MTI Collective Responses: Your Standout Piece of Equipment, Tool, or Kit.

Fitness Equipment

  • Pulk sled loaded with weight/equipment. Pulling a weighted sled strengthens different muscles than running or hiking alone.  Great for climb training if you live in a predominantly flat area or can’t hike on designated ski or bike trails on snowy months.  Can prepare you for amazing adventures such as backcountry winter camping or races like the Arrowhead 135.  In self-supported winter races managing equipment is a big part of the training.

  • Reverse Hyper. It has been awesome for lower back work in a variety of weight and rep schemes.

  • A free-standing pull-up bar.  Not a flimsy one but a pull-up bar on a heavy fixture like a squat rack.

    I have been doing pulls for a professional requirement since 2003.  For several years I suffered through the use of a doorway-mounted pull-up bar.  After tweaking my arms several times over several years I invested in a pull bar mounted on a Rogue Fitness squat rack.
    It was worth every penny. I use it every other day.  I do not have any of the issues you get with a doorway-mounted bar; unstable, too low, limited hand placement.  I can focus on pull-up strength instead of worrying about damaging door trim or tweaking my arms and shoulders. The best part is the rack can be easily taken apart and transported anywhere.

  • I have two. One is a steel mace. The ability to hunt down and target my weak spots with such an uncooperative tool has helped tremendously. Two is a kettle gryp. It is a kettlebell handle that clips onto dumbbells and converts them into makeshift kettlebells. It’s not quite the same, but it’s darn close and saves a lot of money for those of us with small home gyms.

  • Bulgarian bags, great for core and shoulder health

  • Mechnics vent full finger gloves for strength training. I’ve been using them for a decade now and have worn them through many pairs. They’re great for pull-ups, climbing ropes, anything with a barbell, sandbags, burpees, etc. While they don’t completely protect your hands from developing calluses they do add just enough of a barrier to protect your hands in anything requiring your hands to contact the ground with a rough surface

  • Different grips for pullups such as balls. Hits the grip and forearm differently. Also, the fingertip grips rock climbers use. Also, landmine press for explosive power. Another developer of explosive power is a used shotput I picked up!!!

  • Sandbag, has forced me to be uncomfortable and made me use better posture.

  • Jump rope – after a strength workout or any runner – makes you light on your feet, and returns the bounce to your ankles and calves…fascia et al. Fast feet and firing through the chain…When trail runners, runners, return from a longer training session, its great to ‘reconnect’ with light feet and bounce. After a heavy leg strength workout – great fast(er) twitch, firing neuro-muscularly post-session… For anyone that needs to be simple and light on their feet – the lightness and tapping of fast jump roping.

  • Sandbag. Great for grip strength. Directly related to law enforcement

  • RubberBanditz sandbag is well made and goes well with these workouts

  • I’m starting a distillery and picking up 50 lb bags of grain, or crates of fruit to ferment and distill are part of the job.  The sandbags that I have give me a real-world training experience!  I am also an older triathlete and marathoner the core stability the sandbags offer is the best!  Keep up the training plans!!

  • A towel! Using a towel for pull-ups or horizontal rows really helps with grip strength.

  • Sandbags and step-up box. Low tech, can keep at home, endless use.  forces you to go outside or at least in the garage. I think Mtn Tactical is a bit tough on TRX.  Every time I’ve been injured, or had a small tweak, I’ve gone to the TRX for a very light resistance exercise to help rehab the injury or protect against re-injury.  It is not so useful for general fitness, but rehab, the TRX is solid. 

  • The sledgehammer on the ruck is incredible. It’s the best way to prep for carrying a weapon for a military event, and it still seems like nobody does it. Plus cars give you more space on the road. River stones for weight is another one I like (vs. sand).

  • I use the TRX combined with weights. It doesn’t help with size, but muscular endurance has improved due to the continuous muscular contraction during the exercise.

  • I have a very old Northern Lights Fitness (Canada manufacturer, I think) plate-loaded chin-dip.  I love it.  Other than Powertec, no one really makes a plate-loaded chin dip.  Pull/chin ups without any assistance are just so difficult to do, especially when you’re doing your best to hit a specific rep range.  And no one is going to spend $3,000+ on a weight stack chin/dip for home use.

  • Crossover Symmetry Bands…I have had both shoulders operated on and can say they played an integral part in my recovery. I also use them for a number of other exercises. I highly recommend them. My ‘runner-up’ piece of equipment would be IronMind’s Rolling Thunder, among other pieces of their gear, for grip training and rehab.

  • Honestly? As basic as this is going to sound, it has to be the elliptical. I have an awful right Achilles tendon that prevents me from being able to run large miles of running in a week. The elliptical has been very useful in giving me good slow, steady cardiovascular while mostly mimicking running. I have used it as a replacement in some of your programs that call for running or rucking with great success. Obviously, it can’t replace running and if I could run every day without injury, I would. But the elliptical has allowed me to stay in the game and achieve my goals. I would throw in steep incline treadmill walking. I’m a big fan of the book “80/20 Running” and his ideas of using substitutes like those in lieu of or in addition to running to help boost your cardiovascular system and prevent injury. I have found great success in that.

  • 50-60 lbs sandbag. I can use it as an add-on weight for a ruck workout. I can use it as a standalone weight. It can be used easily for a partner workout. It mimics a lot of equipment (i.e. weight weight-carrying) on the ground. It can be challenging. It can be easy. Just depends on the day.

    Large tire, It help improve my power while keeping me interested in the movement.

