10 Things Every Rider Should Have In Their Pack

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Sanny has been looking through his pack and has come up with some suggestions that will transform you into a trailside repair master.

Take a good look in your riding pack and you’ll probably find a spare tube, a pump, a multi-tool and a patch kit. All bog standard stuff which will get you home most of the time. But what about those times when the unexpected happens and you find yourself right at the crossroads of Nowheresville and Hermit Junction. Sure you can walk those seventeen miles home but unless you have Mr Miyagi like mindfulness techniques in your repertoire, you will be cursing each and every step. Read on if you want to benefit from others having had to endure that walk just so you will never have to. No need for thanks, cash is perfectly acceptable.

1 – An Old Phone

10 top riding kit tips singletrack magazine
Duh! a phone!

Take that old phone out of the drawer of obsolescence and embrace low tech. In this age of Smartphones and apps for everything, it’s easy to be drawn into a technological utopia where you are only a click away from sharing what you had for breakfast and when you last went for a poo (about an hour ago, thanks for asking). GPS enabled phones are great right up until the point at which the batteries die mid ride and you are faced with a situation where being able to phone and speak to someone would actually be a good thing. Once out of power they are useless – You can’t eat them and they don’t burn particularly well when trying to keep warm. I carry a fully charged phone that has buttons you can actually press and which has a battery life that can extend into several days. Protect your phone by sealing it within a zip lock bag and you’ll be the one with the smug grin as your Strava toting buddies look despondently at their now useless phone.

2 – Mech Hanger

10 top riding kit tips singletrack magazine
We’re sure none of you are carrying one of these but you should!

Carry a generic spare rear mech hanger as well as a dedicated mech hanger for your ride. Take two mech hangers onto a ride? Sure do! Why? Because even if you are able to fix your own bike, as sure as dammit it will be your riding companion who rips their mech off and doesn’t have a spare hanger in their pack. Faced with the option of shouting “Leave the weak” and abandoning them to fend for themselves, tempting though it may be, and being able to help them out, you know what the right thing to do is. Soon you’ll be back enjoying the ride as opposed to having to share in someone else’s misery.

3 – Survival Bag



10 top riding kit tips singletrack magazine
A survival bag and maybe some first aid kit too!

Invest in a survival bag. If you have ever watched the end of the Great North Run, you will be familiar with runners being wrapped like turkeys at Christmas in a foil space blanket. While you could be a dirt bag and use one of them, spend a few quid on a proper survival bag that will keep you warmer and drier than you would be if stuck out on an exposed hillside overnight. Weighing only a matter of ounces and packing down to the size of a small apple, they will happily sit at the very bottom of your bag going completely unnoticed until the point at which you actually have cause to use the. Having seen first hand their effectiveness in both keeping a riding buddy warm when he broke his pelvis and their use in attracting a helicopter to land, they represent a remarkably effective insurance policy.

4 – A Whistle

10 top riding kit tips singletrack magazine
A whistle, small, noisy and doesn’t require charging!

Along with a survival bag, a whistle is a must have piece of kit. Look for one that has no moving parts such as those manufactured by Lifesystems. If you find yourself clutching at the business end of a shitty stick, 6 short, loud blasts on a whistle followed by a minutes silence and repeat, will help draw the attention of other outdoor users or the Mountain Rescue to your aid.

5 – Chain Link

10 top riding kit tips singletrack magazine
Don’t end up walking for miles just because of a few links!

Beat the broken chain blues with a chain link. For the price of a bottle of pop, you can cheerfully avoid the frustration of pushing a chain pin just that little bit too far and seeing it tumble to the ground. If you’ve ever tried to reinsert a pin into a chain, you’ll know that you are on a fool’s errand. If you want to be belt and braces, carry a few extra chain links in your pack. Connecting them to a chain is substantially easier than trying to straighten out a bent chain. I know. I tried. It didn’t work!

6 – Storm Shelter

10 top riding kit tips singletrack magazine
It might seem over the top, but this could save your life!

Invest in a bothy shelter. No, not a bricks and mortar bothy in the middle of the Scottish Highlands but a lightweight, packable shelter that you can whip out your bag should the weather take a turn for the worse. Normally constructed from some form of proofed nylon, a bothy shelter is basically a rectangular shelter that you can pull over yourself and a riding companion or two and sit out a storm or simply take a break from the elements for a brew and a chinwag, Think of it as a little tent where your body acts as the poles. Almost all feature a sewn in waterproof base upon which to sit, are constructed from bright material and often have a small clear window to look out of. Heat builds up pretty rapidly even on the coldest of days so don’t be surprised if things get a bit sweaty. While you wouldn’t plan to bivvy out in one, you would at least be warm and uncomfortable if you had to. Just don’t plan on using a stove in one. If you do, you’ll either be overcome by carbon monoxide or you’ll probably set fire to it and end up looking like Wiley Coyote after yet another unsuccessful attempt to capture Road Runner.

7 – Headlight

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It might not be dark when you start but it could be by the end

Light up your life. For the sake of lugging around a few extra grams in your bag, you could have a small headlight ready for action whenever you need it. Petzl do a particularly fine line in such things; be it the ultra minimalist E-Light or one of their larger but still pocketable Tikka series of head torches. Out on the trail at night, it can be a pain to have to disconnect your brighter than the sun, super fancy-schmancy bar mounted light. Aside from the fact that you will probably temporarily blind yourself as you remove it, you’ll need a third hand to hold it. Fine if you are Zeyphod Beeblebrox but for Earth dwellers, not so much. An added bonus is that as you come to the dawning realisation that you forgot to charge your main light, you still have a light to see you home.

