Mountain biking is a fabulous way to access the immense backcountry around Moab. The canyons and mountains are right out the back door, offering the experience of vast wilderness with minimal approach time. But don’t let that fool you into a false sense of security. Moab’s search and rescue team is busy!
Smart riders know how to expect the unexpected, and are able to be self-reliant and stay safe. So what should you bring? The goal is preparedness without carrying the whole kitchen sink. As a bike guide for Rim Mountain Bike Tours, I carry a lot more when guiding clients, but when I’m out on my own these are the fundamentals I wouldn’t be without in my daypack for any outing, whether it be for an hour or an epic adventure.
1. Manage your “ins” and “outs”:
Water. Carry more than you think you’ll drink. If you have a hydration backpack just fill it all the way up. Even if you have more than you’ll drink, you can offer it to someone else in need. Check your water level periodically to know how much you have, or pack a back-up bottle that will get you out if you unexpectedly run dry. Bring electrolyte powder for your water to keep the muscles working as you sweat out your salts.
Food. Carry more food than you think you’ll eat. One energy bar tends to have 150-400 calories. You’ll likely burn that much in under an hour on our steep and technical trails. So do the math, pack enough to get you through the ride with a little extra in case you get stuck out there.
TP. What goes in must eventually come out. Bring a Ziploc bag with some pre-folded toilet paper. You’ll be REALLY glad you have it if nature calls!
2. Weather Changes:
Rain jacket. I know it’s the desert, but we do get sudden storms and it can cool down fast when you’re soaking wet.
Sunscreen and a headlamp. Carry sunscreen for light and a headlamp for dark. Remember to check the batteries!
3. Bike Repair Kit:
Even if you don’t know how to fix anything on your bike, carry everything you need to do so; someone out there will help you if you have the parts ready.
Multi-tool. Bolts can loosen out there.
Tire Repair Kit. Pack a working bike pump, a spare tube that fits your tire/wheel size, and a tire lever to get the tire off. If your tires are tubeless (most are these days) make sure you have fresh sealant in the tires (it dries out over time). Bring a few “plugs” to use when you get a hole that’s too big to self-seal.
Chain Repair. Pack quick links that fit your chain in case it breaks.
Other helpful items:
Chain lube and a rag.
Zip ties in case anything breaks off and needs to be held on.
Duct tape. Useful for pulling out cactus spines, mending broken items, and countless other things.
4. Medical Kit:
A basic first aid kit can go a long way and keep you comfortable in a jam. Bring what you need to manage cuts, scrapes and pain.
Bandaids and a roll of athletic tape. (not medical tape, it doesn’t stay on when wet)
Gauze to control bleeding.
Wet-wipes to clean a wound before dressing it.
Face mask and gloves, because it’s hard to treat someone from 6 feet away!
OTC pain killers, just in case. Current research shows that alternating doses of Tylenol and Ibuprofen are more effective for pain management than either one alone.
5. Communication and Mapping:
Bring your phone. Even if there’s no service you might find some on a high ridge if necessary. Make sure it’s charged and keep it in airplane mode.
Have fun and stay safe out there!
“Scott Pauker is a mountain bike guide with Rim Tours, and will soon be offering an Introduction to Bikepacking course based in town. He also owns and operates Cadence Bodywork, a therapeutic and injury treatment massage practice here in Moab. Contact him directly at email@example.com for details.”