours.
  • Tube: In case of a puncture. With 26’’, 27,5’’ and 29’’ wheels on the market, make sure to bring the right size to fit your bike.
  • Tyre levers: Ever tried putting a tyre back on the rim with your bare hands? Yep, it’s kind of impossible.
  • Pump: There are tons of small, yet powerful hand pumps on the market today. There’s even ones with pressure gauges. It is definitely worth investing in a good one.
  • Tyre puncture repair kit: If you’re tubeless, and want to stay that way, these small repair kits can fix small rips in your sidewall so that you can seal your tyre again.
  • Mech hanger: Mech hangers are different on different bikes, so it is always worth having a spare one with you that fits your bike.
  • Spare chain link: A link can make all the difference if you happen to snap your chain, and it doesn’t take up any space.
  • Multi-tool: There is more often than not something that needs readjusting out on a ride where a multi-tool will come in handy.
  • Energy bar: Even if you’re going for a quick spin, you never know when energy levels are going to dip. Better to bring one along just in case.
  • Zip-ties: So small, yet so useful. Zip-ties can hold together and fix most things, to get you home or to a bike shop in case of a mechanical.
  • Small medical kit: You never know when an accident is going to happen, so it’s always good to be a little prepared.
Extras: Depending on weather forecast and riding location, it can be good to bring a wind jacket with you. It is small and light, yet makes a huge difference if the temperature drops.

Length of ride: Three to four hours

A trail pack ready for a medium length bike ride.
For a medium-sized ride it is good to be prepared
A three to four hour ride is a bit more of a serious business and it is now important to be properly prepared. You will need food and water to keep you going, as well as tools to fix potential mechanicals. You don’t want to be stuck 20km from civilisation with a snapped chain or broken gears. Add a few more bits and bobs to your pack and you will be ready to ride.
Items to add on top of the “one to two hour” list above:
  • Bigger water bladder: You’ll be going for longer and thus you’ll need more water.
  • Electrolyte powder sachets: If it’s a warm day or you sweat a lot, why not add some electrolyte powder (like Resorb Sport) to your water? Bring a spare sachet or two, just in case you need a hydration boost.
  • A wind jacket: A wind jacket packs small and light and makes a huge difference if the weather turns for the worst.
  • First Aid Kit: You can get pretty far away from civilisation in 4 hours, so make sure to bring a first aid kit if you or your riding buddy happen to have an accident.
  • Extra energy bars: Your body will need energy to keep going for several hours so make sure to throw in an extra bar or two to keep you going strong the whole ride.
Extras: Gear cables are one of those things that you really don’t want to be without if they snap during the ride, so throw one in just in case – they barely take any space. It is also smart to swap the wind jacket for a waterproof one if it's forecasted rain.

Length of ride: Five hours plus

A MTB riding pack ready for a longer duration ride.
A big ride requires a big pack
Five hours plus in the saddle is a big day out so make sure you are properly prepared for all kinds of different scenarios. If you’re riding in the mountains remember that the weather can turn at any moment and if you’re doing a big loop in the forest you might be miles away from mobile reception, help and bike shops so pack accordingly in order to have the best possible day out shredding your bike.
Items to add on top of the “three to four hours” list above:
  • More energy: Throw in more energy bars, gels, a banana or why not a lunch sandwich? It is important to keep the energy levels up to have as much fun as possible.
  • More clothes: The weather can change at any moment so make sure to bring a jacket of some kind (wind or rain jacket depending on the forecast), a base layer and you can always throw in a neck warmer for extra warmth on windy days.
  • Gear cable (not pictured): Gears are kind-of vital to keep your wheels rolling, so make sure to bring a spare gear cable just in case.
Extras: If you know you will be far away from civilisation it can be smart to bring some extra medical kit and an emergency blanket to be on the safe side.
Now you’re fully prepared for all kinds of trail rides – enjoy!