25 Essential Items for Your Triathlon Race Bag
Instead of trying to think of everything all at once, we've compiled the ultimate pre-race packing checklist for you. Print out this list and check off every item as you pack up the night before—you'll be less likely to have a panic attack on race morning because you've forgotten one of your race-day essentials.
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Pay attention to the weather report when packing for the swim. Is it going to be sunny when you start your race? Then make sure you pack a pair of tinted goggles so you can actually see the swim buoys.
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Check your wetsuit for tears well before the race so you can have them patched before race day. Pack an extra just in case.
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An extra pair of goggles doesn't take up much room, and having them ready when yours unexpectedly break on race morning is recommended.
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Bring two or three to be on the safe side. The extra warmth on your head from two caps will make a difference in cold water.
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For a good wetsuit lubricant, you don't have to fork over big bucks for a name brand. A good trick is to use a non-stick cooking spray, which does the same job just as well. No matter what you decide to go with, make sure you've used it in practice before so you know it doesn't bother your skin.
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The best anti-fog for your goggles is baby shampoo, but make sure you prepare this the night before the race.
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This one is pretty self-explanatory. You won't get very far without your shoes.
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The same rules apply for sunglasses as with goggles. Know what you're up against. Is it a heavily shaded bike course? Make sure your lens choice matches the course and weather conditions.
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If you forget your helmet, your race will be over before it begins. All certified triathlons require a helmet that must be worn at all times during the bike leg.
Arm Warmers or Wind Breaker
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Arm warmers are one of those items people often overlook in a race bag. The extra 30 seconds it takes to put them on in a cold race can save you hours of agony. If you know the course will be cold or windy, put on the windbreaker—your body will thank you later on in the run.
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As for socks, well, that's a personal choice. It's a struggle to put them on after getting out of the water, but that little bit of extra comfort can go a long way in a race.
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A good tip is to wear your running shoes to the race. That way you'll be sure you won't forget them. It'll also leave a little bit of extra room in your bag for nutrition.
Visor or Hat
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If it's a hot race, bring a hat instead of a visor. The extra coverage from the sun is important—and a hat is a great place to stick sponges and/or ice that you grab at aid stations.
Portable Hydration Bottle
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If you're racing in a sprint or an Olympic race in mild weather, you might not need a portable bottle. Bring one anyway. You might feel more dehydrated than normal after a salty swim, or you didn't drink enough on the bike. Having fluid with you as you start the run can be a lifesaver.
Make sure you find out ahead of time if the race has regular aid stations on the run course too, and remember that just because they had water at every aid station when the race began doesn't mean they won't run out by the time you get there. This is when extra nutrition can come in handy.
Bottles for the Bike
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For every 100 calories of food (in whatever form) you plan to ingest per hour, you need at least 12 ounces of fluid in that same hour. Figure out how many bottles you'll need during the race and bring a few extra just in case.
Extra Bottle in Transition Area
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Keep one more extra bottle of plain water in transition. You can use it to wash your feet off after a sandy swim or drink it after the race.
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Your race-day nutrition plan is one of those incredibly personal decisions—and it's a lot harder to follow if you forget to bring it to the race. Just make sure you have a plan and stick to it.
Fuel for Bike/Run
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You should pack 100 calories of food for every hour of racing. Try to plan out when and what you'll eat (gels, bars etc.) and bring a few extra.
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Some races require you to have your number pinned on for the bike and not just the run, so be mindful of this. If you have a race belt, bring it. It's a lot simpler than pinning on numbers that'll probably bunch up anyway.
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Put on your timing chip as soon as you set up your transition area. Pay attention to where all the stickers go (bike frame, helmet, dry clothes bag etc.) because some races are strict about this. Do it the night before, if possible.
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Bring sunscreen. Put it on everywhere before you put on your race kit. Put it on again after body marking. If your race is longer than a sprint, you're going to want to reapply at least once.
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Lots of stuff gets wet during your tri. Bring a towel to dry off between legs or to wipe off your gear after the race.
Duct Tape or Electrical Tape
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Want to bring a couple extra gels but have nowhere to put them? Electrical tape them to your top tube for easy access.
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Did you get a crappy timing chip strap that is about to disintegrate? Pin it in place.
Everything in Your Race Packet
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Every single thing they give you in that race packet at the expo—all those numbered stickers and twist-ties and Velcro straps—bring all of it with you. Something that seems useless the night before could turn out to be a lifesaver on race day.