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.
The guides of Western Spirit Cycling are the ultimate hydration pack testers. During the course of a year, these two dozen Sherpas on two wheels lead some 1200 clients on over 100 mountain bike trips all over the western U.S. and Canada. Some guides approach 200 days on the bike — not including personal ride time.
“The most obvious thing is that the packs we use have to be able to carry a lot of stuff,” said Mark Sevenoff, co-founder and owner of Western Spirit, which is in its 26th year of operation. “With all the different wheels sizes, you’re looking at spare tubes for 26, 27.5 and 29. Then there’s a full sized first aid kit, extra food, extra clothing, tools, plus personal gear. It’s a lot of stuff.”
All that stuff fits into the CamelBak K.U.D.U. 18, Western Spirit guide pack of choice for the last several years. Features include an 100oz bladder, 15 liters of cargo capacity, and a multi-layer EVA foam back protector that in a pinch can double as a splint.
“We used to always carry what’s called a SAM Splint,” explained Sevenoff, whose company is based in the rowdy riding zone that is Moab, Utah. “It’s the kind of thing you’d use if a client broke a forearm for instance. But it’s pretty bulky, so we figured out that the back padding in the K.U.D.U. will do the same thing, so it’s saving us space and weight, too.”
The basic Western Spirit packing list is a mix of medical supplies and tools. Sevenoff never leaves home without items such as spare chain pins, spare cleat bolts, multi-tool, torque wrench, chain breaker, tire boot, tire plugs, spare tubes, and duct tape.
“I always have duct tape,” he confirmed. “Even with all the technology advances and fancy new gear, it’s probably the most important thing I carry. There are always at least a couple wraps of the stuff around my hand pump (Blackburn Mammoth in case you’re curious).”
The first aid gear includes all manner of items to stop bleeding and treat pain: gauze pads, first aid tape, ibuprofen, even an epipen. “All of our guides are either wilderness first responders or full EMT,” revealed Sevenoff. “That’s required for operating on the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park, and we just carry it forward for all trips.”
So how has the pack (and gear inside) saved Sevenoff’s backside? Just recently he was leading a ride near Whistler, British Columbia, when he came upon a rider who’d crashed hard and sliced open his elbow.
“It was a mess, all covered in blood and mud,” recalled Sevenoff. “Fortunately we weren’t that far away from a medical facility, so I put a bunch of gauze on it and finished it off with duct tape so he could get down the hill to see a doctor.”
On another ride last summer, Sevenoff was on the famed Colorado Trail between Molas Pass and Durango when he discovered that due to a rim imperfection, his tire had a gaping slice in its sidewall near the Kevlar bead.
“We were 20 miles into a 40-mile day, so it could have been 20 miles of walking,” said Sevenoff. “But instead I used a needle and some dental floss that I was carrying to sew up the gash, and was able to keep riding. Bottom line, the K.U.D.U. has been a great pack for our team. It carries all the gear we need, and is comfortable and durable. Not much more you can ask for.”