Travel Workout Equipment Buying Guide: Wear a Gym in Your Bag!
Keeping fit is the best hobby that an American can have. Such statement is said as a mantra by most dieticians and it is relevant since only 3 out of ten Americans adults are going to gym or stay active in any other way. And don’t even make us talk about the obesity numbers for the last decade – they are devastating and horrifying. Many people find lots of excuses to explain why they don’t go to a gym and the main of them is the lack of time or money.
However, these are just the excuses. The real reason why people may drop going to a gym is being on a road because of career or personal reasons. Sometimes finding a decent gym is impossible and taking your favorite treadmill along is not possible because it’s heavy and big to transport in a regular car. And that is when a portable fitness equipment can become handy!
From two adjustable dumbbells or a sustainer in your carry-on bag to a foldaway treadmill in the back of your RV – this equipment can fully replace your gym routine and even save few bucks. The only problem here is where to start looking for the best travel workout equipment for you’re a daily guide. The following guide gives a full-time solution.
Table of Contents
- What are included in portable fitness equipment?
- Where to use?
- Who can benefit from using gym equipment?
- Pros of all portable fitness equipment types:
- There are no disadvantages. Only the myths to bust
- The brief history
- Multiple types of portable fitness equipment and home gym options:
- Reviews of universal portable fitness equipment:
- What are cheap and expensive options of portable fitness equipment?
- General tips for workouts with commercial fitness equipment
- Where to buy portable fitness equipment?
- Necessary accessories you need to buy in addition to portable fitness equipment
To understand what is portable fitness equipment, take a look at the common definition of fitness equipment. Exercise or fitness equipment is any device used during a person’s physical activity that can enhance one’s strengths, duration, provides the adjustable amounts of resistance and can be applied during an exercise routine. You may be surprised but all of this equipment that you can find at home or in any gym can be made as portable, including bicycles and treadmills.
The basic appliances and devices usually recommended for use during fitness courses are:
- Elliptical trainers (X-trainers) – stimulate stair climbing, running or walking;
- Rowing machines - simulate the action of watercraft rowing;
- Foldaway treadmill - for walking or running at the same place;
- Limb weights - add resistance to your body during training and help to gain muscles;
- Exercise mats – for yoga routine;
- Resistance bands- elastic bands applied purely for strength training or physical therapy;
- Adjustable dumbbells - free weights applied mostly for weight training, individually or in pairs, with one for a hand;
- Pull-up stands and bars – an equipment for upper-body compound pulling exercises known as pull-ups;
- Rebounder – it is a sort of a mini-trampoline (trampette) less than 3 ft in diameter and 12 inches off the ground that can be used indoors;
- Mini bicycle – a mini-version of a regular bicycle;
- Adjustable kettlebells - cast-iron weight (look like cannonballs with handles) applied for ballistic exercises and intense strength, flexibility and cardio training;
- Medicine ball (fitness ball) stands for a weighted ball about 14 inches in diameter commonly applied for rehabilitation and strength training;
- Abdominal (ab) wheels – single pieces of exercise equipment – resembles a wheel with a pole stuck in a center;
- Aerobic stepper – for fans of low and high-intensity workouts that imitates step exercises;
- Pulley system (suspension trainer) - a wheel on an axle designed for supporting movements and changes of direction of a taut belt. With suspension trainers you can lift loads, transmit power and apply force;
- Foam roller – a tool of self-myofascial release (a.k.a. SMR) applied by physical therapists for inhibiting overactive muscles.
The following guide will tell you how to choose the most fitting portable exercise equipment for your everyday needs.
Usually we give recommendations about where to use these or those portable appliances. When it comes to portable fitness devices you can actually use them everywhere where you can take them. The smallest appliances like dumbbells can be used even in a small office cubicle as a well an under-the-desk step trainer. While a more heavier equipment like folding treadmills or elliptical trainers can be used only in a place where there is enough of place for them. Among such places are an apartment, a motel room, a staff room in your office building, even your backyard or a camping spot. So choose your type of portable fitness devices according to your exercise routine and the places where you spend most of your time.
