Triathlon bags, or transition packs as they are sometimes known, are a piece of triathlon gear that is not necessarily essential but can make life much easier if you begin to get somewhat serious about a sport. Triathlon bags are basically backpacks or gear bags built especially for the sport of triathlon. While the most common use of a triathlon bag is to hold everything you need on race day and become your transition “command central”, these packs can also be extremely useful for carrying gear to and from key training activities.
Can you just use a duffle bag or backpack to carry your gear? Sure, you can, but it won’t take long to discover the benefits of a bag that is specifically designed for triathletes. Transition bags usually have a little more space than your typical gym duffle, but more importantly they are designed to fit the specific gear you use during triathlon. Unless you are relatively confident you will only do one shorter triathlon in your entire life, investing in a triathlon bag is a wise move. They are specifically designed to hold everything on your triathlon checklist in a very organized manner. Think of it as an investment in your race-day preparation and sanity.
Triathlon Bags: What to look for
A good triathlon bags will have several key features that are tailored specifically to the sport of triathlon.
- First, most good tri bags will have multiple compartments for the various activities that you need gear for on race day. One compartment may be for swimming, another for your bike shoes, and perhaps a compartment can be dedicated to nutrition and hydration. Have the different compartments helps you keep all of your gear in a place that will keep it safe and closed-off. It is nice, for example, to not have your dripping-wet wetsuit right next to the triathlon watch that could be damaged if it gets wet.
- Second, the swimming compartment should have the ability to hold a wet or damp wetsuit while keeping the other compartments dry. Anyone who has let a wet wetsuit get too close to their other triathlon clothing that was intended to stay dry understands why a waterproof compartment is so important.
- Third, the best triathlon bags on the market tend to have a place to strap or hold your bike helmet. Bike helmets can be bulky and awkwardly shaped, not fitting neatly into a bag that wasn’t built for it.
- Finally, our favorite tri bags have a backpack option that is easy on the shoulders. The last thing you want to do before a race is fatigue your shoulders and back just from carrying your gear to the transition area!
Best Triathlon Bags – Our Recommendations
Good triathlon bags are often made by the same makers that make either wetsuits, triathlon clothing, or cycling gear. These companies are not trying to be allthings to all people, but understand that triathletes have unique needs, and the right gear will make the sport more enjoyable. We look to that list of usual suspects anytime we are evaluating tri bags, and here is a list of favorites that we would recommend.
Blue Seventy makes our favorite bag in its Blue Seventy Large Transition Bag with the top zip. Priced at around $100, it is a quality product and has been known to be both durable and functional. It looks more like a duffel – you load from the top – and Blue Seventy put the wetsuit compartment on the bottom so it can drip dry without affect the other clothing. We also like the helmet carrier and the number of pockets inside the pack. High functional and good-looking with Bluseventy’s signature orange accents, what really stands out is the comfort of this backpack. Even full of gear — and you will find that you tend to pack these bags pretty full – it has plenty of padding against the back and very comfortable shoulder straps.
Orca makes a high-quality Triathlon Backpack (find here) that provides good space inside and various compartments. The compartments help isolate wet and dry equipment so you will not have an issue with post-race blending, and allows you to keep dry clothing in a specialized pouch. There is even a pouch for electronics to make sure they stay 100% dry. There is ample helmet space, but what we really love is the neon green interior which makes finding your equipment inside much easier. Why didn’t we think of that? Usually in the $130 range, this it isn’t cheap but we find it to be an excellent quality product.
The Louis Garneau Trizone Bag is a great all-around transition pack and one of our favorites, if the approximately $100 price tag doesn’t bother you. Price aside, there are many thing to like about the Garneau Trizone Pack. It is built with plenty of compartments and pockets soyou can keep your gear neatly organized during transition time. We also like the amount of ventilation on the bag, both helping gear inside cool and dry off, but also creating a more comfortable experience for the person wearing it. We are also fans of the amount of reflection on the bag, making it a pack that can easily double as a bike trip pack. Finally, it features the helmet carrier net that we are fans of. At 40 liters of capacity, it is hard to beat. Garneau used to make a pack that was 46 liters, but we don’t see it in the lineup anymore. Perhaps triathletes found that there was a limit on how much gear they needed to bring along to a race.
For those on a tighter budget, TYR makes its TYR Transition Pack at a price point usually between $50 and $65. It looks like a simple backpack, but has several features that a triathlete would like. Being TYR, they understand triathlon well and this pack does a nice job of holding more junk that you would expect by looking at it. It has several compartments and pockets, and has an external helmet cage. The wetsuit solution is not an internal waterproof pocket like the others, but rather a bag that then clips to the outside of the pack when you need to use it. While some of our testing suggests it may not have the durability of lifespan of other packs on the seams and straps, it is at a lower price point and may be worth a try if you are in need of a bag.
If budget is not an issue and you want something that literally has everything, consider the Desoto transition bag. At $145, it is not going to be in the bargain bin, but you get what you pay for and this is a fully-equipped bag. Features include concealed zippers for a slimmer look, specific places for a helmet, air pump, and water bottle, and a bottom-entry compartment for your wet wetsuit. Desoto can claim the title of the “original transition pack maker” as they have been at it for 25 years, longer than anyone else. There is a reason you will see so many of these at a typical elite or HIM race. A fun bag to get if you have the budget, otherwise we think you will be very happy with the Blueseventy for about $50 less.