Andrews Pack NSMB AndrewM (3).JPG

What Are You Carrying? Andrew's Hip Pack.

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Mar 20, 2020
Reading time

Full Of Surprises

What are you carrying? A new series from NSMB where we look at what our test-writers are actually packing around on any given day and I get to go first. Pressure's on! It's all a touch problematic because my kit changes on any given day. Laundry to be done, tools I've misplaced around the world's smallest bike shop, camera or no camera, am I carrying beer?

My family was heading out for a hike anyway, so I decided to grab my hip pack and dump it out on the trail when we had our snack break. I wasn't expecting to pull out three pairs of spare gloves and my emergency Honey Stinger waffle seems to have gone missing.

Porcelain Rocket Jac NSMB AndrewM.jpg

My standard kit fits perfectly in my, weatherproof, Porcelain Rocket Dumpling and I can strap a jacket, wet or dry, outside.

Stealth Hip Pack NSMB AndrewM (6).JPG

If I'm adding a shock pump, beers, my camera, or extra layers the I'll take the roomier Stealth. It has a weatherproof insert that works great.

I also regularly wear my Mission/Acre pack but these days it's only for wet winter epics, where I need a lot of clothes and food or if I want to bring my Silky Saw along. That may change as I see more and more riders carrying their folding saw on a bike. I'm not anti-backpack as much as I'm very happy with running a hip pack after finding some options that fit.

The weather changes constantly much of the year and I run hot, so one of my requirements is being able to strap a wet jacket on the outside where it won't soak the rest of my stuff. I also feel naked in the woods without a bunch of stuff so being able to comfortably carry most my crap is very important.

Bontrager Ion Pro Light AndrewM

Not shown here, but within a few hours of dusk, I always toss a charged light, in my case an Ion Pro, into my pack as well.

Wolf Tooth Pack Pliers

I've used pack pliers to true rotors on the trail and as tire levers and I use them regularly in the shop when cleaning my drivetrain but my Leatherman EDC replaces them on most rides.

I will cop to the fact I'm probably running light on first aid gear. I have a wack of electrical tape, water-purifying tablets, and an emergency blanket that I plan to replace with an emergency bivy sack this year. I 'usually' have Tylenol but I gave it to a friend six months ago and never replaced it, which is a good reminder. On the planning front, I'm going to stash a bag of Steri-Strips in my handlebar or up my Giant Clutch. There are no band-aids in the future of my kit but I'm open to suggestions.

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I'm prepared for the criticism that I don't carry more first aid stuff. I do have water-purifying tablets and a basic Space blanket year-round.

Gimme Shelter

I have weaned myself off carrying tools and spares for situations I never personally experience. Why the hell did I have extra headset spacers with me all the time? Yeah, that's a circa-1998-buddy's fault and it was time to stop that nonsense. That doesn't mean I'm not ready to share. Case in point, my Dakine emergency shell has been worn more times by my various friends than by me. I even wash it.

It's one of those stuffs-in-its-own-pocket numbers that on the surface has no redeeming qualities. It isn't proofed against wind or weather, it isn't warm, it appears to have all the durability of wet paper. It gets rated 5-stars, above awesome, would absolutely wear again every time I pull it out for myself or a friend in any conditions.

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I often forget I have it, I almost never wear it, and this sub-60 gram Dakine Drifter jacket is a must-carry 365-days a year.

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I lend it out more than I use it but if you've ever ridden bike with a whinging Australian or peevish Brit you'll agree it's the best 60 grams going.

I love thin, simple, and preferably dry gloves. No Velcro, thank you. How much do I like them? Even I was surprised to dig three pairs out of my hip pack. The green gloves and 'infrared' gloves are both Bontrager Evokes which provide an almost bizarre combination of durability, wash-ability, flexibility, light weight, and comfort. They're also relatively cheap.

The pink beauties are a pair of 100% iTrack gloves which are surprisingly simple for a brand known for embossed rubber and bold eyewear. They're a fit-favourite but I can't say anything for durability because they were missing for months - yes, in my little pack - until this feature. On cold days I wear a pair of 100% Brisker gloves that are as good as anything I've found in terms of balancing warmth with lever feel. I'll still always choose thinner gloves any time my fingers aren't going numb.

