Portable exercise equipment for camping – 7 lightweight ways to stay fit on the road

Going camping is a form of exercise by itself already – you will move more than in a regular office job. Then there are all the activities that go along with camping – packing, unpacking, trekking, running, swimming, canoeing, paddleboarding or kayaking. But what if you want to stay active on the road, whilst camping at campsites (or anywhere) with no such activities? I’ve got you covered. Here’s a list of my top 7 pieces of portable exercise equipment you can easily take on your camping trip to stay fit and healthy.

Stay fit without any equipment

Let’s start with the obvious one – you don’t really need any exercise equipment to stay fit. Many exercises can be done anywhere with just your body weight. Here’s a list of a few I tend to use the most:

  • Push-ups – work on your arms, shoulders, chest and core at the same time. You can do them anywhere. Here’s how to do proper push-ups.
  • Walking lunges – Walk forward with big steps, letting the rear knee almost touch the floor. Keep your back straight. It helps if you put your arms on your hips. Here’s how to do proper lunges.
  • Squats – Keep your feet shoulder width apart. Keep your knees above your ankles. Pretend you’re about to sit on a chair then raise up again. If you want to add difficulty, put a backpack on with added weight of your choosing (water bottle, training equipment, camping equipment…). Here’s a good video on how to do a proper squat. Stretching your arms forward helps with balance.
  • Yoga – doing basic yoga movements will exercise your whole body. All you need is flat ground (or a yoga mat for the more advanced moves).
  • Swimming, water sports, paddleboarding, kayaking, hiking, running etc – just stay active, move about, allow yourself to get out of breath a few times and your heart & body willl thank you for that. Make sure you find the right camp that offers a wide range of activities, suncamp.co.uk offers a wide rande of sport filters in their advanced search, but make sure you also check the images (not all activities will be listed in the search filters).
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By staying active I don’t mean you have to do anything extreme (…but it’s fun though if you do!) 🙂

Top 7 portable exercise tools whilst camping

Resistance bands & loop bands

These little helpers are recommended worldwide by many trainers(1), physiotherapists (2, 3) or fitness enthusiasts. Not only because of their versatility and size/weight (almost nothing). One band can help you train many muscle groups at the same time. They barely take up any space.

A resistance band is a rubber band (not a loop) that you basically stretch using your hands or legs. These tend to be longer than loop bands and are more versatile (you can stand on them and lift both ends to exercise your biceps, or just stretch your arms forward and stretch the band leaving the ends hanging (this way you can also adjust the difficulty – the longer the band between your arms, the easier it will get).

Loop bands are close-ended loops that you use to increase the difficulty/resistance of certain exercises. Most often they are placed on your calves to increase the effect of squats or other leg exercises. Or you can hook them against one limb and pull with the other.

Watch this video from Bioneer to see many of their uses & hear more benefits.

“Overall, the results show that elastic resistance bands can be considered a feasible alternative to dumbbells in flyes and reverse flyes.”

National Institute of Health Study

PROS

  • lightest exercise item you can take with you
  • take up almost no room
  • versatile
  • cheap
  • no need to anchor anywhere, all you need is the band and your body – train anywhere, indoors, outdoors, in a tent
  • good dumbbell replacement
  • train your upper or lower body
  • good to train eccentric exercises
  • joint friendly (controlled movement)

CONS

  • can snap if not used properly (we’ve all seen those videos…)

Recommended resistance bands

I would recommend getting a set of bands, where each colour represents a different level of resistance (weight). This helps to choose the right one for a specific exercise as you won’t always want to use only one. Some exercises are difficult enough so you would just use a lighter band, some exercises will require more resistance – stronger resistance bands.

I personally use and can vouch for this 3-pack from Decathlon.co.uk at £4.99
3.8/5 from 2800+ reviews
resistance of 5-6-7 KG
  • Great with any workout. This resistance band set can be integrated seamlessly with every popular workout program including Yoga, Pilates, and more. Or use them for general exercise, stretching, strength training, power weight programs.
  • Multiple uses. These resistance bands are often used for sports and fitness, physical therapists love these physical therapy bands to help them rehabilitate their patients. Our stretch bands work for people suffering from leg, knee and back injuries.
  • Superior quality. Our exercise resistance bands are easy on skin. The instruction booklet includes illustrated exercises that demonstrate how to use our resistance bands.
  • What you get: original USA designed exercise bands with color-coded resistance levels, portable travel carry bag and instruction guide.
  • International products have separate terms, are sold from abroad and may differ from local products, including fit, age ratings, and language of product, labeling or instructions.

