Pack for Your Next Triathlon Like a Pro

Illustration by Kristina Micotti

So much gear, so little space. Here’s how to make it all fit.

As professional triathletes on the global ITU circuit, Santa Cruz, Calif.-based Tommy and Katie Zaferes live out of their suitcases. (Tommy conducted the interview for this article from Abu Dhabi, where the pair had just arrived for training camp.) When it comes to efficient packing, he adopts a “minimalist mindset” and is hyper-organized to ensure all his essentials are accounted for. A look inside his carry-on:

  • Many triathletes like to travel with a small foam roller. Shove your bike shoes inside the roller for space efficiency.
  • “I pack my wetsuit by folding it into thirds and laying it on top of my race gear,” says Zaferes.
  • “I save the drawstring bags that I get from races and put run stuff in one, bike stuff in another, pants and shirts in another, etc.,” says Zaferes. Having these interior “pockets” will help you avoid losing track of race-day essentials and keep you from over-packing (if it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t fly).

Tommy’s Travel Tips

Don’t leave home without a neck pillow. “Seriously, if you don’t have one, go get one right now,” he advises. “They are prime for sleeping on flights and waking up without a sore neck/body.” Buy one with a removable cover that you can toss into the washing machine because … plane seats. Zaferes loves his two-pronged memory foam pillow.

BYON (bring your own nutrition). Zaferes always leaves space in his backpack for food. “When traveling to a race, it’s super important to fuel properly, and I find that bringing my own food is helpful for avoiding ‘hanger’ [hunger + anger] and extra stress,” he explains. What he stashes: PB&Js. 

Load up your bike box. If you’re traveling with a bike in tow, make sure to utilize any free space in your bike box (e.g., toss your aero helmet and stinky shoes in there). It will help you avoid added fees for heavy baggage and protect your bike.