Have you ever arrived at your triathlon event only to realize that you’ve left something important behind, like your wetsuit or your energy gels? Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to quickly run home and grab it before the start!
To avoid the panic and possible disappointment that comes along with this occurrence, we’ve put together a triathlon packing checklist for race day.
We recommend writing this down in proper checklist format or downloading a list app onto your phone. That way, you can be sure never to forget any of your gear!
Being well-prepared is the best start to your race! Here’s what we recommend putting on your checklist.
Pre- and Post-Race Items
You won’t arrive at the event in your full race gear. It’s a good idea to take warm clothing to wear before your race begins. Keeping your muscles warm will maintain good circulation, so they’ll be in prime condition for exercise.
You could wear compression gear before your race to keep you warm and stimulate blood flow. If it’s not summer weather, gloves and a hat or beanie are also a good idea to keep you toasty before you start.
Your triathlon transition bag is your headquarters on race day. They’re designed to make your transition as easy as possible between swimming and biking, and biking and running.
You can use a regular gym bag, but it’s not as organized as a dedicated transition bag by a long shot. Knowing exactly where your stuff is in your bag makes life easier and can shave precious seconds off during transitions.
It can also do wonders for your mindset. Knowing that your gear is safe, your wet stuff won’t affect the rest of your gear, and that you can move quickly and efficiently between legs takes a lot of stress off. This alone can improve your performance!
Your race belt not only holds your nutrition for the race, but it’s also an easy and unobtrusive spot for your race number.
We recommend investing in a triathlon race belt rather than a regular running belt. Triathlon belts have a dedicated spot for your race number, and it’s also easy to spin it around and show your number on your back when cycling.
Chafing can be a triathlete’s worst nightmare. Anti-chafing cream is an essential item to pack into your kit. Rather apply it and not really need it than find yourself without it and suffer!
Don’t get caught without sunscreen. Whether the sun is out or not, those rays are beating down on you.
Like chafing cream, rather apply sunscreen and not need it than forget it and suffer the consequences!
Nutrition (Gels/Sports Drinks)
Don’t forget your nutrition during the race! Hydration is part of it. Make sure you have adequate water for the race, and an appropriate way to carry it with you. Carrying a sports drink sachet or electrolyte tablet is also a great idea to replenish what you lose in your sweat.
For a bit of a boost during the race, you can keep a couple of energy gels or energy chews with you.
You should also have a couple of post-workout energy bars in your bag to refuel you once the event is done.
You may not end up needing plastic bags, especially if you have a triathlon bag with a compartment for wet gear. But they’re always handy to have!
You can use them as trash bags or if you want an extra layer between your wet gear and everything else. It’s easy to fold a couple of them up and slip them into your transition bag.
GPS Watch/Activity Tracker
If you do have one, don’t forget it on race day!
Most triathlons don’t allow you to use headphones while you’re racing. But if your pre-race relaxation includes music, don’t leave your headphones at home!
Any Medications You Take
Forgetting your meds can have both mental and physical implications. Make sure you’ve packed everything you need in the right quantities, and that they’re in an easy-to-reach and safe spot in your bag.
You may not be asked for it, but some events will ask for proof of ID so that they know it’s you who entered. Again, rather have it and not need it than forget it and not be able to race!
Nobody wants to sit around in sweaty clothing, whether you’re heading out for post-race celebrations or just driving home.
Take comfy clothing to change into after your race. A towel, wet wipes, and deodorant are also good ideas. That way, you can be clean, dry, and smell fresh after your run!
You never know when you might need cash. Many events provide a meal as part of your registration fee, but if you want to head out for a beer afterwards or grab something else to snack on, having cash on hand is always a good idea.
Items for Swimming
Body Glide is an anti-chafing roll-on. It looks kind of like a stick of deodorant, but you apply it to areas that are at risk of chafing.
You can also apply it to your neck to help prevent your wetsuit from rubbing you the wrong way. Add some to your wrists and ankles to help get your suit on and off easier!
Forgetting your goggles can make for an uncomfortable swim! It’s a good idea to invest in two pairs of goggles.
A light-colored set is great for swimming in cloudy conditions when you need a bit more light into your eyes. A darker-colored set will keep the sun from blinding you on bright days.
If you aren’t sure which you might need on a day, take both! They don’t take up much space in your triathlon bag.