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I would have guessed that I had one extra pair of gloves in my pack. Anyways, found my missing 100% iTracks and both pairs of my Bontrager Evokes.

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That's a five-year-old IceBreaker merino wool t-shirt. Holey as hell but still kicking. The neck-tube is virtually weightless and a joy when I need it.

I always carry an extra top. I have a couple of five-year-old IceBreaker merino & wood-fiber t-shirts that have been washed countless times and look moth-eaten and I always bring one along. The holes don't seem to get any bigger and a quick change on a sweaty day is a luxury worth carrying.

The last piece of clothing I always carry is a virtually weightless, Rocky Mountain branded, neck-tube (thank you Sieneke). At first, I thought it was silly, but now it's my secret weapon on colder-than-it-looks commutes or when under-equipped for an epic North Shore deluge. It's like a little warm hug when I really, really need it. That one dry piece when the rest of my kit is soaked through and I have two frigid lakes in my shoes.

Not All The Tools

I've really paired down my tools these days. Partially a product of switching to a hip pack but just as much the absence of a tool roll making me more thoughtful of how I'm packaging my gear. There is some duplication that I hadn't considered until I started writing this. For example, my multi-tool has spoke keys that are perfectly usable in a pinch, but I've been carrying a full-sized shop spoke key with me for twenty years. It's more superstition than necessity.

My pump is from the first run of the current SKS AIRBOY lineup and it's ready to be put out to pasture. It's well past the five-year warranty and has been exemplary. I've rebuilt it a few times and the seals still hold up fine to mountain bike pressures but the shaft is badly worn and there's nothing worse than an emergency pump that doesn't pump in an emergency. I've checked out a few options but I don't see any compelling reason not to get another AIRBOY.

I put a big wrap of electrical tape on it and to be honest the tape has saved me, or a friend, from a long walk home at least as many times as the pump has done. It's pretty amazing how something as small as one broken zip-tie can ruin a ride, never mind patching up the inside of a tire casing.

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I always have a big wad of electrical tape wrapped around my mini-pump. Sometimes two. It's been the difference maker many times over the years.

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My favourite multi-tool is always from SKS in the form of their ToolBox Race. It has all the bits I need and they're surprisingly nice quality for a multi-tool.

I don't carry a chain breaker anymore. Just the 9spd & 10spd quick-links that work on my drivetrains, and on 12spd drivetrains in a pinch. If I need to remove pieces of a broken chain to put one on I just use the pliers on my EDC Leatherman Skeletool.

A couple of notes on the Skeletool. The Leatherman bit kit is entirely a waste of cash. The bits fit like crap and it's beyond worrying trying to loosen bolts that are at all tight. Don't bother. If they beef up the one arm and put on a 1/4" bit fitting then I could potentially just carry this as my tool. Also, I use the more expensive CX version, not because of the totally cosmetic carbon finish, but because you get a much higher quality steel blade for the extra money.

I've used Wolf Tooth's Pack Pliers to do many of the jobs I've used the Leatherman for, like truing rotors. The main reason I pack around the extra weight is to have a really usable knife blade with me. I've used it countless times and never go into the woods without it.

Andrews Pack NSMB AndrewM (9).JPG

I never go into the woods without a handy knife and the one on my Skeletool can be used without opening the rest of the tool. The pliers have come in handy many times as well.

More future changes here. I only carry a lighter for starting a fire in an emergency and I'll be changing over to something less fuel-dependent this summer. I'm just having a hard time deciding on which fire-steel kit to go with.

Otherwise, the pouch holds my Park spoke tool, quick-links, and my Dynaplug kit. The Dynaplug plugs are such an improvement over little tire-patching bacon strips that I sound like an insane person when I get fired up recommending them. They are NOT cheap but the refill plugs are reasonable v. their performance and it's 42-grams of not having to walk home.

I'm quite guilty of being 'that guy' who doesn't carry a tube with me on rides anymore and I don't check my sealant often enough so the best plugs are a key to getting me home with a pinch.

