How To Pack For Mountain Biking Colorado's High Country

Riding in the Colorado high country above 10,000 feet is hard work. Aside from an oxygen cylinder, here are some of the goodies that I take with me to make sure I get back to town.

1. Plenty of food and water.  Fill it up—three liters of water, no less. I bring more food than I think I’ll need, too. Bonking when you know you still have thousands of feet of climbing ahead is a drag. I carry a bunch of easy-to-eat energy food to keep my pockets stocked for quick access. I also like to have a couple PB&Js, turkey sandwiches, Fig Newtons, wasabi almonds, and so on. I pack an extra water bottle and some Gu Brew tablets, too. That way I can make as much sports drink as I’d like on the trail.

2. Rain gear and warm layers. An afternoon thundershower is common in the summer at high altitude. I have an insulated vest that’s incredibly warm for how well it packs down, and Outdoor Research’s Helium II Jacket and Pants that are lightweight, extremely packable and waterproof.

3. Maps. The hand-drawn one from the dude at the bike shop doesn’t count. If things go sideways and you need a bailout option, or there is any sort of unmarked trail junction, a good topo map is invaluable.

4. Repair kit and tools. I carry zip ties, a length of thin cord, and of course, duct tape. For the bike, I have the necessary equipment to change a flat tire, replace a derailleur cable and repair a broken chain. Mountain bikes are becoming more unique every year, so I’ll also have quick links for my chain, and an extra deraillier hanger specific to my Specialized Stumpjumper frame. I use clipless pedals, so I also bring an extra cleat and bolts along.

5. First Aid. Some of the pre-made kits are nice, but I like to build my own. OR’s Backcountry Organizer makes a great case to start with. Then it has stuff to stop bleeding, dress a wound or abrasions, and to fashion a splint to stabilize a fracture. For medications, I carry ibuprofen and Benadryl.

6. Cell phone. It’s probably not going to work most places in the backcountry, so it stays off to conserve the battery. But it might work well enough from a high ridgeline or mountaintop to get a text out if you or someone in your group needs help. Besides, if you ever get really turned around, the stand-alone GPS can help you orient yourself on your map.

7. Camera. If you have ever visited Colorado, you know that it’s hard to not want to take a picture of just about everything. With soaring peaks, high alpine meadows, groves of aspen trees and huge stands of fir, pine and spruce, it’s an amazing place to ride a bicycle. So get out there and ride!