Ultimate Triathlon Gear List: What You’ll Need And How To Get It Right

Robbie Ferri walks you through the essential gear needed to get started with triathlon, with top tips on picking wisely

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Given the amount of equipment involved, there’s no denying that nailing a triathlon requires preparation and planning.

For beginner or would-be triathletes, the triathlon gear required can feel intimidating, and put people off giving the sport a try.

To give you a head start, we’ve compiled our complete triathlon gear list, detailing the essentials you’ll need for each leg of the race with extra tips on how to choose wisely based on our own triathlon experiences.

Note that this guide is different from our Triathlon Race-Day Checklist – if you want to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything on the big day then check that guide out instead!

A triathlete in a tri-suit on a purple background.
A triathlete wearing a tri-suit.

Swimming Triathlon Gear List

Although generally the shortest leg in a triathlon, it’s vital not to overlook the swimming gear you are going to need. It’s easy to under-prepare in the swim leg and end up getting too cold or having your hair dangling in front of you the whole way. 

You might use different triathlete gear depending on the place you are swimming. A good example is if the swim leg is in a pool, the sea, or in a lake.

1. Swimsuit

Tri shorts, tri-suit, or full wetsuit are your three main options.

Depending on where you’re swimming, you are going to want the correct suit for the job. For cold conditions, we highly recommend the full wetsuit. In warmer conditions or indoors, the tri-suit or shorts are likely to be a better option.

2. Goggles

It’s going to be very challenging to swim without goggles, especially in the chaos of flailing limbs that is a triathlon swimming leg.

If your triathlon is outdoors, I recommend taking two pairs if possible: one tinted pair of goggles, and one clear pair, so you can decide which is appropriate based on the weather conditions.

A swimmer in triathlon gear, including a bright green swimming cap and goggles.

3. Swimming Cap

Not only does a swim cap keep your hair out of the way, but it also can help with performance as it makes you more streamlined in the water. It’s also a requirement at some triathlons.

A personal tip I’d recommend is going for a bright, unique color so that your family or friends can pick you out in a crowd of swimmers if they’re cheering you on!

4. Towel

You will also want a towel to dry yourself off quickly if required.

The brighter color, the better, so it’s easier to spot among all the other triathletes’ gear in the transition zone. The thicker the towel, the better for drying you fast. 

5. Optional Extras

You might want to use earplugs, skin lubricants, or even anti-fog solutions for your goggles.

Try any of these optional extras during your swimming training – ideally in similar conditions to what you expect to face on race day – to see if they make the swim easier for you.

Cycling Triathlon Kit List

Graphic with a red triathlon bike and a pink water bottle on a blue background.
Water bottle mount on the seatpost of a triathlon bike.

Cycling is the leg of the triathlon that requires the most equipment.

Not only will you need a bike, but a lot of the cycling leg success comes down to what’s on that bike. 

In a full Ironman, you could be on the bike for as long as 4-7 hours, so you’re definitely going to need supplies to keep you going. 

1. Bike

A triathlon bike is going to be amazing for a flat, fast course where you need to be aerodynamic.

If it’s a very hilly course, you might consider a road bike with a set of clip-on aero bars instead. Take the correct bike for the course if you have a choice!

My road bike fitted with clip-on aero bars for a triathlon.
My road bike fitted with clip-on aero bars for a triathlon. © Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

If you’re just starting out, however, don’t let finding the perfect bike get in the way of taking part.

High-quality bikes can be prohibitively expensive, and the difference between a decent bike and an exceptional one only becomes significant when you’re becoming increasingly competitive.

I’d recommend using a mechanically reliable road bike at least – but beyond that, an expensive upgrade isn’t necessary when you’re just starting.

If you’re taking part in an off-road triathlon, consider whether a gravel bike or mountain bike is a more appropriate choice.

If you want to learn more about triathlon bikes, check out What Is A Tri Bike – And Do I Need One For A Triathlon?

2. Helmet

Helmets are compulsory in almost all triathlons.

Most riders use standard road bike helmets, but it’s not unusual to see riders using time-trial helmets as they offer an aerodynamic advantage at higher speeds.

My gravel bike, equipped for an off-road triathlon with frame bags and two bidon mounts.
My gravel bike, equipped for an off-road triathlon with frame bags and two bidon cages. © Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

3. Frame Bags

Frame bags are not strictly essential, but having a couple of them on the bike can make carrying supplies on the cycling leg much easier.

I personally like to have a saddle bag for tools and spares and a top tube bag for energy gels and anything else I might need. 

4. Spares And Tools

When it comes to triathlon, it’s not often that you have support teams ready to come and fix your bike, so you have to take tools and spares.

I take inner tubes, a multi-tool, a tire lever, a pump, and tire patches.

Equally importantly, practice using them all before your triathlon. Being able to change an inner tube quickly and easily could make all the difference in a tight race!

You should also give your bike a pre-race check to ensure it’s in tip-top condition!

