I’m a big believer in the idea that you can exercise anywhere. All you need is a half-decent pair of running shoes and some basic bodyweight exercises.
But sticking to a regular exercise routine as a frequent traveler or digital nomad can get difficult. The constant changing of time zones, gym access, weather, accommodations….if only you could travel with your own portable home gym 24/7 to help keep you motivated….
Enter: travel workout equipment. There’s all sorts of ultralight, compact, durable and easy-to-set-up portable fitness equipment designed to fit in your carry-on luggage.
You get your own personal gym on-hand, without having to share it with other sweaty gym-goers!
Table of Contents
- Perks of Travel Workout Equipment
- The Best Travel Workout Equipment
- Filoto Reflective Running Belt
- Powerbeats Pro Wireless Earbuds
- Apple Watch Series 8
- Resistance Bands
- Nike Free RN Flyknit 2018 Running Shoes
- Meister Elite Portable Sand Kettlebell
- TRX GO Suspension Trainer
- STARFIT Lightweight Jump Rope
- Gaiam Travel Yoga Mat
- Travel Workout Cards
- A AZURELIFE Exercise Core Sliders
- Ankle Weights
- Kieba Massage Lacrosse Balls
- Theragun 2.0 Mini Massage Gun
- Liquid IV Electrolyte Supplement
- Why Fitness is Important While Traveling
- Can You Travel with Exercise Equipment?
- What Workout Equipment is Most Effective?
The Perks of Travel Workout Equipment
After nearly two years of building up and refining my own arsenal of travel workout equipment, these are the best benefits I’ve found:
Customize Your Workout Intensity and Variation. Typically when people travel, we are dependent on whatever gym equipment is available at our hotel, or just your body weight training. But portable exercise equipment allows you to customize the intensity of your workout and the variety of exercises.
Don’t Sacrifice Your Luggage Space. Most portable exercise equipment is so compact and lightweight, you hardly lose luggage space.
Keep Yourself Motivated. If you operate like me, then every time you open your suitcase and see your workout equipment, it reminds you to get your butt moving and get a good workout in!
Reduce Your Chances of Getting Sick. Not only will exercise keep your immune system strong, but you won’t have to share the sweat-covered, bacteria-infested, used and abused shared gym equipment at your hotel or local gym facility with your own travel workout gear.
Stick to a Workout Routine. Traveling is one of the most common reasons people give up on exercise regimens after weeks or even months of training. The exhaustion of travel, the schedule changes, not having access to your regular workout equipment…that’s why traveling with your own equipment can allow you to keep up with your fitness goals, right from your hotel room, at your own convenience.
The Best Travel Workout Equipment
I’m going to share the workout items that I always travel with and top-reviewed exercise equipment that can help anyone stay on track–no matter their preferred fitness routine. Let’s dive in!
Filoto Reflective Running Belt
The Filoto belt is one of the least expensive running belts on the market while still covering the basics. This compact and lightweight running belt is made of elastic material, so it stretches to whatever size you need for carrying items. Whether that’s your hotel room key, cellphone, headphones, chapstick, passport, or whatever you want to keep on you while working out.
You can either store items in the zippered pocket or in the cloth belt loops. I keep my ultra-stealth pepper spray canister in the cloth belt loop. And the built-in reflective band provides an added layer of safety from oncoming traffic, in case you enjoy running along roads in low-light hours (i.e. sunrise or sunset).
PRO TIP: If you have music playlist A-D-D like I do when I’m running, this belt is extremely convenient for quickly accessing your phone to change songs. Previously, I used an arm band for running with my phone, but it was near impossible to quickly access my phone and time-consuming to readjust the band on my arm. The reflective running belt makes it easy to quickly unzip, grab my phone, change songs, then slip it back in without having to interrupt my run.
Powerbeats Pro Wireless Earbuds
I made the leap to wireless earbuds a year ago and it’s been a game-changer. I splurged on the Apple Powerbeats Pro mainly because I wanted high-quality headphones that looped around my ears, so I could do high-intensity workouts or go on runs without my earbuds falling out. What’s more, I can connect my earbuds to my laptop and do workout videos that way, which is great if I need to keep noise levels down.
The Powerbeats come in a case that charges them for days at a time. So when I go on short trips, I don’t need to bring the charging cable; just the carrying case that will keep them charged up. One less cable to lose or get tangled up with my other cables. I also wear the headphones around the airport if I’m on a call but need both hands for luggage. They are pricey but for me, have been worth every penny.
Apple Watch with Zones App
While any smartwatch that can track heart rate will work, I use the Apple Watch Series 8 just because it seamlessly connects with my Pro Beats and laptop. I use it to track my workouts and heart rate, as well as coach me through bodyweight exercises if I just want a quick at-home (or at-hotel) workout.
