Packing a Proper Kit for Long Trips:
In June, we asked you to tell us about your essentials for a long rail-trail trip. Whether our responders learned from some early mistakes—like forgetting chain lube on long, dusty trails—or meticulously plan their adventures all the way down to tweezers, moist towelettes and alcohol swabs, the common theme for all was prepare, prepare, prepare.
So take a few of these tips, and you'll be sure to enjoy extended rail-trail excursions with as few hitches as possible.
Susan and Edd Mcelveen - Charlotte, N.C.
Last year Edd and I did the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal towpath in a two-week period. We wanted to take our time to really enjoy it. It took me six months to plan the trip and four and a half hours to make the reservations at various hotels and motels. The two things that pop up in my mind were that I took the little packets of tide for washing our clothes, and the one thing I did forget was lube for the chain. We didn't realize the fine dust along the trail. Fortunately, there were bike repair shops along the trail. While they would clean and lube our bikes, we would have lunch in town. We had such a grand time that we are planning to ride the trail again to see the things we didn't see the first time. And I won't forget the lube!
Ann and Fred Abeles- Frederick, Md.
We always have: 1. A tire repair kit consisting of tire levers, spare tubes, patches, tweezer (for pulling out glass or thorns), pen or pencil for marking hole in tube, pump, sun screen and napkin for cleaning hands when done. 2. Water; at least two bottles per person for 30-40 miles, more if the trip is longer. 3. A first aid kit: Neosporin® or Bacitracin, several sizes of bandages including big patches, alcohol swabs or hand cleaning packets, clean napkins or tissues, and After Bite (for insect stings). 4. Sunscreen, hand sanitizer, tissues, sunglasses, camera, small bike lock. 5. Duct tape, tool set like the Alien and a Swiss Army knife.
Other items that are nice to have on long trips (besides your lunch) include a cell phone, a small crescent wrench, a pad of paper and pencil, some dried fruit and/or trail mix, spare spokes, a small whisk broom (for cleaning glass off paved trails), spare battery for bike computers, small bottle of insect repellent, rain jacket, small saw (for clearing fallen branches), small pack or pannier for carrying something unexpected, and a bungee cord or two.
What has surprised my husband and I is how many times I have used my first aid kit to treat someone who has fallen while biking or hiking on these trails, children and adults. Frequently they don't even have any water to wash the gravel off the scraped area and never have any bandages to cover the scrape or hold together the flaps of skin.
Over the years we have used everything in the list above, except the spokes. We often need the crescent wrench to make adjustments on children's bikes, as they usually do not have any quick releases. We frequently need our saw when riding on the forested trails in states such as Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, etc. The paper and pencil are handy when you want to exchange names with other trail users. Finally, I want to comment on the snacks. Too often we find discarded wrapers from energy bars and gel packs. One can carry dried fruit in a reusable bag and it will supply as much energy and vital nutrients more economically and without waste. Also, sunscreen, which you should always have and use, is a wonderful hand cleaner after working on a bike, and it also helps remove those distinctive chain marks on your legs.
Richard Kandalec - Mentor, Ohio
Two buddies (Bil and Crow) and I rode the Great Alleghany Passage last September, leaving from Boston, Pa., on a Saturday afternoon and arriving in Washington, D.C., the following Friday. We did the trip totally self-supported with each of us pulling a BOB trailer containing all our gear. We camped out each night in a different location and had to be prepared for any kind of September weather in the Northeast. Looking back at our list of essentials, in no particular order, we brought an extra tire, tube and spoke for our trailers since they were 16" and possibly hard to find on the trail. We brought several waterproof bags to keep things dry. We also wore a CamelBak so we would not have to stop to drink or take one hand off the handlebar for too long to reach for a bottle. We each carried extra water on our bikes just in case we could not find decent cooking or drinking water at our next campground (and this sure came in handy at two of them). I suppose the most important thing of all, though, since our seats spent the next 350 miles on a bike seat, was Chamois BUTT'r, if you get my drift.
LouAnn Williams - Lehighton, Pa.
Over the years I have made sure my three children, ages 19, 22 and 25, husband and nephew have bike packs with a tool kit, patches and one innertube along with an airpump. When we do a long ride, I make my own trail mix so everyone waits for me if I'm slow that day. Fluids are a necessity, of course, and before digital I always made sure I had enough film.
