Perfect 20-lb. Weight Vest
$80, 10 oz. (vest without weights)
One size (adjustable)
You want to become a stronger hiker? A number of years ago, after I’d gotten into hiking 20, 30, even over 40 miles in a day, I learned that becoming a stronger hiker isn’t just about having strong legs. I realized that overall fitness—including good core strength—holds the key to being able to knock off bigger miles on the trail. Plus, I don’t have the free time to train by hiking multiple days a week. So I get in shape for dayhiking, backpacking, climbing, and Nordic and backcountry skiing through high-intensity, resistance workouts indoors. That’s why I’ve become a big fan of training with the Perfect 20-Pound Weight Vest.
As anyone who’s lugged a backpack up a hill knows, carrying weight increases the difficulty. I used to just throw some weight into a daypack and wear it on a stair machine when I wanted to increase resistance. But that’s not very stable or comfortable, it’s difficult to fine-tune the amount of weight, and it’s not an option for many gym-based exercises. The Perfect 20-Pound Weight Vest comes with 20 one-pound, low-profile, sand bags that slip inside 20 pockets in the vest, so you can increase its weight in increments of a pound.
I thought the polyester vest fabric would feel very clammy, but that’s not the case even when I perspire heavily. With padded shoulders and a close-fitting, non-bulky, buckles-free design, it’s comfortable and unobtrusive for any kind of exercise—I wear it in the gym when using dumbbells, an abs ball, the pull-ups bar, or TRX straps, among other exercises. A double hook-and-loop band around the belly makes it adjustable to a huge range of body sizes and keeps it from shifting around. There’s even a pocket high on the right front for a music player.
The manufacturer recommends starting with a low amount of weight and gradually increasing it over a period of weeks, to let your muscles and joints get accustomed to the added weight—especially when attempting explosive, plyometric exercises like jumping, sprinting, or lunges. (I began with eight pounds in the vest.) There’s also a 40-pound version for $120.
NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.