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Sort the Chaos: A Comprehensive Packing List for Triathlon

As a three-sport event, triathlon requires a lot of… junk. Although you want to set up your transition areas to be minimalist and clutter-free, I recommend packing a bag armed to help you take on any possible pre-race disaster. Here is the packing list I run through before every race.

Pre-Race Items

  • Timing Chip

  • Race clothes

  • Tri kit or whatever garments you plan to race in

  • Second Kit

  • If you’ve traveled and are doing a course preview the day before the race, be sure to pack clothes you swim/bike/run in.

  • Beanie, Jacket and Sweatpants

  • It’s usually chilly at 5am on the waterside. Plan ahead to stay warm while you set up your transition area.

  • Warmup Shoes and Socks

  • This is a pro move for two-transition races or when there will be a long gap between transition closing and your race start.

  • Heart Rate Monitor, Watch, Bike Computer- fully charged

  • Waterproof Sunscreen

  • Chapstick with SPF

  • For long races you may want to keep this easily accessible in your transition area or take it with you on your ride or run.

  • Water bottle to sip on pre-race

  • Pre-Race Snack

  • Towel

  • Just a small one for a quick dry and to wipe your feet after the swim

Swim Essentials

  • Wetsuit

  • BodyGlide

  • Chaffing is no fun. Lather up with BodyGlide in all the places your wetsuit will rub.

  • Aquaseal

  • In case you discover a massive wetsuit rip the night before your race, you can use Aquaseal to make a repair

  • Fast Skin if the race is not wetsuit legal

  • Swim Cap

  • These are provided in your race packet, but make sure to take it with you!

  • Goggles (2 pairs: one clear, one tinted)

For the Ride

  • Bike

  • Helmet

  • Bike Number

  • Bike Shoes

  • Socks- if you wear them

  • Rubber Bands

  • If you do flying mounts and want to keep your shoes perched upright with you run with your bike, thin rubber bands can be used to attach the heel strap of the shoe to the bike.

  • Electrolytes and Race Fuel

  • Water bottles or hydration system for bike, full

  • I recommend putting a rubber band or hair tie on all bottles. This can be used to stash sunglasses or save the long-haired racers from and uncomfortable race and Baywatch tangles when a hair tie breaks.

  • Sunglasses

  • Flat kit on bike

  • 2nd spare tube in transition bag

  • If you discover a flat in the morning, you won’t want to have to use the spare tube from your flat kit .

  • Spare Bar Ends

  • If you’re racing a road bike, USAT requires bar ends in handle bars. They pop out easily during transportation, so I recommend having a spare one live in your race bag.

  • Bike Pump

  • Usually there are tons of floor pumps being passed around in a transition area, but having one stashed in the car can provide ease of mind.

  • Bike gloves

  • Most triathletes don’t race in gloves. Having once shredded my hands and losing a month of swim training while regrowing flesh, I’m an advocate of gloves.

  • Electrical Tape

  • Great for taping gels onto the bike or pinning down a flapping bike number

To Run it Home

  • Race Bib

  • You must have your race bib on before you leave the transition area for the run.

  • Race Belt

  • A race belt can be used to quickly strap on your number in T2.

  • Safety Pins

  • Although safety pins are typically handed out along with the race bib for those pinning the number to their clothes, I keep a few pins permanently on my bag. If you will be using safety pins, you can pin them onto a shirt to pull on for the run, or wear it from the very start; most race bibs are waterproof.

  • Running Shoes

  • Socks, if you wear them

  • Visor

  • Many athletes like to wear a visor on the run for sun and sweat protection.

  • Electrolytes and Race Fuel

  • Hydration

  • Know what hydration will provided on the course or pack a hand bottle or camelback.


  • Post-Race Shake or Other Nutrition

  • Flip-flops , hat and other clothes for post-race

  • Baby wipes

  • It’s nice to be able to get the sweat off your face.

  • Bike Lock

  • If you plan to go out for a celebratory burger, it’s nice to have a lock.

Miscellaneous Items

  • ID, credit card, USAT card, health insurance card

  • Phone

  • To document your victory

  • Spare clothes for seasonal weather

  • Check the forecast and be prepared for weather conditions. This may mean winter bike gloves, sleeves, knee warmers, and ear band, embrocation or rain wear.

  • Sharpie

  • Skip the body marking line or touch up your numbers if they rub off with sunscreen.

  • Duct Tape

  • For when you’ve got a situation that requires a creative fix

  • Headphones

  • You can’t race with headphones, but pack them if music is part of your pre-race routine.

  • Ibuprofen, Tums

  • Just in case

  • Tampons

  • I have saved countless women in a panic on race day. Don’t be the next rescue!

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