With Pickleball exploding in popularity, tournaments of all kinds are often popping up. You may not be competing in the PPA, APP, or MLP, but having the essentials in your bag is necessary regardless of skill level.
With local tournaments having 250-500 participants, some of these tournaments take place over multiple days, with each skill/age bracket lasting hours in itself. The last tournament I participated in (4.0 men’s doubles 19+), with only 10 teams in the bracket, still lasted over three and a half hours.
Throughout this, I played a total of five matches; two matches consisting of best of three games to 11, win by two, then three of one game to 15 in the opportunity bracket where I unfortunately lost. I could feel myself slowly wearing away throughout the day because I was improperly prepared.
Not taking anything away from our competitors – we were outmatched and lost, but all I can say is, I wish I had this list beforehand and I know I would have been able to perform at my fullest.
What to Bring to a Pickleball Tournament – 8 Essentials
Knowing that we don’t all have a magic bag like Mary Poppins, I aim to keep this list to things that I could fit into my paddle backpack.
You may have a small tote-style bag, sling bag, or maybe even a duffle bag, they all work, and it depends on your preferences. You just need something to carry everything in, so that you can keep all your essentials with you.
These days, bags are almost as debated as the paddles themselves. To help, we do have a comparison list of a few of the more popular bags.
I would also like to recommend a bag that I recently got from Neonics. I enjoy this bag specifically for its style, the fact that there is a separate sleeve for a laptop, and each side pocket can hold a 40oz water bottle.
This bag also fits the dimensions for a carryon to a plane, so I could take it with me when traveling for work or for Pickleball:
Neonic Pickleball Bag
“Prepare for the worst…”. I think we can all agree that breaking a paddle during a game would be devastating, and I don’t think anyone EXPECTS their primary paddle to break, but if it does, you would not want to get caught using a paddle you are not used to.
So, bring a paddle that is already wrapped up in overgrip how you like, weighed up with lead tape like you like, and with a few hours on it so it is broken in.
Electrolytes and Water Bottle
Other than battling your opponents, you will also be batting the heat. Cramps can be sudden and painful. The best way to prevent this is by stretching and replenishing lost electrolytes through drinks.
Tournament venues typically provide bottles of water, or at least ways to refill your water bottle. Because of this, I would suggest having electrolyte powder solutions and an insulated water bottle that you can refill as the day goes on.
A couple suggestions for the powders are Liquid IV and LMNT because they come in pre-measured packets so you can toss a few of them in your bag and not have to carry around a small tub of powder with a scoop, having to measure out and mix it in to you water.
As for water bottles, the Takeya 40oz bottle will keep your water ice cold all day long and can fit into the side pockets of most backpacks, including the Neonics bag listed above.
Tekeya Water Bottle
This one I learned the hard way. Going into the fifth match of the day and having moved over 6 miles with over 12,000 steps already, according to my smartwatch, I was spent and hungry.
I asked some veterans to the sport and the one word that came out multiple times, “Granola!”. Carbs, natural sugars, vitamins, and fiber. In one easy term, calories. It doesn’t have to exactly be granola, but that is the fan favorite. Something light that you can take a few bites of between matches that will not sit heavily on your stomach.
You will have anywhere between 15-45 minutes between matches so slowly eat a couple bites of granola, drink some water with electrolytes, and stretch as you scout your next opponents.
I would highly recommend bringing more than you think you may need. Tournaments can be delayed for a number of reasons, and you need to be prepared. Usually, food will be available through food trucks or catering, but not always, especially if it runs late.
With the weather warming up, paddle grips seem to mysteriously get more and more slippery. I can’t explain this phenomenon, but I can help. Sweat towels are crucial in this manner for keeping a grip on your paddle.
I personally use a golf towel. I got one with a clip on it so I can hang it behind me on the fence where I can wipe my hands and face off between points. Just be sure to not accidentally leave it on the court, having to wait two matches to go get it, like I may or may not have done…
Micro Fiber Golf Towels
Sunscreen (outdoor venues)
This one should be self-explanatory. Something sweat-resistant and SPF 35+ to ensure adequate protection that lasts while moving around. A popular choice being Banana Boat sport spray-on sunscreen. Granted, if your venue is going to be completely covered or indoors, no need for sunscreen.
