By Carl Valle
Last year, SimpliFaster’s apparel guide was a hit for training and recovery, and thousands of readers learned more about what was available on the market. This article focuses on the best stuff you should bring with you when you train, whether you just go to the local gym, take a bus to practice, or need to travel on a plane. These are not items that will make travel better, like neck rest pillows, but are instead the best tools for the job of training and recovery.
If you were to look at each item individually, all of them could have their own separate review, but I decided to present only the cream of the information, as a list was more appropriate. Due to the mobility factor that is so important if you need to get on a plane, all of the items listed here can fit in one carry-on bag with no problem. If you are serious about getting the most out of your training and recovery, this article gives suggestions on the best gear available and breaks down the reasons why.
Down the road, SimpliFaster will start reviewing more non-apparel equipment and wearable equipment for coaches and athletes. We have already discussed weighted vests, weighted pants, and other items, but there is so much more out there that coaches need to know whether to pick up or leave alone. While it’s important that a coach is educated and knows how to use their tools, quality equipment matters. Nobody wants heart surgery done with an old pocketknife, and using a hand axe instead of a chainsaw will not clear out a forest of dead trees quickly.
What Is Good vs. What Is Priceless
Making a “Top X” list means something, and the promotion of apparel, equipment, and any training gear needs to pass both the usefulness and quality tests. The way I decided on this list was simple: I wrote down the best of the necessities in training and simply looked to see what was there and what could be missing. After I created the list of needs, I did a comparison with what was available and made a few changes based on priorities.
None of the options had price factored in; meaning, I didn’t care how expensive they were because I wanted the best. However, nothing here is out of market pricing, so don’t expect to overpay at all. In fact, everything here is a great value.
Additionally, while it may sound overconfident, I stand behind every item here. As I mention later, there are no strings attached to this list. In fact, if any of these companies were to disappear, it would really bother me, and that is my litmus test for myself.
Why There Is No Technology in This Review
This list includes nothing that needs a cord or spits out data. This is intentional, as there are plenty of digital devices for training and travel in existence. In the future, I may write a travel article on that specific topic and the type of items that help make travel easier. Athletes need the same strategies as regular travelers, but they have additional requirements to meet if they want to reduce fatigue and stress. Every item here is apparel, so you won’t have to worry about Bluetooth connectivity, crashing software, or even batteries. When you strip down priorities, besides maybe a smartphone, an athlete doesn’t need much to function technology-wise when on the road.If you strip down priorities, athletes don’t need much to function technology-wise when on the road. Click To Tweet
I love technology, but only if it’s needed. SimpliFaster has detailed reviews on monitoring devices for HRV and sleep, along with EMS units like the PowerDot. You can add those devices to the equation for training and recovery, but the gear I include here are things you can wear to make you directly better. Compression garments, whether a true wearable or recovery pneumatic device like the Normatec, are also portable but deserved their own write-up.
What Else Is Not on This Gear List
I didn’t include canteens or water bottles, due to the fact hydration and meal support are nutrition requirements, and portable solutions like shaker bottles will be in another article. The rest are what you should travel with, and that means they are so valuable you need to include them in your carry-on. I removed a lot from this list, as things like knee sleeves and therapy balls are nice to have, but a good warm-up can close those potential gaps.
The final point I want to make is that I don’t get paid to endorse any of this equipment. I will freely endorse things that fellow coaches and athletes love, but can’t take money to promote anything because it taints the process. Most of the time, companies have no clue that I am buying their equipment, as some of them sell through Amazon. The list below is pure, meaning there is no financial interest involved with my selection, and it’s just a list of gear I love. You will not see affiliate codes or similar.
Hylete Icon 6-in-1 Backpack
Road warriors need a bag, and many of the apparel companies have some lousy bags. Some of my favorite bags come from TUMI, which I have been loyal to since my first work bag in the late 1990s. In fact, I still use my old laptop bag from a decade ago as a travel spare. The issue with traveling now is that airlines are nailing passengers with bag fees, so traveling light and lean is essential.
