Editor’s Note: This article is part of the Mtbr Guide to hydration packs, featuring the new CamelBak Low Rider line. To see all the articles, head over to the Low Rider hydration pack hub page. This article and all the articles in this section are courtesy of CamelBak.
Rebecca Rusch’s nickname says everything you need to know about her. The Ketchum, Idaho resident is the Queen of Pain. You could also call her strong, determined, brave, and, of course, successful. During a long and prolific competitive career, Rusch has triumphed in everything from whitewater rafting and adventure racing, to orienteering and cross-country skiing. Of course she’s also a pretty good bike racer. Indeed, since shifting her focus to the two-wheeled world, Rusch has taken victories in the Leadville Trail 100 (four times), the Dirty Kanza 200, and at the 24 Hour World Championships. She also owns the record for fastest time on the 142-mile Kokopelli Trail.
Notice a theme here? Yep, Rusch is a serious long distance specialist with a penchant for mega-mile rides. No wonder then that she counts her trusty CamelBak hydration pack among her most valuable pieces of riding gear. We caught up with Rusch to find out what she carries on the trail, and how that gear contributed to her most recent race, the 500-mile Italy Divide.
Question: What do you look for in a hydration pack?
Rebecca Rusch: Obviously it has to carry water and gear, but what I really like are packs where you can compartmentalize. It’s the Virgo in me. That means lots of small pockets and compartments that help me keep things organized. Comfort and fit are also key for the long haul racing I do. My pack can’t move around or chafe or jiggle too much. And of course I like it to look cool, too.
Q: Ok, so what is the essential gear that you always carry in all those pockets in your CamelBak?
RR: No. 1 is bike repair stuff. That includes a multi-tool, chain breaker, quick link, small bottle of WD-40 chain lube, one tire lever, Crankbrothers mini pump, one tube, one tire boot (or a GU wrapper), and tire plugs. I also bring my cell phone for taking pictures and in case of emergency, GU nutrition, and a Castelli rain jacket for unexpected rain storms in the mountains. If it’s more of an adventure ride, I add in a medical kit with Benadryl, duct tape, sterile strips, wound cleaner, bandages, anti-inflammatory medicine, quick clot, Tegaderm, a mini head lamp, and a few other things. You have to be prepared for just about anything.
Q: So carrying capacity is obviously one of the main reasons why you opt to use a pack instead of bottles?
RR: Yeah, carrying capacity and ease of hydration. For me, even when racing, it’s easier and more efficient to grab a drinking tube near my mouth than to reach down for a bottle. I find I drink more regularly with a CamelBak vs. bottles. Sure for short training rides, I’ll still use bottles. But for longer rides or races, I always use my CamelBak and often additional bottles if it’s a long way between refueling stops. I can put my liquid calories in the bottles and keep the CamelBak for plain water.
Q: What extra gear do you add to your pack if you think the weather may get ugly?
RR: Actually a shower cap and a pair of surgical gloves are almost always in my CamelBak because they’re so small and light. And if I know for certain that the weather will be bad, I’ll bring a pair of shell gloves, extra insulation layers, and a heavier waterproof jacket.
Q: What’s your rule of thumb for how much water to carry related to ride time and distance?
RR: I target about 20-25 oz per hour.
Q: Tell us about a time when having your CamelBak and the gear inside kept you out of trouble?
RR: It was at my most recent race, the Italy Divide. It was a 500-mile self supported bike packing adventure. I wore a CamelBak Rogue and used every bit of gear I brought with me. The weather was 40-50 degrees and raining for much of the race, so the conditions were cold, muddy, and intense. I used all of my extra clothing, my chain lube, multi-tool, lights, you name it. I had to stop regularly to re-supply for food. But since it was Italy, that included plenty of pizza and cappuccino. I’d fold up a few slices, put them in my CamelBak and have them on the trail later.
Q: Lastly, tell us about one of your other great passions, the SRAM Gold Rusch Tour.
RR: For sure. The general idea is to get women of all ages outdoors and on their bicycles. This year’s tour features five unique events with the goal of increasing women’s participation in mountain biking and cycling by offering fun, social, and non-intimidating venues that educate and empower. It’s a great time.