When I started to mountain bike in 1994 I realized that it would be a good idea to carry an extra tube and a few tools, so I bought a Mountainsmith lumbar bag at REI. I added a few things like an emergency blanket, that I almost had to use in Briones one evening. Those were the days of drinking warm water from a muddy water bottle. When I moved to Utah I went to Gorilla Bikes and the girl was quitting, so she sold me a Camelbak MULE for $55. That changed everything. It kept my water cold, and I could carry a windbreaker and other gear. I have since passed that MULE on to my son and bought this orange MULE, which has a bigger storage area. It also doubles as a spine protector during crashes. Bonus. I carry a tube, CO2 inflator and cartridges, emergency bag, signal mirror, duct tape and a few zip ties.
I read an article in the last year or two that suggested only carrying enough water for your ride to help lower the weight of the Camelbak. I think that is a stupid idea. First of all, I might change my mind during a ride and go further than I intended when I left. Secondly, it’s only a few pounds. You are better served by losing the body weight than your water supply weight. Thirdly, I know a guy named Royce that crashed and broke his neck on a ride. He was partially paralyzed and couldn’t walk or ride home. All he could do was drink from his Camelbak for four hours until his friends came to find him. Carry plenty of water.
The Camelbak is a symbol of preparedness. It is important to be prepared for as many unforeseen circumstances as possible. Four years ago I was stuck in my car for four hours because of snow and high winds. All the roads in Utah County were shut down. I realized I was not prepared to walk away from my car and make it home in dress clothes. I packed a bag with warm clothes the next day. Sometimes we only have the resources to prepare on a small scale, but that is better than nothing. Being prepared gives you a sense of control and safety that can help us stay calm during trying situations. It’s all about the gear.