What to Bring to a Swim Meet

Written By: Chevron

Whether you’re new or seasoned to the sport, knowing what to bring to a swim meet always seems like a balance of bringing too much or not enough. And while it’s always better to err on the side of caution and pack more than you need, here are 13 essentials you should have.

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picture of a natatorium in the background with a red text box that reads 'what to pack for a swim meet' + free checklist

1. Suits

Regular suits

It should go without saying, but you’ll need a swimsuit at a swim meet. 🙂 Not only will you need a practice suit, you should also have a spare one in your bag. If your swim meet is only one day, then two suits should suffice. If you’re at a longer meet, or a prelim/final meet, having three swim suits on hand is a good idea.

Related article: What to Pack for an Overnight Swim Meet

Tech/Race suits

In 20 years of competitive swimming, my racing suit is the first thing I pack for a swim meet. Followed quickly by back up and extra tech suits. Tech suits don’t last long and can rip incredibly easy if you’re not careful. For this reason, it doesn’t hurt to bring a second tech suit with you when you go to change. Just in case 😉

Related Article: 15 Ways to Extend the Life of Your Tech Suit

picture of a pool in the background with text that reads: tech suit care 101: Avoid warming up and cooling down in your tech suit
Instead: wear a practice suit during warm up and cool down
Avoid warming up or cooling down in your tech suit when possible.

2. Swim cap (and backup cap)

Make sure your racing swim cap is tucked away in your bag. And for that matter, double check that you have a spare, too. Just like swimsuits, caps can rip just as easily. The older the cap, the more likely it is to rip. 

Save yourself the panic and frustration, and keep a spare cap (or two) on hand.

Related Article: Your Quick Guide to Swim Caps

3. Goggles (and backup goggles)

Unless you swim without goggles, you need to pack your goggles in your swim bag. And yes, bring spare goggles, too. In fact, you should always keep a few extra goggles on hand. Not just for a swim meet, but also practice.

Make sure your goggles won’t fall off during a start or leak during a race. Always do a test start with your goggles if you’re not sure. Or, if they’re a new set of goggles

While on the subject of goggles, you should also have spare goggle parts. This can come in the form of extra goggle straps and nose pieces. 

Keep your goggles and their extra pieces in a place that’s easy to grab in your bag. And always know where you keep them. Digging through your bag just before a race to find your spare goggles isn’t ideal.

Tinted goggles (top) vs Non-tinted goggles (bottom)

4. Towel(s)

At a minimum, you should bring at least one towel. How many towels to bring though depends on each swimmer. Personally, I suggesting bringing at least two towels, in addition to a shammy and a microfiber towel. This way you’re rarely stuck with a towel that’s too saturated to use.

Related Article: 5 Reasons to Own a Shammy

If you’re not sure how many towels to bring, that’s okay! Bring a few extra and simply leave them in the car. This way, you have extras on hand if you need them. Or leave them with your parents if they came with you.

5. Warm Apparel

Regardless of the time of year, you should bring something warm to wear. Even if it’s just a light jacket or a pair of pants. You race better when your body is warm. And some swimmers, such as myself, get cold easily and need to bring warmer clothes to swim meets. Even in summer!

Related articles:

For some swimmers, staying warm is as simple as a light jacket and shoes. Others, myself included, need a heavy parka (such as the Arena Team Line Parka), shoes, and a hat if it’s winter. Everyone handles cold differently and you should take your own needs into consideration.

6. Undergarments

You’ll laugh, but you would be surprised how many swimmers forget undergarments. If you leave the house with your suit already on, double-check that you have the necessary undergarments packed away. 🙂

7. Shoes (and socks)

In my opinion, shoes are essential items to bring to a swim meet. Both sandals and tennis shoes. Sandals are great before and after the meet for when you need to walk around deck or go to the locker rooms. Aside from that, you should consider wearing tennis shoes during the meet.

Shoes have the additional benefit of keeping your feet warm. This is especially true in the winter. If you’re more comfortable with warm boots, then wear those instead!

