HOW-TO: Pack a Hydration Pack

If you ride for more than a couple of hours at a time, there really isn’t a better, more practical or more affordable way to bring along the basics than the good old hydration pack. Sure, you can add tools to head tubes and bottom brackets, use pocketed bib knicks or even a newly designed bumbag, but even a basic pack outdoes most of these options for most of us.
Let’s dig through a freshly packed bag, and we’ll hopefully share some tips along the way.

1. The pack

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We’re using an older model Camelbak Octane in this example, but the bag isn’t really the focus; there’s a mix of packs amongst our group, including bags from Dakine and Deuter. We may go up a bag size if we need to bring a camera, but the basics stay the same. We’ve added a three-litre bladder, but rarely fill it right up.

2. The tool roll

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Camelbak also provides this three-pouch tool roll that I’ve pinched from another pack. This brings me to Rule One of packing; if you don’t know how to use it, don’t pack it! To put it another way… learn to use it or lose it. From left, there’s a bag of bolts, gear cable, tyre lever with tape, multitool with chain breaker and tyre patches and boots.

3. The bag of bolts

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This is possibly a bit of overkill, but it could save your ride (or someone else’s) in a pinch, and it takes up no room. There’s a stem bolt, brake caliper mounting bolt, shoe cleat bolt, valve loosener (for rims), chainring nut and bolt, cable end cap and 11-speed quick link. Note the label on the quick link, and the fact the two bits are taped together.

4. The lever and tool

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I wrap a Park tyre lever with a bit of grey ‘race tape’ or duct tape, which can patch hydration bags, hold a gauze bandage in place, keep a helmet visor in the right spot… very useful stuff. The Crank Bros M17 has been in my pack for more than a decade, and does everything I need it to do. The chain tool works on everything and is easy to use, too. About the only thing I miss is a blade and pliers, but a new mini Gerber Dime tool is on order to fix that oversight.

5. The gear cable

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Modern drivelines put a lot of stress and strain on cables, so I copy what the EWS pros do and pack a cut-to-length cable for my own bike. If you have a cable dropper post, it’ll help here too, though they are very sensitive to cable length. I’ve chucked in a cable end cap – but until my plier tool arrives, I’ll have to hope someone else has a Leatherman on them!

6. Patches and boots

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I’ve tried a bunch of sticky-back patches over the years, and I keep coming back to Park; they just work, and aren’t too fussed about how stretched the tube is when you’re applying it. Even if you run tubeless tyres, your spare tube (mine is mounted on my bike) might get damaged, or you can help out someone else. I also use Park’s tyre boots, though your tape and a five-buck note could save you. I also have a piece of sticky-back Velcro in there; just the thing for fixing a loose helmet visor.

7. The Ikea 4mm allen key, Dynaplug tool and Clif Bar

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I’ve made sure that all the key bolts on my bike – stem, steerer, seatpost – are 4mm allen heads, so this tiny, free tool is the best thing to keep in a pocket for quick adjustments. I used to have a 4mm/5mm dual-head key which was the absolute best, but I haven’t seen one in years. The Dynaplug is a dual-head tool that inserts a material plug into large holes in your tyre, while the Clif Bar is my go-to grub; insert your choice of bar here.

8. First aid

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Some events require a first aid kit, and I leave the basics in my bag anyway. A couple of sealed gauze pads, a length of snake bite bandage, some Steri-Strip sealers, big Band Aids, rubber gloves and a space blanket will cover the basics.

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