The Drybell – A fantastic sand/water portable kettlebell for travel

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Travelling, especially longer term travelling csn be frustrating if you are trying to stick to a workout. Visiting gyms for the day quickly becomes expensive and not having your usual workout equipment around limits the number of exercises that you can do.

For shorter trips this is not really an issue and there are plenty of bodyweight exercises that don’t require equipment that will see you through a week. But for longer term travel you really want to start mixing things up which is where the Drybell travel kettlebell comes in.

I have used this kettlebell for a few months now and it has quickly become an essential part of my home workout setup. It’s so sturdy and easy to use that I use it instead of traditional kettlebells even when not travelling and even has some distinct advantages over traditional kettlebells.

While sand bag training has been around for a while, the advances in materials have allowed companies to come out with products that not only rival the tried and tested kettlebells but actually have some key advantages. And best of all sand costs next to nothing so this is one of the most affordable ways of building a home workout circuit.

The best sandbag kettlebells that I have come across is the DryBell. These are essentially drybags that have been made with an especially tough outer shell which allows them to be thrown around without worrying about causing any damage to the bag.

There is some branding on the front but it is not obnoxious. Other than that they look smart and I am quite happy to leave them out in my living room when they are not in use.

The good:

Marks for filling

If you want to track your progress accurately its really important to be consistent. It’s really hard to know if you are improving if the weight that you are using is constantly changing. The Drybell has filling marks along the inside which makes it quick and easy to consistently fill it up to the same level. This is also really useful if you have two of these travel kettlebells and want to make sure that they are the same weight.

These marks are fantastic for if you are travelling and filling it up with beach sand or water, I tried filling it up just by eyeballing it without looking at the level lines and was surprised how inaccurate I was. There was over a 1kg difference between the two. By using the lines I was pretty spot on however.

When using this at home on a more permanent basis I use a different strategy to keep track of the weight though. I put sand into smaller sandbags and then put these sand bags inside the travel kettlebell. This lets me easily change the weight by taking out the internal sandbags and I don’t have to worry about sand spilling out onto the floor.

Build Quality

Durability is always on my mind when I’m swinging bagffuls of water around my (or someone elses) apartment. Thankfully the Drybell has a really strong ripstop canvas type outer shell which is thick and durable. It’s far thicker than normal drybags which is essential when dealing with heavier weights. When completely full the Drybell that I have weighs just over 16kgs and the bag has been able to handle the weight easily. In fact I think that it could probably handle far more weight than the 16kg’s that I can fit into it.

Likewise all the stitching around the handles is strong and I have not noticed any loose threads or fraying taking place, the bottle of the bag appears to be securely welded to the sides. Most importantly they completely seal the bag so that nothing leaks out.

If there is a weak point to the build quality of this bag I would have to say it has to bethe clips at the top of the bag. They are your typical plastic backpack clips and while I have not had an issue with them they do not feel as sturdy as the rest of the bag. These clips sit directly in your hand and I always imagine accidently opening the clip by squeezing on the handle too hard while doing kettlebell swings and the kettlebell flying away through the glass patio doors like a 16kg shotput. This has never happened to me so it’s probably just my overactive imagination but all the same I really would prefer some sort of buckle or strap here.

They have also included some nice Velcro grips that attach over the handle and give a more comfortable grip while also reducing the chance of you accidentally unclipping it.

The rest of the bag is pretty minimalist, the only other thing are a couple of plastic clips on the outside where you can attach the included carrying strap. This is not padded at all and I wouldn’t want to be carrying around a 16kg drybell from the strap. But it’s very useful if you are going to be using the drybag to store small items when going out on the water and want an easy way to carry it.

Doubles as a dry bag

While the drybell is marketed as being predominantly a weight training piece of equipment, it is also a perfectly good drybag and keeps water out just as well as it keeps it in. In fact it’s much more durable than most drybags with only the logo on the outside giving away its true purpose.

It has a 10l carrying capacity and the included sling allows you to use it as a bag and pack your towl and workout gear for when you are headed to the beach.

The clips on the side and top of the bag let you attach a sling and use it as a daypack.

Easy to fill

Most people will either be filling the drybell with water or sand, both of which are ubiquitous. Water is the easiest to get hold of, especially if you are travelling. Just make sure that you pack a bin liner on the inside to make double sure that no water dribbles out the top as you are swinging it around.

With water the maximum total weight that you can reach is just over 10kgs which is decent, and it only takes a few minutes to fill it up under the tap.

Sand is much denser and increases the maximum weight to around 16 or 17 kg. If you are near to a beach you can just shovel sand in, using the markers to get an accurate measurement for a quick beach workout. I use it as a more long term setup and have created small internal sandbags that let me switch out the weight quickly and easily with no mess. If 17kg’s it still too light then wetting the sand should increase the weight even more as the water will fill the gaps between the sand granules.

While water and sand are the two things that most people will use to fill this up with, you could fill this bag with whatever you have lying around – provided there are no sharp edges. The bag is really sturdy and can handle more than 17kg easily.

Surprisingly tough workout

Having never used sandbags for training before this I was surprised at how much of a difference having a flexible weight made to the difficulty of training.

While a 16kg dumbell or kettlebell might not seem all that heavy, it is far harder to lift the equivalent weight on with the drybell. The flexible handle means that the weight is constantly shifting and requires a much higher degree of stabilisation which results in a better workout.

Like a kettlebell, but better

An equivalent 16kg kettle bell is around £38 which is almost 2x as expensive as buying a drydumbbell, even once the price of sand has been factored in. And of course it’s really not fair to compare them because the dry dumbbell weight can be easily changed. So it’s really replacing a set of kettlebells.

Changing the weight is probably not something you want to do mid set but it doesn’t take more than a minute to unroll the top, take out some sand (provided you have put them into smaller packets before hand – something I really recommend doing), and rolling it back up again. I have 2 dry dumbbells and keep one heavy and the other light, which lets me quickly switch between weights mid set.

Not only are the cheaper, they are far more portable. Going away on holiday but want to stay fit? Just fill it up when you get there and you’re good to go.  The empty dry dumbbell takes up very little space and doesn’t weigh much. With the included strap you could even use it as a small carry on bag on your flight.

The Bad

Most travel equipment involves some trade off and the drybell is no exception.

Taller than a kettlebell

The biggest drawback is that it is fairly tall when fully loaded. Sand is less dense than iron, there’s no question about it. This means that in order to get the full 17kg weight the bag needs to be filled right to the top which makes it much taller than an equivalent weight kettlebell. This is not an issue for most exercises but I did find myself wishing that it was shorter was when doing bent over rows or bicep curls.

Soft Handle

The handle of the drybell is essentially just a covered strap which means that it bends and flexes in your hand and is not as comfortable as a fixed handle. I have seen people get around this by using a short piece of 2″ pipe and threading the flexible handle through it. However it comes with a flexible handle as standard which does the job but is not fantastic.

Conclusion

For me, the mark of a well designed travel item is that it is comfortable and sturdy enough to use everyday and not just some compromised version that only get used when travelling. This is really the case for the Drybell travel kettlebell. Even thought one of the main advantages of it is that you can pack it up and take it with you when you travel, I still use it as part of my weight training gear even when I am at home.

The weight may not be quite as heavy as what you would find in a gym, but the affordability and being able to adjust the weight more than makes up for this. I use it in conjunction with an interval training app, focussing more on continually working out for a certain time rather than trying to reach a certain number of reps which is extremely challenging.

I have no hesitation in recommending it for working out on the go or even home workouts.