8. Snacks

You should always bring some snacks with you to a swim meet. Even if the meet isn’t scheduled to run long, it’s important to eat something while you wait. And let’s be honest, the concession stand doesn’t always have the healthiest options for swimmers. Plus they can be expensive!

Related article: Healthy Snacks to eat at Swim Meets

Not sure what to pack? Fruits, such as bananas, grapes, or oranges are good snack foods to bring. You can also pack some cooked pasta, crackers, or small protein bars. I like tortilla’s with peanut butter, which is a good balance of carbs and protein.

Try to avoid snacks that are high in sugar, such as candy. They might seem like they’ll give you an energy kick but it’s not the right type of energy your body needs.

9. Water Bottle

Remember to bring your water bottle to a swim meet. It’s easy to forget that you sweat while you compete and you’re warming up. And if you don’t hydrate during your meet, you probably won’t perform very well.

Related article: How to Have a Better Swim Meet

As a recommendation, we suggest that you bring a reusable water bottle. They’re less likely to be forgotten and used by someone else compared to plastic water bottles. But whichever type of bottle you plan to use, be sure to actually drink from it! Don’t forget any drink powder if you typically mix that into your drink as well.

And much like bring snacks, be sure you’re not drinking anything overloaded with sugar. 

10. Phone/Headphones

If you plan to use Meet Mobile or keep in touch with family, remember to pack your phone. For that matter, make sure it’s charged before you leave for the meet as well. Having your phone with you at a swim meet also makes it easier to track down parents if you’re not sitting with them. Or send them heat/lane assignments for your events.

Ensure you’ve packed your headphones as well if you plan to listen to music while you wait. 

Related article: How to Read a Heat Sheet

11. Hygiene Products

For those that menstruate, you should always keep your preferred hygiene products in your bag. Even if you know you won’t be on your period or starting during a meet, it’s a good idea to keep some extra tampons on hand.

If not for yourself, then for another swimmer. Because it never fails that someone will need one when they least expect it. A trick I’ve learned is to always keep a tampon in the mesh bag that my tech suit stays in. This way, I always have a product with me while I’m in the locker room.

Related article: Swimming on Your Period FAQ

12. Glasses, extra contacts, solution, etc.

Wear contacts when you swim? Packing extra contacts should be on your ‘what to bring to a swim meet’ list. You should also include backup glasses, just in case.

Because you never know when you’ll lose a contact. 

The best way to do this is to keep a new set of contacts in their original package. Store your glasses in a glass case, and put a contact case in with your glasses. 

This way, everything is packed nice and neat, and in one spot.

glasses and a contact case sitting in a glass case, with extra contact packets sitting in front of them

13. Chapstick

It probably sounds incredibly strange to suggest packing some Chapstick. But your lips can get pretty chapped during the length of a swim meet.

Some of this is due to weather. Other times, it’s due to nerves and the chlorine drying them out. Regardless, you might find that after a long swim meet, your lips are in dire need of some moisture. Stashing a little stick of Chapstick is a great way to help keep them from growing dry and cracked.

 In Closing

Getting ready for a swim meet doesn’t have to be chaotic. If you know what to bring to a swim meet, you’ve already fought half the battle. 

After you know what to bring to a swim meet, take the time the night before to pack everything that you can. This way, come morning, you’re not scrambling around. Or feeling panicked. 

You can help keep yourself organized with our free PDF Swim Meet Checklist. Just download below and print out for your use! Use it as many times as you need to help keep your meet days organized.

Bonus Content:

How to Save Money at Away Swim Meets: While away swim meets are fun and offer a great experience, they can also be expensive. Here are five tips to help you save money at overnight swim meets.

Swim Meet Etiquette: Swim meets have several unspoken rules for proper swim meet etiquette. Here are 10 tips to ensure your next meet goes smoothly.

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Image of a swimmer diving into the water

Chevron is a current competitive swimmer with almost 20 years of experience at the local, national and international level. A current USA Swimming and US Masters Swimming athlete, she’s committed to providing guidance to all levels of swimmers and believes that everyone should know how to swim.

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