February 6, 2023

Zipper Team

Beginner Triathlon Gear Guide - Part 1: Swim Gear

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So you’ve caught the triathlon bug, or at least want to try a race, but don’t quite know where to start gear-wise? Not a problem, here’s how we got started on our journeys into triathlon, while sticking to a budget.

In this four part series, we'll break down the gear requirements and recommendations by discipline so you can make educated decisions on how to best equip yourself for your first race. First up, the swim. We've listed the core staples (necessary for a successful training block & race day) along with some popular ‘add-ons.' Given we’re trying to remain budget-conscious, the ‘must-haves’ that you should prioritize are in green!

Triathlon Swim Gear:

Depending on your needs and goals, swimming can range from being extremely affordable to moderately expensive. Overall, this is the least cost-intensive discipline.

Swimsuit ($$-$$$$): You have a couple options here depending on your swim background, training style, etc:

  • If you're somewhat comfortable in the water and doing most of your training in a pool, any swimsuit will do. We'd recommend something streamlined like a Speedo race suit or jammers. These will cost you anywhere from $15 - $75 depending on materials, coverage, etc. Depending on how frequently you swim, only one suit is fine.

  • Are you a brand new swimmer? You might want to consider using some type of sim shorts. These help simulate the added buoyancy and body positioning of a wetsuit. These Roka - Sim Shorts can help swimmers work on their body position in the water by keeping the hips a bit higher and minimizing drag.

  • Are you planning to train in cold water swim or targeting a wetsuit legal race? While it’s the most expensive option, a wetsuit will come in handy for your training and racing. Again, Roka makes several great options in their Wetsuit Collection. Roka’s suits range from $275 all the way up to $1,075. Price range is usually tied to materials, durability, weight, etc. Here’s a great resource for budget options as well: 220 Tri - Budget Wetsuits.

Goggles ($): goggles are a simple, but a necessary part of the triathlon swim experience. They range from $10 up to $70+, depending on the features and performance. One thing to keep in mind is that the tint of the goggles potentially comes into play depending on the setting of your swim. Will you be battling sun glare? Will all your swims be in a pool? Might be worthwhile buying on clear pair and one reflective pair so you can adjust depending on the conditions. Tinted lenses are intended to help swimmers navigate direct sunlight on courses to make sighting more manageable. TriGearLab did a great 2022 comparison of some of the top models: TriGerLab

Swim Buoy ($): tow buoys are often neglected, but have many important benefits. They are small, inflatable bags that you tow behind you using a strap from your waist. If swimming in open water they offer visibility, dry storage and a safety device to grab onto in the event you need it. I’ve used this one for years and it’s worked great: Amazon - Swim Buoy

Optional Training Add Ons ($-$$): Each of the following offer great benefits during swim drills, depending on your setting. You likely don't need these right away, but might want to purchase after discussing the specifics of your swim training plan with your coach.

  • Swimming Kickboard. These are intended to help work on form in the water and breathing technique (Amazon - Kickboards)

  • Snorkel. A snorkel is intended to take breathing out of the equation and allow you to focus on form (Amazon - Snorkel)

  • Swim paddles. Like other add-ons, paddles are intended to help the athlete train form, specifically keeping high elbows and incorporating forearms into their stroke. Additionally, by creating larger surface area on the hands, the swimmer will add resistance to their stroke and build strength (Amazon - Swim Paddles)

  • Swim Bungee. This one is a bit more uncommon, but if you're trying to train in a small pool without access to a lane or open water, a swim bungee might come in handy. It wraps around your waist and has elasticity which allows you to swim in place. While these arent nearly as ideal as open water practice or 25 meter pool lane, they can help swimmers get comfort and practice form work (Amazon - Swim Bungee)

Did we forget anything? Let us know some of your favorite swim training accessories and we'll continue to add to this guide and make it a living document.

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