MTB Survival Pack – What’s in your Camelbak?

MTB Survival Pack – What’s in your Camelbak?

It was brought to my attention the other day by a few friends who are just starting to mountain bike what I carry in my Camelbak. What is the “survival pack”? Interesting question because I really dwindled down over the years what I carry. Going through my pack, I noticed how much I DIDN’T have versus what I should and what we actually need to carry. After a ride this weekend, a similar inquiry was posed and again, dang, some of us were missing the essenitals.

So, let’s go through our survival pack and the pack we bring along in our car. This is open for discussion and suggestion, and some may carry less or more, but this is totally up to you. The picture below is my pack, minus the pumps, tube and one half of the multi-tool.

Share your thoughts on what you carry and what special tool or trick you use on the trail!


– Moderately Upset Multi-Biker (M.U.M.B.)



1. SMNBA business cards. C’mon! Show those who don’t know who you are and who we are!

2. CO2 cartridges, threaded or non-threaded. Place at least 4 in your pack. The non-threaded versions are cheaper (air-gun style) and in quick emergency situations, these are valuable.

3. Bear bell. Why? High traffic areas where hikers and horses will be present. They will appreciate this. But don’t forget to slow down to pass.

4. Bottle opener. Nuff said.

5. Tubes. Whether you are running tubeless or not, carry one. Now, to be the good mtber, what size should you carry to help others? Dang it with 3 wheel sizes now.. 26 will stretch to every size, 29 can’t fit in a 26 right. Choose wisely.

6. Sodium tablets. If you carry a bottle, you may want to carry these when it gets hot.

7. Sealant. These one-shot Stan’s bottles are priceless. Just when you think your sealant will work, it’s dry and you forgot to check it. This helps your riding buddy or stranger too. Charge them $35 and tell them to join IMBA.

8. Patch kit. What else is there to say? Just make sure to replenish what you used.

9. Pump. Spend the money on a good pump. You’re forearm will thank you.

10. Money. Not just for spending, but for a torn sidewall. This won’t work if you forgot to put in that tube in your kit. An old Gu wrapper or mylar wrapper from a snack bar will work too.

11. Tire levers. You should know how to take a tire off without levers, but this just makes it faster.

12. Leatherman-style multi-tool. Invest in a good knife/tool that has everything in it: File, saw, pliers, wire cutter, and knifes. If it’s durable, it doubles as a hammer.

13. Shock pump. Most bikes have air forks and shocks. Get a good one. For the 1% of us that don’t have air, don’t bother. Have fun watching them fight with their settings.

14. SNMBA stickers. Ask for them, and carry them proudly.

15. Multi-tool. Find a tool that has a good chain breaker and the basic tools: hex Allen set, 10mm box wrench, and Torx.

17. Food. Food. Food. Always keep a back up on hand, even if you put new crap in your pack before your ride. Gu-type shots are excellent, and something solid is vital.

17. Tri-Allen wrench. Although you have a multi-tool, this is easier to find and handle.

18. Zip-ties and Velcro strap. In emergency situations or when something breaks, you will wish you had these around.

19. Chamois cream. A small emergency pack helps on long rides when chaffing occurs. Please don’t confuse this pack with your Gu.

20 & 21: Essential pack! Here are the most forgotten items: a chain master link, cleat screws and a cleat. These don’t weight much, but breaking a chain sucks. Keep ALL used master links and these will be handy not just for you, but that rider stranded on a trail. It gets you home where you can address the chain properly. Ever lose a cleat screw or a cleat during a ride? That has the same effect as forgetting your helmet.

22. PHONE – Not shown, but the obvious does not need to be stated.

Your riding buddies will ask what else you have in there because you are prepared. Don’t overstuff your pack with non-essential items and always consider the weight of the items in your pack. That’s why in part 2, there is the pack you carry to the trailhead. This is your other essential that dictates what type of ride you will be doing.


Part 2. Other essentials.

1. Sunscreen. Use recommended settings – paste on until you are white.

2. Extra water bottle with water. This is important when you are done riding.

3. Chamois cream. Use at the start of the ride. If you forget, use your back-up.

4. Wipes. After ride wipes to get rid of the salt and grime which doesn’t taste good with beer.

5. Cowbell. What this rides needs is more cowbell. I’ve got the fever, the fever for more cowbell.

6. CO2. Extras for whatever you use.

7. Toilet wipes. Going to Gooseberry and gotta dookie on the trail? Been there…

8. Patch and plug kit. Use the plug for tubeless tires. Put these in your Camelbak if you choose.

9. Seatpost. Why? You trust your dropper post 100% and that the cable will NEVER break? Find yourself somewhere far from home and realize the ride is done before it started. Carry your original post or at least buy a cheap back up.

10. Tape measure. Just for good measure.

11. Compact threaded CO2. Use this for the quick ride when you just want to throw crap in your jersey pocket. Threaded 16g are expensive though.

12. Pedals. Why? See seatpost. Also for friend who may use same cleat as you.

13. Compact tool. Just for that short ride when you won’t be using your hydration pack.

14. Mo-nocular. Hard to check out that singletrack on the horizon with shitty 20-10 vision.

15. Spare rear shock. See pedals and seatpost. Trust me, this came in handy in Utah for someone else’s bike.

16. Tubes. 26, 27, 29. Heck throw in a busted one (clearly marked) so you can cut up and use for protection (not that kind!).

7 responses

  1. Troy

    And your camelbak looks like this when you are done!

    Seriously though, what is up with the sodium tabs. Why would I want them?

    • Erik Montville

      Sodium tabs for loss of salt, prevents cramping and increases endurance. Many people make them, Gu, Camelbak, Nuun, etc. Very helpful.

  2. David Jaget

    Excellent list!

  3. Fermin

    Due to experience, I now carry derailleur hanger and derailleur cable. If you carry a double purpose cable(for brakes or derailleur), it will have two different ends. If you do not carry a multi-plier, you will need a mini wire/cable cutter. Something that will make a clean cut. Your spare cable will be useless if you can not get it through the shifter hole. Make sure your multi-plier makes a good cut.

  4. Fermin

    I have not experienced this but someone told me that sodium tabs will help you when you start to get muscle cramps due to dehydration and body salt depletion.

  5. RodneyMTB

    Replace your zip ties each spring. They break from the extreme heat / cold throughout the year….

  6. SNMBA

    Great tips everyone, keep them coming!

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