As someone who frequently ventures outdoors and sometimes far away from help, I like to think I’m well prepared for mishaps along the trail. I carry food and water, warm clothing and rain gear, tools for my bike and a blister kit for my feet. Still, even with what feels like a backpack full of stuff, many of the mishaps I experience seem to require the one thing I don’t have. Unexpected chafing — why didn’t I bring any chamois cream? A chunk of padding broke off of my saddle — since when did I stop carrying duct tape? Crashed into thorny bushes and ripped up the skin on my arm — really, no bandaids?
A growing number of minor medical mishaps had me looking into portable first aid kits, and that’s right around the time I heard from Andy Amick, a fellow overnight bikepacker and owner of the independent safety kit company Pale Spruce. He asked me if I’d be willing to try and give feedback about his OutThere kits, which contain first aid supplies, emergency gear, and personal care items in a lightweight, waterproof pouch sized to fit in jersey pocket or hydration pack. The kit happened to arrive one day before I left on a three-day, 280-mile bike tour on dirt roads and pavement down the California coast. I didn’t have the time to analyze what was inside, so I threw it in my pack figuring the small amount of extra weight couldn’t hurt.
The first time I broke open the StayOutThere kit was on the second day of my tour, when I was nearly out of food, to see whether there just happened to be an emergency gel or Power Bar inside. There wasn’t, but the bag did contain a number of useful contents that I wouldn’t have thought to pack on my own: spare sunscreen and lip balm, chamois cream, insect repellent, a micro towel, spare toothbrush and toothpaste, an emergency whistle, and the one thing I always need and always forget — duct tape.
The StayOutThere kit also contains a smart and compact collection of first aid supplies, toilet paper, a small emergency LED light, safety pins, super glue, and a razor blade. A survival add-on includes fire-starting tablets, a small lighter, ten feet of paracord, water purification tablets, an emergency blanket, and a small compass. Individually, all are items we might own and pack in our kits on a piece-by-piece basis. But the benefit of the Pale Spruce kits is the well-thought-out collection of all items in one place. As one reviewer of the kit noted, “These kits were an awakening splash of cold water. I realized how unprepared I was if anything happened to me out on the bike.”
“I rode mountain bikes in a lot of places for almost twenty years without carrying any type of first aid or safety items,” Amick said. “I’m sure there are a lot of other riders just like me. The kits are designed to be super small and lightweight so they can fit in a hydration pack or even in a jersey pocket for long rides away from home.”
Amick says he now uses one of the three kits he created whenever he goes out. “Luckily, I haven’t had to use any of the emergency items from the kits,” he said. “For bikepacking, I use the personal items on each trip and I have used the Ibuprofen and band-aids on a couple of occasions. The expanding towels have also come in handy several times.”
The company opened in March 2011, and still operates on a small, out-of-home scale. Amick says he hopes to expand Pale Spruce’s offerings in the coming years, but for now he’s enjoying operating a business that can benefit his friends and family as well as his bottom line. He embarks on overnight rides with his children, ages 8 and 5, on the Colorado Trail and at a local state park.
“Another piece I want to incorporate is giving back to organizations that either support cycling or help with hunger and housing,” he said. “There are paracord bracelets on the site that are already contributing to this, but I would like to do more as the company grows. If the adventure/endurance race kits work out, some of that revenue could be returned back to the events or other cycling groups.”
For more information on Pale Spruce, visit http://www.palespruce.com.