Sammy Hagar claims that he invented mountain biking when he put knobby tires on his road bike. Whether you believe that or not is a personal preference – just like picking between him and Diamond Dave for the best front man of the best rock band to come out of the 1980’s and 1990’s. However, it’s safe to say that mountain biking kind of just showed up one day and has evolved into a way of life for many of us.
I began mountain biking when I was fourteen after riding my Diamondback Topanga out of a local bike shop while trying to figure out the gearing on the way up to the local hangout, which just so happened to be in the center of a mountain half way across town. The bike, the clothes, the myriad of accessories all took hold of me and stuck, and I followed the sport closely ever since. In the twenty years since then, mountain biking has taken a few more steps in its evolutionary process and most of us have happily adapted. It’s one of those activities that totally kicks our asses, but never seems to get old – quads aching we’re back out the next day for more.
I have been lucky enough to always be within a mile or two of a circuit of trails wherever I have lived in my life. Whether the trails were repurposed farm roads, hiking routes, or even biking trails – my proximity coupled with my passion for both hiking and mountain biking has allowed me to find a balance between the two activities. In fact, amalgamating both has allowed me to cover more ground, access places I may not have been able to before, and build up a great set of traps and calves while porting my bike up mountain passes and steep scrambles. I don’t think I am unique in any way, shape, or form because around these parts I am one of many who have found the balance between the hiking and biking. But it is kind of funny, because we’re easily discernable from your standard mountain biker and that’s usually because we’re carrying way too much stuff, sometimes forget to put our helmets back on, and we all despise clipless pedals.
Anyway, I wanted to take a minute off the trail – dump my pack – and tell you all what’s inside. Most of this stuff is pretty standard for a day out on a mountain bike, but some of it is a little more hybrid. Either way, I know this mash up of hiking and mountain biking all in one session isn’t unique to where I live in New England, so I thought I little gear guidance might be in order. Well, here we go.
When it comes down to being on a trail, for any reason, it’s all about the right shoes. In the case of finding a happy medium shoe that lets you stick to your pedals and the trail, I have found that the Vasque Monolith Low is not only lightweight and breathable, but also durable enough to handle some tight, thorny trails. This is all due to a leather upper blended with abrasion resistant mesh, and a killer toe cap. I find them to be comfortable and shock absorbent enough for both hiking and biking.
Finding the right pack that will suit your needs for the ride out and possible hike through is a bit of a challenge – but CamelBak has you covered with their Skyline 10 LR. The pack, which rides low on your back (LR), has enough room for your essentials – an extra shirt, trails snacks, brewskis, and so on – but also sports a 3 Liter Antidote Reservoir as well as a removable tool storage pouch. The fact that the Skyline 10 LR sits on the small of your back keeps you balanced when riding and the extra onboard storage and copious amounts of water allows it to expand out for a walkabout.
Blinded By The Light… Or Not.
Sunglasses are almost a prerequisite for anything you do, but are especially critical when you’re bombing down a trail in the woods where there can be breaks in the canopy allowing you to be momentarily blinded by a flash of the sun. Furthermore, dust and debris are coming at you from all directions so, in essence, mountain biking can be like Thunderdome for your eyes – a real battle. For times like this, look no further than Electric Sunglasses Stacker. Made from a durable, flexible, and lightweight frame material and featuring polarized, melanin infused lenses, these shades won’t only stand up to your abuse, but are also a level above the rest in regards to eye protection, providing the ultimate clarity while avoiding excess strain. If that’s not enough for you, the Stacker features anti-slip nose and temple grips and a removable mask designed to keep out wind and debris as well as reduce fog. And If you’re still not sold, there’s a high probability that you’re going to look damn delicious wearing them.
Callouses Won’t Cut It
Gloves make all the difference when you’re out there in it, as they can provide grip as well as protection. Unfortunately, standard fare mountain biking gloves won’t do you any good if you have to clear the path in front of you. I rely on the Cordex belaying and repelling gloves from Petzl. Designed like a leather work glove, the Cordex features a double thick leather palm and an abrasion resistant nylon back that, when working together, provide protection without compromising articulation. What’s more, they’re super affordable for how durable are and will last a lifetime.
Tool Bag (Bike)
Because I put more demand on my bike by going deeper and harder on trails that may or may not be suitable for riding, I tend to stick with Park Tools for making sure my ride stays in working order. From their tire patch kit to their multitools to their standalone tire levers, Park Tool has consistently provided their customers with products that meet or exceed all levels of durability and ease of use.