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I often have some Tylenol in here. I'm planning to replace the waterproof lighter with fire-steel but otherwise, this has been a great setup.

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I'm sort of ridiculous about my Dynaplug plugs. Most folks I know still carry the bacon strips but I find these seal up more consistently on the trail.

Packing Up

Wow. That seems like a lot of stuff but I'm not sure where I'd start with cutting gear out. I'm definitely not giving up my fresh t-shirt, my neck-tube, any of my tools, my Dakine shell, and if anything I'm swapping the Space blanket for a larger bivy-bag option. So, I guess minus my missing snack this is my kit. I have also previously carried all the tools in a small frame bag to save weight on my back but I only had to forget them on my other bike once to take that option off the table. Testing bikes often calls for me to carry a shock pump, my camera, or extra layers but that's still a comfortable hip-pack load for me, just with the Stealth instead of my Porcelain Rocket Dumpling.

Looking back on past pieces I've written about my kit I've also realized that my last-ditch-walk-out basic-battery Petzl headlamp has gone missing. I feel like I lent it to my wife as the Muddbunnies ride club often finishes spring rides around dusk. Time to repatriate or replace.

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There's everything as it came out of my pack, including the surprise couple-pair-o' gloves at the bottom.

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And, there's it all packed back up. It suddenly seems like a lot of stuff but it feels light & comfy in my hip pack.

I'm a constant fiddler, so this is a snap-shot in time. I'm open to recommendations for changes or additions as long as I can still fit a whole Enduro Potato or a can of beer in there as well. If I want both I'm happy to jump up to the Stealth.

I'm all ears on a recommendation for your best manual fire-starting option and I've also been considering ditching the Leatherman for the combination of the Pack Pliers and a stand-alone folding knife. Beyond that, I'm satisfied with my setup for the moment.

What would you change?

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+2 Pete Roggeman Andrew Major
Vik Banerjee  - March 20, 2020, 6:04 a.m.

I've got a frame bag on all my bikes that got packed well the last time I did a thorough review, but like you I am always surprised how much the contents changes or time and I fail to replace items or remove stuff that got put in unexpectedly. That's a good reminder to unpack and check the contents of my "summer" bike as I get it ready this weekend. :-)


Andrew Major  - March 20, 2020, 8:13 a.m.

Might find all your missing gloves too!


+1 Andrew Major
Vik Banerjee  - March 21, 2020, 8:39 a.m.

Hopefully not that sandwich I misplaced last August! ;-)


+1 Andrew Major
sk8r  - March 20, 2020, 8:37 a.m.

I love the idea of the roll top, which seems to give a little more leeway in packing. I like my Osprey Savu, but at 4L it always seems a little tight, but it does hold my pump, tools, pockets are great for treats, and I have stuffed a gillet and tube into one of the bottle slots.

Hard part is moving my tools and supplies from bike to bike, I throw everything into the frame bag of my gravel bike, and pull them out again when I need a full pack for when you need a few litres of water on your back — plan is to design some sort of pack roll and sew it up just to make it a bit neater.

I do carry a chain breaker multi tool, every time I don’t is when I (or somebody else) needs it, of course if I have it I don’t need it.

And two pairs of gloves, cold weather + plus a lighter pair once your fingers warm up; long, long rides because it is so nice to put on dry gloves at the halfway point (somebody invent durable merino-lined gloves). Short rides one pair.

Completely forgot about my Leatherman, gotta’ be in one these to all these zip ties.


Andrew Major  - March 20, 2020, 1:14 p.m.

My experience with the chainbreaker is that most chains don’t go back together nicely anymore like they used to with 8spd or even 9spd. So I’m using quick-links for all repairs. When I ran Shimano chains I used to carry long pins for years and those required a chain tool but I can rip out the bad links with pliers to install the quick-link and a chainbreaker otherwise isn’t useful.

Zip-ties! I used all mine doing a spot fix on my commuter. Probably a good idea to replenish!


+1 Andrew Major
fartymarty  - March 20, 2020, 11:04 p.m.

We used a chain breaker the other night to single speed an eagle where the mech had fallen apart on a FS bike.  It got my riding buddy through the ride.

I also carry a few extra links (and quick link in my key ring) incase I bend / break a chain.