8 – Zip Ties

zipties zip ties 10 top riding kit tips singletrack magazine
AKA lifesavers

“Zip it up and start again”, as Orange Juice almost sang. The humble zip tie is one of the most useful bits of kit you can carry in your bag. Over the years, I have used them for all manner of trail repairs including acting as a temporary bolt in a broken seat post, sealing off a torn inner tube, replacing a lost jockey wheel bolt, holding a sheared bolt in place on a suspension frame, replacing a broken shoelace,  replacing a lost chaining bolt, reattaching a light when the clamp broke and even fixing a Gravity Dropper seat post when the cable attachment debonded. They cost buttons, weigh nothing but the only limit on their usefulness is your imagination.

9 – Spare Bolts

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A few extra bolts to get you home

Make a bolt for it! Take a good look at your bike and imagine the inconvenience if one of them sheared. There are only a small handful of sizes on your bike so it’s no great hardship to pack them in a zip lock bag. Just don’t forget a bolt for the cleat on your disco slippers!

10 – Cash Is King

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Don’t forget some spare change

Money. Filthy lucre. Queenie vouchers. Call it what you will but it’s universally accepted and can be used for all manner of things from a telephone box (yes, they do still exist and while the design may no longer be classic red cast iron, they still retain that unmistakeable wang of stale piss) to the cost of a train ticket home when you discover who wins in the game of pointy rock versus carbon frame.

Comments (25)

    Heh. I score 1 out of 10 🙂

    Chain links only needed for singlespeeds (or IGHs), surely? Otherwise, just pop a link out and rejoin. Sure, you might lose access to big-big, but other than that…

    4/10 but I do carry a first aid kit, puncture kit, spare tubes, levers and a pump.

    Out once in peaks we came upon someone with head injury – my GPS had gone flat and the Smartphone decided it didnt like the sight of blood and went TU. Fortunately the paper OS map was working and hadn’t gone flat…

    I have to admit that the phone on the pic is mine and my only phone……..one day, I may embrace touch screen phones…….then again, maybe not!

    ” an unmistakeable wang of stale piss”?

    I don’t envy your research.

    6/10 – do i win??? 🙂

    A box of Jaffa Cakes. How did I forget to put that in? Doh! Call it number 11 on the list of 10……. :-))))

    I should have added that Doug of Basque MTB when out on a ride with me years ago pulled a tyre out of his Camelbak when a mate’s sidewall exploded…..we called him McGuyver after that! I draw the line at tyres though……..


    Am I class swot? Or just a hardened outdoor instructor who carries lots of kit?

    Headtorch and bothy omitted in summer or on solo mission as appropriate…

    I would personally recommend the plastic Fox 40 no pea whistle. Especially if you’re out in freezing conditions. The metal ones can stick to your lips.

    Disgusting lack of duct tape! Heathen!

    Sanny said on November 10, 2015

    I should have added that Doug of Basque MTB when out on a ride with me years ago pulled a tyre out of his Camelbak when a mate’s sidewall exploded…..we called him McGuyver after that! I draw the line at tyres though……..

    I knew there and then that Doug had a glittering future ahead of him, guiding the hapless and the hopeless up and down mountains…

    No Hip Flask?

    I’m out of here.

    gaffer tape? Seen that use to ‘re-bond’ a stanchion to a fork crown…

    Yes to gaffer tape. Fixes bikes, shoes, clothes bags, tyres and holds bodies back together. Wonderful stuff!

    i have a survival bag sat in the bottom of my pack that i’d totally forgotten about until reading this…

    A survival bag and a packable bothy? Surely if you’ve taken the bothy you can leave the survival bag?

    Jaffa Tape is essential for bikers and musicians alike!

    I wrote Gaffa Tape, but the computer ‘corrected’ it!

    Bothy bags are brilliant for mid ride stops on a freezing or wet day whereas you’re only going to use your survival bag when you really need it as a once only use. The bothy bag is the more flexible of the two as trying to pack an opened survival bag back into the bag is a lesson in pure frustration.

    3/10, whoops. The survival bag is going straight on my list.
    Embarrassed to admit I don’t have chain links or mech hangers. Yet.
    I bought a whistle with a plastic insert (no moving parts) which I only found out had dismantled itself when I attempted to scare my kids (indoors), so remember to check your gear now and then.


    I am not sure a spare mech hanger is worth it. Last time I bent my hanger the mech was also destroyed so it would not have done me much good. Also you will inevitably find the spare you are carrying does not match the bike you are riding.

    On the other hand, a spare unbreakable phone is a very good thing to be carrying. I have been carrying an old Nokia for that purpose for years. The thing to watch out for is to make sure the subscription is still valid, so you either need to keep the credit topped up and make at least one call on it every month, or carry a SIM card adapter so that the nano-sim from your fancy smart phone will fit the larger space meant for an older SIM.

    “Chain links only needed for singlespeeds (or IGHs), surely? Otherwise, just pop a link out and rejoin.”
    Many modern chains (definitely all Shimano chains) won’t work for long if you rejoin the chain with the old pin, like we used to do. They supply oversize pins for you to use to rejoin them, otherwise you risk the chain popping open at the next climb.
    A swotty 7-9/10 depending on the pack.
    Oh, and I’d suggest keeping duct tape on the roll, rather than wrapping it around a pump etc. It never seems to come off a pump as well as from its original roll.

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