Gear

Ask A Gear Guru: What Are The Best Summer Tri Essentials?

We’ve put together a list of summer tri essentials to make sure you’re safe, comfy, and fast as communities across the U.S. begin to reopen their outdoor doors.

It’s finally here: As of this weekend, summer has officially begun. It’s been a weird spring for sure, as our collective sense of time may have been irreversibly warped by being caught in a vortex of quarantines, home-schooling, breadmaking, grocery-store assault trips, and the closing-then-opening of places you loved, then didn’t care about, then forgot about, then couldn’t live without again. So this is a reminder to everyone that summer is really here, and as a few races are actually going on in the coming weeks, there’s some sense of new-normalcy settling into our lives. With that in mind, some of your favorite tri and tri-adjacent brands have some super cool products that will help you train (and maybe even race? A self-supported tri perhaps?) this summer as temperatures rise. But first, some tips on the best summer tri essentials in our new landscape:

More Heat? More Hydration? It Might Be Harder To Find.

This may seem obvious to most people, but if you’ve been training inside for the last few months or in colder climates, you’ll need to ramp up your fluid intake. The big trick right now is not all restrooms, convenience stores, or public drinking fountains might be open, welcoming, or even a good idea. This means you should plan on carrying much more with you on your long rides and runs than you used to. Don’t worry, there are plenty of options for doing that, but it’ll take not only more gear—used in a more creative way—but it’ll also require a lot more planning and foresight. Do you need 100 ounces of fluid to get through your three-hour ride? You’d better throw lots of ice in there unless you want to be sucking down piping hot electrolyte cider. Not enough space for fluids on the bike? Start thinking hydration bladder and backpack; same goes for the run. That stuff isn’t just for ultrarunners anymore.

Light, Right?

As temperatures begin to climb, it almost goes without saying that you’ll want to invest in some lighter fabrics while you train. But if you’re in an area that’s high in humidity, even more important than a lightweight fabric is its ability to breathe and wick. If you’ve got the lightest weight t-shirt in the world, but it’s soaked within seconds and not evaporating well, you’re going to have a hard time cooling off, or worse yet, you might end up with soaked shorts as it runs down your back, which could lead to the dreaded “swamp crotch,” which will inevitably lead to a world of chafing and icky discomfort. When I’m on a super long run where I know I’ll be sweating up a storm, I actually bring another shirt with me (in a small pack, but that’s another tip entirely). When one shirt starts to soak through, I wring it out, hang it like a cape from my pack, and let it flap behind me to dry in case I need to swap it out again. On the bike, effective wicking can be achieved with a good base layer, which we’ll get to down below. 

Protect Yourself (And Those Around You)

I won’t lecture everyone about the need for good sunscreen (I think I did enough of that in my recent post on sun protection) or how a hat and protective clothing are actually the best and safest way to prevent skin cancer (we’ll get to some of that below), but I would like to continue to make a case for some sort of face covering while you run in tight, busy areas this summer—especially as more people join you outside. While I know people don’t want their freedoms impinged upon, unfortunately this isn’t about your freedom to run mask-free, it’s about that elderly gentleman with a compromised immunity system who thought he was going for a quiet walk on an empty trail far away from everyone else when you ran up on him. It might not even be about that healthy couple you ran past without masks who probably won’t get sick anyway, it’s about their grandmother with a lung condition whom they pass it along to without even showing symptoms. Assume you’re sick and you don’t know it. A cloth face covering does very little to protect you but a good bit to protect others as you huff and puff past. Maybe you don’t need to wear it all the time if you’re training in a quiet area, but you should be ready to pull it up at a moment’s notice. It’s about saying to other people out while you’re training, “Hi, I don’t know your fear/risk level, but I’m going to be respectful of you and other people you might come into contact with later on, regardless of whether or not you’re wearing a mask.” Yeah, it’s annoying and hard—especially in the summer—but seriously, suck it up.

Now that we’ve dropped some summertime knowledge on your springtime brain, let’s take a look at a few good picks for when temperatures start to rise.