A triathlete uses energy gel pouches on the bike.
Energy gel pouches can be a convenient way to take on carbohydrates during the cycling leg of a triathlon.

5. Water Bottles and Food

Hydration and refueling is vital to triathlon success.

During the swimming leg, it’s very challenging to refuel, and the same goes for the running leg to a lesser extent.

Having water and food available on the cycling leg is so important as it’s the best time to take advantage of the seated position, as well as being a logical point in the race tactically to refuel before the running leg.

6. Sunglasses

It’s not rare when cycling to get stuff in your eyes, especially in a triathlon situation where you are typically not allowed to draft behind other riders.

A set of cycling glasses goes a long way to stopping you from rubbing your eyes out or riding blind.

A triathlon bike with cycling shoes pre-clipped in.
A triathlon bike with cycling shoes pre-clipped in.

7. Cycling Shoes

Although not completely necessary, cycling shoes with cleats for clipless pedals make a big difference.

They keep your feet planted on the pedals and hugely help bike fit and power transfer. They are an excellent way to go for free speed and should be high on the triathlon gear list.

Many triathletes leave their cycling shoes pre-clipped into the bike’s pedals in the transition zone to speed up the process of switching from the swimming to the cycling leg.

Ultimate Triathlon Gear List: What You'll Need And How To Get It Right 1
GPS bike computer set up on my gravel bike, ready for an off-road triathlon. © Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

8. Bike Computer and Sensors (Optional)

If you really want to improve the experience and push your performance to the next level you might want to consider using a bike computer, combined with a heart rate monitor, cadence sensor, power meter, or a combination of all three.

These can offer a huge amount of data to analyze and perfect your performance, both in training and the race itself.

Running Triathlon Gear List

A triathlete running with triathlon gear including a tri-suit and sunglasses.

The run is typically the final leg in a triathlon, and this is when you’re going to be feeling tired and will need every advantage you can get from your equipment.

In an Ironman, the running leg is, for many, the toughest and lasts a very long distance. It easily catches people out, and being well-prepared with the right equipment goes a long way to getting it right.

1. Running Shoes

The right running shoes are vital.

The golden rule of using shoes for any type of running race, including triathlons, is to always make sure you’ve broken them in on training runs beforehand. Never use a brand new pair fresh out of the box on race day.

Besides the risk of blisters, which can wreck your entire race, it also makes the shoes less stiff and helps mold them to your feet.

2. Running Socks (Optional)

Though most triathletes skip socks on the bike, during the run it comes down to personal preference.

For shorter distances such as sprint or Olympic triathlons, some runners feel the few seconds gained by not putting on socks is worth it.

For longer distances, however, I would strongly recommend taking the time to put socks on. Blisters or other forms of foot discomfort will slow you down far more than putting socks on will!

If using socks, choose good-quality running socks, which will be breathable and offer better foot support.

3. Speed Laces

Transitioning from cycling to the running leg has to be as fast as possible, and speed laces can greatly improve the process.

Speed laces are elastic laces that can be done up in seconds by just pulling the cord. 

4. Running Cap

A running cap not only keeps the sun (or rain) out of your eyes and your hair out of your face, but it can also make you stand out from the crowd so you are easily seen by your supporters!

A triathlete runs with a cap and sunglasses on a pink background.

Triathlon Gear List: Other Essentials 

1. Nutrition And Hydration

Food and water are essential to keep yourself fuelled when exercising.

High-carbohydrate foods such as energy gels, flapjacks, and cereal bars are great for energy. A race belt can be a handy way to carry them.

A great idea is also to take a recovery protein shake post-race. This means you can give your body the nutrition it needs right after. We also highly recommend hydration tablets.

Two bidons mounted on a white bike for a triathlon.
Carrying at least two bidons is a good idea, especially for longer triathlons. © Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

2. First Aid Kit

In triathlon, accidents happen.

It could be a slip on the bike, a fall on the run, or even just a nasty blister. While you’re unlikely to carry a first-aid kit with you while competing, having one accessible in transition areas can help tend to minor scrapes so you can continue your event, or at the finish line.

We highly recommend also having an emergency contact card or your medical information handy in case of any emergencies. 

3. Fitness Tracker

A fitness tracker is a great piece of equipment to improve your experience and performance.

A Garmin watch is going to not only track you via GPS, but it will also tell you key vitals such as heart rate and calorie burn, and you can set them up to alert you when to eat and drink during the race. 

4. Self Care

There’s also a lot you might want to take when it comes to self-care. You won’t carry these during the race, but they’re sensible to have easily accessible at the start and finish areas.

Here’s what we recommend alongside a first aid kit.

  • Sunscreen
  • Chamois Cream (to prevent chafing)
  • Lipbalm 
  • Any Required Medication
  • Emergency Blanket
  • Cleaning Wipes
  • Hand Sanitizer 
  • Antiseptic Cream

Now you know the triathlon gear you need and how to choose it, check out our Essential Triathlon Checklist to make sure you don’t leave any essentials at home on race day!

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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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