You’re out on the trail, miles away from your car, with no cell service, and you get a flat. Do you have the mountain bike pack essentials to repair it or are you doomed for a several-hour hike-a-bike back to the trailhead? How about a spare derailleur hanger to keep your shifting working smoothly or a multi-tool to fix a loose bolt? Having a well-stocked pack filled with a few key items can rescue you from misery on the trail and it might even save you from a more serious situation.
But what are these essentials exactly? If you’re just starting out as a mountain biker, you might not know what the important things to include in your pack are. That’s ok! I’m here to help. In this post, I’ve rounded up the 8 key mountain bike pack essentials to keep stashed in your pack for all rides as well as a few additional pieces of gear that I like to always take with me on longer and bigger backcountry adventures. You won’t need them until you do, so it’s best to always be prepared.
Ready to hit the trails? Learn what to take mountain biking including essential tools, you should carry with you on every ride plus a few good-to-have items for longer adventures.
What tools to take mountain biking
1. A Multi-Tool
I love a good multi-tool. They have saved me countless times on the trail when I’ve needed to tighten bolts, adjust my rear derailleur, fix a broken chain, or do other trailside quick fixes. If you only carry one tool with you on a mountain bike ride, let it be a multi-tool.
A good multi-tool, like the Crank Brothers Multi-19, will have at least a chain breaker, a Torx T25, and 2 through 8 mm hex wrenches (Allen keys). These are the basic tools you should need for most trailside fixes.
More complete tools will have both types of screwdriver heads, pliers, a wire cutter, and other various tools.
Multi-tools are needed for:
- Tightening loose bolts
- Adjusting seat height and saddle position
- Adjusting the position of shifters and brakes
- Fixing a broken chain
- Replacing a bent or broken derailleur hanger
2. A Hand Pump
Whether you forgot to check tire pressure before you hit the trail or you got a flat and need to pump up the new tube, a hand pump is a non-negotiable tool to carry with you on a mountain bike ride. Most hand pumps work with both valve types – Schrader and Presta – but double check your valve stem to make sure the one you buy will work with your bike.
Some hand pumps are compatible with CO2 cartridges, which makes fixing flats super quick and easy. However, CO2 cartridges can get expensive if you use a lot of them, so it’s nice to have the choice to pump up tires manually or inflate quickly with a dose of CO2.
The Lezyne Pressure Drive CFH is a really great hand pump that is compatible with CO2 cartridges or can be used manually.
Hand pumps are needed for:
- Fixing a flat on the trail
- Adjusting tire pressure
3. Tire Lever(s)
Changing a flat is possible without tire levers, but they do make the job a lot easier, especially if your tires are pretty new and haven’t broken in yet. I like the Wolf Tooth Multi-Tool because it has several functions in addition to a tire lever including master link pliers, master link storage, and a valve core tightener. When you’re thinking about weight, having multi-function tools is super helpful.
Note: A word of caution about tire levers – they can damage the rim tape on tubeless set-ups, so be careful when using them. (Also, tires are easier to change with two tire levers, but one will work in a pinch).
Tire levers are needed for:
- Fixing a flat on the trail
4. Tubeless Tire Plug Kit
If you have tubeless tires on your bike, then it’s a really good idea to get a tubeless tire plug kit. Tire plugs (aka bacon strips) can seal up a hole in seconds and they can hold for the life of your tire. Meaning, carrying inner tubes are a thing of the past!
These tire plugs are basically sticky strips (that look like bacon) that you push into the puncture with a push pin. The Tubeless Tackle Kit is one of my favorites and it includes bacon strips, a push pin, extra valve cores, and a valve core tightener on the bottom.
Tire plugs are needed for:
- Plugging up a hole in your tire
- Tightening a valve core
- Removing a valve core
5. Master Chain Link
While not super common, chains can break on the trail and unless you have a master link (and a multi-tool with a chain breaker like the Crank Brothers Multi-Tool above), you’re out of luck. Master links are small, very lightweight and a ride-saver if you ever need one.