Portable fitness appliances can fully replace visiting a gym if you can’t regularly go to a local gym due to some personal reasons like a bad working schedule or do not like to be in one room with other sweating people, etc.
Portable fitness equipment is required for everyone who sticks to his or her daily fitness routine and doesn’t want to miss trainings because of work duties or vacations. Surely, doctors will say that everyone can benefit from fitness on a daily basis. But to be more specific there are certain categories of people who will benefit from portable fitness equipment more than the others:
- Those who need to control their weight and/or keep fit due to personal preferences or career;
- Those who need a recovery after injuries and to improve certain health conditions;
- Those who are depressed and sad since exercises allow to blow off steam and feel more cheerful due to the enhanced endorphin release;
- Those who need to beat sleepiness and stay energized without coffee;
- Those who suffer from regular insomnia episodes since after the significant energy boost you will get to sleep naturally;
- Those who need to return the spark in their sex life;
- Those people who are constantly on a road because of lifestyle or career;
- Those who live in a shared/small apartment.
1. The most obvious one – mobility - such equipment needs less space than in a regular gym and some appliances can fit your carry-on bag;
2. Here goes another advantage – keeping your fitness schedule non-ripped - only a portable fitness kit or single exercise piece can be used and taken everywhere along with its owner;
3. Having portable fitness equipment in your bag or in the back of your car is good for your motivation in case you constantly have to be motivated for daily exercises.
As we have already said- those who want they act, and those who don’t want they find excuses to drop exercises. And most of these excuses are relay irrelevant and more of myths than true to life facts. The most common myths about portable workout equipment can be busted so easily:
- Pricey– dead wrong! Single pieces like regular dumbbells cost less than $30. And they are multifunctional. Running is even cheaper – you should only invest into good snickers;
- Uncomfortable – wrong once more! Single small pieces of equipment are very easy to transport and use. Home gyms have detailed instructions on how to use them properly so you can easily set them up if you want;
- They won’t replace a normal gym– a gym has the same dumbbells that you can buy in a fitness store. So what is a difference?
- Not for all muscle groups– some fitness equipment is really very limited with a set of supported exercises but there are also pulley systems or suspension trainers.
The fitness history goes back to early man's need for physical speed and strength – for example, during hunting. Ever since a fitness equipment was used to help generations of people around the world to shape their bodies and stay fit.
1.The Ancient Times - free weights
One of the first free weights were used in athletic training in Greece and were called halters - hand-held weights with a hole for gripping instead of a handle. Halteres were in the use from the fifth century B.C.;
2. Since the 1950s - resistance machines
In the 1950s an American fitness expert Jack LaLanne invented few unique piece of fitness equipment – the cable-pulley machine, a leg extensions machine, and the Smith machine. Afterward, they were called as resistance machines.
3. Since the 1960s - cardiovascular equipment
A first cardio trainer – treadmill - was first introduced in 1875, but for manufacturing instead of exercises. In 1952 doctor Robert A. Bruce invented to use treadmills for stress tests and turned a consumer exercise device that would allow running or jogging while staying in place. Since the 1960s, treadmills became the most common fitness equipment in gyms and homes.
4. Since the 1980s - resistance bands
The first resistance bands were very primitive elastic strips that could create progressive resistance while being are stretched. At first they were used by a football coach Dick Hartzell in 1980 as a part of his daily fitness routine.
5. Since the 1990s - new technologies (fitness trackers, mobile fitness apps and expanded portable exercise equipment options)
Technological advancements of the last 3 decades introduced dozens of new exercises equipment pieces. Home gyms by Bowflex completely replaced weight plates with polymer rods capable creating tension when bent. Bowflex also was the first brand to develop dumbbells capable changing their weight automatically via a dial system. They were followed by step climbers, treadmills with independent walking surfaces for every foot and climbing machines. Smart watches and fitness trackers were introduced in the 21st century and right now are widely used by professional and amateur fitness enthusiasts.