Andrew Major  - March 22, 2020, 8:31 p.m.

Between going #1FG with that perfectly straight chainline on my hardtail and both moving my ring inboard (straighter chainline on my FS bike in my highest torque gears) and shifting like I'm poor and shitty high-load shifts cost $$ (which they do) I'm knocking on wood (Canadian maple to be precise) but haven't had a chain break in years. If one does I'll use my pliers to break it (snap off the outer plates) and just insert the quick link. Worst case, if I lose a few links, I'll adjust the limits to use the 50t cog I rarely use anyway. 



+2 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman
Agleck7  - March 20, 2020, 9:12 a.m.

On the first aid front, I recommend coban and quickclot and a little gauze.  Both nearly weightless and don't take up much room. The coban is great for all types of cuts and gashes, and paired with the quickclot could save someone from really dangerous blood loss


Andrew Major  - March 20, 2020, 1:15 p.m.

Cool! I’ll add them to the shopping list.


+1 Agleck7
Samuel McMain  - March 20, 2020, 9:26 p.m.

Careful on the coban, if it is applied too tightly it acts like a tourniquet, especially if there's swelling. Very, very bad if you don't notice, obviously.  Also a no no around joints. If, however, you're trying to make a tourniquet in a pinch, Coban is pretty effective. A Voile strap is also great, plus it's like a giant zip tie if you break suspension linkage!


+4 Pete Roggeman Andrew Major sk8r Tremeer023
Cr4w  - March 20, 2020, 9:14 a.m.

Great article. I love this stuff. Especially seeing what weirdo stuff people continue to carry because this one time something happened. It's actually pretty remarkable that, despite much complaining, bikes are better than ever. I rarely have mechanicals and typically If I do have to pull out a tool on a ride It's to make an adjustment not a fix. I can understand people who came up In the modern era (say, the last 12 years) not seeing a need to bring a lot of stuff but damn those of us from before were scarred by many long walks home, vowing to never be caught unprepared again!

One thing I always bring, even on the shortest rides Is a triangle bandage. For some reason this wilderness first aid staple Isn't available at Shoppers - I get mine from MEC. It's the perfect solution for pretty much any flesh wound and can also be tied as a sling. Paired with a tensor bandage you could triage a huge variety of Injuries.


Andrew Major  - March 20, 2020, 1:16 p.m.


I’ll have a look next time I’m at MEC. One issue with not carrying a tube is I don’t have an easy sling with me.


+2 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman
illgobigger  - March 22, 2020, 7:13 a.m.

Check out the Tubolito tiny tubes. Stupid expensive...but i bought one anyway.


+1 Pete Roggeman
Andrew Major  - March 22, 2020, 8:39 p.m.

I know a few folks carrying a Tubolito and I give them a pass because A) they're running single-ply tires to save weight because they're trying to win the climbs on old-fat-slow-people rides and flats happen and B) they have more money than sense (they know who they are and read the comments so Love You Guys!).

In all seriousness, if you're strapping a tube to your bike a few grams don't matter. There's probably even a decent argument to go with something heavier duty to try and avoid a second flat situation.

Personally, I'm running ridiculous-heavy real-sidewall rubber (WTB Heavy Duty casings) in high volume sizing (2.8" or 2.6") and carry plugs. If I smoke something hard enough that I can't air my tire back up I'm hopefully still walking out. On my hardtail (where rear wheel dents happen more regularly) I'm running 334-grams of Plus-Sized Cush Core both front and rear and I'll be riding out flat (it works surprisingly well) with anything I can't repair.


+1 Pete Roggeman
illgobigger  - March 23, 2020, 7:49 a.m.

I started carrying the Tubolito after I put a thumb size rip in my tough casing WTB tire. No plug would plug it. I booted the hole with the package of car size plugs i carry. But of course my tube was rotten because i live in the desert and it had been in my pack for three years. It was cracked at the valve and not patchable.  I rode out on cushcore (which is awesome!) The tubolito is so small and the valve is removeable to keep that precarious spot from breaking off. Being a shop guy I was able to swallow (barely) the wholesale cost. But i admit that all of our Tubolito sales are to the user group you described...and people from Aspen CO!


