Recently this year I have been doing much longer and often solo rides.
These are Mt bike rides in the Chattahoochee National Forest where I am out exploring new (to me) areas of the forest. I will look at a map of an area and sometimes wonder how to connect different sections of this vast forest, or I will see a trail/old logging road and explore where it goes. Often the only signs of life I come across are wild-life and Army Rangers in training. So far this year I have seen many deer, several turkey, a couple hogs and a bear.
As it was well phrased recently in Outside magazine: “No one knows the sorrow of being stranded without tools like a cyclist.”
For these reasons I realized that I needed to start planning out what I have in my pack that is not the norm for a 2 hour mt bike ride. But for those longer rides, I am adding some items that I deem necessary in a worst case situation. And since I’m in remote areas this means more self-reliance.
The norm for my pack is 70oz water, a pump (just more reliable and reusable than CO2), 2 tubes, clifbar, gel flask, salt tablets, Master Link, cycling specific multi-tool, a RoadID.
First thing – I always tell a friend that knows the general area, where I am going too and what area I’m planning on exploring and where I’m hoping to get back too a more civilized area. And I always let them know when I’m done!
1. Water tablets. I have gotten back to the car several times either with no water or very little left – and since we are coming into the hotter days of summer I figure that having iodine or water purification tablets in my pack might really save me from dehydration.
They are light, do not take up much room, and will be there when you need them – however, make sure you read the label before you have to use them. Most require 30 minutes to 4 hours to completely purify the water.
1A. Nuun tablets. A. I really like Nuun tablets that add a little flavor to any water – whether on the bike or not – but I strongly Dislike the flavor of Iodine – this is a good masking of it & bonus of added electrolytes!!!
2. Hemorrhage Control Compression Bandage – Something that has happened to a friend before was getting a pretty bad cut, and I know of a person that probably lived only because he was life-flighted out of an area. But imagine how scary that would be and how expensive the after-math was. What if all that could have been avoided? Having a compression bandage (and knowing how to apply it) can help stop the bleeding which will save your own or someone’s else life. When I did my CPR class recently Celox was highly recommended by the EMT teaching the cert. and I have seen it listed in many of the first-aid kits sold at local outfitters.
3. multi-tool – I know most Mt bikers carry a cyclist specific multi, but I also carry a regular leather-man multi-tool. They have pliers, knife, screw drivers, file, etc. Any of these tools can come in very handy to fix ‘on the trail’ problems.
4. Emergency blanket. seriously, these are very light and very inexpensive (about $7-15) and reflect 90% of your body heat. Even those hot summer days can end with really cold nights.
4A: I will often carry a windvest and even arm warmers, temperatures can change quickly on a mountain.
5. compass or compass app. Although I have a good sense of direction and figuring out which way I need to be going – I usually do so based on the sun positioning. I have a back-up plan though – a Free compass App on my smart-phone. It is a great idea to learn how to use a compass in training before you need it in an ‘episode of lost’.
6. chain tool. and not just any chain tool, the Park chain tool that I used when I worked as a bicycle mechanic. Yes, it’s heavy. Yes, it will be worth lugging it around if I ever have to use it. I have broken my chain several times and the current multi-tool I have does not have a chain tool that works very well. This is a ‘better safe & be able to cycle 10 miles to the car than have to walk’ item. Besides that master link isn’t going to be useful if you don’t have a chain-tool.
7. Extra Food. Most anytime I get on the bike I have a gel flask and a cliff bar – when I know I’m going out for 4-6 hour ride, hike-a-bike, exploration trip – I will add a sandwich, an at least 1 extra cliff bar, a pop-tart or another kind of energy bar. I have found that I am more likely to eat and less likely to cramp if I have variety of things to eat.
8. Another ‘smart’ phone app is MyTracks When exploring I currently use MyTracks – and I try to remember to keep my phone is ‘airport’ mode to save battery. This is a great app that can help you figure out where you are and what direction you want to go and where you have been. CAUTION: using an app on your phone uses up your battery life which maybe precious in a bad situation. I have had to turn off MyTracks in order to save my battery life.
9. chem-light – this is something I watched the rangers use. They store for a long period, but you just pop the middle and they light up for about 8 hours. This is a great tool if you get lost and people are attempting to find you. I wouldn’t say that it doubles as a flashlight by any means, although if tied to a walking stick (as I’ve seen the Rangers do) it may aid you if you are walking and there isn’t any worries about batteries dying on you.
10. para-cord or similar string – I know that many people are wearing the para-chord bracelets, but if you are really in the outback wilderness, there can be many uses for such an item. Tying a splint to hold a broken bone in place or a twisted ankle, tie a sling in case someone breaks a collarbone, tie down broken shoe straps, tie down things onto your pack.
Originally designed for paratroopers, paracord is a kernmantle rope: a braided sheath over a bundle of seven inner cords. This mantle makes paracord very resistant to abrasion. 550 paracord is rated for 550 pounds: 300 pounds for the sheath and 35 pounds for each strand. The cords can be removed from the sheath and divided into two strands if finer string is needed.
Read more: 550 Paracord uses
11. Matches. If you get turned around/lost or have to settle in for the night lighting a fire will cause smoke to rise – which can keep you warm and also been seen for over a mile.
12. Know how. Ok, maybe this isn’t something you pack, but it is something that helps – it is practice for using all the things that you pack, and face it, if can have all the tools with you, but what good is it if you don’t know how to use them.
For me, several seasons of camping, reading books/articles, CPR certification, shared knowledge and experience have helped me put together this list. And the list changes occasionally.
Anything I missed?? I would like to hear your input and specifics of what you pack for your longer ride/adventures!