Best Summer Tri Essentials: Running Shirt

Under Armour Breeze Short Sleeve Shirt
$60, Underarmour.com

Best Summer Tri Essentials

Available in men’s and women’s, short sleeve and sleeveless, the super soft, almost wool-like feeling fabric is by far one of the fastest-drying materials we’ve ever used. While there are thinner and more lightweight-feeling running shirts out there, none have even come close when it comes to keeping moisture at bay or drying off in the sun. It’s no accident that this simple-looking shirt outperforms almost all others—it uses Gore-Tex’s quite amazing new Infinium fabric that we’ve seen on spring cycling kits. On the midweight cycling gear, the material is shockingly thin, but still does a good job at keeping you warm; on this shirt, it feels almost thicker, but wicks and breathes in an amazing way. No, it’s not a cheap shirt, but the high-end fabric and the presence of a mesh section sewn onto the back and multiple material panels show that the cost is justified.

Best Summer Tri Essentials: Cycling Base Layer

Zoot LTD Cycle Base Layer
$40, Zootsports.com

Best Summer Tri Essentials

Available in both men’s and women’s and in a few color options that definitely scream “San Diego style,” this lightweight, sleeveless base layer uses two different fabrics to do its dirty-but-essential job. Over most of the jersey, Zoot uses a lightweight kite fabric to help wick moisture away, while the sides use a xylitol-woven fabric (no, this xylitol t won’t make you sweet, but it does act to draw out heat). Flatlock seams round out this tight-fitting shirt to prevent any possible chafing while grinding under the sun.

Best Summer Tri Essentials: Running Hydration

Amphipod RunLite 10K 2 Bottle Belt
$60, Rei.com

Best Summer Tri Essentials

While I’m a big big fan of running with a hydration backpack, when it starts to get super hot, sometimes a big pack across your back only makes things worse. This two-in-one hydration belt can either carry one or two of the included 10-ounce hard bottles that quickly and easily affix to the holsters, or you can detach them and use it only as a pack to carry essentials like a phone, or (cough, cough) a face mask. Little details like an easy-to-use light-action buckle and silicone grippers throughout the belt itself make this belt easy to adjust as you go, and the breathable mesh pack helps keep heat at bay as you self-support.

Best Summer Tri Essentials: Face Protection

Half Hoo Solidz Neck Gaiter
$35 for five, Hoorag.com

Not to sound like your mother, but right now every triathlete should have some form of face protection while out running (or riding, depending on your area). Ideally, you’d have something you could pull up and down quickly if you alternate between busy and quiet roads and trails, and these half-sized neck gaiters are much smaller than the standard 15-18” version. This means that they’ll still offer great neck sun protection (a great bonus effect) and do the cloth-face-covering-thing we should all be striving for without weighing you down and making you even hotter. Trust me, it’s not that easy to find a smaller neck gaiter that works well for summer running, so buy a pack of five and get to wear a clean one almost every day.

Best Summer Tri Essentials: Running Cap

Sunday Afternoons Eclipse Cap
$32, Amazon.com

Now this hat won’t necessarily win you any style points, but it’s utilitarian to the max. Lots of why-didn’t-they-think-of-that-before features like a curved earline to prevent pressure on those of us with…prominent…ears and a super handy foldable brim that allows you to stash the hat when you’re really killing it up a hot climb. Finally, the coolest feature (literally): two convertible panels that open up like tent flaps to expose a mesh panel on either side. Again, you might not be the trendiest out there with this hat (though were you to begin with?), but you’ll probably be the happiest.

Best Summer Tri Essentials: Headband

Halo II Pullover Sweatband
$15, Amazon.com

Though used mostly for cycling, this “enhanced” headband does a fantastic job of not only collecting sweat from your head—whether under a helmet or not—but it also channels the sweat that overpowers the fabric over to the sides of your head and away from your face. The thin material fits well under a helmet, and the channels and grippy fabric ensure it stays in place, even if you’re running.