Here I’ll list the bare essentials, with the overarching advice that all of your gear needs to fit YOU. So get professional advice, from a coach or sports shop, to ensure you have gear that fits.
In addition, you can use the same kit in racing that you wear in training but never use anything new on race day that you haven’t used before.
Essential for training and for pool-based races. Some athletes even wear swimsuits for the entire race, but your undercarriage may not thank you…!
They should have great all-round visibility and be very secure. Leaky, ill-fitting goggles can cause panic and discomfort. The right fit means that they stay on your face, even without the strap, that your eyelashes don’t touch the lenses and the nose-piece doesn’t cut you. One pair of slightly tinted goggles is best, as they’re suitable for cloudy and sunny conditions, as well as in the pool.
Wetsuits are mandatory in some races (dependent on water temperature). They help keep you warm and also provide buoyancy. Ideally it should be swim/tri-specific rather than a surf wetsuit. You don’t need to spend a fortune and some companies offer one-off, monthly or even season rentals.
(Image: Jonny Gawler)
Be sure to swim in the wetsuit before race day, and learn how to get it on and off properly. It needs to be snug, but not too tight or restrictive. Shoulder flexibility is important. I cut an inch off the legs to make removal easier (obviously not recommended if it’s a rental!).
What to look for in a tri wetsuit
Triathlon wetsuits: 14 of the best tested and rated
How much buoyancy does your triathlon wetsuit need?
These are usually provided by race organisers, but a spare is useful for training and for doubling up if the water is cold.
Swim equipment can be useful but, in the same way that there are different strokes for different folks, different toys suit different people.
It’s best to ask the advice of a good triathlon-friendly swimming coach who can look at your stroke, advise you on what toys are suitable for you and ensure you’re using them correctly.
Four-time Ironman world champ Chrissie Wellington continues her run-down of the essential tri kit you need…
Bike and bike shoes
Bikes can be few hundred pounds or the price of a car. The key is that it can pass a safety inspection. If you’re just starting triathlon and only planning on doing one or two local events, you can use a beach cruiser, shopper or mountain bike. But if you’re thinking of doing more, it’s probably best to buy a road bike, which you can train, race and even commute on, and is suitable for a variety of courses.
You don’t have to buy new; second-hand bikes can be great value, but it’s your responsibility to make sure your bike is road worthy. Getting a personal bike-fit from a bike shop is worthwhile. Whether you use regular or so-called clipless pedals will depend on your cycling experience and confidence.
Your choice of pedal determines what shoes you wear. Cleated shoes (these lock onto the pedals) are definitely not essential for those new to cycling. With flat pedals you can use the same shoes for cycling and running.
(Image: Delly Carr)
Of course, a helmet is a must, but it doesn’t have to be the all-singing and dancing ‘aero’ kind. A regular ‘brain bucket’ will protect your head. Just make sure it’s passed the necessary safety tests.
Use a sturdy running shoe that you can trust and which suits your form/biomechanics (a good running shop can help with this). Regular laces are fine to start with, while socks make for a more comfortable, less blistered experience.
You could wear a pair of shorts and a t-shirt/cycle jersey/running vest under your wetsuit and keep them on until the finish line.
But, while not essential, opting for a tri-suit in a race enables you to wear the same outfit from start to finish. There are two options: a single-piece tri-suit or a two-piece shorts and singlet.
Tri-suits: what to look for
Women’s tri-suits buyer’s guide
Women’s tri-suits: 6 of the best reviewed
Other useful gear includes a water bottle and a pair of sunglasses.
Don’t forget to check out our other recent gear round-ups: best road bike shoes, best run base layers, best pool goggles, best heart rate monitors, best aerobars, best run jackets, best turbo trainers, best tri bikes, best tri bike shoes, best wetsuits, best lightweight run shoes, best trail shoes, best energy bars, best bike jackets, best bike helmets, best TT helmets, best recovery drinks and best tri-suits.
What else do you consider a tri essential? Let us know in the comments below!