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 doing more triathlons.
Triathlon bags are basically backpacks or gear bags built especially for 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. They can help keep all your gear contained neatly and in an out-of-the-way manner.
Do you need a transition pack? Let’s just say that we observe the vast majority of regular triathletes use a specific tri bag at the races. If you plan to do just one race, you can certainly get by with a plain old gym bag or duffel bag on race day. But if you want to take up the sport in any way, invest in a transition pack.
A bag made specifically for triathlon has many advantage and creature comforts compared to a regular bag. 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, such your wallet and electronics, or a sopping-wet wetsuit. 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. If some of those compartments can be expandable, even better. You will be surprised how often an expandable compartment can come in handy.
- Second, the swimming/waterproof 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.
- Fourth, we like a pack that has a design providing for high-visibility inside the pack, so you can easily spot items inside without digging around and making a big mess out of everything. On that note, it also doesn’t hurt to have some kind of distinctive visibility on the outside too, so you can spot it easily in the transition area.
- 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! All of the options we recommend in this piece can be carried as a backpack with comfort.
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 all things 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.
Blueseventy Large Transition Pack
Blue Seventy makes our favorite bag in its Blue Seventy Large Transition Bag with the top zip. Priced at around $100 (here), 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 affecting the other clothing. A nice, waterproof barrier will keep the wet wetsuit partitioned-off, and you will forget it is even there. We also like the helmet carrier and the number of pockets inside the pack, one of them nicely-padded so you can carry your shades without destroying them. 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. Capacity is an impressive 18 L for the main compartment and 12 more for the wetsuit compartment on the bottom. After testing a bunch of bags, this is the one we use ourselves. Find it here.
Orca Tri Backpack
Orca makes a high-quality Triathlon Backpack (find here on Amazon) 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? Other clever design features include a long, vertical zipper for easy access to everything, and plenty of pockets for those little things you want to organize, the main reason we chose this above Orca’s other options. Usually in the $130 range, this it isn’t cheap but we find it to be an excellent quality product.
Speedo Tri Clops
At 50 liters, the Speedo Tri Clops is a large duffel-style option for folks who want a good tri bag that can hold lots of stuff. Made by Speedo, the name synonymous with swimming, it is a good all-around tri-specific bag, third on our list of top triathlon packs. In addition to the large capacity, we like the compartment placement for everything from keys to gels, and are fans of the mesh bottom which can expand for additional volume. It is not a waterproof bottom, but will keep your wet gear separate from your dry gear, which is a must-have in a tri pack. A dirty compartment allows for you to slip things like dirty flip-flops or used energy bar wrappers somewhere, but it is relatively small so you will want to plan carefully (we wish there were a few more expandable pockets and compartments for things like this). Zipper placement is useful, allowing you to enter the pack for various items without having to remove the helmet at the top. The only thing we have not tested is the longevity of the bag, but given the seam construction we expect it will hold up well and be durable. Overall, a good all-purpose bag that should be considered for those looking for a larger pack, and actually a nice shape in the event you wanted it to double as a large gym bag. Find it here on Amazon.
TYR Transition Pack
For those on a tighter budget, TYR makes its TYR Transition Pack at a price point that is sometimes easier on the wallet (Find here on Amazon). We think TYR does a great job with any swim-related equipment, and that know-how shows up in this bag. Being TYR, they also 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. Dimensions are about 20 x 13 x 12, so that puts it at the large end of this range. The only knock on it as far as our list goes is that it has a solid black interior, making it hard at times to spot small things. Here on Amazon.
Desoto Transition 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.
If you are new to the sport of triathlon, don’t miss our other entry-level pieces on gear like triathlon bikes or wetsuits.
About the Author
Von Collins is an avid triathlete, cyclists, runner, and fitness enthusiast. He is the author of the popular Your First Triathlon Guide, and several other fitness-related books. Perpetually in training mode, he is constantly testing new gear and talking with other athletes about their observations.