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Essential Swim Gear That Every Triathlete Needs

outdoor swim Triathlon swim gear

Triathletes are no strangers to gear! There always seems to be a new multisport watch, power meter, or pair of running shoes out there, and of course, we want it all.

Swimming, on the other hand, doesn’t take a lot of equipment. You just need a swimsuit and a pair of goggles! Well…not exactly, but it’s a start!

Necessities: Suit & Goggles

You’re going to need a good swimsuit to get started training in the pool. You might think that you can do all of your workouts in boardshorts, but trust me – it’s no fun doing laps in a parachute. 

Competitive swimwear is skintight and typically more expensive than your average swim trunks, but it will serve your purposes in the pool far better.

swim jammers are essential swim gear for triathletes
This type of men’s swimsuit is called a “jammer” (See the men’s and women’s)

I recommend the Speedo Endurance+ suits, which are available for men and women. They cost a little more, but they last forever. TYR, Sporti, and Arena are also good brands. 

Make sure you’ve got the right size. Remember that this type of suit is probably going to be a little tighter than you’re used to and it’s supposed to be like that!

For triathlon swim goggles, go with something that feels comfortable. If you aren’t sure where to start, you can’t go wrong with Speedo Vanquishers

Speedo Vanquisher 2.0 Mirrored Open-Water Swimming Triathlon Goggle
Speedo Vanquishers are durable, relatively inexpensive goggles that fit many people well.

They’re both durable and relatively inexpensive. If you’re looking for something larger, TYR Special Ops 3.0 is a decent pair of goggles as well. If possible, look for a local swim shop (shout out to Swimville USA in Columbus) and try a few pairs on.

Basics: Workout Equipment

There are a few items you’ll use in a large number of swim workouts These include a kickboard, pull buoy, paddles, and fins.

Kickboard

kickboard is essential swim gear for triathletes
This is a good example of a “classic” kickboard. (Image: SwimOutlet.com)

The kickboard is a great way to work your legs and is useful for many drills. I recommend getting a “normal” one, which in this case just means a rectangular board with a rounded end.

There are a lot of different styles of kickboards out there now. Some have handles or are shaped in ways that are supposed to improve different aspects of your stroke or kick. Some of them are useful, but if you only have one board, make it the classic one!

Paddles

paddles are essential swim gear for triathletes
A pair of flat paddles is useful for many different workouts (Image: SwimOutlet.com)

There is a vast array of paddles out there, all designed for different purposes. Just like the kickboard, I recommend sticking with the basics to start. Choose ones with a simple shape and relatively flat surface area.

Pull Buoy

pull buoy is essential swim gear for triathletes
Image: SwimOutlet.com

Swimming with a pull buoy is great for working on balance, rotation, and upper-body strength. Most pull buoys are functionally the same, so get the one that is most comfortable for you.

Fins

fins are essential swim gear for triathletes
FINIS Zoomers are one type of short-bladed fin. (Image: SwimOutlet.com)

The final piece of basic swim equipment is a pair of fins. It’s important to think of fins as a training tool, instead of a crutch. Many triathletes find that their hips sink in the water (which is a whole article by itself) and use fins as a way to compensate for this.

While fins are useful for training body position, it’s important that we have the right type for our purposes as triathletes! Look for short-bladed fins like the FINIS Zoomers instead of the long fins you might see scuba divers or snorkelers wearing. Short-bladed fins encourage a small, fast kick while not becoming a crutch for body position.

Swim Cap

swim cap and goggles are essential swim gear for triathletes

A swim cap is a low-cost investment with high ROI returns. Not only does it help reduce hydrodynamic drag, making you faster in the water, but swim caps also protect hair from chlorine or saltwater damage. For those with long hair, they’re essential.

At ITU or Ironman races, wearing a swim cap is often mandatory. They’re used for identification purposes, as caps are frequently numbered, but also because they assist with streamlining race operations and athlete counting and monitoring easier. 

Bonus Gear: Equipment Bag

triathlon swim bag for triathletes
A mesh equipment bag can save you time on and off the pool deck. (Image: SwimOutlet.com)

If you’ve been carrying all of your gear to the pool in one of your fifteen Ironman event bags, it might be time to get a real equipment bag! 

Having a mesh bag to store your pool toys will save you a lot of trouble, both in terms of organizing it all while you’re in the water and airing everything out once you get home.

Some bags will have additional compartments for things like your goggles or a water bottle. This type of bag is fine to get wet too, so it can sit right at the end of your lane. The mesh material will let everything dry out afterward without having to array your equipment across every surface in the laundry room at home!

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Ryan Taylor Triathlon Coach
Ryan Taylor
Swim & Triathlon Coach at RCT Athletics | Website

Ryan Taylor is a triathlete and founder of RCT Athletics. As a former college swimmer and NCAA swim coach, he helps other triathletes master what some have unfairly called “that part of the race before I can finally get on my bike”. Ryan enjoys morning swims and long rides without a flat.