TRX bands (suspension trainer / straps)

These are very versatile – many exercises for any part of the body packed into a small bag. You can also hang them almost anywhere – from a tree branch or trunk, shut it into your car door, any structure that allows you to tie the loop around it and you’re good to go. They are lightweight and small.

They add a new level to bodyweight exercises, especially the upper body (arms, shoulders) but also legs. See how to use them in this video.

My favourite piece of equipment I carry in my backpack on every trip.

“In theory TRX might be more effective for preventing sports injuries than lifting weights on machines because it is more “functional;” it exercises groups of muscles rather than isolating individual ones. … weightlifting (what they’d called “traditional resistance training.”)”

Sports without injury

PROS

  • still very light
  • takes up about as much room as a shoe
  • safer than using dumbbells
  • good to train eccentric exercises
  • easy to control difficulty with different placement of your legs towards the floor

CONS

  • you’ll need to anchor them somewhere (shut it into a door – even a car door, a tree branch, car roof rails…)

Recommended TRX bands (suspension trainer / straps)

I personally use and can vouch for this suspension trainer from Decathlon.co.uk at £14.99
4.5/5 from 1700+ reviews

Or try something that thousands of people have bought from Amazon: TRX GO Suspension Trainer System:

  • OUR LIGHTEST, LEANEST SUSPENSION TRAINER: TRX Go Gym is our lightest, leanest Suspension Trainer ever. Perfect for travel & working out indoors or outdoors. Tighten, tone and sculpt your body anywhere, anytime in as little as 15 minutes a day.
  • WORKOUT ANYWHERE: The TRX GO Suspension Trainer weighs one lb. You can set it up virtually anywhere in less than a minute. Work out anywhere on your own schedule.
  • BURN FAT, BUILD LEAN MUSCLE: With 300+ exercises, the TRX GO will give you TOTAL BODY results, helping burn unwanted fat and build lean - not bulky - muscle.
  • GET A STRONGER CORE: A stronger core supports your WHOLE body. Research shows that Suspension Training is one of the MOST effective tools for stimulating and conditioning the core.
  • THE TRX MANIFESTO: As the leaders in functional training, we aim empower you in your pursuit of better. We've developed the world's best training equipment, workout programs, and education courses to help you achieve a better version of yourself.

Gymnastic rings (Cross-training rings)

Similar to the TRX above, these are very versatile and easy to hang anywhere. They aren’t just great for bodyweight exercises and upper body strength, but also improve your stabilisation, core and grip strength, mobility and much more. Plus, ever heard of proprioception? Another hidden benefit is that you can use the straps to hang your hammock if not used for exercise :).

Check out this tutorial for beginners to get started on gymnastic rings.

Another piece of equipment I carry in my car on every trip.

“The unique nature of gymnastic rings, and the exercises that can be performed with them, provide benefits beyond those of barbells or pulley machines. One benefit of the rings is their inherent instability. … This instability forces you to concentrate every second that you are on the rings in order to keep from swaying”

artofmanliness.com

PROS

  • not too heavy
  • take up about as much room as two shoes
  • full body exercise including stabilising muscles (those that don’t get used much when using machines)
  • requires a bit of a skill – workout for the brain & coordination too
  • good to train eccentric exercises
  • easy to control difficulty with different placement of your legs towards the floor

CONS

  • you’ll need to anchor them somewhere higher up (a tree branch)
  • requires a bit more skill than other items in this article (which is also a PRO in a way)

Recommended gymnastic rings

There’s no hard science here – wooden rings on heavy-duty straps, you don’t need much more. I use Decathlon ones and are happy with them. Or you can go by the wisdom of the crowd and buy the bestsellers from Amazon.

I personally use and can vouch for these Decathlon.co.uk rings at £24.99
4.5/5 from 400+ reviews
  • Strong and sturdy with straps so that you can hang them at home or at the gym
  • Perfect for gymnastics, athletics, and functional gym strength training
  • Premium Quality wooden rings with quick locking, adjustable straps so you can workout above and below the rings in just a few seconds
  • Workout at home with these Sundried gym rings. These are a perfect addition to your training and enable you to complete a wide range of activities. They come with ample amounts of tough nylon strapping and an easy to use one touch adjustment clip, and can be fastened to any secure overhead beam.
  • 2.5cm wide straps. Over 4m of super tough nylon strapping per strap (4.3m). Ring Diameter - 23cm. 225 kg weight capacity per ring. 27mm ring thickness. By Sundried
  • ⭐ LIFETIME GUARANTEE we are so sure of the quality of our product we offer a lifetime warranty against manufacture defects.
  • ⭐ HIGH QUALITY, made from sustainable birch ply for superior strength and better grip than cheap plastic rings.
  • ⭐ THICKER STRAPS, Gravity Fitness rings come with thicker 38mm straps and high Quality Black Clam Clasp for Easy Adjustment.
  • ⭐ TESTED TO 350kg and available in 32mm or 28mm sizes. 32mm for a better grip and kinder on the wrists. 28mm and Olympic Gymnastics Standards.
  • ⭐ PERFECT FOR Gymnastics, Calisthenics, CrossFit and all aspects of bodyweight training.

Jump rope (skipping rope)

The oldest tool in the box perhaps? It’s great for cardio (good for your heart & stamina), stronger bones & coordination. Very lightweight and easy to pack. Combined with some bodyweight exercises (push-ups, pull-ups) will give you a good all-around workout. Plus it can serve as a clothes hanger too. 😀

“A 2013 study published in Research Quarterly: American Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation found that college men who spent 10 minutes of jumping rope daily for six weeks improved their cardiovascular fitness just as much as college men who spent 30 minutes of jogging for the same time period.”

American Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation

PROS

  • lightweight
  • takes up almost no room
  • full body exercise in a short period of time, stamina / cardio
  • cheap
  • no need to anchor anywhere – train anywhere, indoors, outdoors
  • requires a bit of a skill – workout for the brain & coordination too

CONS

  • might require higher ceiling if indoors (can’t use in a tent)
  • requires a bit more skill than other items in this article (which is also a PRO in a way)

Recommended jump rope

If you want to get serious, get a professional jumping rope with these features:

  • smooth-turn handles (i.e. there’s a mechanism that turns inside the handle, so the rope doesn’t ever get tangled up), sometimes also called tangle-free + this makes the rope turn faster for a higher intensity workout
  • adjustable length
  • a bit heavier (so you get some feedback + it “flies” better + it’s more of a workout)

  • ELITE ROPE: The AERO-SPEED is the ultimate rope for high-intensity speed and power cross-training.
  • HIGH-END: Durable handles and PVC cords make these high-end, high-performance jump ropes.
  • SWIVEL-BEARING TECH: Our patented technology ensures smooth turning motion in any direction.
  • BEGINNER OR ADVANCED: Our ropes are designed for everyone: beginner or advanced, adult or child.
  • International products have separate terms, are sold from abroad and may differ from local products, including fit, age ratings, and language of product, labeling or instructions.
  • Anti-Slip Soft Memory Foam Handle: Constructed with anti-slip light weight ergonomically shaped handles coated with soft skin-friendly memory foam grips for extra comfort.
  • Easily Adjustable: You can adjust the length of the rope quickly and easily. Its adjustable 3m length design allows you to customize the length to suit your needs, making it suitable for all ages and all skill levels. Your order includes a set of spare adjustment buckles.
  • Tangled-free PVC Coated Steel Cable: Gritin skipping rope is made of high tensile steel wire and coated with powerful PVC material, which makes the rope more resistant and durable , and it can keep stable rhythm of skipping even after a prolonged exercise.
  • Premium Rapid Ball Bearing: Build-in professional premium 360 swivel rapid ball bearing to ensure a smooth and effortless spin making it the perfect addition to any calorie burning workout program.
  • Get Your Workout Anywhere: Compact,lightweight makes it easy to achieve maximum fat burn, tone your muscles and reach peak fitness anywhere.

Badminton set (speedminton / crossminton)

Crossminton is a version of badminton. You might have heard it being called speed badminton since the rallies are faster. There is no net, just pitch markings. It’s lightweight and doesn’t take much space. All you need is a big enough space to play (say 10mx5m [33 feet x 16 feet] or more). Can’t play it if it’s too windy, although crossminton shuttlecocks are slightly heavier and smaller, so a bit of wind is not a problem. Good exercise for two at the same time.