You don’t always need to swim with a wetsuit. It depends on the temperature of the water on the day. You’re only technically required to wear one in water below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
But between 60 and 78 degrees, you can wear one if you desire. It’s up to you if you want to wear a long-sleeved one or a short-sleeved one.
Check the event’s website or social media on the day to find out what the expected temperature of the water is. That will help you decide which wetsuit to pack! They are often not allowed, but if the water is really cold you may be able to wear swim gloves, too.
Swim caps are often required, but not always. It’s worthwhile to swim with one, though. It can make you more streamlined in the water!
If you aren’t sure if it’s required or not, take it along anyway. You don’t want to be disqualified for such a small thing!
A triathlon suit is a single-piece or two-piece suit designed specifically for multi-sport events. It’s thin enough to be worn under wetsuits but durable enough to wear while running or cycling.
Transition Towel or Mat
A transition towel or mat not only serves as a way to lay all your gear out neatly, but it can also be a great visual aid to find your bike when you get out of the water!
Choose a brightly colored one so you can spot your bike at a glance. There are few worse things than wasting precious time because you can’t find your bike!
Ears and Nose Plugs
These take up hardly any space in your kit and can save you the discomfort of getting water in your ears and nose. It could be a good idea to keep an extra set in your bag in case one gets lost or damaged.
Items for Cycling
You can’t cycle without a bike. But you may be surprised how easy it is to forget about the large item when you’re focusing on all the little stuff!
Make sure your bike is in good working condition the night before – especially if you had to ship your bike. Place it with the rest of your triathlon gear and your car keys so you don’t forget anything in the morning!
It’s worth using a bike travel case to protect while traveling.
You can ride in just your tri-suit. But there’s not a lot of padding in sensitive areas! You can choose to wear special triathlon shorts that are made to be run, swum, and biked in.
The right bike shorts should also be moisture-wicking and made from microfibers that don’t chafe.
You can cycle in your running shoes. But your performance can be greatly improved by using a pair of shoes that clip into the pedals. Strangely enough, these are known as clipless shoes!
When you’re clipped into your pedals, you generate power both pushing the pedals down and pulling them up. When you aren’t clipped in, you have to rely on momentum to bring the pedals up again.
If you forget your cycling shoes, you can still use your regular shoes. But you’ll cycle noticeably faster and fatigue more slowly if you use proper cycling shoes.
On a bike, you have slightly less space for hydration. Longer races will need a sports drink or electrolyte supplement as well as water. Take two or three water bottles along so you have enough.
Flat Tire Kit Bag
A flat tire can ruin your entire triathlon. Make sure you have a flat kit installed under your saddle and that it has everything you need to fix a flat quickly.
Also, familiarize yourself with the contents and how to use them before racing! Having one but not knowing how to use it won’t help you at all.
You don’t need fancy sunglasses. There’s always a chance they may get dropped, scuffed, or even stepped on! But they’re an essential piece of equipment to keep you safe on the road and bike.
A good pair of sunglasses will protect your eyes from strain, harmful rays, and debris.
Items for Running
You can use any pair of running shoes, as long as they’re the right ones for your feet. But if you’re aiming for speed, try to get a pair of triathlon shoes with quick-laces or speed laces so you don’t waste any time lacing them up.
The wrong socks can cause blisters and make for a miserable race! Choose a pair that’s lightly cushioned, moisture-wicking, antimicrobial, and quick-drying. It’s always advisable to have an extra pair or two in your bag!
Your running belt will house your snacks, water bottles, chews, gels, bars, electrolyte tablets, and anything else you may want close by while you’re out and about.
A running hat is a good idea in warm weather. Not only will it prevent you from getting sunburned on the top of your head (ouch!) but the visor will provide an extra layer of protection for your eyes and face.
If you overheat easily, you can wet a couple of small sponges and place them inside your hat to keep you cool!
Wet wipes are a great accessory. They can be used to wipe your face, chest, arms, or even armpits if you’re feeling a little waterlogged after the race. They’re also great to keep in your running belt in case you need a bit of a refresher while you’re running.
You can get them in small packs that fit nicely into a race belt. If you don’t want to fiddle with a pack, you can remove a few beforehand and place them in a ziplock bag in your belt for easier access.