PRO TIP: Get your own Orange Theory classes straight from your watch. Ever heard of Orange Theory? I have multiple friends who rave about how much they love the workout classes, despite its super expensive membership plans and “must-have” heart rate monitor. Although I wasn’t ready to dish out money on Orange Theory classes since I’m constantly traveling, I wanted to replicate its theory on my own time…
In a nutshell, Orange Theory says you need to spend at LEAST 12 minutes of a 60-minute workout in the “orange” heart rate zone. This way, you maximize the amount of calories you burn post-workout. I recreated this concept by monitoring my heart rate with the “Zones” app on my Apple watch. It’s really satisfying to complete a workout like this! I feel like I’m getting the same quality exercise straight from my hotel gym or room that I would get going to an expensive class.
Resistance bands are some of the best portable exercise equipment to travel with because they are insanely lightweight and compact, and offer a range of exercise options. A resistance band is hands-free and great for strength training, agility training, mobility, stretching, or whatever you can come up with! Resistance bands can easily fit in your carry on.
Resistance bands are relatively cheap and typically come in a set with different resistance levels. I actually travel with two sets of resistance bands, each with different resistance level. I mainly use the higher resistance bands for lower body workouts, and the lower resistance bands for arms, upper body workouts and stretching.
Nike Free RN Flyknit 2018 Running Shoes
A pair of lightweight running shoes is a staple item in travel fitness equipment since you can use them for different types of workouts and they will hardly add weight to your carry on. The trick is to opt for a pair with minimal midsole cushioning, since it takes up valuable packing space. But you still want enough cushion to provide proper support…
The Nike Free RN Flyknit 2018 has come highly recommended as a great travel exercise shoe. It boasts a semi-collapsible upper, just enough midsole support, and is ultralight. It’s a little pricey, but if there’s anywhere to splurge, it’s on taking care of your body.
Meister Elite Portable Sand Kettlebell
Heavyweight training can be one of the most difficult exercises to do while traveling, since you obviously don’t want to travel around with 10, 20, heck even 50 lb. weights!
That’s where portable, refillable travel weights such as the Meister Elite kettlebells come in clutch. You can opt for one or two kettlebells to makes it a travel weight set. These are ideal for a range of workouts, especially lower body workouts focused on squats or core workouts that strengthen your abs. And bonus: they hardly make any noise when dropped on your hotel floor; unlike classic weights.
The only catch is that you’ll clearly need access to sand in order to fill these up–taking a trip to the sandy beaches of Hawaii or Florida anytime soon?!
The Meister Elite has some of the best reviews of all portable sand weights on the market. They are reportedly easy to fill, secure snug and don’t leak sand, fold up nice and compact, and keep weight evenly-balanced.
PRO TIP: Avoid refillable water weights at all costs. I have never, ever seen portable water weights with consistently good reviews. I have looked far and wide in hopes of finding a set, but reviewers note they are either difficult to fill up, leak, aren’t as heavy as advertised, and/or don’t carry weight evenly. Unfortunately, I think they are a little gimicky and too good to be true.
TRX GO Suspension Trainer
Although expensive, this is an impressive piece of equipment that’s essentially a strap designed to give you a full body workout of whatever intensity you choose. It’s a highly durable but lightweight strap that you connect to any door or anchor point. Use the door anchor or suspension anchor (both included) to attach the suspension training strap to your hotel door, hotel patio, or wherever works!
The TRX GO comes in a small mesh pouch, making it ideal for traveling with. You can use it for lower body, upper body, core workouts, mobility or stretching workouts. Doesn’t hurt that it has a nearly perfect 5-star rating on Amazon with 10,000+ reviews.
STARFIT Lightweight Jump Rope
For just $9, get one of the best cardio workouts of your life with a good ‘ol fashioned jump rope. Seriously, jumping rope packs more of a punch than running, going on the treadmill or elliptical. It is a heart pumping workout that gets your heart rate in the red zone FAST–helping you burn more calories and achieving that extra endorphins hit.
The STARFIT jump rope is inexpensive, super light and compact (weighing in at just 0.2 lbs)! It also features adjustable handles, so you and a travel partner can each use it set to your custom heights. Of course, there are infinite jump ropes on the market–if you want a higher-tech one that counts calories or a weighted cordless jump rope for an extra burn, go for it!
Gaiam Travel Yoga Mat
I don’t even do yoga but love having a travel yoga mat on-hand! Travel yoga mats are wonderful for when you just need a little extra protection and cushion to separate you from the ground. Their grippy material can also help prevent you from sliding and potentially hurting yourself while exercising. Use them for yoga, pilates, body weight training, stretching, meditating, and more.
The Gaiam travel yoga mat is top-rated for its incredibly grippy, but thin material, that takes up hardly any luggage space. This mat is only 2mm thick–there are thicker options available, but the thinness is what makes Gaiam’s mat rise above the rest for travelers. This lightweight mat weighs just two pounds.
