The Essential Triathlon Checklist: Get It Right On Race Day

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reviewed by Ben Gibbons
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Triathlons are an amazing way to stay in shape, but require more gear than other sports.

Having three disciplines in one event can be challenging, and it’s not rare that competitors forget essential equipment on race day.

In my experience of racing triathlons and ultra-endurance cycling races, I’ve learned the hard way how frustrating and problematic it can be to arrive at the start line only to realize you’re missing a key bit of gear.

This can not only ruin your race, but it can completely throw you off your game.

To prevent this from happening, I’m presenting to you my Essential Triathlon Checklist. This is so you can get it perfect on every race day, no matter how much is going on or how nervous you may be.

We’ll be covering

  • Event Notes and Registration Requirements
  • Personal Kit
  • Triathlon Checklist: Essential Swimming Gear
  • Triathlon Checklist: Essential Cycling Gear
  • Triathlon Checklist: Essential Running Gear
  • Hydration And Nutrition
  • Self Care Kit
  • 3 Top Triathlon Packing Tips

Let’s dive in!

Essential Triathlon Checklist: Title Image

Event Notes and Registration Requirements

Before we even start looking at the kit, it’s a good idea to make a few notes about the event you are going to and what you will need.

Here’s what you are going to need before you even start thinking about getting into the gear:

Event NotesCheck
Race Number
Sticker For Bike
Important Medical Info
Any Registration Info
Safety Pin
Training Plan Or Coach Advice

Although the kit might be the first thing you think about, the sign-on is just as important. I have seen many people turn up to races without numbers and bike stickers, which event organizers don’t often carry spares.

Can’t register, can’t race.

Simmers wearing wetsuits, goggles and caps run into the water.

Triathlon Checklist: Essential Swimming Gear

Now for the first event of the triathlon, the swim leg. This requires a lot of kit if you want to enjoy it and comfortably finish the first third of the race.

As far as the triathlon checklist goes, here’s what I recommend that you have with you:

Swimming GearCheck
Tri-suit, Swimsuit, or Wetsuit
Skin Lube
Ear Plugs
Anti-Fog Solution
Transition Bag

This should be everything you need for a comfortable swim during a triathlon.

Depending on where you are swimming and how you personally choose to tackle the swim leg, you might not need all of this. It’s better to have it and not need it than the other way around though! 

A triathlete runs through the transition zone with his bike.

Triathlon Checklist: Essential Cycling Gear

Next, the cycling leg. This one requires more gear than the other disciplines, and getting it right could give you an edge over your competition.

Here’s what I recommend you take when it comes to the cycling leg:

Cycling KitCheck
Cycling Shoes
Cycling Bib Shorts
Cycling Jersey
Cycling Socks
Cycling Gloves
Rain Jacket 
Water Bottles
Spares Bag
Inner Tubes 
CO2 Inflator or Pump
Tire Levers
Quick Links
Tubeless Plug 
Spare Hanger
Cycling Computer (if using)
Speed/Cadence Sensors (if using)
Lighting (if required)
Batteries for Power Meter (if using)
Transition Bag

As you can see, a lot of kit is required on the triathlon checklist for the cycling leg. This is where you will want to take the extra time to ensure everything you need is there.

Not all of this is gear you’ll need to take with you on the bike, but it should all be brought to the race with you in case you need to make any last-minute repairs.

I also highly recommend taking some basic larger tools in case anything needs repair in transportation.

Whether or not you’ll need to carry basic maintenance tools, spare inner tubes, quick links, and so on during the race itself depends on the nature of the triathlon.

If it’s an event with easily accessible mechanical assistance then you won’t need to, but if it’s a long-distance race where you’re unlikely to see and race officials for extended periods then you’ll need to be able to support yourself.

Make sure you check how readily available mechanical assistance will be while planning your race.

If you have one, I recommend transporting the bike in a bike box or bag. It keeps everything together and protects it before the event. All tools and spares are best kept in the bag attached to the bike if possible. 

A close up of a runners orange shoes with other runners in the background.

Triathlon Checklist: Essential Running Gear

Now for the running leg. When it comes to running, you will need a little more than just a pair of shoes. Here’s what I recommend for the running leg. 

Running KitCheck
Running Shoes
Running Socks
Speed Laces 
Running Belt (if using)
Running Cap
Water Bottle

Many choose to run in a tri-suit, but some choose to wear shorts and a T-shirt if you want. However, it does affect transition time, which could cost you a few places.

I highly recommend the shoes you race in have been “worn in” across several training runs before the event itself.

Hydration And Nutrition

A man on a bicycle eats a gel during a race.

Fueling yourself properly is a big part of getting to the end of the event. Having the right hydration and nutrition can ensure you get to the end of a race still with lots of energy and ready for a sprint finish. 

Hydration and NutritionCheck
Energy Gels
Hydration/Electrolyte Tablets
Protein Shake (after event finish)

It is worth testing any energy gels or hydration tablets during training before an event to ensure they don’t upset your stomach.

You also might even want to consider taking some lunch for the day or after the event, as food isn’t always available at races. 

An unpacked first aid kit for triathletes sits on a white table.

Self Care Kit

Finally, we have the personal checklist. These are going to make your experience better throughout race day.

Although you might only need some of it, it’s important to have it, especially the first aid kit.

Personal KitCheck
First Aid Kit
Chamois Cream
Lip Balm
Baby Wipes
Heart Rate Monitor (if using)

This should be everything you need as far as self-care, but it is important to take anything else you might need personally that isn’t on this list such as medications or anything unique to you.

A bike is packed into a bike box, ready for a triathlon race.

3 Top Triathlon Packing Tips

Here are a few of our top triathlon packing tips to help you stay organized and smash those events!

#1. Pack Ahead Of Time

Packing ahead of the event day is very important. I have seen so many athletes forget essential triathlon gear because they have decided to get up early and get ready on the day.

Having everything ready the night before makes you stay organized, keeps you from getting stressed, and helps you relax. Getting good rest before an event is vital so you can perform to the best of your ability. 

#2. Split It Up Into Boxes

If you are going to a triathlon event and want to be as organized as possible, I highly recommend splitting your kit into boxes. 

Many triathletes split their kit into swimming, cycling, running, and an “everything else” box. This makes it much easier to use your triathlon checklist and saves you a lot of time when you get to an event and need to set it up.

#3. Learn From Each Event

One of the most valuable learning tools is to sit down after every event and think about how it went and what you could have done better. 

Was there any kit that could have been better? Did you find that you could have been more organized in certain areas? Where could you improve to get better times or transitions? Did you use the triathlon packing list efficiently?

The key to being a great athlete is to continuously learn and progress by looking at mistakes and areas you can improve.

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Robbie has traveled the globe as an endurance athlete and bikepacker, breaking world records and competing in international ultra-cycling events such as the BikingMan series and the Transcontinental Race. He's also worked as an ambassador for some of the industry's leading names, including Shimano and Ritchey. If Robbie's not on a bike, he's either fixing them or out walking with his dog!

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