+2 Pete Roggeman Cr4w
[user profile deleted]  - March 20, 2020, 10:21 p.m.

This comment has been removed.

+1 Pete Roggeman
Andrew Major  - March 22, 2020, 8:43 p.m.

I only ride with salty old assholes - ladies and gents - so if any of my friends are on the verge of tears I know they're right messed up but I am going to update my kit with a triangle bandage since that seems par for the course.

I haven't taken a first aid course in almost twenty years but did a quick online refresher and it turns out it's all still in there from my lifeguard days. Still, probably not a bad idea to sign up for a refresher once life's back to normal.


+3 Pete Roggeman Cr4w JVP
jason  - March 20, 2020, 10:13 a.m.

I have three different packs.  One backpack for longer rides where I need more h2o and clothes.

one bum bag for shuttle/downhill and one bum bag for most uppy downy riding.  In the larger pack I found a 1.5" headset spacer.  I recall that a friend had a 1.5" fork back in about 2002 and did not have the stem set up correctly.  Needed a spacer and nobody had one.  So I put one in my pack. It has been there for 18 years.... Time to take it out.


+2 Ben Andrew Major
Cr4w  - March 20, 2020, 12:58 p.m.

Weird about the spacer. What situation would require needing a spacer If all your squad's bikes were properly set up when you headed out?


Andrew Major  - March 20, 2020, 1:19 p.m.

It’s not weird. In my dirt bag days I had some many friends show up down a spacer with their headset wiggling & jiggling and munching & crunching!

Hilarious that it’s 1.5” though! Can’t think of the last time I saw a 1.5” steerer fork on the trail aside from a Lefty.


+3 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman Vik Banerjee
Tremeer023  - March 21, 2020, 3:35 a.m.

I no longer carry a tube either, just a plug and mini pump.  Been running a frame bag only for every ride for about 4 years now with no issues.  Water, snacks, tissues, multi tool (with small chain tool), spare link, zip tie and Gorilla tape wrapped around the pump all in the bag.  It's a minimalist set up but no problems so far on rides up to 3 hrs.  If you keep your general bike maintenance up together it really helps I find.


+1 Pete Roggeman
Andrew Major  - March 22, 2020, 8:46 p.m.

I used to use Gorilla tape (you can see it on my pump actually under the electrical tape) but switched back to electrician's tape as it's much more flexible and moldable. I use Gorilla tape for all my wheels but can't imagine changing the rim tape in the middle of nowhere.


Andrew Major  - March 22, 2020, 8:47 p.m.

I used to be in the habit (bad habit) of throwing an item in my pack anytime I saw a need on the trail. "Oh, that guy lost a chainring bolt? I better put a full set in my bag!" I've certainly grown out of that now especially since it's rare I'm using my tools on my bike beyond hex keys to adjust my handlebar.


+2 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman
DanL  - March 21, 2020, 11:20 a.m.

If you're in a situation where you need to start a fire, a firesteel cannot beat a lighter/zippo or set of waterproof matches for speed, efficiency and ease of use. Having to start a fire and find kindling that'll support a firesteel is effing miserable.

Just keep them ready and tested like you would your suspension psi


+2 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman
bumVSmtn  - March 22, 2020, 3:26 p.m.

In my stand-alone first aid kit (appx 2x4x5”):

  • Triangle bandage
  • Blood stopper pads
  • Steri-Strips
  • Regular Bandaids
  • Leatherman Micro (scissors/blade)
  • Merino skullcap
  • Lighter
  • Fabric patch
  • Duct tape strip
  • Space blanket
  • Voile strap (wrapped outside)
  • Whistle
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Small pill selection (antihistamine, Tums, Advil, Asprin, and a few individual emergency-only prescription drugs)

Carry this on every ride with a bigger bag in the vehicle if I’m driving to the trailhead.

Not a medical professional, just a 25 year MTB rider with a basic 80 hour first aid class and a couple years of bike patrol experience.


+1 Pete Roggeman
Andrew Major  - March 22, 2020, 8:49 p.m.

