Video: Eric Porter Explains the Benefits of 'Trail Pods' - Portable Trail Building Stations

Jun 1, 2019
by Daniel Sapp  

Today is what should be one of the biggest holidays of our mountain bike community, National Trails Day. It seems that there are mountain bike trails almost everywhere nowadays and with the growing number of people riding, along with the growing number of miles of trail, it takes more work than ever to keep them maintained and it's up to us as riders to all pitch in and do a little bit of work.

The Wasatch Mountain State Park has taken a unique approach to trail work through the use of 'Trail Pods'. The pods are a portable station that can be moved around where a couple of tools can be hung so that riders passing through can stop and do a little trail work on their rides. A few minutes here and there can certainly go a long way when everyone pitches in. It's a design and process that can be implemented by communities in many places to help keep trails in shape.

Eric Porter, president of the Wasatch Trails Foundation, shows us how it all works in a video he made while he was recently out on a ride.
This pod was made by Paul Bradshaw. Kathy Donnell came up with the name, signage, and directions.

Not only do the pods provide a place for tools to hang and encouragement to riders to do trail work but volunteer hours can also be logged. This is something that is critical for many trail organizations, especially in securing funding for grants and advocating for increased trail access.


  • + 36
 Not a bad idea if the person operating the tool knows what they’re doing. Put tools in the hands of tools and the trail may be worse than when they started.
  • + 12
 True that patten09 or tools will end up in the back of a some ones tail gate
  • + 19
 @gooseman310: Here in england, basically if it isnt tied down, someone will have it
  • + 3
 Yup, nothing worse than noobs with tools and no direction.
  • + 24
 What may be a solution to the "inexperienced" user picking up the tools and possibly damaging the trail, as well as helping prevent theft, might be a small shed that houses the tools, locked. After you have participated in two or three trail building sessions, you get a key to the lock. All the sheds keyed the same, and at least some sort of control over who gets to use them.

My biggest fear is that people will go and remove all the semi-techy portions of the trail - "smoothing it out" into the dirt sidewalk so many of the trails seem to be turning into.
  • + 8
 I've seen too many people removing rocks in a rock garden to have any faith in the average trail user. Your idea makes perfect sense, which does not belong here on PB. Lol
  • + 3
 On the flip side of this argument is people getting discouraged from helping out when their gnarly fun section of drops, jumps and technical stuff gets torn put because the local trail manager deemed it inappropriate.

Ive worked with local land managers and its wild how Ive built gnarly af moto trails along side land manager who didnt like the idea of a small rock jump (that could easily be rolled) on an another mtb trail.

Lets not get into the fact that equestrian users wont even use the trails their own clubs builds because theyd rather go cross country.
  • + 1
 Put a combo lock on the shed. Then less keys to account for.
  • + 9
 Fostering a sense of ownership is obviously important, but petty crime is everywhere and I think it’s only a matter of time until these tools disappear. Moreover, the ‘trail work’ completed by people may not be in-line with what the trail management has in mind; need I remind everyone of a decade-long era of wooden pallets in the forest and janky ‘north shore’ features?
  • + 4
 I think its great idea. @Patten09 maybe thats idea of providing 2 tools only. If they are new and inexperienced they could cause "damage" but it would limited. It may also inspire them to join a trail day in the futire. Another concern, someone stealing the tools. Great concept though!
  • + 1
 You can do a lot of damage with a mcleod...
  • + 3
 Right now in the Southern CA burn areas after the rain we got the trails have become so overgrown. I've been thinking about doing this at my local trails and put a sign just asking people to hack away at some growth as they walk to keep the trails clear. One of those things where many hands make light work.
  • + 3
 I've been following the lead of one of our local areas & leaving smaller Swedish hand saws hanging on trees on some of the trails I built...Damn, I wish they would see some use...Sort of an aside but why does it seem that bikers are mostly the only users maintaining trails?
  • + 3
 HA HA, place any of these pods in San Diego County and the thievery will be by Cal DFW, Parks and Rec, BLM, Open Space Managers or the NIMBY hiker. Heck not even the tweekers will have a chance at these "PODs" before they are stolen uh, I mean seized. A sad irony for one of the Country's best all year round weather and epic outdoor locations.

Apologies everyone, went off on a frustration rant. I digress. Good idea for those locales that support MTB riding and real advocacy...
  • + 2
 I buy tools at yard sales even paint them black and hide them for later. Almost all of them disappear. Wish they would install these here but I don’t think we will ever see them.
  • + 2
 Yeah I was thinking about doing these at one of the spots where more experienced riders go(Scary-house if you know it) but im sure they would get stolen especially with the weird guy living in the house right now.
  • + 4
 I see stolen tools and/or crappy trail "work".

I have lost many sets of tools that are supposed to stay at the dirt jumps. Maybe its a different user group but I think that's some wishful thinking
  • + 2
 I think a better idea for early season and spring riding is riders should be carrying a Fiskars Bypass Pruner and Folding Saw kit. Easily fits in a pack.

No need to clutter up the trail with these silly stations. And you dont have to hike back up to return the tools. and you dont have to worry about people stealing them.

Post a big note/sign at the trailheads of what people should bring on their ride.

If there's a branch that hits you, trim it. simple.
  • + 2
 Whats I dont get is how damn secretive some trail groups are with trail work locations and plans. This gets more complicated when trails are built or maintained by multiple groups (say National Forest staff, contracted AmeriCorp groups, and local MTB groups). Some sections of traol just magically appear, and whoever flagged them out had no sense of trail flow.

...but back to the point: why not just post on a club website (perhaps a page with login/password connected tk name/address/waiver) the GPS locations of necessary trail work with a map and list of tools needed? This will limit theft, and usually the people who have access to such info will be free to do trail work when its convenient for them.
  • + 2
 QMTBC and the Kelly McGarry foundation did a similar thing for a climb re-route/extension at the top of the fernhill loop. It went ok, things had to be flagged clearly and sooner tidy up work was needed to widen the bench in places, but the trail for built pretty quickly.
  • + 1
 I used to ride often here at Dutch Hollow because its one of my local trail networks. I've put plenty of hours in maintaining and building trails in this network. I stopped riding here when the state park decided to start charging $7 every time you park at the trailhead. They also diverted one of the only flowy downhill sections into a plethora of tight switchbacks and that was it for me, moved on to greener pastures
  • + 5
 We just leave tools leaning against a tree...
  • + 3
 It won't work for many areas, but for this area and many like it, I have high hopes. Great concept. Especially if peeps are honest.
  • + 2
 Used to have things like this (but cycle tools, allen keys ect) along national cycling routes in the UK, wasn't long before they were vandalised/tools stolen from them :'(
  • + 0
 I saw no branches that could not be broken by gloved hands and just as much dirt could have been moved and packed with a good pair of shoes. To all those who ride past this kind of stuff and do nothing WTF. You need tools to build trails but maintenance is on all users. I have left tools to be stolen on purpose in the hopes that others will do work too. This is kind of like that.
  • + 1
 The instructions say "smooth out the path"... not sure who the target audience is for this setup, but I appreciate the effort to maintain the trails
  • + 1
 my experience with leaving tools at the trails is they are used to destroy said trails before they get stolen.

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