Race licence, loo roll, safety pins, wetsuit, pump, first-aid kit, helmet, towels, race kit for every discipline, wetsuit lube, drink bottles, nutrition, race belt and number, tools and spare inner tubes, sun cream and warm post-race kit. No, not our birthday wishlist, but a collection of essential items that you’ll need in your triathlon bag for your tri-racing experiences.
Laces, energy gels, multisport watches – a transition bag isn’t a mandatory purchase for your racing endeavours. In the past we’ve seen, and used, holdalls, plastic boxes and bin bags, all with varying degrees of success. However, a tri-specific bag purchase will make your tri life a whole lot easier, so much so that you’ll wonder how you previously survived without one. They can also act as a badge of honour, signalling to fellow multisporters that you’re not only a triathlete in the pool, but also departure lounge and city centre cycle lane. But what should you look for in a triathlon backpack?
A designated waterproof wetsuit compartment – whether built-in or removable – is ideal for any race involving open-water swimming, preventing your kit and car boot from becoming a soggy mess post-race. Separate pockets for race fuel, admin (entry forms and race licence), tools and water bottles are highly recommended, while comfy straps are ideal for the often long walk (hello Windsor Tri) from the race car park to the transition area.
Also, try to remember that a transition bag doesn’t have to be just for race day, with the majority of the six on test here being versatile enough to use for commuting, the gym and swim sessions. And it’s worth noting airlines’ cabin bag limits if you have international ventures planned post-coronavirus. British Airways’ and Easyjet’s are 56 x 45 x 25cm, for example, while Ryanair’s, naturally, is a tighter 55 x 40 x 20cm, meaning some of the bags tested could be destined for the hold, which will incur extra charges.
The canvas fabric of the Ultra Tri makes it stand out from much of the noir competition here, and – the bulbous protective helmet compartment aside – it ticks the aesthetic boxes, with a smart Kona 1983 logo and Hawaii-themed interior.
It also ticks race-day boxes, with an internal checklist of race items, secure bottle storage, multiple mesh pockets, and a sizeable and removable drybag for wet kit. It opens out fully – suitcase style – which is a huge bonus for overseas multisport adventures. The comfy straps and ergonomic back panels also make it ideal for long journeys. Although only 2Lbigger than many bags here at 42L, it feels the biggest on test when in use and the 62cm height could cause issues with the more draconian of airline staff. The lack of suitability for commuting and pool or gym sessions is also worth noting.
Verdict: Superior style and functions, yet the sizing lacks everyday versatility 83%
Buy from: www.wiggle.co.uk
Blueseventy were the original brains behind the triathlon-specific transition bag and their influence lives on in multisport, with 2XU, Huub and Zone3 just three brands working from that classic multi-compartment template. But where the latter two especially have innovated with the formula, Blueseventy have largely stood still, and this £90 transition bag now looks and feels dated compared to the techier backpacks on display here. Not that there’s much to fault in terms of practicality, with a sizeable waterproof wetsuit compartment, two mesh pockets on the sides that can hold two water bottles apiece, and four zipped compartments for valuables and race admin. The bumper 32L main compartment can become a race weekend black hole, however, although the front easy-to-access frontal compartment is a welcome addition.
Verdict: Points for being a pioneer of the transition bag, but it’s high time for an overhaul 72%
Buy from www.blueseventy.com
Given there’s a waterproof storage compartment for wetsuits, we’re not sure where the TT (time trial) title came from for this 40L Huub bag, but it’s the most versatile offering here for triathlon, travel and commuting. The latter is down to the rear laptop compartment and shorter 52cm height (it’s 20cm deep and 34cm wide) that makes riding possible, a trio of zipped outer pockets for valuables, and a stashable helmet net. And for triathlon race day and travel? The large main compartment is sizeable for shoes and race kit, internal pockets provide space for nutrition, while the three outer mesh pockets do the job for holding water bottles and bananas. It’s easy to wipe the mud of transition from the smooth outer coating, but a protective pouch for eyewear and phones would be a welcome addition both for race day and the crush of the aircraft cabin.
Verdict: This bag has the widest everyday appeal, but with race-day capabilities as well 92%
Buy from huubdesign.com
We’ve had the Speedo Team III for three months now and we’re still unsure what sport we’d use it for. The 30L capacity is too big to be a rolltop bag for kayaking or pool swimming, too wide for commuting, and (as the price suggests) just too basic for tri race day or open-water events.
The latter point is down to the cavernous main compartment that isn’t separated into distinct areas, causing a pre-event kerfuffle of kit and an unholy infestation of smells post-race caused by our soggy wetsuit and soiled kit. Plus points include the back of the bag unzipping to become a padded changing mat, a zipped front pouch for nutrition and tools, and roomy side pockets for water bottles. But the overall impression is that this’ll be more suited to days out on the beach than any tri endeavours in 2020, something Speedo look like they’ll be addressing with the new 35L Teamster Rucksack. speedo.com
Verdict: Alright for beach towels and buckets, but lacking strong triathlon specificity 63%
Buy from www.speedo.com/uk
We’ve had previous incarnations of the 40L Zone3 Transition bag for years and can vouch for its durability. A key change with this new model, different from the Blueseventy, is a split of the main compartment into two, enhancing race-day convenience because of the ability to file swim, bike and run kit into different areas (swim kit is stored in the lower waterproof compartment). Having the middle section open out also makes it adept for lying flat on pool benches or in transition. Neat touches include a phone pocket with earphone outlet, the ability to stand the bag up, and a reinforced lid for helmet protection. A downside of the latter, however, is that it noticeably adds to the overall bulk of the bag, which means it’s not ideal for commuting (the split compartment also makes it unfriendly for laptops) and a struggle to fit into smaller pool lockers.
Verdict: A stylish classic for triathlon race day, edged by Huub and Roka for everyday use 90%
Buy from www.swiminn.com
Protective eyewear pockets? Check. Ergonomic back panels? Check. Anodised aluminium utility hooks? You’ve got it. Roka have thrown the kitchen sink at the Transition Pack, which arrives after three years of development and testing. Is it worth the wait? Basically, it’s the most comprehensive tri-themed bag we’ve ever encountered. The ‘Triple Threat Storage’ overblown branding is redeemed by the excellent functionality – three key internal areas are size-adjustable, there are an almost intimidating number of compartments, and side pockets can expand to hold two bottles apiece. The removable drybag frees up space when you’re not swimming, it stands up well and there’s a protective laptop area. All good then? Not quite. The inescapable fact is that this bag costs (adopt Dr Evil voice) £250. Not something we’d want to muddy in the UK’s transition areas.
Verdict: perfect for the jet-setting tri commuter, but just too pricey to risk soiling in UK transitions 80%
Buy from www.roka.com