The combination of an active lifestyle and business demands makes it very hard for athletes, as they are the most likely to be in trouble if luggage gets lost. When it comes down to making money, a speed athlete must have spare spikes and traveling carry-on-only must be done the right way. Hylete has the best option for every athlete who travels and requires the right features. The bag is so good, it is all that athletes need to travel with.
What I see as the strongest asset of the bag is its ability to expand and go mobile. Athletes who spend a few nights in one city need to bring a bag with just the essentials, and I have the Tile inside the bag to monitor both the main external system and the lighter slim interior option for day trips. It’s truly a bag that gives you multiple options and the small little features are outstanding.Hylete hit a home run with their 6-in-1 line, and I can’t say enough good things about it. Click To Tweet
It’s perfect for both the rugged needs of someone working out and the business traveler who wants their electronics kept safe and well-organized. Finally, the compartments are perfect for gyms, so you can shower on-site and not worry about wet items getting moldy or smelly later. The company hit a home run with their 6-in-1 line, and I can’t say enough good things about it.
If you want to complement your Skin Tech weightlifting and competition shirt, G-Form may be a great fit for you. Most athletes look at training shorts as something of an afterthought unless they are in contact sports like rugby and American football, but all sports have contact, if you think about it. Training, or even a pick-up game of basketball, is a physical risk, and having the confidence to dive for a ball as an athlete or knowing your athletes won’t take a beating with a fall is peace of mind that most coaches will appreciate. G-Form isn’t armor, but the padding is far better than nothing at all. Most sports would benefit with a little protection and G-Form.
The base of the product is only conventional Lycra spandex material, so don’t expect any advanced features like special thermoregulation, compression, or anti-vibration material. What is exciting is that the foam is really well-placed and cut with amazing precision.
I have not used the shorts with hurdlers, because I don’t want the fear of falling to be in their head. Padding should not change training, but just alleviate some wear and tear for positions that are on the ground a lot, like soccer goalies and similar. G-Form is also used in military and police environments, making it a trusted option for serious teams and organizations.
Virus Compression Pants
When I heard about bioceramic textiles, I worried that I would be spending hours on Google Scholar trying to see if I was missing something or if it was just more marketing hype from apparel companies. Sure, there are a lot of advancements in the industry, but for the most part the last 10 years have not been exciting. Compression and monitoring wearables seems to be in another funk now, as all I have seen are more companies talking about recovery and heart rate data, but nothing innovative or exciting.
What I can say is that I care about Virus providing a great pair of training pants for lifting and general training. One word of caution: The pants are not designed for sprinting or hurdling athletes, but I have not seen anything that says they are a problem for general training. The company does consider the solutions for running to be appropriate for most athletes, so I believe that anyone that wants a great training pant will be happy.
The big question about compression technology was already discussed in my article, as it was a primary category in the 2017 review. Based on the available research, compression won’t fix a bad program or turn a plodder into a racehorse, but not including it as part of your athletic wear is ill-advised too. The pants must be air-dried and can only be washed with liquid detergent, so durability and convenience are things to think about that affect all compression and spandex lower-body garments.
Drymax Hyper Thin Running Socks
The massive amount of options and design concepts behind socks in sport absolutely shocked me. Asking coaches, athletes, and even sport scientists left me more confused than before I started the search for the perfect sock. My suggestion is not to make socks a crusade but to focus on what works for you with comfort, thickness, and perspiration handling.
The most obvious issue with socks is how they fit with your foot and shoe, and sometimes small differences can mean slipping or blisters. Training and competition differ as well, and different types of sneakers and spikes makes socks a little bit of a headache. My word of advice is to focus on the right sock and not necessarily the best sock; sometimes a great option simply does not match your needs because apparel is about preference and personal satisfaction.Because apparel depends upon personal satisfaction, a great option doesn’t always match your needs. Click To Tweet
The Drymax Hyper Thin Running Socks are great for spikes during training and some athletes use them for competition without any problems. Nothing is more particular to a sprinter than their shoes and possibly their socks, as not all athletes wear anything besides their spikes. The price point of these socks is right at that middle tier so you can buy more than a few sets, as all socks will eventually break down, no matter how you launder them. I have no clue if they are the lightest sock, as that type of claim is a back-and-forth battle between companies. However, I do know that they are very light and breathable.
