If you’re preparing for your first triathlon, you might be a little overwhelmed with everything that you have to do. Hopefully, this list will make your life easier because we’ll cover all the gear items you need as well as those that are nice to have too.
We’ll discuss what each item is, what it’s used for, and why it’s needed (or why you might want to have it if it’s a nice to have). By the end of the article, you’ll know exactly what you need to purchase before your first triathlon.
Most of these items go without saying if you want to participate in a triathlon (like a swimsuit, for example!), but we’re also discussing why they are important so that you have a better idea of the significance of particular gear.
This is the gear you’ll need to start the first triathlon event: the swim.
You need goggles so that you’re able to see underwater well without water getting into your eyes. And you might even want to have two to be prepared for any condition race day. For example, clear/light tint goggles are great for indoor pools or cloudy days.
However, having a smoke-tinted pair of goggles is helpful for very sunny days so that you can use them like sunglasses and have less difficulties spotting buoys when it’s bright out. Since you don’t know what weather race day will bring, better to have two pairs.
Obviously for swimming, you won’t be jumping into the water into your street clothes, so you’ll need a swimsuit of some sort. If this is your first triathlon, you can use anything that you have at home.
But if you’re planning to make triathlons a more permanent part of your life, you might want to purchase a wetsuit—the one for triathlons, not surfing or diving because those could slow you down! More on wetsuits later.
To help you swim faster, you’ll want a swim cap because they reduce drag and friction. You might also get the added benefit of warmth if it’s a particularly cold day. Swim caps are also good for visibility if you pick one that is a bright color.
You’ll want a towel so that you can dry off quickly and then use it to stand on as you put on your cycling shoes and get ready for the cycling section of the triathlon.
Now that you’ve made it through the first section of the triathlon, let’s go over what’s needed for the second.
Obviously, you’re not going to be going anywhere without a bike, but don’t feel like you need a really fancy one, especially for your first triathlon. A road bike or mountain bike will work just fine.
However, if you want to participate in triathlons more regularly, then you will want to consider a tri bike because it will allow you to go a lot faster, improving aerodynamics and efficiency.
If you’re not ready to level up to a tri bike, you can add accessories to your road bike that will help you go faster like disc wheels.
Growing up, your mom probably told you that you had to wear a helmet when you rode your bike. Well, even though you’re an adult now, you still must wear a helmet in order to participate in a triathlon.
If you’re just going to be participating in shorter triathlons, a road helmet will be just fine, so you can probably use what you have at home. However, if you have a tri bike that puts you in an aero position, you probably will want an aero helmet.
Flat Tire Repair Kit
While getting a flat tire is the last thing that you want to happen, it’s important to be prepared. Some races will have flat tire repair kits you can use in the case of a flat tire on the course, but you don’t want to have to rely on that.
Just make sure that you know how to change a tube before race day. You definitely don’t want to be learning on the spot! You might want to watch this video and any others that you need to in order to be prepared.
Finally, when you’re putting together or purchasing a flat tire repair kit, make sure that it has two spare tubes, two tire levers, a Co2 cartridge and adapter or a hand pump, a bike multi tool, and a saddle bag to store all of the above items.
Staying hydrated is important for any sport, and cycling is one of the sports where it is easy to carry a water bottle with you without having to hold it in your hand. So you might as well do that.
If it’s a really hot day, you’ll be able to use that water bottle both for drinking as well as throwing water on yourself to stay cool. When it’s easy to slip a water bottle into the holder on your bike, there isn’t any reason to do it.
Finally, you made it to the last section, which requires the least amount of gear that is absolutely necessary!
All you really need for a triathlon is a pair of good running shoes. If you’re a runner who has transitioned to running triathlons as well, you’re good to use the running shoes that you already have. You just might want to put speed laces on your shoes so you get them on quicker.
Another option is wearing specially designed running shoes for triathlons. These are designed to let you run barefoot with no seams inside so that you can switch from the bike to the run without having to worry about socks.
Depending on how long the run is and where the aid stations are, you may or may not want to bring a water bottle. Of course, you can always use a handheld water bottle, but you might prefer a hydration belt so that it is more comfortable when you run.
Just figure out what works for you and your hydration needs as well as what you’re realistically going to be able to carry after the swim and the bike portions of the triathlon when you’re super tired and still have to run.
