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Gear Not Stuff: Budget Home Gym Edition

Gear Not Stuff: Budget Home Gym Edition

My perfect home gyms at three different budgets.


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It’s the second Friday of the month, so it’s time for Gear, Not Stuff.

The concept for Gear Not Stuff is simple.

We live in a world of mass consumerism and have more stuff than ever. As I point out in Scarcity Brain, the average home contains 10,000 to 50,000 items.

If we want a new thing, we no longer have the pause of traveling to a store to buy it—we can buy it right from our computer, phone, or TV.

Online retailers also use tactics taken from casinos to increase the probability that we’ll buy. (If you’ve ever bought some crap and immediately regretted buying that crap, the tactics have probably worked on you. More on that here.)

Our shift to material abundance has changed our relationship with our possessions—and curious forces are now leading us to acquire more stuff than we need.

When we get overwhelmed by how much we own, we often seek minimalism.

But minimalism, you’ll know if you read Scarcity Brain, has failed us. Luckily, I found a smarter way we can get more from less.

In thinking about how we can make smarter purchasing decisions, I’ve begun delineating between gear and stuff.

Stuff is a possession for the sake of it. Stuff adds to a collection of (too many) items. We often buy stuff impulsively to fix boredom or stress or to solve a problem we could figure out creatively with something we already have.

Gear, on the other hand, has a clear purpose of helping us achieve a higher purpose. Gear is a tool we can use to have better experiences that make us healthier and give our lives meaning.

I’ve had to learn and think a lot about gear due to the nature of my work and the wild scenarios it throws at me.

This month, we’re covering budget home gyms at three different price points.

  • The $79 Home Gym
  • The $181.50 Home Gym
  • The $462.50 Home Gym

You don’t need to pay a monthly membership to a decked-out gym to get in shape. You can get super fit at home on a budget.

Trust me. The $462.50 home gym below is the exact setup I used to train for my 33 days in the Arctic for my book, The Comfort Crisis.

Having equipment at home will likely lead you to exercise more. One study found people who have home gym equipment are 56 percent more likely to meet the federal physical activity guidelines.

Let’s roll …

The $79 Home Gym

The home gym I’d build with a $100 budget.

Item 1: Sandbag

Sandbags are the most practical weight for a budget home gym. Here’s why:

They Store Easily

They stack easily in a corner, out of the way.

They’re versatile

The weights of dumbbells, kettlebells, and plates are fixed. If you want different weight options, you have to … buy different weights.

Not so with sandbags.

Need less weight? Dump some sand out.

Need more weight? Add sand.

A bag that goes up to 60 pounds could work well filled with anywhere from 25 to 60 pounds of sand.

They work as a ruck weight

Drop a sandbag into your ruck and go.

This method is more comfortable than using random items like water bottles, books, or bricks for weight.

They travel easily

Sandbags don’t jostle around in the car. Iron weights, on the other hand, become cannonballs rolling around the back of a vehicle.

You can also take an empty sandbag on the road and fill it with sand at your destination.

They’re great for carrying

Carrying weight for distance is something we should all do more of. It’s often a missing fitness and health link.

Sandbags are great for carrying weight at your front, shoulder, sides, etc.

You can drop them …

… and not smash up your floor or break a toe.

Three essential exercises
Weight to buy

A 60-pound bag is probably ideal. It’ll work filled with anywhere from 20 to 60 pounds of sand.

The one I’d buy

I prefer GORUCK’s Simple Sandbag because they exceed far more expensive bags. And they last.


Price: $54 with discount code MEASTER10 ($60 with no code)

Item 2: A Pullup Bar

An affordable home gym staple.

Optimizes your bodyweight workouts

You can do a lot of great exercises without equipment. Pushups, planks, lunges, hip raises, etc, etc, etc. Those work your chest, arms, core, and entire lower body.

But you can’t easily work your back without equipment.

And when it comes to working your back (and lots of other muscles), the pullup is the ultimate exercise. It may even be the ultimate bodyweight exercise. Read a deep dive on the power of pullups here.

To do pullups, however, you’ll need a pullup bar.

Good for rucking rehab

Bar hangs are one of the best exercises you can do after a ruck. Read how to use the exercise to prevent or fix rucking shoulder pain here.

Three essential exercises
The one I’d buy

A basic door frame pullup bar. It allows you to do pullups. It lasts. It’s cheap.

Don’t overthink this. Door frame pullup bars are all mostly the same.

For example, before I had a full squat rack with a pullup bar, I used a door frame bar that cost $25. I got it at Target. It worked great for more than three years.

P.S. Can’t do pullups? Read this piece to get your first—and many more after.


Price: ~$25

Note: Read below on whether you should get a suspension trainer or gymnastic rings instead of a pullup bar.

The $181.50 Home Gym

My perfect sub-$200 home gym.