2 Aug 2016


It’s so easy to overstuff your pack, but do you really need a workshop’s worth of tools and a spare wardrobe? You don’t, of course – but on the other hand, some things really are vital. Minimalism easily tips into being unprepared.

We’ll assume you’ve already got food and water, and your phone, for navigation/Strava/snapshots/emergencies. We also assume you don’t rely on it! Batteries die and coverage fades, so think of phones as an extra.

Here’s FSA’s guide to Backpack Vitals – what every mountain biker should carry…


Bare minimum loadout, unless you’re happy to risk walking home, is:

• Pump
Short and fat pumps pack/work best, and go for a switchable presta/schrader head to fit any tube.

• Tire levers
Cost and weigh little, make life easier. Look for well-tapered ends rather than thick blunt things, and cutouts for hooking onto spokes. Roadside flat fix advice here.

• Patches
A pack of self-adhesive patches weighs grams.

• A multitool
Most fixes only need hex keys, but many bikes hide a few awkward Torx bolts too – make sure your tool includes the necessary sizes. Cross/straight head screwdriver bits cover gear adjustments and mech hanger replacement.

The benefits of Level 1
Pumps mount easily on the frame, while the rest can be taped to it/under the saddle/put in a saddle bag, letting you ditch the pack itself.


Going further and longer? Add these:

• Spare tube
So much quicker than mending. If you’ve multiple bikes, check you’re taking the right size!

• Chaintool 
When you need one, nothing else will do. Here is some advice on how to use it! 

• Chainlinks / pins
Check you have the right parts for your make /speed of chain. They’re not cross-compatible.

• Zip ties
A handful of sizes weighs nothing, and can fix/bodge a great deal!

• Gaffer tape
Wrap a few meters on a bit of plastic for another near-universal savior.

• Spare mech hanger
Order a new hanger before you need it. They’re aluminum and weigh grams.

The benefits of Level 2
You can deal with a lot more, but you’ve only added around 320g – and that’s assuming 200g of inner tube. Mini chaintools can be under 70g.


Going further and longer still? Add these:

• Compass and map
Keyring compasses are tiny and weigh little, but be aware that keys make them misread. And it sounds obvious, but make sure your map is of the right area and you can read it…!

• Torch
Your map’s no good if you get so delayed you can’t see it. Any small torch will do, but a headtorch is a boon.

• Showerproof shell
Even a sub-100g windproof shell adds an amazing amount of warmth, and scrunches down easily (while acting as packing to keep your other stuff stable).

• Neck tube
Adds amazing warmth for tiny size and weight.

• Knee warmers
Same attributes as neck tubes.

• Dry gloves
A major luxury.

• Cake
It’s what your pack’s pockets, tie-downs and expanding sections were invented for. 

The benefits of Level 3
There’s little you’re seriously unprepared for – even getting lost, crashing of suffering a ride-stopping mechanical – so long as temperatures can’t drop too far. Additional weight and bulk is minimal, too. And if you really have stuffed your pack with kilos of cake… well, then there’s cake!