My Ideas for On-Trail Recovery Tools

Long-distance hiking and backpacking put a good deal of stress on the body. Taking a page out of the long-distance running book, wherein it’s the general practice to spend time each day on a foam roller, long-distance hikers could benefit from carrying smaller recovery tools as luxury items. Sound recovery tools and practices could help keep you injury free and on trail. Here are some different options to meet your recovery and base weight needs:

The Classic

First is the classic The Stick-brand Travel Stick. This is the tool I grew up using as a runner in middle and high school. The Travel Stick is listed at 9 ounces, making it the second heaviest tool in our article. However, the Travel Stick allows you to work on rolling out your legs without needing to roll around on the ground and it targets a larger area. This tool may be best if you would like to prioritize a recovery tool over your base weight goals.

The Lightweight

Second is the Rawlogy Cork Massage Ball. This tool comes in three sizes, ranging in size and weight from 1.9 inches in diameter and 0.7 ounces to 4 inches and 6 ounces. This tool also offers the most sustainable construction, using upcycled cork. The Cork Massage Ball also offers the ability to better target smaller knots and tense spots, due to its smaller size. This tool does generally require that the user rolls around on top of it, so a good ground cloth or sleeping pad may be valuable to keep yourself clean. This tool may be best for the environmentally-conscious hiker looking for the lightest recovery tool.

The Heavyweight

Finally is the TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller. This roller is by far the biggest and heaviest item in this list, but also the heaviest duty. Weighing in at roughly 23 ounces and standing 13 inches tall, this roller would really only work for those hikers willing to pay to ship it in a bounce box. For those looking for a similar level of muscle recovery while on-trail, the 32-ounce Nalgene bottle may be a better use of weight and space.

The Golfer

Third is a standard golf ball, from any brand. Although golf balls may vary slightly in size and weight, they should all be roughly 1.6 inches in diameter and 1.6 ounces. Golf balls offer the same uses as the small Rawlogy Cork Massage Ball, minus the environmentally conscious sourcing, with a slightly cheaper price. If you can’t find a single golf ball at a thrift store or for free, the Rawlogy Cork Massage Ball may be better, so you don’t end up buying a multipack of golf balls, unless you plan on retiring and becoming a golfer after your hike. This tool may be best for the thrifty hiker or the future golfer.

The Nalgene

Fourth, and hear me out on this one, a 32-ounce Nalgene bottle can double as both a foam roller substitute and water bottle. While it’s unusual for a lightweight backpacker to carry a Nalgene, due to the weight, they can be used as a substitute to carrying a full separate foam roller. Weighing roughly 6.2 ounces, a Nalgene won’t weigh you down quite as much as the Travel Stick. In addition, the Nalgene can easily carry 32 ounces of water, while the Travel Stick can’t carry more than a few drops of condensation.

Whether you decide to go with the lightest, cheapest, or biggest recovery tool, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations or another credible source on the proper use. While recovery is important to maintaining a healthy body and trial life, it’s equally important to not abuse these tools, as that can negate  their benefits.

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Comments 5

  • Bruce Hall : Dec 19th

    Do you think a tennis ball would work?

    • Will Harmon : Dec 19th

      I think a tennis ball could also work. It’s going to weight a little more than the golf ball, but should still be around 2 ounces. My only wonder with a tennis ball is whether the pressure would cause it to break down over time because tennis balls aren’t nearly as rigid as any of the other items on this list. Otherwise, especially if you already have one, I think it’s a solid choice.

  • Marlene Wulf : Dec 19th

    How about an article on how to best use them? I’m not familiar with how they work.

    • Will Harmon : Dec 19th

      I fon’t feel comfortable giving advice on how to use these, as mis-use or over-use could cause injury. Specifically regarding foam rollers there are lots of articles written on how to use them and most of these companies should have how-to guides. For the golf ball and Nalgene, I would follow guidelines for the Cork Massage Ball and the foam roller, respectively, as they are similar.


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