PROS

  • exercise for two
  • not just exercise – a social & fun game too
  • full body exercise in a short period of time, stamina / cardio

CONS

  • outdoors only
  • requires more room
  • sensitive to wind
  • …requires two people 🙂

Recommended Badminton set (speedminton / crossminton)

  • Starter Set for the entry to the sport Crossminton / Speed Badminton
  • 2 x S600 Speedminton aluminium rackets
  • 3 Speeder / balls (1 FUN, 1 MATCH, 1 NIGHT) and 1 wind ring for more wind stability
  • 2 Speedlights for the game in dawn and dark; glows for approximately 3 hours
  • Speedminton is the leading manufacturer for Crossminton / Speed Badminton equipment as well as the official supplier of DCV (Deutscher Crossminton Verband) and the ICO (International Crossminton Organization)
I also use and can vouch for this Decathlon.co.uk speedminton set at £34.99
4.7/5 from 16 reviews
Includes a carry bag and a bunch of shuttlecocks

Inflatable stand up paddle board (SUP)

This one seems to be the camping go-to in recent years. Every fellow camper we’ve met in Croatia (a camp by the sea) had one. It has plenty of other benefits on top of all the health ones:

PROS

  • great way to be active for a long time: low intensity but nevertheless great workout
  • upper body workout to leg work and core strength building
  • it’s great fun too 🙂
  • great for exploring the shores and beaches near your camp
  • easier to carry around than a kayak, boat or canoe + more affordable
  • great for a family too (fit more people on it to go to a restaurant on the opposite shore)
  • fun to use at any age

CONS

  • outdoors – water only
  • more expensive
  • more bulky (10+kg excl. the pump and paddles)
  • more suited for a caravan or camping van, not a microcamper

Recommended inflatable stand up paddle board (SUP)

The two often recommended brands seem to be Blackfin (premium – £900+) and Bluefin (midrange £500). Or you can try Decathlon’s affordable £300 range.

  • 10'8 - LOOKING FOR THE MOST STABLE, VERSATILE, ALL-INCLUSIVE SUP PACKAGE ON THE MARKET? Only Bluefin uses 1000 Denier Exo Surface Laminate PVC & Pro Weave Drop Stitch. These materials make our boards so tough they are can hold up to 28 PSI and are the most stable rigid, stable inflatable SUP you’ll ever buy. Cruise 10’8 is perfect for 1 + dog or seated passenger: 327 cm x 15 cm x 77 cm
  • KAYAK CONVERSION KIT & Action Camera MOUNT - Use our D-rings to transform your SUP into a SUP kayak in seconds! Clip on our comfortable padded seat & swap SUP handle for specialist kayak paddle end. Integrated Action Camera mount on the nose to capture the action.
  • DURABLE TRAVEL SUP BACKPACK & LIGHTWEIGHT FIBREGLASS PADDLE - The most comfortable SUP backpack available with loads of extra padding & super wide straps. Our 2 piece paddle has an ergonomic fibreglass shaft weighing almost 45% less than standard SUP paddles. Noflutter polyurethane composite blade is impossible to chip or damage.
  • SMART LOCK FIN & DOUBLE ACTION PUMP - Our versatile 8” centre fin with optimised rake provides ultimate glide and versatility for day to day paddling. No metal parts to lose, clip it in securely in seconds. Double action pump inflates Cruise on both the UP & DOWN portion of every pump.
  • LOADS OF ACCESSORIES + EXPERT CUSTOMER SUPPORT - Kayak conversion kit for seated paddling, integrated Action Camera mount to catch all the action, ultra padded Travel Backpack with outside pocket, Double Action Pump inflates Carbon in half the time. Responsive, expert customer support is always here to help choose a board or resolve any issues you might have.
Blackfin – One of the best inflatable paddle boards out there according to supboardguide.com
9.9/10
“High Quality & Durable board with a super high weight capacity. Carbon Fiber Rails, tons of d-rings, and action mounts. Can be used for fishing and comes with a 2-year warranty”

FREE ELECTRIC PUMP (VALUE £173.00 – PER ORDER) – at the time of writing.