Over the years I have used a few different Park Tool multitools, but this year I had the chance to upgrade to their new-ish MT-40 which has every tool you could possibly need except a set of tire levers. I firmly believe that if you want a functional tire lever that you need two and they also need to be independent from your other tools. I’m on my second set of Park Tool TL-4.2 levers and that’s only because “someone” lost my first pair. Nonetheless, they’re priced right and durable enough to last for multiple seasons.
When it comes to air I turn to Topeak. I can’t remember who or what turned me on to their products, but I can honestly say that I’ve always been impressed with their pumps, and fenders. I’ve been using their Mini Dual DXG pump for five or six years and it hasn’t failed me yet. Not only does it have an easy to read psi/bar gauge that takes the guess work out of tire inflation, but it also features Topeak’s SmartHead which allows you to easily switch between Presta and Schrader valve stems without having to swap around parts and pieces.
All of this stuff, including some tire patches and chain links, fits into the included removable tool roll that comes stock inside the CamelBak Skyline 10 LR. All packed up, it’s roughly the size of a 12 oz can of soda and stores nicely in a dedicated pocket in the front pouch of the pack.
You all know I carry a couple of knives and a multitool on me wherever I go, but they’re not nearly capable of clearing obstructions on a trail or for building a shelter when nature forces me to go undercover. For those situations I rely on a couple of “traditional” tools that have proven they can get me through anything.
The first, and most obvious tool is a saw, and my saw of choice is the Silky Pocketboy 170 with medium teeth. It’s small and compact so I can throw it in my bag or even pocket where it can go unnoticed until I actually need it. But this “little giant,” with its 6 ¾” MIRAI-ME blade (for smooth and exact cutting) can make quick work out of downed branches and the like. Fun Fact: I took down this past year’s Christmas tree in four swipes with the Pocketboy 170. The tree was 9’ tall and had a 4” trunk.
The second tool of choice that I rely on when I’m mixing it up as a biking-hiker, is a little more medieval and was originally designed for the open road, however – it can perform a variety of tasks, and easily lashes to my top tube when I am riding. That tool is the Trucker’s Friend and it is a powerhouse for chopping, digging, prying, hammering – you name it. Originally designed for highway truckers because of its ability to be a diesel multitool as well as a defense weapon, the Trucker’s Friend features a shock resistant handle that absorbs all the errant blows you drop when you’re annoyed and are just trying to clear the trail as quick as possible. There’s really no finesse about this sucker, you just plant it and it removes material.
The main and most important ingredient to keep you going out on the trail is water – and if you’ve been reading closely, you already know that the 3-liter Antinode bladder in the CamelBak Skyline LR 10 has you covered in this area. But beyond water, you need to be concerned with your caloric intake because you’re going to burn through energy fast.
Untapped Maple Syrup and Waffles: Growing up in New England, I have a natural predisposition for maple flavored things and what’s better than a sure-shot of maple syrup itself? Untapped’s Maple Packets  have enough sugar in them to keep my system in check and their maple infused stroopwafel provides me with the right amount of energy from calories. The two together are a winning combination.
Upslope Brewing Thai Style White IPA: You had to know beer was going to show up on this list at some point – and for any summer time ride you can’t go wrong with a bright, tropical, spicy IPA like Upslope’s Thai Style White IPA. Not only does it have a savory and unique taste due to a specific blend of Asian spices, but it’s quite refreshing too. Seeing that it’s got an ABV of 6.5%, you really only need to bring one or two with you for the excursion. You’re not trying to get loaded out there, you’re just trying to cover a little more ground. What’s great about this particular craft beverage is that it’s good cold or warm.
So that’s literally a bag dump for me. I came home, fed the dog, went to the bathroom, and then dumped my pack on my office floor and started writing about it. Suffice to say, there’s really no method to my madness in choosing this line up of gear. Over the past couple of years I’ve sort of cobbled together the gear that fits in the pack I usre or can be strapped to my Santa Cruz Heckler to serve me out on the trail while both hiking or riding. In fact, if I’m being honest, the only thing that wasn’t initially part of this pack was the Upslope Thai Style White IPA. We’re a nationwide gear blog-site and I wanted to make sure that I was considering all of our readers when choosing what beer to include for this story. It’s sheer luck that I know some people who know some people and they were kind enough to send a few lab samples out to me to imbibe. Either way, maybe what’s in my pack isn’t exactly what you need – but, in writing this, I hope it’ll flick a switch in your mind so you can think a little outside of the box when trying to accomplish both the act of hiking and the feat of mountain biking all in one shot.