The Only Travel Exercise Equipment You’ll Ever Need To Get A Proper Workout in

I’ve been looking online at all the posts about travel exercise equipment written by people who haven’t used the equipment and are shilling it for an affiliate commission. So, I decided to write a big review about travel exercise equipment, from someone who is actually on the road and staying fit while country hopping. I’ve been on the road for 5 months and I’m on an 8-month journey right now, with another planned for next year. I have additionally spent the last 2 years doing calisthenics and body-weight workouts, so I’ve been exercising with portable equipment for a very long time. In this article, I’ll share exactly what I’ve learned over these years exercising on the move and by the end of it, you’ll know exactly what you need to stay fit.

I really believe you only need 2-3 pieces of equipment if you’re on long-term travel. Any more than this will weigh you down and become very, very annoying! And, you can do pretty much everything you need with these pieces of equipment. However, I will talk about some more home-based equipment I’ve used in the past in this article too.

The Only Travel Exercise Equipment You Need

Here’s the complete list of travel exercise equipment you actually need:

  1. Gymnastic rings
  2. OR TRX cable system
  3. Resistance bands 10-30kg resistance is good depending on your strength
  4. Push-Up Bars (this is only really necessary for handstand, L-Sit work etc.)
  5. Yoga Mat

1. Gymnastic Rings

Price $20-50

Pros

  • Strong, light, easily transportable
  • Open up your horizons to many more exercises
  • Work the full body in a more rigorous way than standard bodyweight exercise
  • Fantastic for core stability and functional-based muscle building
  • Can be strapped to any tree you find
  • Makes every body-weight exercise magnificently harder

Cons

  • Annoying to set up and take down
  • Can take up some space in your bag and add a bit of weight

Gymnastic rings are by far the best travel exercise equipment you can get, if you can make the space for them. You can pick these up relatively cheaply on Amazon for around $20-$30 for nice wooden rings, with good straps that will last.

I personally have some non-brand ones I picked up, they are just as good as the branded stuff you’ll find on Amazon. All someone has done is put their logo on it and added a nice felt bag or something like that. It’s most likely the exact same product from AliExpress.

Having gym rings alongside a resistance band gives you the ability to do all the exercises you’d possibly need for strength training and to sculpt your body in a muscular, useful way.

L-Sit

Advanced Push-up Example

For instance, having gym rings gives you the ability to do exercises like:

  • L-Sits
  • Ring dips (harder than bar dips)
  • Ring rows (for upper back)
  • Ring muscle-ups
  • 1 arm pull-ups
  • Ring pull-ups (harder than normal)
  • Handstand pushups
  • Planche/front-lever
  • Pistol squats
  • and so much more

I personally use rings for all of these exercises. For upper body strength and control, I can’t recommend these enough, they are absolutely key to putting on mass, and strength and work for multiple muscle groups at once with a single exercise. Ring exercises help fill the void of not having heavy weights in the gym, as rings make every upper-body workout much harder.

Depending on your fitness goals, and current level they can sometimes be too difficult for some people who haven’t built up the proper stability muscles needed to use them. Additionally, they are annoying to set up and take down. Other than that, they are by far my most essential piece of workout equipment.

2. TRX Cable System

$20-60

Pros

  • Strong, light, easily transportable
  • Gives you access to so many more body-weight exercises like dips, L-Sits, back rows, delt exercises and more
  • Works the full-body better than regular body-weight workouts, because of the stability needed
  • Can be strapped to any tree you find or any lamppost or bar to give you a greater range of exercises
  • Amazing for core stability and building functional muscle

Cons

  • Has a single suspension cord with a fork into two handles, which puts a barrier above you preventing some exercises like handstand pushups, crows, isometric holds like planche etc.

TRX cable system is a more portable version of gym rings, which is a little less useful. It opens up all the possibilities of doing extra back work like rows, and rear delt flys and allows you to do dips, one-arm assisted pull-ups, etc. 

However, for more advanced exercises like L-Sits, ring muscle-ups, and handstands, it will be more difficult to do these on a TRX system compared to a set of gymnastic rings. 

The reason for this is, the TRX has handles that are connected by a single suspension anchor, which then forks off into two bands. This means, when you attach them to a bar, there is a bit of the band that sits above and gets in the way. Therefore, when trying to do a proper handstand, your feet will hit this, or you’ll have to do the handstand with a really wonky form.

I personally prefer gym rings for this particular reason. However, if you don’t do these exercises or don’t foresee yourself doing them, the extra luggage space gym rings take isn’t worth it.

The TRX system is a really lightweight bit of kit you can hang on anything sturdy enough (like a tree) to open up a world of new exercises. It fits in your luggage easily and doesn’t add a great deal of weight. It’s also a lot easier to set up than the rings.

All things considered, the TRX suspension training strap is easily the most portable device you can have for a travel fitness routine. You just need your body weight, a tree, and your cables to get a full-body, challenging workout that will build muscle mass.

In conjunction with high-intensity interval training, it’s extremely easy to stay fit using this piece of equipment.

3. Resistance Band(s)

travel exercise resistance band
Price $15-40

Pros

  • Can assist you with harder exercises like pull-ups, muscle-ups, one arm pull-ups etc.
  • Adds extra weight to bodyweight exercise like squats, pushups, etc.
  • Can be used for tricep extensions, bicep curls, etc.
  • Strap it to a pole or bar for back exercise, shoulders and delts
  • Really light, and transportable
  • Easily add difficult weight to otherwise easy exercise

Cons

  • There is always the possibility of it snapping

Resistance bands are fantastic for multiple exercises and having a single, decent, thick resistance band can open your world to a whole new set of exercises for your vacation workout routine.

A thick, heavy resistance band is exceptionally good for supporting your development with calisthenics exercises. For instance, you can use it to support your weight and help you work your way up to a pull-up, muscle-up and even one-arm chin-ups.

For instance, with a resistance band you can do exercises like:

  1. Arm curls
  2. Assisted pull-ups
  3. Assisted muscle ups
  4. Resistance push-ups
  5. Resistance bandsquats
my resistance band
my resistance band. as you can see it fits easily in my bag front pocket. great for traveling and exercising

Pretty much every exercise can be aided by a good band. Additionally, for pretty much every exercise, you can add resistance by using a band. They are also great for doing delt and back exercises when you don’t have access to a pull-up bar (which is necessary for good back work while conducting body-weight exercises).

I personally use a 20kg band. This is really thick, giving it extreme durability, prevents it from snapping during explosive exercises like assisted muscle-ups, and is lightweight and easy to pack into a bag for travel.

You can strength train with it easily, strap it to a bar or lampost for pull exercises, strap it round your feet and lift for curls, and much more. It’s easy for anyone to get a full-body workout using a resistance band.

I personally use resistance bands for assisted muscle-ups, one-arm pull-ups, and for front delt, rear delt, tricep, seated rows, and bicep work when I don’t have access to a pull-up bar. I additionally use it to help aid me with building up to a front lever.

In the past, I’ve also used it to help with my L-Sit progression to V-Sit. This is done by strapping the resistance band on a bar above your head, getting in position on gym rings, and then positioning your legs in the resistance band hole to help keep your legs up.

Once you’ve got to a good number of reps/seconds hold, you can start to remove the band and do shorter reps.

4. Push-Up Bars/Wooden Paralettes

push up blocks travel exercise
Price $20-50

Pros

  • Reduced strain on your wrists when attempting planche, handstand and other advanced exercise
  • More stability and control, resulting in cleaner reps and greater probability of completing the full motion exercise, which helps to build the muscles needed e.g. advanced exercise like planche, handstand pushup etc.
  • Cheap, sturdy, and lightweight for travel

Cons

  • Take up a lot of space in your bag
  • Not necessary for these workouts and can just use park dips bars instead

Push-Up bars are certainly not necessary. However, if you are building your range of calisthenics exercises and pushing for more advanced workouts like the planche, handstand pushup, and progression exercises like crow stance hold, they are very useful.

