Riding without a pack brings a real element of freedom to your ride, it can make you feel lighter and more dynamic on the bike plus it diminishes the sweaty back syndrome all pack wearers will experience. Here we look at the best ways to mountain bike without a pack whilst still carrying all the trail essentials.
Packs can be a right pain, they can be heavy, they usually swing about when cornering and will, like as not, hit you in the back of the head on steep descents. Although good for long rides and great for carrying gear in inclement weather they're not always necessary. When a quick spin round a local loop is in order or you know you are never going to be too far away from the house or car a pack can be an unnecessary, cumbersome addition.
However close you are to your emergency supplies, it makes sense to carry enough kit for trailside repairs and a good amount of water. So what are the essentials? We reckon this little list should see you through most adverse situations:
- Inner tube
- CO2 canister and inflator head (replaces pump)
- Spare quick link
- Tyre levers
- Mini first aid kit
- Multi tool
- Tyre boot
- Packable jacket
Once you've parred down the objects you usually take on a ride it's time to think about how to carry them all. Luckily for us not wearing a pack has become pretty popular over the last couple of years so there are plenty of options on offer depending on personal preferences and the exact kit you need to carry. Here are our top five ways to go packless:
1. Hit the bottle
If you are only taking a bottle then make sure it’s a big one and work out some water stops where you can fill up again. We took ourselves over to the Camelbak website and used their handy hydration calculator to find out how much water we should be drinking per ride. It reckons that on an average ride we'd need to drink one litre of water every hour. You might find fitting a 700ml water bottle into the space on your frame hard work, or in fact, impossible using a regular bottle cage, if that's the case look out for a side entry cage to make life easier.
2. Strap it up
Strap as much to your bike as you can, there are handy straps out there to help you do this. This frame strap from Backcountry Research
will quite happily accommodate an innertube, tyre levers, mini pump and a well packaged snack. There are other ways of taping emergency kit to your bike, age old electrical tape will do the job just as well but with the disadvantage of being 'one time use' only. Once you've dealt with said emergency, reattaching gear to the bike will require some thought and perhaps more electrical tape!
Securing kit to the bike in this way has the added advantage of keeping the centre of gravity low too, we recommend taping supplies low down on the down tube. You could also always try a frame bag, although due to frame shapes, this might be more applicable for the hardtail and gravel riders amongst us. There are other, smaller options for full sussers too, some of which can be made to measure for the nooks and crannies of your frame.
3. Clever clothes
Swat bibs like these from Specialized provide a huge amount of storage low down on your back. Bib versions offer pockets sewn into the rear of the bib whilst there are other 'stash vests' that use the same pocket system attached to a vest. These sometimes have a long pocket down the length of the spine to insert your water bladder meaning you can carry up to 3L of water without a pack - ok, it is still on your back but without the plethora of straps restricting your movement. As demonstrated here there is room for tools, water bottles, pumps and more, all tucked away under your jersey. We reckon you should keep the pointy objects strapped to your bike and then just keep the soft items in the hidden pockets to prevent any injuries.
4. Tool Bottle
The Fabric Tool Keg is basically a small water bottle to store tools using the brand's cageless design. It has a screw top lid and a foam liner to stop said tools rattling, it wouldn't be rocket science to do this with one of your own water bottles as long as the opening is large enough to get items in and out. The concept is good, there is plenty of space in there for a multi-tool, tube, CO2 and few other bits and bobs and the design means tools stay clean and grit free. It does unfortunately, occupy the space on a mountain bike where you'd want to carry your water. So unless you have another solution (or set of bottle bosses) then you're destined for packdom or at least a bum bag with a bladder.
5. Embrace the Fanny Pack
Let the bum bag make a reappearance in your life, it won’t store as much as a pack but it will allow you to carry more water alongside the essentials. As you can see from the video above, you can fit quite a lot in a bum bag plus some (such as the Camelbak Palos) hold a 1.5L water bladder and hose too. Bum bags, fanny packs, hip bags, whatever you want to call them, are a great compromise if you aren't quite ready to ditch the pack, offering a great way to carry more water if a water bottle just isn't going to cut it on your ride.
The Perfect Solution?
The team here at off-road.cc are still very much divided on the topic, in fact some of us change our minds like the wind and others still bring out the pack from time to time, weather, ride and condition dependent.
In general we like keeping as much weight out of our packs as possible so usually keep an inner tube, pump and tyre levers strapped to the bike permanently. It's then a case of storing all the other kit in a way that is best suited to the ride - water bottle and pockets for short blasts, bum bag for mid-length jaunts and a pack for the longer adventures.
You might also like: