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17 Top Triathlon Packing List Items for 2024 + What to Wear & NOT to Bring

what to pack for a triathlon
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You’ve put in the hours of training on the road and in the pool, so why leave anything to chance the night before your triathlon? Whether this is your first or fifteenth, having a detailed packing list – and items laid out – will help you avoid stressful moments before the race and, even worse, realizing too late that you forgot something essential.

Taking a page from seasoned triathletes, we’ll review here your top “must-have” items, as well as tips on what to wear and what not to bring. We wish you luck!

See our product selection criteria and guidelines here.

What to Pack for a Triathlon – 17 Essentials

  • 1. Quick-Dry Travel Towel

    This gem was made for the triathlete! Coming out of your first event, dry off quickly as you transition to the bike portion of your day. It’ll practically be dry by the time you’re back and want a wipe-down before you head out on your run. These compact, lightweight, quick-drying towels take up much less space than the big fluffy variety. They’re so convenient, that you can even pack a couple of them for the day. Consider one in a bright color so you can easily spot your transition area. (These towels are also good for draping yourself for privacy if you’re changing clothing.)

    travel towel

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  • 2. Sunscreen

    Whatever sunscreen you prefer, bring it along – and lots of it. You’re likely racing during the bright daylight hours and you’ll be wet and/or sweating, so reapplication is crucial. Look for water- and sweat-resistant varieties and, if you’re in a tropical setting, consider a reef-friendly variety. This oxybenzone- and octinoxate-free blends are safer for the marine environment.


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  • 3. Virtual Private Network (VPN)

    A good VPN is essential for any travel. Take our word for it. I recently had my credit card stolen using what I thought was a secure WiFi network. I won’t be burned again by taking a risk while using someone else’s WiFi at a cafe, airport, rental or hotel. We now use a VPN like NordVPN to protect ourselves on any device with 1-click. We highly recommend you check it out before your next travels in order to guarantee the safety of your sensitive data.


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  • 4. Swim Cap

    Essentially for friction reduction, warmth, and even visibility in the water, a high-quality swim cap is a must for the first segment of your triathlon. While the race organizer may be providing swim caps organized by color for particular wave/age and gender groups, it’s a good idea to have a backup (or two). In general, silicon caps are thicker and stronger than latex, as well as being easier (and quicker) to put on. This one is made of smooth, wrinkle-free silicone, which is more breathable than latex, and not sticky – an important point when you have long hair and don’t want a cap that pulls and tugs.

    Swim Cap

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  • 5. Cooling Towel

    If you’re coming in, well, hot, nothing will feel better between triathlon segments than this cooling towel. These towels remain 20 to 30 degrees cooler than the air temperature and will retain their chill factor for up to an hour. No chemicals – just wrap it around your shoulders, head, wrist, etc. for instant release. “Recharge” it by dipping it in water, writing it out and re-using it.

    cooling towel

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  • 6. Goggles

    Another swim segment must-have, goggles will help you see better underwater and provide physical and UV ray protection for your eyes. Depending on where you’re swimming – lake or ocean – you can choose from a variety of options. Hybrid- and mask-style goggles stand up to the pressure of ocean waves, whereas smaller goggles are excellent for calmer lake conditions. We like these polarized, anti-fog goggles for sunny, outdoor conditions.


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  • 7. Packing Cubes

    With three different sports outfits to contend with in your triathlon packing, keeping attire and gear separate and organized will go a long way toward ensuring a good experience. These convenient cubes make it easy to pack and see your swimsuit, swim cap, goggles, bike shorts, top, running gear, sports bra, socks, etc. Plus, this set comes with two laundry bags so your dirties won’t have to mix with your cleans.

    Available on with an exclusive 15% discount using the coupon code “HERO.”

    Packing Cubes

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  • 8. Cycling Helmet

    You can’t even set out on the bike course without one, so be sure you love your cycling helmet. For our purposes, we are assuming a shorter triathlon in warm-weather conditions. In that case, we love this vented road helmet that’s also perfect for your hours on the road for training. Manufactured by a market-leading cycling company, this helmet is proven safe, offers 25 wind tunnel vents for superior ventilation, is easily adjustable, and is lightweight.

    Cycling Helmet

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  • 9. Windproof Travel Umbrella

    Afternoon showers as you’re scouting out the triathlon course? No problem! Grab your windproof travel umbrella and stay dry and comfortable, no matter what season it is. Pacific Northwest? Super handy. Hawaii? Afternoon showers are par for the course. You’ll be glad you brought it along, promise.

    Windproof Travel Umbrella

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  • 10. Sunglasses

    Pop on your shades during your transition times, and wear them during your bike and run portions. They’ll protect your eyes from the sun, of course, but also wind and debris when you’re on the go. While you can choose from a litany of lenses for different light conditions, we like these affordable, polarized standards that hold up well to travel and inside your duffel bag.


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  • 11. LifeStraw Water Bottle

    The activated carbon filter in this LifeStraw water bottle lasts up to 1,000 gallons – that’s a lot of triathlons’ worth of hydration! Particularly useful if traveling in countries less developed than the United States, this effortless bottle will ensure you’re drinking filtered water wherever you go. No one wants unpleasant GI symptoms right before the big race!

    LifeStraw Water Bottle

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  • 12. Tools and Tire Repair Kit

    Even the best-laid racing plans can fall, well, flat. In the event of a flat tire, experienced triathletes pull out their bike tools and tire repair kit. Sure, there is typically race support on the course, but if you’re unwilling to wait and want to get back out there, we suggest packing a handy repair kit like this one.

    Tools and Tire Repair Kit

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  • 13. Universal Waterproof Phone Case

    While we are not suggesting you stow your camera on your person as you set off on the swim portion of your triathlon – who wants the extra weight? – it’s likely that you’ll be on the water sometime during your off-race hours. Whether you’re on a sparkling New England lake or on the Kohala Coast in Hawaii, having a waterproof phone case is a must when you’re carrying your phone around most of the time.

    Universa Waterproof

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  • 14. Universal Travel Adapter

    Some of the world’s best triathlons are overseas – think Germany, Thailand, and Australia. Don’t be left uncharged – after all, you’re going to want to be documenting this incredible experience. This HERO Travel Supply universal travel adapter works in almost every country on the planet, ensuring that you can make phone calls, take photos, stream movies during your recovery time, etc. Its multi-purpose power plug design transitions between each style, so it will meet all your travel charging needs.

    Peru power adapter

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  • 15. Portable Charger

    Again, with the charger – pack a portable one and you will never be out of touch (unless you want to be). This slim, stylish version has plenty of juice for a quick charge-up at a moment’s notice. All the better if you just set a PR and need to post online about it ASAP!

    Portable Charger

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  • 16. Hanging Toiletry Bag

    Organization is the key to triathlon prep and your toiletries are no exception. Sunscreen, chafing cream, toothpaste – it’s all easily on display with this bag. With its multiple storage compartments, easy magnetic closure, clear and mesh interior pockets and overall large capacity, this one’s a winner – plus you can pick from a range of colors and patterns.

    Hanging Toiletry Bag

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  • 17. Travel Insurance

    If your triathlon is far from home, we strongly recommend you invest in travel insurance. It doesn’t take up an ounce of room in your luggage and provides oodles of peace of mind. We use to compare the best policies at the most affordable rates, so we will be covered for medical emergencies, trip interruptions, unexpected Covid quarantines, baggage delays, thefts, and more.

    Travel Insurance

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  • 18. Neck Wallet

    Wherever your triathlon goals are taking you – into a nearby state, around the world or even a local park – the last thing you want to worry about is keeping track of your essentials. Keep your iPhone, credit cards, passports, cash and travel docs safe in this handy neck wallet, which can easily be stowed away when it’s race time. This particular neck wallet has RFID blocking, which prevents e-thieves from stealing your credit card information. There is also a lifetime replacement guarantee!

    Neck Wallet

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What to Wear for a Triathlon

While some may choose to take full advantage of the transition areas between swimming and biking, and biking and running, to change outfits entirely, others will see the efficiency of a tri suit. We’ll give you some recommendations for both options, but we argue that there is something nice about wearing one outfit from start to finish and using your transition period for a quick snack, water, and a stretch.

High-quality tri suits combine the best of form and function. They’re made of sleek, hydrodynamic material like a swimsuit and are easily worn under a wetsuit if you’re wearing one. There is padding in the crotch, like in bike shorts, but less so, ensuring that you’re comfortable when you ride, but don’t feel hindered when running.

What Should WOMEN Wear for a Triathlon? – (Click to expand)
Below is a sample women’s clothing list. (All items link to for your convenience).

Deciding what to pack and wear for a triathlon is actually a lot easier than most vacation packing. What you bring serves a certain purpose and is centered on practicality and comfort. That doesn’t mean you can inject a little of your own stunning personality into your tri clothing – make sure that when you try items on, they make you feel great!

What Should MEN Wear for a Triathlon? – (Click to expand)
Below is a sample men’s clothing list. (All items link to for your convenience).

Keep in mind the location of your triathlon and the time of day. A Hawaii race will be different from a race in Montana, say. Seasons matter, too. Get to know the temperature and weather patterns where you will be competing well ahead of the race so you can purchase items and try them out ahead of time. Plan to wear your race-day clothing several times during training to make sure the fit is comfortable.

Dressing for the Seasons

Fall – September, October, November

If you’re considering a race in the fall, particularly in the northern United States, you’ll be facing some colder temperatures than a midsummer option. Dressing for the race presents different challenges, but ones that are easily overcome with advanced planning. You may be colder after your swim segment, so a wetsuit may be a good option. For biking, when the wind resistance will cool you even further, wear arm and/or leg warmers and cycling gloves. Consider a cycling jacket or vest to keep your core temperature up.

Winter – December, January, February

You’ll likely not be competing in a triathlon unless you live or travel to someplace warm to race. And even so, it still may be chilly so be prepared with cozy, warm clothing to change into right after the run portion. Think comfortable joggers or sweats, a mid-layer, and a hoodie or puffy jacket. Cover your head when biking with a wicking helmet liner. And all the way down to your toes, wear toe or foot covers and/or bring along foot warmer packets to slide into your shoes.