At first, I didn’t think Push-Up bars would help develop these types of exercises as much as they did. However, upon trying a set for a crow-to-handstand exercise, I was converted. The extra added elevation seems to help with control and gives you a better chance of completing the exercise, and working the muscles that need to be worked in order to get it down with just your bare hands and the floor.

Of course, you can do these exercises without push-up bars but, if you have space in your bag, I would highly recommend taking them for the added benefit of extra control and less strain on your wrists.

Right now I’ll be transparent and say, I do not use push-up bars considering the extra space in my bag I would need, and try to find a park where there is a dip bench. However, if I am at a calisthenics park and they are there, I will always use them for my handstand practice.

Above is how you could use pushup bars

5. Yoga Mat

Price $15-30

Pros

  • Added comfort for floor work like ab crunches, situps etc.
  • Light and rolls up to save space
  • Very transportable
  • Yoga mats that come with the electric band can be wrapped around your bag
  • You can get Yoga towels which are small for packing inside your bag

Cons

  • Not enough logical reasons to add to take up space in your bag
  • Depending on the size and thickness of the mat it will add weight

You don’t really need one of these, you can pretty much just use a folded-up towel. However, the added padding and grip will make it a useful piece of equipment for some people, especially if you’re doing a lot of floor work where extra padding for your joints is required for example workout floor exercises, pilates, or yoga positions.

Another reason may be depending on where you’re traveling, some places may not be so clean so having your Yoga Mat gives you a clean space, which is great for those who love to meditate or do breath work on the floor to feel more grounded to the earth.

However, unless this is a habit/workout you implement daily or throughout your week personally, it is not necessary to bring a Yoga Mat on your travels, considering the weight and space taken up

I have used Yoga Mats before, but usually only for workouts that require me to have my knees on a hard floor, or stuff like sit-ups.

For this reason, I don’t think they have enough use to take up space in my bag, but I am a minimalist and some people may love the benefits of a Yoga Mat.

Other Travel Exercise Equipment Ideas

I wanted to include these for people who want exercise equipment but are still living in one place. So for those of you who aren’t hopping countries, this exercise equipment will be essential to have to build a simple, portable home gym.

1. Doorway Pull-Up Bar

travel pullup bar
Price $20-$40

Pros

  • Really lightweight, sturdy, and strong
  • Can be broken down and built up again to fit any door frame
  • Allows you to do a lot of variations of pull-ups, alongside opening up ab work like a front lever, leg raises, and more
  • Very cheap

Cons

  • Can’t do muscle up or explosive work because of limitations in height
  • Will damage the paintwork on your door-frame

This should be an essential piece of gear in your home, a portable gym setup. It’s easy to set up and build and opens up the possibility to work your back, and arms extremely well without the need for heavy dumbell or barbell equipment. When the time comes to move place, you can easily break it down again for travel purposes, rebuild it again and use it on another door frame.

Also, most doorway pull-up bars double up as push-up bars, allowing you to reduce wrist strain and get a deeper range on your push-ups

One of the major downsides is that, for the doorway pull-up bar system, you won’t be able to do muscle-ups or any real explosive muscle work, because you won’t have the height to be able to do this – your door frame will knock you on the head.

This is why I’d personally recommend going for the full pull-up and dips station you can build and take down again. Although not as portable, it gives you much more flexibility for exercise and can still be transported easily if you move home

I have personally used door frame pull-up bars in the past to do exercises such as:

  • Pull-ups (of course)
  • Chin-ups
  • Leg raises
  • L-Sit pull-ups
  • Side to side pull-ups
  • Front lever

Another downside is that you will mess up the paint work on your doorframe, so if that’s something you’re worried about, go for a full pull-ups and dips station.

