No matter what your experience level is, wearing proper protective gear is a must while off-road riding. Sooner or later, falls are inevitable. Knowing what to wear (and how to wear it) is key to reducing the hurt if and when you go down.
Helmet. Your helmet is by far the most important piece of protective gear for safe riding. Period. Full-face helmets with a chin bar are recommended over open-face helmets.
Goggles. Protecting your eyes is just as crucial as safeguarding your head, so never ride without some type of eye protection.
Gloves. Not only does a good pair of gloves protect your hands during a fall, they also help prevent fatigue and soreness.
Boots. The best rule of thumb is a good pair of motocross or enduro riding boots. The shin protection is better (than other boots), and the heavy-duty steel-shank soles provide maximum armor for your arches.
Chest protector. This helps shield your chest, shoulders and back against impact (when you fall) as well as from trail “roost” (debris kicked up by other riders).
Knee/shin guards. While a pair of moto-boots provides good protection for your shins, Knee guards are recommended to take your leg armor one step further.
Elbow guards. Two of the first things to hit the ground in a crash (after your hands in most cases) are your forearms and elbows. Protect them.
Kidney belt. Highly recommended for lower back and kidney support while bouncing about on the trails.
What to Pack
Obviously, a lot of what you pack will depend on where and how far you intend to ride. A casual ride around your campsite won’t demand the same level of preparation as, say, a 100-mile loop in Baja. Consider the following a basic checklist for any type of ride:
Camelbak or similar hydration system
Fuel can with extra gasoline (keep this with your truck/car)
Fender or fanny pack toolkit
Extra spark plugs
Spare brake and/or clutch levers
Air pump or compressed air tank
Tire pressure gauge
Emergency tire repair kit
Spare inner tubes and tools
First aid kit
Drinking water (for your base camp and refilling the Camelbak)
Cooler with fruit, snacks and drinks
Spare clothes (post-ride comfort is key)
Tent, sleeping bag(s), and cooking utensils (if planning an overnight stay)