1. Jumping ropes
The jumping rope is the cheapest and one of the most effective travel workout equipment that can be bought by everyone. It offers a high level of portability makes it simple to do exercises anywhere - from the backyard to the nearest park use jumping rope without special instructions. It is enough to jump only 30 minutes a day to achieve great cardiovascular exercises. Also jumping rope is awesome for improving muscle tones and weight loss. Mostly it is applied for strengthening the muscles of a lower body. You can burn about 100 calories with 10 minutes of intense jumping with a rope.
2. Resistance bands
A resistance band is applied mostly by people recovering from injuries but has earned its place in more mainstream fitness equipment. Among the most obvious pros of resistance bands: lightweight, convenient, it can be used even in a vehicle like a train or plane for your daily exercises routine, it offers continuous tension on the target muscle.
3. Push-up stands
Push-ups can improve the upper body strength and can be done whenever you feel comfortable. A good push-up workout can build the triceps, shoulders, pectorals, abdominals, upper and lower back. Besides with push-up stands, it’s easier to improve muscles and strengths. Push-ups are also good for building a nice posture (look at military men).
4. Suspension trainers
Suspension trainers are mostly applied for your bodyweight in order to achieve muscle resistance. A good suspension trainer is very lightweight and literally can be applied anywhere. It is the best choice for unilateral training and multiple muscle group workout. During a workout, you will use your own weight and progress into higher reps gradually. Also, all suspension trainers are good for core training.
5. Exercise (medicine) balls
An exercise or fitness (medicine) ball is primarily invented for the core exercise equipment. However, right now it is mostly applied for upper body strength training. Among multiple advantages is ease of use, improved flexibility, and balance, and you can also strengthen your core muscles with this simple fitness piece. It is also the best fitness equipment for pregnant women who want to keep their posture and relieve the back pain.
a) Huge folding equipment – foldaway benches, treadmills, standing points, bikes – they can be taken along only if you have a spacious trunk or an RV;
b) Small equipment - like suspension trainers, jumping ropes, balls and dumbbells are the best choice for carry-on bags.
- a punching bag like Outslayer 80lb Punching Bag, costing $89.99;
- a rowing machine like Concept2 Model D indoor rowing machine for $945;
- an air bike – for example, choose Lifecore Fitness Assault air bike trainer for $999;
- an elliptical machine like Sole Fitness E35 Elliptical Machine, $1,7397;
- a foldaway treadmill – as LifeSpan TR1200i folding treadmill for $999.
- Strength exercises
- adjustable dumbbells – like Bowflex SelectTech 552 adjustable dumbbells for $279.99;
- a weight-lifting bench – choose Ironmaster Super Bench adjustable weight-lifting bench for $318 and also available;
- a medicine ball - SPRI Dual Grip 12 lb. medicine ball, with the price tag of $59.11.
- Yoga - use a yoga mat like Gaiam Reversible Travel yoga mat for $30.
- For weighted workouts – choose Neoprene Body Sculpting Hand Weights costing only $9,99.
a) Separate items
To this category belong all small and standalone pieces of portable fitness equipment – like exercise balls, jumping ropes, dumbbells, ab wheels, portable steppers, treadmills and portable bikes. We think that you understand what we mean under this category, however, multi-functional few-in-one fitness kits are worth more of our attention.
b) Portable few-in-one fitness kits
Instead of buying few different single pieces of portable fitness equipment you can choose one home gym system that will fit all your exercise needs. Unlike the common gym these systems were made specifically for home and they are usually not that big as one may think. And the best systems are usually quite expensive but not necessarily. Here’s our choice of portable fitness kits and home gyms:
1. Iron Gym
It is a great system for upper-body workout, but it lacks portability and overall fitness potential. This awesome pull-up bar is the best choice for home (or a hotel room) workouts because it mounts in doorways securely, without leaving any mark.
This low-priced kit is also very simple to use. It offers 3 pieces of resistance tubing that can be taken in a small carry-on bag. The set includes a DVD with advanced full-body workouts and a door connector with suitable ankle straps for lower-body moves.