Ernie Bay - Puyallup, Wash.
I use the Puyallup River Walk, which is soon to connect with a 15-mile stretch of the Foothills Trail in Pierce County, Wash., on almost a daily basis. Whenever I bicycle downtown for errands, I purposely deviate several blocks to return home on the River Walk, which although a longer ride, is far more pleasant than renegotiating the original traffic and intersections. The River Walk connects two major shopping centers, one of which I regularly visit before departing the trail for my home neighborhood. I find that riding five miles on the trail seems no longer than one mile through city traffic.
For shopping, I use an easily detachable rectangular vinyl waste basket which I secure to my rear carrier with a pair of "S" hooks and a loop of two-sided, self-clinging velcro. This is also handy for collecting litter along the trail.
Bill and Judy Burgett - Hagerstown, Md. (soon to be Powhatan, Va.)
My wife and I regularly ride the 22-mile Western Maryland Rail Trail, which runs in sight of the Potomac River and the C&O Canal towpath. It is a great, rail-grade trail that is well-maintained and has a quaint town smack dab in the middle (Hancock, Md.). I always carry tools and tubes for tire and other repairs and have often come to the rescue of tool-less riders along the trail. Snacks and drinks are usually whatever is available in the way of crackers, fruit and cold drinks, but two bottles of water per bike is a must. My wife is 67 and I'll be 70 this month. We've both been riding since childhood, but began bike excursions after retirement.
Ken Parkany - Vernon-Rockville, Conn.
Nationally, my wife Linda and I take the same snack, first aid and elementary emergency tube repair essentials as below. But on our first national ride , we discovered a nasty "nettle" common to southwest trails that will ruin any ride, short or long, very quickly, and dissipate the contents of your standard emergency tube repair kit. After walking miles back to the car, the locals advised two necessary items: first, "slime" tube sealant and/or tubes with sealant already inside them, and second, a CO2 cartidge dispenser and plenty of spare cartridges for our emergency tube repair kit. We replaced our tubes with slime tubes and carried a pack of C02 cartridges and were "worry free."
Locally, besides the emergency kit above and a small first aid kit, we snack on peanut butter saltine crackers that we make at home, and we place four each in sealable "snack" type plastic bags. This type of snack is recommended by nutritionists for in-between meals. We also include dark chocolate (broken, "cheaper" pieces) from Munson's, a local chocolate candy manufacturer. Dark chocolate is again for nurtrition (anti-oxidant) and a quick energy pick-up. We also buy trail mixes in bulk at places like Trader Joes or similar natural food stores. We each carry a 24-ounce insulated water bottle.
Noel Keller - Tustin, Calif.
I spent 14 days riding on the Missouri Katy Trail State Park in both directions with a TriCruiser. I packed my ID, money, extra water, tire tools with a homemade jack stand so that I could patch tubes sitting on the seat with rim off the ground (had three flats), small hand air pump, honey/oats nature bars, Quaker Chewy Granola Bars, rain jacket, camera, GPS, cell phone, note pad, straw hat over my helmet and handy wipes.
Mr. Ed - Bethel, Conn.
My typical ride is between 10 and 30 miles depending on who I'm riding with. I took a quick inventory of my rack and underseat packs and here's what I found: inner tube; tiny first aid kit (not much more than band aids and a tiny flashlight with a dead battery); #1 phillips screwdriver and a #2 stubby phillips screwdriver; MACE spray, expired Dec. 2004 and buried so deep I'd never get to it if I needed it (I did once need it); CO2 inflater with two 16-gram loads; a very nice small LED flashlight with lithium batteries (10-year shelf life); pack of postage stamp-size, adhesive-backed tube patches; a very old stick type insect repellent; a newer package of insect repellent towelettes (I should throw away the stick);
two combination wrenches; four sizes of hex keys. I'm not sure why I carry a spare tube but not tire levers. I suppose I should address that.
Everything except for the first aid kit, inner tube and camera fit in my little under-seat pack, leaving room in the rack pack for a big sandwich, several candy bars and a canned beverage stuffed in a ziplock bag with a small ice pack. My favorite snacks while riding are Snickers and beef jerky.