Note: Master links are drivetrain specific, so make sure you know whether you have a 12-speed, 11-speed, Sram, or Shimano.
Master links are needed for:
- Fixing a broken chain
- Transforming a bike into a single speed if derailleur is broken (not all bikes can do this)
Shop Master Links: Jenson
6. Zip Ties
Zip ties are like duct tape. They can be used for so many different things and having a couple in your pack can lead to a swift mountain bike hack. Zip ties can be used to secure errant cables, temporarily replace bolts or take the place of a broken shoelace, among many other creative uses. I always have a few zip ties in my pack for quick fixes.
Zip ties are needed for:
- So many random things!
Other Mountain Bike Pack Essentials
The above mountain bike pack essentials are what I consider the necessities. I carry them with me on almost every ride and for the most part, they don’t leave my backpack. However, sometimes it’s good to be even more prepared.
Below are a few more items to carry in your mountain bike pack, but they aren’t necessary for every ride. If you’re going out on a longer ride, or the weather looks iffy, or you’re trying out a new bike for the first time, you may want to consider adding these to your pack.
7. Basic First Aid Kit
A basic first aid kit is a really good resource to have when you’re out on the trail. Even if it’s just a few bandaids, some antiseptic wipes, and sterile gauze, it’s better than nothing. My brother is an ER doctor and he put together a first aid kit that is way beyond my basic skills, but I feel better having it in my pack knowing that at least I’m somewhat prepared in case of an emergency.
I really like My Medic first aid kits because they have so many options to choose from depending on your activity and needs. The Solo is a great First Aid kit to through in your pack. You can choose either Basic or Advanced.
First aid kits are needed for:
- Patching up yourself or your friends trailside
Check Price: My Medic
8. Extra Derailleur Hangar
I haven’t yet had to break out my extra derailleur hanger, but I always carry one with me because, without a spare, a broken derailleur hanger basically means game over for your ride. If you happen to be miles away from your car or civilization, that’s a long trudge.
But what is a derailleur hanger? It’s a little piece of metal that connects your derailleur to your bike frame and is designed to actually break or bend in a crash in order to preserve your derailleur, which is a lot more expensive to replace.
Note: Derailleur hangars are specific to bikes, so make sure you know which one to buy or check with your local bike shop to find out.
Derailleur hangers are needed for:
- Replacing a broken or bent derailleur hanger
9. A spare tube
Flats happen. Even if you have a brand new tire, a tubeless set-up, and you’re riding a mellow trail with few rocky bits, a flat can still sabotage you. Tire plugs usually do a great job patching up a puncture, but sometimes the hole is too big or you’ve already flatted and you’re out of plugs.
Note: A 27.5″ x 2.5-3.0 tube will work for most bikes in a pinch regardless of tire size. Make sure that you buy a tube that is compatible with your bike pump – either Presta or Schrader – though.
Spare tubes are needed for:
- Fixing flat tires
- Can be used as a tourniquet
10. Chain Lube
Just the other day I was out on a big ride in the mountains and my chain started to squeal with each pedal stroke. While one ride with a low-lubed chain isn’t going to do any harm, the noise is quite obnoxious and it even started to feel like pedaling was getting harder due to the friction (I’m sure that was all in my head).
Anyway, it’s a good idea to bring a small bottle of chain lube with you on longer or more dusty rides to prevent the obnoxious squeal and keep your drivetrain happy. This 2 oz bottle of Tri-Flow is a perfect size to tuck into your pack.
Chain lube is needed for:
- Keeping the chain lubed
- Eliminating annoying squeaks
11. Small Bottle of Tire Sealant
If you run tubeless tires on your bike and you get a minor flat but it’s not sealing, sometimes a little injection of tire sealant can speed things up. Not always, but sometimes (which is why you should always carry tire plugs). This little 2oz bottle of Stans NoTubes is a great mountain bike pack essential for longer rides.