Travel Workout Cards
Travel workout cards are a fun way to mix up your workout routine. Choose from loads of different bodyweight / resistance band workout combinations, where you can customize the focus area of a workout, but still have a pre-made exercise plan ready to go.
The two workout card sets I highlighted above are pretty different. The Sweat Deck offers simple workout routines with time limits and varying difficulty. The Booty Cards provide an array of butt exercises, accompanied by visuals and directions on how to properly do them.
These workout cards are great travel companions for the times when you want a little more structure in your hotel gym workout, or don’t want to use a workout phone app.
A AZURELIFE Exercise Core Sliders
These simple foam/plastic sliders are incredibly effective at giving you an epic core workout, if core training is what you’re currently focused on. They can also help with balance, stability, and range of motion training. The core sliders come in sets of two, weighing in total at just 1/2 lb. and each disc measuring 7″ in diameter. Use the foam side on hardwood floors, and use the smooth plastic side on carpeted floors, to ensure the discs glide seamlessly along the floor.
Ankle weights are a simple way to turn any activity into a light exercise. Maybe you’re exploring a new city but want to tone up your legs and burn some extra calories–throw on ankle weights while you walk around.
You can even attach the ankle weights to your wrists for a good arm resistance workout, making the weights multi-purposeful.
Weighted ankle straps come in different weight limits, typically ranging from 5 to 15 pounds. They are pretty small and compact to travel with, and are so easy to quickly throw on and use.
Kieba Massage Lacrosse Balls
A basic lacrosse ball can help you work out tightened muscles just as well as–if not better–than a foam roller. I learned this trick from my brother after watching him lie down on top of a lacrosse ball and roll around to help release tension in his back muscles. The lacrosse ball is small enough so you can get deeper into the nooks and crannies of your tightened muscle groups. I tried it for myself and was nearly in tears because it was so effective.
A lacrosse ball can also help you with myofascial release and trigger point therapy. What’s more, it won’t take up much room in your carry on and it only costs $10 for a set of two!
You can opt for a portable, inflatable foam roller if that’s what your body prefers, but expect a higher price tag and to lose more luggage space to this piece of travel workout equipment.
Theragun 2.0 Mini Massage Gun
If you want a device that will massage tight muscles even better than a lacrosse ball, a mini massage gun will work magic. The Theragun 2.0 weighs just 1.5 lbs. but can apply up to 20 lbs. of pressure on your muscles, for a deep tissue massage.
This massage gun is great for travelers because it’s lightweight, super compact, effective, and can charge via a USB-A to USB-C charging cable. I personally find a charging cable more convenient than having to use and restock on expensive AA or AAA batteries. What’s more, the massage gun gets about 120 minutes of use per full charge-that’s a two-hour massage if you wanted one!
Liquid I.V. Electrolyte Supplement
Both working out and traveling (especially by plane) dehydrates you. Carry a handful of Liquid IV packets in your luggage to ensure you get the hydration you need while on the go.
I personally love the convenience and hydrating effects of Liquid IV. It isn’t the cheapest electrolyte supplement on the market, but it’s the only one that has prevented (and halted) dehydration headaches–and don’t even get me started on how amazing it is at preventing hangovers if you have a packet before drinking 😉
Why Fitness Is Important While Traveling
With heart attacks on the rise among young adults, I would argue that fitness should be one of the most important things in your life, regardless of whether or not you’re traveling. But keeping up with your fitness goals when traveling is so important because:
Your body will have more strength to seamlessly adjust to new timezones, altitudes and environments
You’ll more easily fight off sickness when exposed to millions of germs on flights and at airports and hotels
An ongoing fitness routine can help you feel stable and centered on an otherwise busy travel trip
Working out on a regular basis will promote better sleep and reduce stress
Can You Travel with Exercise Equipment?
You can travel with all of the exercise equipment covered above. Since most portable travel exercise equipment is either designed to deflate, fold up, or just be really compact, TSA agents won’t have issues with them. These soft objects don’t pose a security concern.
What Workout Equipment is Most Effective?
Typically, you will see faster results with exercise equipment that puts more resistance on your muscles, works multiple muscle groups at once, and requires you to use balance.
Workout equipment such as the total body TRX or the core sliders are great for simultaneously targeting muscles, but also requiring you to use the rest of your body for balance and stability. You train and strengthen your body as a whole, versus just one muscle group that may struggle to adjust when the rest of your body hasn’t been trained the same way.
But really, it boils down to answering what “effective” means to you. Are you on a mission to increase your stamina? I recommend a jump rope. Looking to build bigger muscles? The Meister sand kettlebell is a good starting place. Want a super toned body? The AZURE core sliders will tighten up your abs in no time.