Nice to Haves
If you don’t want to purchase a lot of gear for your first triathlon, stop here. You now know everything that you need to purchase if you don’t already have it. However, if you want to see what will make the triathlon more comfortable, read on.
We’re back to the first part of the triathlon again.
While a swimsuit will work just fine for your first couple tries, you’ll be a lot more comfortable in a wetsuit. But wetsuits do require some shopping around. You want to make sure that it’s just tight enough so that you can get the benefits of reduced drag and increased buoyancy.
A wetsuit is supposed to fit really tight. In a sense, it’s almost like a second skin. Try different brands to see what fits you and your body type. Remember that they are very fragile and need to be treated with care.
Wetsuit Anti-Chafing Lube
Even if you get a wetsuit that is the right size for you, it’s possible that you could still deal with chafing. That’s why you’ll want to use an anti-chafing lube like Bodyglide or Trislide to avoid that uncomfortable feeling and the possibility of blisters.
Apply liberally around your neck and around the armholes if you’re wearing a sleeveless wetsuit. You can also use the lube to remove the wetsuit more easily by applying it to your wrists and ankles.
A transition mat can make things more comfortable as you’re changing into your shoes for the cycling portion of the triathlon, giving you something cushiony to stand on. It will also help you avoid getting sand and dirt in your clothing.
Now we’ve reached the second portion of the triathlon—the cycling portion.
If you’re going to participate in a lot of triathlons, you’ll want a tri suit because you can wear it during the swim, bike, and run without having to change at all. This means that you’ll spend much less time during your transitions, meaning your time will be faster.
While you don’t need special shoes for the bike section of a triathlon, cycling shoes will make you go a lot faster because of the efficiency in power transfer from your leg to the pedal.
There are cycling-specific shoes as well as cycling tri shoes. You’ll probably want the latter because they are easier to take off and you can wear them without socks if you so desire because they are seamless inside.
A race belt can be useful because then you don’t have to use safety pins to attach your number to your clothing. With the race belt, you’ll have already attached your number to it so you can snap on the belt quickly to go into the bike or run portions.
This also will keep your clothing in better condition because you won’t have to put safety pins through really nice technical gear and potentially ruin it.
Depending on where you live, sunglasses might actually be must-haves if it gets really bright there. Plus, the other benefit of sunglasses is that they can protect your eyes from debris and wind when you’re flying down the course and in training.
Just make sure that you select sunglasses that will fit with your bike helmet. If you’re thinking about changing up your helmet, make sure that your sunglasses will fit with the new helmet or get a new pair of shades.
You might even want to consider purchasing sport sunglasses with light frames and that come with photochromatic lenses, which will change tint as needed to adjust for different light conditions. This could be very useful for longer triathlons.
At least you’ve come to the end of the triathlon and the running section. Here are some things that might make the run easier.
If you’re going to be running when it’s raining or it’s really sunny outside, you might want to have a running hat to keep you protected from the elements. Plus, running hats are made of nice breathable material, so you won’t really even know that it’s there.
You might even want to purchase a running hat that has a built-in sweatband to help keep sweat out of your eyes if you’re especially prone to sweating or you just don’t want to have to keep wiping the sweat away.
As we mentioned above, speed laces or elastic laces can help you get those running shoes on so much faster, which will just make things less stressful during the transition. Plus, it will be easier to slip on those shoes and go for a run.
There are a lot of other things you can purchase for a triathlon like a transition bag, arm and knee warmers, arm coolers, compression clothing, and so forth. If any of that sounds interesting to you, then you might want to look into it.
However, while all of those things are useful if you’re going to be participating in a lot of triathlons, something that will be beneficial if you just want to stay physically active and/or if you’re a runner is a GPS watch.
GPS or Waterproof Watch
A GPS or waterproof watch will help you track your distances, paces, and training. You also could receive information about your heart rate and how hard of a workout you’re putting in. This is key for helping you train and be the best athlete you can be.
In the end, this is an exciting time because you’re getting into a new sport and a new event. While it can seem a little overwhelming, knowing the gear that you need takes one thing off your back.
By making sure that you’re prepared for the event with your gear, you can be sure that your first triathlon will go well and you might just find yourself participating in a lot more. Good luck!