Sealant is needed for:
- Helping tubeless tires seal after a puncture
Check Price: Amazon
12. A Shock Pump
More than once, I’ve been out on a ride and felt my rear shock bottom out on a drop or jump. It’s not a good feeling and it’s probably not good for my shock. So sometimes I’ll carry a shock pump with me if I know that I’ll be doing some rowdy downhill or a trail with lots of features.
It’s also a good idea to carry a shock pump if you’re riding a new (or new to you) bike and haven’t gotten the suspension dialed in yet. The RockShox High-Pressure Shock Pump is a great choice.
Shock pumps are needed for:
- Adjusting air in front and rear shocks
13. Extra Brake Pads
Brake pads go through a lot of wear and tear and they’re pretty important when it comes to mountain biking, don’t you think? Having an extra pair is a good idea, especially if the ones currently installed are getting down there and you’re headed out for a big ride.
Note: Brake pads are specific to brakes. Make sure you know which ones to buy (ex. Sram or Shimano) and what kind of pad you prefer (ex. metallic vs resin).
Brake pads are needed for:
- Replacing worn brake pads
- Replacing contaminated brake pads
14. Hydration Powder & Energy Bars
I always carry at least one sports bar/snack with me on a ride, even if it’s just a quick spin because you never know when you’re going to bonk. I get real hangry… It’s best to be over-prepared with food than under.
Hydration tabs or powder are also a good idea to bring with you on longer rides, especially if you’re riding in a hot and humid climate when you (or at least I) sweat a lot.
You can either pour the hydration powder, like Skratch, straight into your water bladder or carry an extra water bottle.
Below are a few of my favorite trail snacks and hydration supplements.
Hydration powder and energy bars needed for:
- Keeping friendships and relationships
- Preventing bonking
- Preventing dehydration
15. Lightweight Jacket
I’ve gone out for a ride with the sun shining and the temps in the 70s and ended with rain, cold wind, and frozen fingers. Having a lightweight jacket in your pack can be a lifesaver for those days when the weather just does freaky things.
Lightweight jacket is needed for:
- Staying warm and dry
- Emergency situations
16. Bike Light
My family is known to have “Timbers adventures”, meaning that our adventure plans tend to turn into epic outings, for better or worse. Like the time my dad and I went for a “quick” road ride in Maui and ended up basically biking around the entire west half of the island because we missed a turn. So I’ve grown pretty used to packing for “just in case”. This often includes a bike light because if the sun goes down and I’m still on the trail, it’s going to be pretty hard to get back to the trailhead without some sort of light. If you’re headed out for an all-day adventure, I recommend packing either a headlamp or a bike light like the Niterider Lumina 1000, which can be mounted onto your handlebars.
(On a side note, if you’ve never tried night mountain biking, you should. It’s a blast!)
Bike lights are needed for:
- Night rides
- Unexpectedly long rides
- Can act as an SOS signal
How to carry all your mountain bike pack essentials
There are dozens of mountain bike backpack options out there for carrying your pack essentials. I’ve written up a post with some of my favorites, but these Osprey packs – the Raven 10L and Raptor 10L are two top choices. They come with a tool roll, which is super helpful for keeping tools organized trail-side, a hydration bladder sleeve, a pouch for your helmet, plenty of pockets, and a breathable mesh back panel to help keep you cool. They also come in a 14L size if you want something a bit bigger.
I hope this list helps you plan and prepare for many mishap-free days in the saddle! Do you have any other suggestions for mountain bike pack essentials? What do you always carry in your pack or what do you add for longer rides? Leave a comment below!
Hi there! My name is Becky and this is my bike travel blog. I’ve always loved exploring the world on two wheels and it’s my mission to help others do the same! My first love is mountain biking, but I’ll never say no to any two-wheeled adventure.