Oofos Sandals for Recovery
Comfort is a bit of a mystery, but athletes will wear what they like, and they vote by what they decide to routinely put on. Oofos is a Massachusetts company I found out about years ago, and Marathon Sports in Boston sold their sandals. I was looking for something that could be cleaned easily because athletes were getting staph infections walking around locker rooms, and I couldn’t trust that facilities would keep up with the problem.
While the sandals were not designed to fight disease, it is essential to make athletes accountable for being prepared for anything that may come their way. One sport scientist in the NFL did a team order a few years ago, and the athletes were ecstatic. It felt good that other fans felt the same way I did with the sandal; however, I view the shoes as a transition solution, meaning a temporary option for specific time periods like post training and post competition.
The main argument for the Oofos sandal is the material is soft enough to be very easy on the feet, but firm enough so you do not feel like you are stuck in quicksand. I don’t have enough research or the bandwidth to investigate all of their claims, but arch and other support benefits do not concern me. What I love about Oofos is that they are simply committed to doing it right, and not trying to stretch themselves thin by doing more than simply providing a great sandal for athletes.
The inclusion of a pair of digital eyewear may be a surprise to many, but when on the road, some athletes may look at a screen even more than usual. This may be because they are tired and have more duties with film, or if they’re a college athlete they need to study. I could get into more details about who uses these glasses, but it’s important to talk about the “biology of biography” as the benefits are not just about sleep.
Eye fatigue and strain are connected to the central nervous system, and anyone with screen time can get into trouble, even if they are not a graphic designer or programmer. Gamers know this, as they spend enormous amounts of time in front of a screen, but the problem is not just the use of a smart device or computer—it’s the many different lighting environments. Based on the amount of video games many athletes play, investing in Gunnar glasses should be a no-brainer.
Blue light is only one issue with regard to health, as sleep is indeed important, but there’s more to the glasses than sleep. Besides combatting fatigue and seeing more clearly, everybody should protect their eyes. I suggest sunglasses as well, and they can be a different brand. While it’s likely that athletes and coaches have glasses to wear outdoors, many are without any protection indoors.
Last, but certainly not least, NOBULL Lifters are simply the best weightlifting shoes on the market. I wrote about the science of weightlifting shoes and was interviewed on the subject too, as we still need to do more research on what happens when athletes go low. I have to admit, while I don’t do CrossFit, the brands that work with that market make some great stuff.While I don’t do CrossFit, the brands that work with that market make some great stuff. Click To Tweet
Another Massachusetts company, NOBULL makes some of the baddest apparel in the sports training world. Launched last year, their lifters are a work of art. When the box arrives, your hands will shake with anticipation, as they are handmade and gorgeous. Athletes at Exceed Sports Performance use them, as well as players in professional soccer and the NFL.
The main reason I love the lifters is that they provide the right support and pressure for Olympic lifting, but are comfortable to wear during long workouts. Most of the time, a designer has to compromise on style, comfort, and/or performance. The brains behind NOBULL didn’t compromise on any of the three, and they have the best weightlifting shoe, period. They provide an array of colors and have sizes for both men and women. If you are truly in a pinch, their trainers can serve as a workable option in the weight room and for walking around, but if you have the space, the weightlifting shoe is gold.
Pick the Products That Work for You
Regardless of what comes down the line with sports technology, the basic need for a good pair of shoes, recovery wear, and training gear is timeless. The list of top options in attire and travel tools will change, but for now, the above products are awesome. I stand behind the list as they are all great options for those serious about training—just choose what works for you.