Spring – March, April, May

Spring can be one of the nicest times to race. Usually, the weather isn’t too extreme and you won’t need special gear or clothing. Always prioritize moisture-wicking fabrics, and clothes that fit well, and don’t forget a hat to keep the sun out of your face. A cooling towel and quick dry towel will also come in handy to keep you cool and dry.

Summer – June, July, August

You may be racing in the height of summer and need ways to beat the heat on competition day. There are several things you can do pre-race and in your choice of clothing that can help. Pre-cool your body by using a cooling towel, drinking icy drinks, standing in front of a fan, or even soaking in cold water. Wear cooling sleeves for the bike and run and wear light-colored clothing or consider a triathlon shirt made with SPF fabric.

What NOT to Bring for a Triathlon

  • 1.DON’T Bring a Recreational-Style Swimsuit

    A cute bikini or board shorts are not going to cut it in the swim portion of the race. Go for a good, streamlined fit.

  • 2.DON’T Bring Make-Up

    Just pack sunscreen! After all, you’re going immediately into the water, and after that, you’ll be sweating quite a bit on the bike and race course. Save the makeup for your big celebratory dinner the evening after your race.

  • 3.DON’T Bring Last-Minute Purchases

    Another way to say this: Only pack items you’ve bought and worn for training and are sure that they fit well.

  • 4.DON’T Bring Headphones

    These are typically banned from triathlons. You might want to do a few tuneless run or bike workouts to be used to the sound of silence as you work out.

  • 5.DON'T Bring Uncomfortable Clothing

    What you wear during the race will affect how well you perform. You don’t want to be distracted by ill-fitting gear. Make sure everything is comfortable and fits well before race day.

  • 6.DON'T Bring Jewlery

    You don’t want to wear jewelry during the race and risk losing it in the water or when racing on land. Leave the jewelry at home. You’ll be more comfortable without it.

What Not to Wear – (Click to expand)
Don’t wear a recreational-style swimsuit. You’re going to need one designed for racing and swimming long distances. You also don’t want to wear clothing you’ve never tried on before and risk being uncomfortable and chaffing during the race. Make sure what you wear is comfortable and quick-drying.

FAQs about Your First Triathlon

  • 1. What should I consider when choosing a triathlon?

    What should I consider when choosing a triathlon?

    There are triathlons all around the world, so you’ll have plenty to choose from, of course. Consider what your priorities are. Do you want a local race where friends and family can provide support? Or, do you want to visit a new destination, using your race experience to explore other cultures and lands? Think about the destination’s altitude, weather, humidity, etc. Do you want to swim in the ocean or in a lake? Do you want to run and bike hills or flats? Mull it all over as you are researching your available options.

  • 2. Do I have to buy expensive gear and clothing for a triathlon?

    When you first start researching and purchasing tri gear and clothing, you’ll be tempted by top-end choices. No need, especially if this is your first triathlon. Ask triathlete friends what they have liked and what brands they prefer. Plan ahead and look for end-of-season sales on bikes, helmets, bike shoes, tri suits, and more. Once you have at least one triathlon under your belt, you’ll know where you want to spend your money and can invest in new gear and clothing.

  • 3. Do I need a fancy bike for a triathlon?

    Do I need a fancy bike for a triathlon?

    Unlike your swim goggles or your triathlon shorts, the bike is the largest purchase you’ll make for the race. Ideally, this is a bike you’ll have for a long time, both for training for and participating in multiple triathlons. Look for comfort and fit as a beginner – the more experienced you get, you can upgrade to a more aerodynamically efficient model. Make sure you are getting the right model and size for your body type.

  • 4. How much should I eat and drink when training?

    To get the most from your training regime and not burn out, you’ll want to practice getting the nutrition and hydration you would need on race day. That means when you train for longer than an hour, take in 200-300 calories per hour. Consider nutrition with a bit of caffeine to increase focus. One or two 100-calorie nutrition gels per hour, with water, is a great start, paired with at least a 20-ounce bottle of sports drink or water. Within the first 30 minutes after a training session, have a recovery protein drink to come back strong for your next outing.

  • 5. What should I eat and drink on the day of the triathlon?

    What should I eat and drink on the day of the triathlon?

    Most races will provide nutrition and water along the course, but it’s a good idea to have a water bottle (or two) on your bike, and perhaps a hydration belt when running. Energy chew or gels are a smart transition area item and can be digested quickly. Don’t bring anything you haven’t tried before – just like with your tri clothing, you’ll want to have tested out the snacks you’ll be relying on beforehand so there are no surprises.

  • 6. Do I need a triathlon coach?

    If you can afford it and this is your first triathlon, sure, consider hiring a coach. They’ll be able to create personalized training plans, analyze your performance, give you feedback and encouragement and offer plenty of tips from personal experience. However, if you can’t afford a coach, there is plenty of support out there. Turn to online groups, in-person clubs, teams, group-training programs, and training partners that you find within your own community. Some first-timers attend a training camp over a long weekend to kick start their training and get excited about their goal.