Congratulations on entering your first triathlon! Triathlon is somewhat more complicated than other sports such as marathon running and you will need a lot more kit. Read our guide to make sure you've got every area covered and that you're ready for race day!
What do I need to pack for a triathlon?
Official British Triathlon events have a steadfast rule that if the water temperature is below 15 degrees Celsius you are obliged to wear a wetsuit for the swim. If the triathlon you have entered takes place in an indoor pool then you will not be required to wear one, but most open water swims in the UK will require one.
Wetsuits keep you warm and also aid buoyancy, so for new triathletes, they’re an important bit of kit.
For your first triathlon, it can be expensive to buy a wetsuit that you may only wear once, but you can hire a wetsuit just for the one event, and at some there will be the option to hire one on the day and even have it fitted there and then.
A triathlon suit is a key piece of triathlon gear. Specifically designed for the sport, the tri suit is made from thin, breathable material with a second-skin feel to prevent chafing and to stay comfortable throughout all three disciplines. By wearing a tri suit you won't need to get changed, meaning your transition times will be vastly improved and it will save a lot of hassle!
Tri suits are made with a built-in chamois pad to protect you on the ride, but this will be somewhat smaller than on cycling shorts so that it does not inhibit you on the run. You can wear your tri suit under the wetsuit for the swim.
Goggles will be a must for the swim, especially in open water. Higher spec goggles will not only protect your eyes from the water but will also prevent glare and UV damage from the sun.
Often, race organisers will provide these, as your swim cap may have your number on it. It is often advised to still bring your own to wear underneath. Wearing a swim cap will stop your hair getting too wet during the swim which would then irritate you during the ride and run. It also keeps your hair out of your face while you are racing! The swim hat can be ditched as soon as the swim is over.
Depending on your level of experience and your intentions for future races, your bike can vary a lot. If you are new to triathlon and just plan to compete casually at a few sprint distance events, you will be able to race with a normal road bike. However, if you plan on doing a lot of longer triathlons - and even Ironman events - you will want to invest in a higher spec bikes. TT bikes come with different handles that you can lean on to improve speed and aerodynamics, and some will have special wheels as well. Choose your bike wisely and keep it in line with your goals.
You will not be allowed to race in any British Triathlon event without a bike helmet. Again, your level of investment depends on your level of commitment to the sport. Some helmets at the higher end of the range will be more aerodynamic and some proper racing helmets can set you back up to £500.
Triathlon-specific trainers have bike clips and quick fastening laces, but they’re not essential for a beginner.
Having a brightly coloured or easily noticeable towel will help you find your station in transition more quickly after the swim. Most triathletes stand on their towel whilst they quickly transition to the bike.
Water should be handed out by marshalls throughout the race course, but it’s always best to have your own in case you need extra. You can keep a bottle at the transition to top yourself up before the next leg of the race.