8 Essentials for your Mountain Bike First-Aid Kit

One second, I was singing, cruising through a non-technical corner, and the next, I was on the ground writhing in pain. It was the first morning of a weekend trip to our favorite desert destination. We had an awesome crew of friends together for some early spring biking and to bask in the warmer weather. We had locked down an ideal campsite and could bike to the best trails—we were set up for success!

I’d been taking up the rear, watching my friends cruise through techy rock fields and following their lines. We had gotten through most of the technical stuff and were cruising along when it happened. It always happens when you least expect it… looking back, it’s not that surprising; I was way more into singing than what was ahead!

So there I was, my face full of sand and still clipped in with my bike on top of me, trying to holler through empty lungs for a friend to help me out. When help arrived a few seconds later, I realized I couldn’t straighten my right arm without wanting to throw up. 

As luck would have it, the first friend on the scene was a ski patroller, and she jumped into action. 

“This will work!” she said, pulling a spare tube out of her pack. 

She wrapped the tube around my neck to my amazement, and a makeshift sling was born. The sling held my arm in a comfortable position so I could walk back to camp and then to a clinic.  

This whole experience got me thinking… a tube can make a great sling, but what else can I have in my pack in case of emergencies? So here is a packing list for making your own basic mountain bike first aid kit. This kit can help you through minor biking injuries. You don’t need any training to put these everyday items to use. For any medical emergencies, including head and neck injuries, severely broken bones, or anything of that sort, always call 911. A charged phone should always be with you on the trail.  

The Best First-Aid Kit Is the One With You

This may seem obvious, but many people neglect to bring basic emergency items on their rides. I never carried much with me until the incident with my arm made me realize that a few small things could have made me much more comfortable. 

The idea here is to carry only the things you need, items that pack a punch and will hold you or a friend over until you can get to a clinic or camp where a larger kit awaits. When you’re riding, no one wants to carry more than they have to. So we recommend having a baggie with small essentials in your pack that can be restocked whenever needed. 

We aren’t medical professionals, so we suggest carrying easy-to-use basic items. There are some fantastic first aid kits online that are comprehensive and can cover you in more situations. For those who want to take an extra step toward preparedness, there are also excellent courses like this wilderness first-aid or wilderness first responder course, to learn how to treat people in backcountry situations. With those skills and the larger kits, you could help save someone's life. 

MTB first aid kit

What to Have In Your MTB First Aid Kit

  1. A Bike Tube

    This had to make the list, given the story I just told. I know many people are riding tubeless these days, though; read on for other options that can do the same. If you are carrying one, roll it up and put a rubber band around it. That rubber band could also come in handy in an emergency.

  2. Duct Tape

    Duct tape is perhaps the greatest Swiss army knife of all. From making quick fixes on your bike to holding gauze in place. It can make a mess, but the goo can be cleaned, and its benefit is undeniable.

    Rather than biking around with an entire roll, you can make your own. Cut the cardboard from a TP roll in half, and wrap the duct tape around that multiple times, so that it sticks to itself. You can flatten that roll so that it’s super compact and easy to carry.

  3. Band-Aids
    Pick up a variety pack and some Steri-Strips from the grocery store, and carry a couple of each size with you. Everyone knows how to use them; they are effective and easy.

  4. Pain Killers and Other Meds
    Remember, this is just your riding kit, so having 2-3 doses of your painkiller of choice is all you should need to carry. Chewable Benedryl is also great to have on hand in case of an allergic reaction. The chewable gets into your system and works quicker than a typical allergy pill.

    If you’re like me and have an unknown outdoor allergy, keep an EpiPen in your pack. Even though it’s more expensive, I buy a two-pack so I can leave one in my bike pack and never forget it. If you have an Epi-worthy allergy, let the crew you’re riding with know where to find it, just in case they need to use it on you.

  5. Self-Adhesive Bandage
    Like duct tape, you can make a small, to-go roll. This bandage is great for use in the field. Combined with a stick, it can be used to make a splint, hold a bandage in place, or even hold pesky flyaway hairs out of your face!

  6. Neosporin, Alcohol Wipes, and Gauze Pads
    Clean any wounds quickly, cover them up and continue your ride.

  7. Tweezers
    This is one I just recently started carrying as it took one too many run-ins with a cactus to realize its value. A small set of tweezers make it a whole lot easier to get those buggers, any splinters, or small rocks out of a wound.

    If you have a multi-tool, these sometimes have tweezers in them and are a great addition to your bike kit.

  8. Gummy Bears, Honey Stick, BLOKS, or Other Snacks
    Any of these sources of sugar can help prevent bonking. Having a boost of sugar never hurts; it can keep you moving, give you energy, and get you a little something in your stomach to take a pain med if you are sensitive. One or multiple sugary snacks are always in my bag. Even if you don’t get hurt, having them for hot days or days when you need a little something is wonderful.

These eight essentials can help make any small incidents on the trail bearable. If you are prepared, you will feel more equipped for any little thing the dirt gods have in store. There are ready-to-buy kits on the market, but many people can find these items in their homes. Throw them in a small Ziploc bag, and put the bag in your bike pack so it’s always with you!

Beyond the Kit: Other Essentials to Keep You Safe on the Trail

Apart from the carry-along first aid kit, other gear is very important to keep you from getting to the point of needing first aid. These pieces of gear will help prevent injury and help you get help if needed.

  1. Quality Helmet
    Helmets can be expensive but are far cheaper than a head injury. Getting a new one every couple of years makes a difference for the old noggin. If you’ve taken a hard fall while wearing a helmet, invest in a new one; your life could depend on it.

  2. Full-Finger Gloves
    Give your fingers an extra layer of protection and help resist blisters during long rides. They are super-breathable and comfortable. If you haven’t worn gloves yet, do it; you’ll notice a HUGE difference.

  3. Knee Pads
    Knees and shins tend to take a beating on the trail. Good padding just makes your rides more pleasant, keeps the bloody knees to a minimum, and keeps the joints more protected.

  4. A Smartphone and/or Outreach Device
    You probably have your phone with you on trail anyway. Take advantage of built-in tools like Apple’s Medical ID to keep your info up to date. Always have it on you and make sure it’s charged so you can reach out to someone in case of an emergency. If you know you will be out of cell service, an outreach satellite GPS device, like Garmin’s inReach, can be a lifesaver.

    Even with these devices, let someone you’re not riding with know where you will be and when you expect to be back so they can keep tabs on you. 

Be Safe on Your MTB

These tools are must-haves for every mountain bike ride. A good mountain bike first aid kit and solid equipment will help you stay safe. Use your head while out on the trails, bring your new first aid kit, and think about the dangers ahead of you. 

Mountain biking is fun, exhilarating, and can also be risky. Assess the risks you are willing to take before each ride. Being upfront with your group about your comfort level is huge to keeping yourself safe. Always know what you are getting into; it’s possible to inspect obstacles you are unsure of while still having a good time. When in doubt, walk the section. There is no shame in that game! 

Get out there, use your heads, and have your new first aid kit at the ready! 

Authored by Kaden contributor Brenna Ellis.


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