After three years of living out of a Toyota Tacoma, our contributor explains how he keeps fit while traveling and the workout gear that helps him do it.
I rented the same house in San Francisco for four years. One day, I was abruptly kicked out when the owner decided to sell. I balked at the idea of finding a similar spot in the worst rental market in the country, so I moved into my truck.
I assumed it would last one month, maybe two. But three years later, there’s no end in sight.
While nomadic life is glorified on social media, it’s often less romantic than the photos you see. Most nights are spent in parking lots or on dimly lit streets, many meals are cooked while strangers offer weird looks, and bathrooms are found in gas stations, friends’ houses, or, in emergencies, the bushes. On the bright side, you adapt pretty quickly to all these things.
Most of the downsides center around the lack of routine. One of the most common problems is staying healthy, as travel and fitness don’t naturally go hand-in-hand. Whether you’re on the road for a week or a year, getting enough exercise is a constant challenge. Fortunately, owning the right gear helps make it a lot easier. Here are the key pieces I rely on while traveling.
Travel Fitness Gear
Trail Running Shoes
The easiest way to stay in shape on the road is a quick run. Right now, my go-to shoe choice is the HOKA ONE ONE Torrent trail runner ($120).
The Torrent is a lightweight shoe designed for trail running that’s just as effective for pounding pavement. Designed in collaboration with one of the best athlete teams in the world, the shoe is the near-perfect balance between comfort and cushion on the downhill and lightweight on the up. A durable and breathable upper is great for rainy days, and burly traction helps keep you from slipping in any condition.
A few other favorites among the GearJunkie staff include the Altra Lone Peak, HOKA ONE ONE Evo Mafate, and Salomon Sense Ride. Whatever you chose, be sure to try them on, find a good fit for your foot, and, if possible, test them out by running a little before you purchase.
Variety is the spice of life — it’s also the best way to stay in all-around shape. For shorter, 30-minute workouts, I pull out my Bowflex SelectTech Adjustable Dumbbells ($300). They’re easily adjustable from 5 to 52 pounds. Yes, carrying big weights like this may sound ridiculous, but for those who put a priority on fitness, I think they’re more than worth it.
These weights help me keep my core, back, shoulders, and quads strong without paying high day-rate fees for gyms. Their adjustability allows me to do basic presses, modified squats and cleans, and weighted lunges, planks, and rows. This also allows me to gradually increase the weight as I get stronger, which is a major plus.
For those looking for something smaller or lighter, the Power Block Adjustable Dumbbells are a good option at half the weight. Or, for true minimalists, a good set of resistance bands and some creativity will get a lot done.
Setting goals and sticking to them is a key part of staying in shape. The second half of this — the accountability part — is where we all struggle.
I use a notebook for my lifting workouts and have found the easiest way to track my endurance training is a reliable watch. The Garmin Forerunner 935 ($500) is my top choice. Multisport features, longlasting battery, waterproofing, GPS, and a heart rate tracker make it the most well-rounded watch on the market.
A great alternative to the Forerunner is Suunto’s Spartan Sport Baro, loaded with many of the same features and capabilities.
Finding places to run, bike, ski, or swim can be tricky — Mountain Hub makes it a lot easier. The crowd-sourced app is a one-stop shop for adventure ideas, backcountry navigation, recent weather and trail reports, and reliable forums for must-see places in your area. If I don’t have a local friend with trail running suggestions, my next step is to open Mountain Hub and quickly run through a few options.
Other excellent apps are Trail Run Project and MTB Project. These REI-sponsored apps work smoothly to give all kinds of information on trails near your location and even work off the grid. They’re excellent resources and work on most smartphones.
Looking for public land to camp on? OnX Maps, favored by hunters for finding hunting locations, also works great to find public land for camping. The app shows even very small chunks of public property, like those owned by the Bureau of Land Management, hiding in plain sight.
And if downloading a new app is too much, you can always use the satellite view on Google Maps.
The Specialized Diverge Comp ($3,000) is a stretch goal, the thing you probably need to spend time saving up for.
The Diverge is a bike designed for any type of exploration — and it lives up to its billing. It’s fully adept at everything from dirt trails, cruising around town, and joining in for a long group ride. This bike truly does it all.
I wear Lululemon ABC Jogger Pants ($128) and 5 Year Basic Long Sleeve ($68). Expensive? Sure, but worth every penny. Simple, comfortable, and durable, Lululemon now offers high-quality men’s and women’s athletic apparel that, cliche or not, you’ll never want to take off. Stretchy and sweat-wicking fabrics combined with intuitively placed pockets and sleek design make these pieces the perfect workout combo.
While pretty much any T-shirt will work, we’re enamored with the Altra Performance Tee, which GearJunkie’s editor-in-chief wore for the entire Leadville 100 Trail Run last month with zero chafing.
For those 26 and under, feel free to skip to the next item. But for everyone else, keep reading.
Good recovery is essential for a consistent workout routine, but that doesn’t mean it has to be complex. After a hard run or lift, I do some dynamic stretching and then roll out using two tools: the generic Lacrosse Ball ($6) and the TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller ($35).
These tools can be alternately described as torture devices. The lacrosse ball helps loosen hard-to-tackle spots like hamstrings below your butt. A good foam roller helps promote the flow of blood and oxygen, allowing you to recover faster. For a smaller roller option, check out the Travel Stick.
While I’m rolling out my muscles, I drink GU Recovery Drink Mix ($36). I’ve been told many times that the first hour after your workout is the most important. GU’s protein mix prevents muscle breakdown as well as provides glycogen, sodium you sweated out, amino acids (which promote immune function), and whey (to promote muscle growth).
Also worth noting: It tastes like chocolate and is delicious. If you can’t find GU’s protein mix, there are dozens of similar alternatives to choose from online and in brick-and-mortar stores.