GoFit Pro Gym is a well-made, inexpensive and practical enough to keep you moving during weekends while being away from a home or local gym.
What to take in your carry-on bag for fitness and use on a road? What are the best fitness equipment options for a car’s trunk? It is possible to take your favorite treadmill along during your vacation? So many questions and only three scenarios that you actually need.
- To fit a carry-on bag:
- Inflatable exercise ball;
- Monkii Bars ultra-portable suspension training system;
- Sandbag trainers;
- Resistance bands;
- Jump rope;
- Travel size foam roller;
- Portable gymnastics rings;
- Travel yoga mat;
- Versastick kit;
- TRX suspension trainer kit;
- Pilates ring.
- To fit a car or RV:
- Adjustable dumbbells;
- Punching bag;
- Any portable kit;
- To fit your hotel/guest room:
- A kettlebell;
- Foldaway treadmill;
- An elliptical trainer;
- A portable home gym system.
Without going to a gym you can work your back and biceps with a TRX suspension trainer.
This home fitness equipment comes in a small bag that you could easily fit into your backpack since it is very lightweight. It is very simple to hang TRX to a door frame, tree, railing, etc. One of the best features of TRX suspension trainers is their multifunctional use – you can literally do over 50 exercises with this small piece. But mostly it’s applied for core training, pistol squats and bodyweight rows and bicep curls. There are different versions of TRX suspension trainer but this classic model is still quite popular. TRZ suspension trainer is sold to every MLB, NBA, NHL and NFL team.
- All models come with such kit:
- A mesh bag;
- A lightweight and durable build;
- A door anchor;
- A suspension anchor;
- Padded foot cradles and handles;
- Workout plans.
- do multiple workouts with a single piece of fitness equipment;
- good for building a core strength;
- increase muscle endurance and good for any recovery workout.
- not effective for building strength and muscle mass;
- this piece is not quite simple to use.
- Technical characteristics:
- Dimensions: 9.2 x 8 x 5.8 inches ;
- Weight - 1.6 pounds;
- The kit includes: TRX Suspension Training Strap, TRX Suspension Anchor & TRX Door Anchor;
- Easy setup in less than 60 seconds.
Reviews from real users:
- Chris LaVesser said that he was able to take the TRX Home Training Bundle on his camping trip – he used trees and rafters for supporting the TRX system with an included anchor and it remained stable during his routine outdoor workouts. And this piece is lightweight to carry along in a backpack;
- Ferguson calls this TRX strap is a very well made and worth its price. But he mentioned that using TRX requires some initial explanation and the DVD isn’t great for novices. He used the advices from his trainer to set up the TRX system;
- James G Mullen wasn’t that optimistic because after spending approximately $150, he sold the TRX on Craigslist and bought GoFit Gravity Bar instead because the latest is much easier to adjust.
People are satisfied with its mobility, low price and an included door anchor that can be used for fixing the TRX system to any tree, rafter or a door frame. It is lightweight and can be taken along during a vacation. TRX system is good for training almost all muscles except building strength and muscle mass. Among the named drawbacks is a necessity to learn how to use this trainer correctly before using, a not helping/working included DVD and cheap package.
Also watch a video review:
This particular foldaway treadmill offers a lightweight, space-saving design making it simply portable and convenient. A user can apply up to a dozen of different built-in workout programs for an effective cardio program.
- Easy to read LCD display;
- Low noise;
- Emergency stop button;
- Decreased power consumption.
- Weak motor compared to traditional treadmills;
- A relatively short track length;
- A little bit shakier and less stable compared to usual treadmills.
- Folding function for easy storage;
- LCD display with 12 preprogrammed modes for speed, time, distance, calories and pulse;
- Full dimensions are 25.12”L x 19.29”W x 52.36”H;
- Color: black;
- Material: ABS and EVA plastic and steel;
- Max capacity is 264lbs;
- Rated power is 1100W.