2. Weighted Vest

$70-$200

Pros

  • Access to much higher weight for extra muscle building
  • Usually comes with plates so you can alternate different weights
  • Portable as you are able to wear it provided you can deal with the shoulder strain
  • Great for weighted rucks/hikes and can be used for runs too (only recommend this on softer ground like fields
  • Can be used with all body-weight exercises to add resistance

Cons

  • Very heavy
  • You’ll want to purchase a relatively expensive one for shoulder support and good stitching

Weighted vests are fantastic to add a bit more resistance you your workouts. Once you get to a certain point with body weight, it becomes hard to put on mass without getting an incredible amount of reps in or pushing yourself to your max every workout.

With a weighted vest, you can essentially add from 5-100kg to your pull-ups, squats, push-ups and pretty much any exercise done with your body.

As you can imagine, the extra weight, the more your muscles break down and the more you will start to see muscle mass build, provided you’re eating the correct diet.

I’ve personally used a weighted vest to increase the resistance on pull-ups and push-ups. They are a little difficult to use for squats because of the balancing problems. The weight isn’t the same as a racked barbell and the load feels different, so you’ll have to become adjusted to that feeling. They’re additionally great for going on weighted hikes, and runs to really push yourself.

The brand I personally used was Force Fitness. I can attest to the quality of this vest. It has great shoulder support and you can easily alter how it fits. The plates are easy to change, and the quality of the stitching and design is fantastic. If you are from the US, Wolf Tactical looks extremely similar to Force Fitness.

One downside is that it’s not waterproof and the metal plates are susceptible to rust. If you live in a cold, or rainy environment this can be a problem. While using a weighted vest you will experience a lot of strain on the shoulders, especially if you’re using high weights. It’s also not very portable considering the amount of weight that you can load on it.

3. Kettlebell

kettlebell exercise equipment
Price $40-$80

Pros

  • Can use for heavy shoulder work, rack squatscurls, and a lot more
  • High weight so adds a lot of resistance for muscle to grow
  • If you have two you can double them up as push-up bars

Cons

  • Very heavy to transport if you have higher weights

Kettle bells are great to add weight to functional movements in your exercise regime. You can use them for rack squats, kettlebell swings, shoulder work, curls, tricep extensions, and more.

I personally had a 24kg kettlebell for home workouts. It was great for getting heavy back rows in, heavy shoulder work and curl work that just can’t be completely replicated with body-weight exercises.

One downside is that they are not very portable if the weight is high. A 24kg weight is extremely difficult to transport. However, if you have a smaller weight you’ll find it a lot easier to transport about.

Free Travel Equipment Ideas (That I Personally Use)

1. Using your packed bag

If you’re traveling around, it’s likely your bag is pretty heavy, especially with all your electrical equipment, clothes, etc. You can use your bag for curls, overhead tricep extensions, and wear your bag while doing squats, pull-ups, or push-ups for extra weight and resistance.

If you’re not around a pull-up bar, it’s great to use your bag for some arm curls and tricep extensions. If you have a luggage-style handle, you can additionally use the bag for one arm bent over rows to focus on your back muscles.

Another way you can make your bag heavier is to chuck a few water bottles in there.

2. Using the chair in your hotel room

If you’re staying in hotels, Airbnb etc. you will have access to furniture you can use to enhance your workouts. You’ll want to make sure the chair you’re using is sturdy enough first and can hold your weight.

You can then use it for tricep dips, L-Sits, dips, and other exercises that will help you get a better full-body workout in.

3. Towel Pull Ups

If you pull a towel taut between your two hands and then raise it above your head and pull as you would with a pull-up, you can work a similar muscle group to pull-ups without having the pull-up bar there. Of course, this is no replacement for pull-ups, but it’s a good exercise to chuck into your routine if you can’t find a bar.

The trick with towel pull-ups is that you need to do them extremely slow to get the time under tension benefits and aim for higher reps like 20-30 to get the full benefits.

Why Trust Us?

Iris and I have personally used all of the travel equipment on this list. There is video proof in the article. I have personally been working out since I was 16 (I’m now 26), and I’ve been doing solely calisthenics (body-weight) exercise, which requires lightweightcompact equipment, for over 2 years now. Iris has been working since she was 14, focussing on dance and movement exercises, with lightweight, travel equipment in mind, and additionally has her Gym Instructor qualification.

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