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How to Pack for a Triathlon

Everyone knows the mantra ‘failure to prepare is preparing to fail’, and it is likely that if you are training for your first triathlon you are at least somewhat organised, after all – if you’ve managed to train for three sports, show up at work and your friends and family are still speaking to you, then you’ve possessed some juggling ability.

But as the race day nears ever closer on the calendar, it is easy to feel a bit overwhelmed, there is so much kit, what to take and what to leave at home? What if you forget something really important? I see some people turn up at races with more kit than I’d take on a two week holiday.

Personally, I don’t see the point of being lumbered with more than you need. Everywhere you look there are brands trying to sell you the next piece of ‘essential’ kit for triathlon and it’s hard to figure out what you do and don’t need, especially if you’re a newbie. You want to minimise stress on race day, and so packing the day before means you can focus on the race when the time comes.

For starters, you don’t need a fancy bag or box for all your triathlon kit, I just use a big rucksack so I can put in on my back and ride my bike from the carpark to transition – being independent is key – whilst it can be nice to have a helping hand from family and friends on race day, it is easier if you know you are able to manage solo if you need to.


1. Stuff to wear on race morning:

Trisuit (the I know i’ve got it, no stressing, don’t pull it up, just leave it at your waist, makes those pre-race toilet trips easier. And for the record, no, don’t put underwear underneath – you wouldn’t for swimming at the pool!)

Sports bra for the ladies (I don’t race with mine on, depends on personal preference and how much support you require / how much your trisuit offers)

Warm clothes and coat with pockets (because who knows what the British weather will do, and pockets, well they’re just handy)

Socks and trainers you can warm up in (because the trainers you will race in will be stuck in transition)

Finally, think about your hair ladies (and gents with long hair) do in a style that will fit under your helmet – so a high ponytail or bun are unlikely to work – french plaits seem to be a popular choice but took me about five years to learn how to do…

2. To leave in the car:

Track pump pump your wheels up before you leave the car – about 100psi with road tyres if you’re unsure

Negative thoughts okay jokes aside, it’s meant to be fun and you’re going to crush it, so leave those worries in the car park


Next up, time to pack that bag:

3. Swim Gear:

Wetsuit for an outdoor swim – either your own or otherwise you can hire one in advance but recommend trying it out before race day

Swim cap and goggles usually you are provided with a swim cap to race in, but I like wearing my own underneath as I know mine won’t slip, and keeps your head warmer! Googles with a reflective tint are useful if the sun is shining bright, as the swim buoys can be hard to see.

Bodyglide or other anti chafing product – to stop rubbing and make taking off your wetsuit suit off easier. Some people use baby oil, which is fine, but just be aware that it can damage your wetsuit over an extended period of time.


Flipflops to walk down to the swim start in and leave there


4. Transition items:

Towel to dry your feet on

Vaseline or Talc to put in your shoes and reduce your chance of blisters. One of the other though – not both, or you’ll end up with a gluey sticky mess!


Race number belt & safety pins It’s easier to pin your number on to a number belt than directly on to your trisuit to reduce the chance of them ripping and because your number should be on your back for your bike and on your front for your run.

Elastic bands if you are going to put your bike shoes on your bike and perform a flying mount

Medications if you’re asthmatic, handy to put an inhaler in transition, likewise any other ‘rescue’ medications. Make sure you’ve written medical conditions on the back of your number just in case.


5. Bike kit:


(obviously) make sure you have bar plugs in the end of the handlebars, the gears change nicely and the saddle is at the right height

Helmet again, hopefully obvious. Make sure it fits okay and you can clip it up easily.

Shoes either the trainers you are going to run in or bike shoes if you use cleats

Nutrition length dependent. Sprint I have about 300lmls of water in a bottle with one SiS caffeine gel mixed in. Olympic distance, I have three gels in one bottle mixed with a little water and a bit of water in another bottle – in case I am more thirsty or need to rinse my mouth out after inadvertently drinking lake or seawater! Emptying gels into your bottles before a race means you don’t need to worry about opening gels on the bike, them exploding in the heat or what to do with the empty packets – littering usually results in disqualification and rightly so!


Puncture repair kit depends on the duration of the race whether I carry one – and if you don’t know how to repair one I’d recommend practicing – YouTube is your friend

Bike computer can be useful to know the distance you have covered and how long you have been riding for. Some people also use it to ride a specific number of watts

Sunglasses if you don’t have good eyesight and have prescription ones then I recommend wearing them! Otherwise, depends on what the weather is doing and whether stuff is likely to fly up into your eyes


6. Run stuff

Trainers with elastic laces putting elastic laces in your shoes will make the bike to run transition a million times easier. Breathe a sigh of relief, the run is as straightforward as the packing gets!


Visor / sunglasses unless it’s really bright they’re not for me, but again, personal preference

Nutrition I take another gel with me if it’s an Olympic distance (10k) run, but otherwise just take fluids on the drinks stations en route as I feel I need them
Socks some people like to run in socks. Unless I’m running a very long way (half marathon upwards) I don’t bother, as they can be awkward to put on when you’re hot, tired and sweaty. Vaseline or talc should work their magic instead. But again, personal preference.


7. Other handy stuff to have in your bag:

Towel to dry yourself off after the race / get changed with afterwards

Nail scissors always has come in use for me – making holes in numbers to put on number belts etc.

Phone / headphones / money / RACE LICENSE if you have one – I always keep mine in my purse

Personal items such as SUNCREAM, deodorant, ibuprofen, blister plasters, any medications you might take e.g. inhalers, tissues for runny noses, portaloos, nervous tears etc.

Drinks I have SiS electrolyte tablets for before the race, and a SiS Rego recovery shake for afterward

Food I have a SiS GO Energy bar and a banana, two hours before I race, a SiS energy gel for before the swim, and a packed lunch for afterwards – if there are food stalls at the event they can be expensive and don’t always cater to what I want!

Puncture repair kit (inner tube, tyre levers and mini pump) – hopefully you won’t need it!

Allen keys in case anything comes loose or needs adjusting on the bike


Getting there:

Read the race information (logistics, timetable, rules and course maps) provided by the event at least a day in advance, earlier if you are having to drive down the day before and stay overnight in a hotel or AirBnB. If you are driving to the event, make sure you know where you’re going, where to park and what time you need to set off – take note of what time transition closes for setting up before your race. I usually allow 90 minutes before the race, but if you’re new to the sport it is a good idea to leave a bit more time. Make sure you know how to fit your bike in to the car the day before so you don’t end covered in oil and rushing around on race day. For security reasons I don’t usually put my bike in the car until I am setting off.

I’ve been as comprehensive as I can in this guide, and it almost rivals my weekly food shop list in length. Take your time getting ready, it does get easier – I usually find I can fully prepare and pack for a triathlon in under 30 minutes now! Keep your eyes peeled for tips on how to set up your transition next.

Written By

Sarah Hodgson