This one caught me off guard when someone suggested it, but you will not realize the benefits of dry socks until you put on a fresh pair after playing for a couple hours. This will also help prevent blisters and other foot-ailments.
Along with socks, a dry shirt, wristband, sweatband, or any other article of clothing. Bring one or two extras to change out as the day goes on.
Lastly, in this category, bring a second pair of shoes. Now, these aren’t meant for playing in, but for wearing something during big delays or after the games are over and you’re standing on the winner’s podium. These can be flip-flops, Crocs, or slip-on shoes. Just something comfortable and breathable to give your feet a nice break after all that work.
Everyday Carry (EDC)
Wanting to take a moment to remind you about your EDCs. Things like wallet with cash and ID for check-in and purchasing memorabilia, along with your phone to record the fun and awesome moments. Just make sure you ask all participants for permission before recording any games.
Optional Items for a Pickleball Tournament
These are some items that I would recommend having on-hand, but I would not say that you necessarily need to have them on the day of the tournament. Just a couple items that some were back and forth on when I was asking around for things to have, or things that will help make the time between matches more comfortable.
There will most likely be seating available at the venue of your tournament, but its not a bad idea to bring a chair for yourself that you can put all your stuff at and claim your “spot”. Especially if friends and/or family are coming to support you, they will need somewhere to sit. A couple recommendations are this small stool with a back and cup holder, and this larger chair that also boasts an insulated cooler pouch.
Portable Folding Camping Chair
Do some research ahead of time and find out what exact ball the tournament is planning on using: Franklin X-40, Onix Dura Fast 40’s etc. When signing up, they should be listing the specific brand and ball that will be used for your brackets (Sometimes, they will use softer balls for lower skill brackets or wheelchair divisions as they do not bounce as fast, slowing the game down a little).
Grab a few of the ones that you will be using and solely play with those for a few days or a week ahead of the tournament to get use to them. You can bring these to the tournament, but the venue should be supplying some for practice and warm-ups.
Franklin X-40 Pickleballs (3-Pack)
As many pros have said, the game of Pickleball is a chess match on the court. Due to this, mind over matter is very much applicable. As soon as you tell yourself that you have lost the game, you have.
Having some noise-cancelling headphones and your favorite playlist to pump you up can be a big turning point to get your head clear and ready to take on your next opponents.
If you have one, bring it. If not, they are extremely helpful, but I would not classify them as essential. As stated, your bracket may go on for hours and you want to give yourself the best chance at avoiding painful cramps.
One of the highest rated is this Aerlang, and not just for tournaments, but great for winding down after playing for a few hours in the sun regardless.
AERLANG Deep Tissue Massage Gun
A small first aid kit including inflammation cream, ibuprofen, anti-biotic ointment, and band-aids. Venues should have first-aid kits on hand, but if you have the room, being prepared is never a bad thing.
This includes lead tape, grip tape, edge tape, etc. Along the lines of always being prepared, this category of accessories should never have to be utilized during a tournament, but I have seen players wrapping new grip tape on their paddles between matches.
It might be a particularly humid day and you need to change out your grips because it is no longer sticky enough. No matter the case, it would be beneficial to keep a few extras of these items in the bottom of your bag, if you have them.
Tournaments can be incredibly fun and the amount of experience you gain through competing against skilled players and seeing different techniques being incorporated into play will dwarf weeks of practicing with the same group.
To get the most out of this experience, being prepared is key. As stated, if the tournament is indoors, some of these items will not be as crucial, but this will require research on your part. Look into the venue location, the balls being used, the time of day your bracket will start, if snacks/water will be provided. Knowing these things and more will help you know how to prepare, giving you the best chance at performing your best so you can stand on that podium with a medal around your neck at the end of the day.