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Tax Rebate Gear: Build a Better Backpacker

This year, spend that extra dough on at-home workout gear that will make it easier to get out and log miles. Basically, you're investing in you.

GoFit Contour Kettlebell
A kettlebell that doesn’t smash your forearms

I’ve been using kettlebells as part of my workouts for around 10 years, and have found them to be one of the best pieces of equipment I own for improving in almost every sport. Essentially a cannonball with a handle, kettlebells are a simple and effective way to work every single large muscle group, and it is a lot more dynamic and aerobic than standard weightlifting, which make them perfect for getting into backpacking shape. Nearly every exercise will work your back, abs, and legs, the crucial components to being able to carry a backpack up and down uneven terrain. One of my favorite moves involves a “clean” (where you squat and pull the weight from the floor up to your shoulders) and then smoothly transition to a “push press” (where you press the weight over your head to full extension). It’s a tough, energetic move that really targets your legs, upper back, core, and shoulders.

In short, all the muscles you really want to be strong for backpacking. The trouble is that when switching from the clean to the push press it’s easy to slam the bell against the back of your forearm. It becomes even more pronounced as you get tired and have less control over the weight. GoFit partnered with Bob Harper (of TV’s The Biggest Loser) and has come out with a kettlebell that is contoured to avoid the painful forearm crunch. While you still want to take care to avoid knocking the weight into your forearm, the pronounced curve in the kettlebell really did a good job of spreading out the impact and made swinging the 20 pound weight a lot more comfortable so I was able to clean and press to my heart’s content. The lower part of the weight is coated with a thick vinyl rubber, which is easier on floors than bare iron, and is also color-coded to distinguish among different weights.

Some kettlebells extend the vinyl coating all the way up the handle, which can interferes with many moves, but the Contour is smooth enough for perfect swinging without being slippery. Adding a kettlebell to your workout routine will quickly give you the strong legs and back that will help you power up the mountain this summer. But be warned: start light. Using a kettlebell is a fantastic workout, but you’ll probably want a lighter weight than you initially think.

The Specs:
7-35 lbs.

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