What's in your Camelbak?

Mountain biking comes with its share of hazards: rocks, jumps, mountain lions. But as some great luminary probably once said, our greatest enemy is ourselves; well, our bikes, that is.{br class="hardreturn" /}
Over the years, I've had my tire sidewall give out, my front rim split in two and my chain snap, not to mention the countless deflated tubes. Many of these mishaps left me with the unhappy task of walking all the way home, sometimes miles.{br class="hardreturn" /}
I've succumbed to my hubris one too many times. Eager to beat my personal record on Strava (the ride-tracking cellphone app), I've often chosen to go without a pack. But I've found that I can't quite jam all the essentials in the back of my jersey.{br class="hardreturn" /}
When I got a flat on Roxy Ann Peak last week and had to ride on it half of the way home, shredding my tire, I decided it was time to wise up and get a decent bike pack to carry my tools in. I chose the Camelbak H.A.W.G. (list price $150), which has a huge cargo capacity, 3-liter water reservoir (the largest available) and a unique ventilation system, consisting of a hard plastic panel that keeps the air flowing across your back. As someone who sweats like pig iron, this last feature was a major selling point.{br class="hardreturn" /}
Here are the essentials I now carry with me, even on the most routine ride.{br class="hardreturn" /}

  • A spare tube for when I inevitably run over some puncture vine

  • tire irons for getting that stubborn tire off

  • A hand pump, because CO2 pumps are for wimpy road riders

  • A multitool for miscellaneous repairs

  • A chain tool and a master link or replacement pin for when — not if — my chain breaks

  • Bike lights for those unexpectedly extended rides

I may even carry an extra tire on those really epic rides, in the event of a sidewall gash.{br class="hardreturn" /}
Of course, even these items can't keep your bike rideable in every situation. That's why you should always remember the most important ingredient of every ride: an escape plan. If you think you can hoof it back from the apex of your ride, fine.{br class="hardreturn" /}
But I always bring my cellphone with me, so I can contact a friend to pick me up if things become really dire. Of course, often being in the mountains, I don't always get cell reception. If you're going on an epic all-day ride, please tell someone where you're going, and check in with that person at the end of it, if possible. {br class="hardreturn" /}
More confident with my new riding kit, I've been working on my riding skills more. The mountain-biking site Singletracks posted a great blog entry in June about an essential skill: keeping your feet heavy, and your hands light. Their post includes several drills you can do that will help enhance your stability on the trail. Remember, hold your handlebars like teacups! Check it out at goo.gl/z8t68z.{br class="hardreturn" /}
Digital copy editor Forrest Roth can be reached at froth@mailtribune.com{br class="hardreturn" /}

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