Aqua Marina – a great starter kit at a great price

no reviews yet

SUP on the image is a £359 package including the pump and paddle

Frisbee (or any other throwing alternative)

You’d be surprised how much running, bending and jumping you’ll do when catching a frisbee. Plus, it requires good brain-eye-hand coordination, therefore it’s a full-body & brain workout you can pack in any backpack. And use it as a plate should you run out 😀

PROS

  • exercise for two or more people
  • not just exercise – a social & fun game too
  • full body exercise in a short period of time, stamina / cardio
  • hand-eye coordination

CONS

  • outdoors only
  • requires more room
  • sensitive to wind
  • …requires at least two people or a dog 🙂

Recommended frisbee

  • Spectacular flights with soft easy catches
  • Holder of the Guiness World Record for longest throw of an object
  • Enjoy thrilling games of catch
  • Colours may vary, one ring supplied
  • You will receive either Orange, Yellow or Pink
WFDF-approved disc. Official disc of the Ultimate European championships at £11.99
4.9/5 from 11 reviews
100% organic – might as well buy a PRO one!

You might want to consider these too

Fitness tracker (activity band)

Doing all that walking, swimming, running, hiking and other forms of exercise will have good results and you’ll feel it too. But what if you want to see it and track it over time? A good fitness tracker will do that for you automatically:

  • track your body stats over time (best way to achieve a goal is to track progress and see the little improvements that will motivate you further) – how does your weight, body fat % or heart rate change over time?
  • track how much you exercise – time, distance, intensity, heart rate

Don’t confuse these with smartwatches – which are basically phones on your wrist + fitness trackers. I don’t see the point of having a phone in my pocket and on my wrist, so all the additional money spent on a smartwatch would be wasted on me. For sports, a fitness tracker is all you need + no distractions of notifications or calls during your workout. But if you do want to check out smartwatches, Decathlon.co.uk has a good selection.

Each fitness tracker has many variations and functions – check them thoroughly to find the one that fits your needs the most and don’t overpay for functions you won’t use.

Or go for the most popular and well-rated brand FitBit and their new release:

FitBit Charge 5

To be released Sept 27th 2021

  • FitBit is the most popular and well rated brand of fitness trackers
  • FitBit Charge 4 rated “Best overall” by techadvisor.com.
  • Up to 7 days of battery and Water-resistant up to 50m
  • Compatible with iOS 13 or higher & Android OS 8.0 or higher
  • Sweat the smart way: Built-in GPS, Daily Readiness, Reminders to move, 24/7 heart rate, Automatic activity tracking, 20 exercise modes, workout intensity map

Tabata timer (interval timer)

To make your workout more focused and efficient a Tabata (interval) timer will come in handy. You can find many apps in the app stores. The doesn’t need to have too many bells and whistles – just a timer with alternating intervals of exercise and rest.

What exercise gear is NOT good for camping?

You might read about various pieces of equipment that might be portable – but it’s definitely not made to be carried around in a car. These either take too much space or too much time to assemble/disassemble, or they aren’t good exercise equipment overall. One way or another, they are not good for car camping:

Ab roller (exercise wheel)

Its benefits are easily offset by the risks to lower back injury during improper use (which is easy to do if not supervised) + you need a clean flat surface to use it unless you plan to make the exercise hardcore level with gravel and grass added to the mix. Using it on uneven ground, gravel etc will more likely result in back injury. A better and safer (and free) alternative would be the plank (elbows, arms, side) and push-ups.

Portable pull up bar

You really don’t need a portable pull up bar. It is bulky, heavy and it’s unnecessary. All you need to do is look around and find any horizontal bar, tree branch, pipe – anything you can grab and lift yourself on. Make sure it will support your weight first! :D. Don’t jump on and start doing pull-ups straight away. Test its strength and weight tolerance whilst standing with your feed on the ground, just bending your knees. Or if it’s higher than that, you can jump and hang on to it, but be prepared for it to break – so you won’t be surprised :). Exercise is important, but stay safe! 🙂

Anything that looks too fancy – keep it simple & regular exercise is the best rule

The market is full of ingenious devices and “shortcuts” that will give you a toned body, but the most powerful ingredient here is regularity and frequency. Exercise regularly and frequently, simple/basic exercises are enough. No need for fancy equipment – there are no shortcuts to staying healthy, it’s a lifelong endeavour. Find what works for you and your body/life style, this way you will be able to keep it up regularly. I wrote about this in more detail on my other blog – sensimism.com: Do it the right way: all-round fitness vs a six-pack.

Conclusion

Whichever portable exercise equipment you choose to pack – the most important thing is to keep moving, do things :). There are many easy ways to stay fit when out and about. Fitness equipment certainly helps if your workout involves training a specific set of muscles or body parts or if you want to take your fitness to a higher level.

Did I miss anything, got any suggestions or funny stories? Let me know in the comments!

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