Good reminder! I keep saying I'm going to stuff some Steri-strips in my handlebars (just need to remember they're there).


+2 bumVSmtn Pete Roggeman
Karl Fitzpatrick  - March 23, 2020, 2:30 a.m.

I only get out for three hours max since having kids so my set up's light but still heavy fitt dumbed people's tastes. 

Dakine 2L Hot Laps bum bag with: 2 neck gaiters/buffs, an emergency blanket, pair of gloves, puncture kit with quick links and a small 2mm Allen key, one car rack bung cord, a snack/muesli bar, a multi tool, cheap folding pliers/knife dealie and quick link tool.

A packable jacket sits in the hip packs bottle sleeve with a blinky red light on the back and on my bike I have a bottle cage with a duct tape wrapped Blackburn Mammoth pump and a tube wrapped in a bread bag tucked into the junction of my seat and top tubes...

Bit much for my wee rides and I help others more than I help myself but I hate being stuck with a mechanical or worse... a creak...


+2 bumVSmtn Pete Roggeman
IslandLife  - March 23, 2020, 9:16 a.m.

Going from wearing a pack to full pack-less for my usual 2 to 4 hour local rides where walking out is easy... anything further/longer I'll bring my pack with more stuff.

Couple questions for more initiated... trying to decide between a mini-pump or two CO2 cartridges + inflator.. what's the better option?  Or do you think I need both?  Thinking I can get away with 2 x CO2 cartridges + inflator and not bring a pump (except on bigger/longer rides)?

Otherwise my set-up will consist of a OneUp EDC in the steerer with the plug kit (which covers: plug and spare bacons, chain breaker, spoke keys, mini-tool, chain wrench, quick links and chain-ring bolt).  Then a Dakine Gripper bag with levers, 2 x CO2's + inflator, zip ties, small custom first aid set-up, and a tube.  Then a water bottle on the frame and a couple snacks in the pocket.

Just wondering if I bother with the pump.....


bumVSmtn  - March 23, 2020, 11:18 a.m.

I personally rock a OneUp pump with the EDC tool that goes back and forth between the hardtail and the full suspension bike (bought a second pump holder). 

Pump head doubles as inflator and EDC tool features a lever.

Backcountry Research strap with a tube, CO2, and Dynaplug racer.


+2 bumVSmtn Andrew Major
IslandLife  - March 23, 2020, 3:16 p.m.

Nice, sounds similar... I already have a nice Crank Bros Clik HV pump so went the route of the steerer tube solution... but also why I'm thinking about not bringing a pump.  Will play with options and we where I get to, thanks for the reply.

+2 IslandLife bumVSmtn
Pete Roggeman  - March 23, 2020, 12:57 p.m.

My opinion on C02 is that it should only be used when speed is important. Since I very rarely race, that means I only carry it on group rides. Why? Because every person you add to a group increases the chances of a flat (x2 if one of those person's names is Trevor). If those flats add up, it starts to affect everyone's enjoyment in a big way. And even then, you still have to carry a pump as back up - so the C02 is, in addition to being wasteful, also kind of redundant.

The counter to that is that, when riding in groups, we often make sure one person is carrying a pump (usually whomever has the best one - OneUp EDC is a fave with all of us) and one has a shock pump. We spread the load. Theoretically, that can happen with other stuff, too, other than tubes and snacks (and, again, we often make Trevor carry 2 tubes because Trevor).


+1 bumVSmtn
IslandLife  - March 23, 2020, 3:14 p.m.

Thanks, sounds good...  as yes, my thoughts around the CO2 were specific to enduro racing.  So I could easily alter my set-up to delete CO2 and insert a pump for casual rides with more time and to minimize waste.



+1 IslandLife
Andrew Major  - March 24, 2020, 4:55 p.m.

Minimum two pumps! The number of times I’ve gone to use ‘the pump’ a friend brought and the thing was full of water or a right turd 5-years overdue for a rebuild! I always carry my own now.

CO2 can be awesome if you’re try to reseat a tubeless tire - always good to have 1-2 in a group. Otherwise I just reach for the pump.


IslandLife  - March 24, 2020, 4:59 p.m.

Haha, makes sense... thanks for the feedback!


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