The Basic MTB Kit

In years of riding I’ve come to realize a few laws of nature that can rarely be defied:

  1. The worst crashes occur on the simplest terrain, and when we least expect it.
  2. Whether you run tubes, tubeless, or tubular, tire failures are a fact of life.
  3. The one time you don’t bring it will be the time you need it.

When heading out on any mountain bike adventure it’s important to ride prepared for the unexpected. The following is a list of essentials that belong on every adventurist’s pack when pedaling off into the great outdoors.

Water: Carry extra water. A compact water filter can extend your range, and come in handy if you become stranded. I like to throw a strong mix of electrolyte in a water bottle on the bike in addition to regular water in the hydration pack bladder.


Food: Always bring more food than you think you need. I keep an extra bar or two tucked in the bottom of my pack as a reserve, while keeping other snacks close at hand in one of the side pockets.


Windbreaker/Shell: Up in the mountains weather can change quickly. When riding new trails I never head out without a waterproof shell of some kind.


Shelter & Fire Starter: Although I’ve never actually had to use a space blanket or build a fire to survive overnight, there’s been times where I’ve come very close. The added comfort from knowing you have them when things get sketchy make them worth the small space they take up.


First Aid Kit: Standard bandages for a range of scrapes and lesions. The most used piece of this kit is the tweezers. Living in the West, pulling cactus from arms and legs is a part of life.


Leatherman®: I used to carry a lightweight single blade, but the amount of times I’ve needed or wished I had a good set of pliers makes the Leatherman® worth the extra weight.


Compass: Growing up in SoCal it was pretty hard to get lost. Find a high point and you can almost always see far enough to a landmark or housing development. However, when heading into new territory with dense forests or expansive wilderness, it only takes one wrong turn…keep a compass in your kit so you can easily reorient yourself.


Toilet Paper: Also known as “trail money.” When nature calls, don’t be without the goods.


Bike Multi-tool: Multi-tools designed for bikes have unique tools for handling repairs to your ride. There’s a million options out there, this Crank Brothers multi tool has all the essentials including a chain breaker that doubles as a spoke wrench.


Tire Lever(s): I opt for carrying one. However, carrying a set is never a bad idea, particularly if you’re dealing with thicker downhill tires.


Master link: Chains break. A spare link will keep you rolling like nothing ever happened. I often carry both a ten speed and an eleven speed to accommodate whomever I may be riding with.


Derailleur Hanger: Modern derailleur hangers are designed to break before your frame does. A clipped rock or branch is enough to snap your hanger and swiftly end the day’s fun.


Tube(s): I try and carry 2 most of the time. Just because you’re tubeless doesn’t mean you don’t have to carry a tube. Another tip, 26” tubes will easily stretch into 27.5” or 29” allowing you to always have a tube for whatever wheel size you or your buddy is running.


Patch Kit: You can go ten years and never use it, but when both tubes have been used and there’s thorns up ahead you’ll be grateful you have it.


Pump: Co2s are great for a quick fix, but they’ve been known to fail and are sometimes not enough to air up. They’re great on race day or for resealing a burped tubeless tire, but when heading out into the backcountry take a pump as well.


Zip Ties & Duct Tape: When all else fails, zip ties and duct tape will get you home.