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The draw: Airplane friendly
This carry-on-sized bag has a zipper down the middle that allows it to open like a suitcase to reveal mesh interior pockets, keeping all of your gear easily accessible. The straps are extra cushy, making it comfortable on layovers, and the sealed wetsuit/dirty laundry compartment is removable. Other tri-specific details include a molded helmet compartment and a built-in race-day checklist. A newer version of the bag also adds a retractable handle and roller option, making it ideal for long travel days.
The draw: Compact, fits the essentials
Of the bags in this review, the Race-Lite was the lightest, and it condenses down for easy storage in transition (and between races). Made with a canvas-like material, it holds the essential gear for a triathlon—two pairs of shoes in side zippered pockets, a wetsuit in a ventilated bottom compartment and a helmet. The main compartment isn’t as spacious as in other bags, but that keeps it light enough to be used for a sprint race or as a regular workout bag. One unique detail: It has a small removable mat for use in transition.
The draw: Durable versatility
This spacious backpack in a slick, high-vis color combo is the perfect do-it-all bag—use it for workouts, races or general travel. It features a large main compartment and a dozen zippered pockets throughout, with ones designated for nutrition organization, shoes and a wetsuit, plus a crush-resistant lockable pocket that can easily fit sunglasses and a cell phone. The bag, made of a thick, durable fabric, is well ventilated (specifically the wetsuit and shoe compartments), including on the backpack straps, the tradeoff of which is that they aren’t super cushioned.
The draw: Heavy duty organization
It’s easy to see the value in this high-priced tri bag, which is spacious (60-liter capacity), comfortable (well-padded back, shoulder straps and waist strap) and made using thick, sturdy fabrics. The wetsuit compartment features a sleek, laser-cut mesh for drainage and is lined with waterproof fabric, and the main compartment has six mesh pockets, including an internal helmet pocket. Every pocket on the bag has a tiny label indicating its use, including on the straps that hold a floor pump. Another great feature: a handy race-day checklist on which you can check off items with a dry-erase marker.
The draw: Thoughtful details
The V7 is the most recent version of De Soto’s transition bag, which has been refined over the course of 20-plus years. The appeal is in its details—floor pump straps, a “spine pocket” against your back to stash valuables and an insulated pocket to hold cold drinks, in addition to the essentials (wetsuit, helmet and shoe storage). All of the pockets take up space in the main compartment, so the bag is great for staying organized pre-race, then simply throwing all your gear inside post-race. Also nice to have: a vertical zipper halfway down to access items at the bottom of the main compartment.
The draw: Adjustable compartments
The biggest appeal of this bag is the ability to control just how organized you want to be. It takes cues from camera bag design with a drawbridge-style opening and Velcro dividers that securely attach to the fleece-lined interior to accommodate your tri gear (especially handy post-race for separating dirty gear) yet still be able to see it all in a glance. The water-resistant bag with 56 liters of capacity transitions from duffel to backpack, and has a dedicated helmet pocket and ventilated wet storage compartment.