Reviews from real users:
- Mary Jordan said that this treadmill has a pretty easy setup (but being heavy up the stairs) and fits just fine her small apartment;
- Lucy shared that this folding treadmill does the job great but starts to jerk at low speeds (0.8 -2.0) making you lose your balance if not prepared;
- Ana las vegas said in her critical review that her Soozier treadmill smelled overheated after using for 1 hour.
The users are mostly satisfied with easy setup, few modes for training and generally “does the promised job”. Among the named drawbacks are weird overheating smell during a 1-hour use and a case of unlucky delivery when the treadmill was delivered broken.
Also watch a video review:
The Stamina InMotion Compact Strider works as a desk elliptical trainer with sit/stand functionality. A handle on top helps with portability but be careful because pedaling becomes less fluid over time.
- inexpensive unit;
- a built-in handle;
- very sturdy;
- highly ergonomic and compact;
- very simple transportation.
- serious durability issues;
- squeaking noises after few months of regular use;
- unstable for training while standing, good only for training while sitting.
- Dimensions: 21 x 14 x 14 inches;
- The weight is 30 pounds;
- The built-in electronic monitor;
- Sturdy steel construction;
- Foot-pedal-only chassis;
- Low-impact design protects back, knees, hips and ankles;
- Non-slip pedals;
- Assembly is required.
Reviews from real users
- N. Katz shared that this mini-elliptical trainer has few advantages - low price, small size and portability;
- Shebs Mehr adds that he spend a lot of time at his desk at home and this small trainer helped him to stay active while working at his desk;
- Athena Sefatwas disappointed that this elliptical trainer was too harsh on lower back and that is why she sent the product back.
The summary of reviews: Mostly, users say positive things about Stamina In-Motion elliptical trainer which include low cost, very compact, low noise, easy to adjust equipment and fits perfectly under any desk so you can use it at work.Generally, this trainer is bought for at-work exercises without breaking a daily work routine being a great fat burner. Among drawbacks are mentioned instability when used while standing, being harsh on a lower back, durability issues (sometimes broken within a month) and possible ankle injuries.
Also watch a video review:
- IV. AquaBells Travel Weights
You can achieve a complete body workout with AquaBells Travel Weights. This is really helpful fitness and rehabilitation solution for maintaining your upper and lower body workout regimen. Simply add tap water (with a funnel included) to expand the weights up to 32 lbs. The dumbbells includes eight "weights" (with a leakage prevention) and a couple of 13" long bars with soft cushioned grips.
- A lightweight piece that can be easily transformed into complete heavyweight dumbbells;
- Versatile weights are good for physical therapy;
- Can be applied for water resistance programs in swimming pools;
- Such dumbbells won’t damage floors.
- Water starts to smell when staying for a long time inside;
- Durability is less than 6 months;
- Quality control needs improvement;
- Too big when filled with water.
- The weight is 1 pound each;
- Fully adjustable resistance;
- It can be filled with water to desired weight;
- Includes two Dumbbells, adjustable up to 16 lbs. each;
- Deflates in minutes;
- Soft cushioned grips for comfort.
Reviews from real users:
- Wolfsafe said that these Aqua Dumbbells are great for those who travel frequently. His only criticism was a lack of instructions;
- KB of MAoffers in his review that this equipment is a nice idea and not bad free-weight solution for travel;
- Jeff Foster shared that dumbbells were good but could be improved since they do start to smell weird after water has sat in.
The summary of reviews: About a half of all users find this fitness equipment quite useful since it can fully replace regular heavy dumbbells without scratching floors and adjusting the weight like you need for your workout. The best advantage is portability along with a low price. Another half of users remained unsatisfied with AquaBells Travel Weight because of an unpleasant smell of staying inside water, very poor durability and they are heavy to carry on while filled with water.
Also watch a video review:
- V. Bodyblade® Exerciser
This small but very efficient exerciser offers more than 30 versatile exercises to complete. It is a home training system with a resistance-based workout challenging each muscle in a body. It is enough to use the exerciser during 15 minutes per day.
- Training DVD is included;
- Multiple exercises can be done with this exerciser;
- Very portable design.
