Gear Institute Expert Test Menu

The 10 Pieces of Bike Gear You Must Keep in Your Hydration Pack

By: Robert Annis - October 04, 2017

 Hydration Pack Must-Haves lead image

Over more than a decade of riding, I’ve broken practically anything and everything on my mountain bike at least once — spokes, seatposts, shocks, chains, and more. I even broke my collarbone after one embarrassing crash on a local trail. Through trial and error — mostly error — I’ve learned what to bring with me on a ride to survive mishaps both big and small. These are the items that I keep in my pack for shorter rides – say under 30 miles – and on a route where we’ll cross multiple trailheads. For longer or more backcountry rides, I have a larger pack filled with even more gear. (If there’s interest, I may do a follow-up piece on it.)

Camelbak Lobo

Hydration Pack

I’ve owned multiple hydration packs, but the CamelBak Lobo ($100) has been my go-to for the last several years. The 3-gallon bladder fits snugly in its slot, while the remaining two zippered pockets have plenty of space to stash all of the gear on this list, with room to spare.

Topeak Mini Morph Pump

Tube/Tire Lever/Pump

I run tubeless tires with few complaints, but if there’s a way to get a flat on the trail, you know I’ll find it. I’ve got a 29er tube in my pack right now, but I’ll probably switch to a more versatile 27.5 tube after I use it. I can either stretch the tube a bit to slip onto my larger hoops or pass it on to a less-prepared riding buddy who’s riding smaller wheels. Tire levers typically come in packs of two or three, but I only need one for most jobs, so I stash the remainder with my other bikes. The pump is a Topeak Mini Morph ($35), which is lightweight and fills a tube before I get noodle arms. Spring an extra $5-$10 and get the Mini Morph G with a built-in pressure gauge.

Crank Brothers m17 Multitool

Multitool/Quick Link

The Crank Brothers m17 multitool ($28) has all the features you’ll probably ever need on the trail: a chainbreaker, four different spoke wrenches, multiple hex and open wrenches, standard and Philips-head screwdrivers, and a T-25 Torx driver. It’s sturdy, easy to use, and fits perfectly in my hand. Normally I keep both a 10- ($17) and an 11-speed quick link ($8) in my bag, but I had to steal my 11-speed link a couple of months ago for a different bike and haven’t gotten around to replacing it yet. By writing this, I’m practically ensuring I break a chain on my next mountain-bike ride.

Clif Shots


I try to keep a few different gel packs in my bag at all times. Clif Shots ($1 each) have just enough calories and caffeine to get me through most rides when I’m running a little low on energy. As an added bonus, if I accidentally slash my tire’s sidewall, the empty wrapper makes a pretty good barrier. I’ll occasionally pack a homemade bar or rice cake, but only if I know I’ll eat it on that particular ride. The last thing you want to do is forget about it and find a mold colony growing in your pack a week or two later.

Water-resistant Bag

Water-Resistant Bag/Cash

I bought 100 of these bags through Amazon ($9) although it’s pretty easy to find single bags in shops or elsewhere online. I had a great aLoksak from Skratch Labs ($2) that held up under daily abuse for years until it finally got too shredded to continue using. I always keep $5-$20 in cash and a few business cards in the bag, as well as spare batteries if I’m using an action cam that day. If I’m riding a trail with several stream crossings, I’ll stash my iPhone in there as well. The bags aren’t advertised as water-resistant, but after some testing in my bathroom sink, I found they were more than acceptable for short dunks underwater. (That said, I wouldn’t stick my phone in one of these bags and go swimming.)


First-Aid Kit

As often as I crash, a good first-aid kit is an absolute must. The .7 from Adventure Medical Kits ($30) stuffs bandages, painkillers, antiseptic wipes, tweezers, latex gloves, and more into an almost impossibly compact package. Add in a small baggie or container of antihistamine tablets for run-ins with bees or poison ivy, and you’re all set.

Zip Ties

Zip Ties

The common zip tie is the versatile, yet sadly unsung all-star in my pack. They occupy next-to-no room in my pack, but have a wide variety of uses. Over the years, I’ve used zip ties to hold a bottle cage, bike light, and even a disc-brake mount in place after a bolt rattled out. I keep about 10 zip ties of varying lengths and thicknesses in my bag at all times.

Gore Bike Wear Rescue Jacket

Rain Jacket

I wrote about the Gore Rescue WS jacket earlier this year, and since then, it’s found a permanent place in my pack. At 4 ounces and the size of a whiffle ball when rolled up, it’s the ideal jacket for stashing in your bag and forgetting it—at least until the dark clouds start rolling in.

About the Author

Robert Annis

Robert Annis

When Robert Annis isn't hunched over a keyboard, you’ll likely find him either pedaling the backroads and trails of the Midwest on his bike or asking about the craft beer selection in a far-flung airport bar.


comments powered by Disqus