- You have to learn special exercises that are efficient with this equipment – not all exercises will be good with Bodyblade;
- This exerciser only leads to burning fat and losing weight but won’t improve your muscle mass.
- Dimensions: 4 x 2 x 1 inches;
- The weight is 3 pounds;
- It challenges every major muscle group;
- It is equivalent to 1 to 22 lbs of active resistance;
- Additional resistance for power training yet ideal for geriatrics and rehab of all adults.
- The kit includes: Bodyblade® Classic , Super 6/Power 10 DVD and Exercise Wall Chart.
Reviews from real users:
- RBSF shared that this piece of equipment helped him during a recovery from a back injury for over 10 years and The Bodyblade is so well designed, being the pretty much the safest exercise tool he used.
- Sophied said in her review that BodyBlade helped her to get rid of loose skin under arms after she lost some weight. She didn’t expected much from this equipment but the included Super-6 workout program helped her to achieve the desired result.
- Michael L. Norman bought BodyBlade for a physical therapy after shoulder surgery. The piece helped him with an upper body workout thrice a week for the last 7 months.
The summary of reviews: Among multiple advantages are emphasized such facts – lightweight, many exercises explained in detail on an included DVD, very portable design and a great recovery tool. Among fewer drawbacks were mentioned – limited value since it only helps to return flexibility and give strength muscle but won’t build more muscle mass.
Also watch a video review:
Are you low on your budget? It is still not an excuse for dropping your fitness activity. Use such portable fitness equipment:
- Resistance bands - for around $10;
- Push-up bars or stands – about 10-50$;
- Jump ropes – less than $20;
- Gliding disks – about $10-15;
- Suspension trainers – from $40 to $150;
- Sandbag trainer (preferably with a water filler) – about $20-100;
- Hydro medicine ball – about $23;
- Portable kettlebell (better the one with a water bladder) – less than $40.
A home gym, a portable bike or foldaway treadmill can be a treat not for everyone because of their increased price tag. Besides mostly the purchase of such complex fitness equipment is profitable only for professional athletes since people with modest fitness routine can use something simpler – a jumping rope, suspension trainer, dumbbells or a fitness tracker for running. But if you want to buy a more professional home gym system then prepare to pay from $1500, a foldaway treadmill’s cost starts from $1200 and the cheapest option here is a portable bike – if you choose not a popular brand but a home manufacturer. In this case a bike will cost from $600 to $1000. Surely, there is always a second-hand market where you can save almost a half of an original piece’s price.
- Even the best portable fitness equipment and most tricked-out home gym systems produce the successful results when applied regularly;
- Carefully read an instruction before using any new portable equipment for fitness routine to avoid injuries;
- Set a goal for at least 30 mins of physical activity/fitness/yoga/running/swimming on a daily basis;
- As you may have noticed fitness equipment comes in all shapes, sizes and prices – choose the one that is the best for you and not for someone else. Consult a fitness instructor if necessary.
It is really easy to give recommendations on the topic and much easier to enumerate where you can’t exercise equipment. To start the list of the places for buying quality portable fitness equipment, a potential customer should visit local fitness equipment stores. Even in the smallest stores can be offered a vast choice of small appliances like dumbbells, jump ropes, etc. To buy more specific portable gym equipment, the local stores won’t be handy. That is why visit such Internet websites:
- LifeFitness, USFitness, MensHealth – the website specializing in selling top-notch regular and portable equipment for home gyms and fitness routines manufactured by the most reputable U.S. brands;
- The online stores of the top brands and manufacturers of fitness equipment – Precor, Cybex International, Star Trec.
There are some essential accessories that you may need during your workout and to fit in your carry-on bag along with offered options of portable fitness equipment:
a) a handy water/shaker bottle – the one from which you can drink directly, without removing a bottle’s cap. There are also special wrist bottle that you can wear like a bracelet;
b) a phone holder – for your treadmill, a bike or to wear on your arm so you could freely use a smartphone even during an intense workout;
c) a head start/band – for keeping your ears warm during workouts outdoors in winter;
d) a gym towel – for keeping your sweat during exercises under control;
e) portable headphones that