  • For general fitness and work capacity, I would say sandbags. Sandbag movements are widely recognized, but not really widely utilized. Most of the time there is “that one guy” that uses a sandbag but other than that people don’t really utilize the sandbag for effective work capacity training (myself included until I started using MTI programming). For job specific fitness, using turnout gear is a game changer in the fire service. The increased core body temp that comes with training in gear is very difficult to replicate without actually being in gear. Putting a weight vest or a ruck on may give the added weight component, but it does not give the added heat element that makes everything more difficult (including keeping track of the movement/set/rep that you are on or is up next). Using turnout gear for workouts has directly increased my effectiveness and efficiency on the fireground; being more comfortable with the limited mobility, weight, and heat.

  • This may be widely recognized, but a surprising number of people I know don’t seem to use them: lacrosse ball. Can be used for self massage/myofascial release in pretty much any body area and it’s a lot easier to pack than a foam roller (even the hollow center ones)–you can also get a lot stronger pressure in a specific area vs a foam roller. Great when traveling for working out knots, getting some release in tight areas, or even just using for relief on tired feet (a golf ball works well for that too). I have a “double check” packing list for trips and a LAX ball is the one piece of fitness equipment that has made it onto that list.

  • Resistance/elastic bands of varying strength to assist pull ups!

  • The sandbag has to be number one on this list and I’m constantly surprised at the number of service members and vets that haven’t used one yet. It’s my favorite piece of workout gear to travel with and it always ensures a get a good workout wherever I am.

  • Tonal …. Works great it’s a kind of self spotter …. We don’t have a lot of room and this helps satisfy the ability to do a solid workout. I would welcome programming

  • Landmine 100%. Using a Landmine changes the force curve for so many commonly used lifts, thusly making them very unique in nature. Also using a Landmine for Olympic movements is an amazing way to train raw explosiveness without the tremendous learning curve of their barbell counterparts. The best thing is that, if you have a barbell and a corner, you can have a Landmine setup!

  • Rock tape vibrating cups. They help me activate muscles that I have learned to compensate for over time. Specifically, my glutes during RDLs and Squats.

  • The Transformer Bar from Kabuki Fitness. It is a Front Squat, high/low squat, goblet, and squat safety bar all in one with leveling degrees of difficulty.

  • The fan bike misery machine is a go to for warmup, sprints, longer intervals. Consistent use, paired with explosive movements like kettlebell swings and cleans has improved my rec ice hockey performance, RPAT time, RFT, and as a smaller guy I feel more useful carrying a litter.

  • Kettlebells.  Can adjust ROM, reps, weight, …use it as a full body exercise, a precise exercise, single-sided, etc.

  • The real high density foam rollers work wonders for a quick warm up or cool down. Also for a good long and slow session to work out some deep muscle knots. Seems to aid recovery for me when used in a alternating stretch one day and roll the other cycle.

  • Wearing barefoot shoes in all possible situations. My feet are so much more responsive, in-touch, and “playful” when wearing thin soles, wide toe box, zero-drop shoes. When I landscaped or was a delivery driver, I wore steel-toed boots, and I saw a significant change in the activation of all the little muscles of the foot and lower legs, not to mention hip/back discomfort. While some jobs prohibit barefoot shoes, it is worth wearing them every chance you get; they promote strength, balance, and proper stance/stride.

  • A tool–Mine is a series of end-of-day stretches that I do a minimum of 3x per week lasting 30-45 min. After struggling mightily with hamstring tendinosis beginning March 2021 due to poor running mechanics and overuse, I began this routine of stretching primarily hips and psoas in June 2023. They are very basic stretches–pigeon, periformis stretch, psoas stretch (the one used by D. Goggins).

    30-45 minutes, 3x per week. I don’t llok forward to it, but it has almost cured my tendinosis.


  • “Golden Socks” Golden socks are wool socks that stay in the bottom of your sleeping bag. These socks are worn only when you are sleeping and do not leave your sleeping bag for any reason. After long hard days in the backcountry being tired, cold, wet and hungry. At least you have a pair of clean warm socks to look forward too.

  • A decent multi tool, something with pliers and scissors. Once on the Appalachian trail the group I was with was in a minimalist phase. They started to get blisters and the scissors in my Swiss Army knife worked well to cut the moleskin. Later we were cooking and the pliers helped with taking a hot cooking pot off my stove. When I was overseas the availability of simple but quality tools can be limited. At least in Europe you can find a Swiss Army knife fairly easily and they are cheap.

  • I was taught deer hunting by a professional surgeon. His field dressing kit is made up of all medical grade surgical supplies, scalpels, bone saws, etc… The stuff is suprisingly cheap on Amazon, lightweight, and super effective.

  • The smallest kindle I could get off Amazon. Battery lasts for weeks and have tons of books on it. Spent many days in a tent in Alaska waiting out weather. Makes down days a little more palatable

  • First off, one peice of gear that has really been impressive is my 12 ft. tenkara rod for fishing high mountain lakes and creeks on backpacking trips. The whole kit (rod, line, tippet, 12-18 flies) weighs in at about 7 oz. Being so light and portable, I never leave a trailhead without if if I know there will be fishable waters around. In WY we used them on a 5-day trip and it was great adding trout to the menu most nights for dinner in our freeze dried meals. Bonus: it is the easiest way to teach a kid how to fish. I have one stashed in my truck as well. Never leave home without a fishing kit.

    Second thing is a silnylon 8×10′ tarp. A tarp is nothing new, but it’s functionality and multi-use capabilities are often overlooked.

    I use it primarily during hunting season, where it works as a sunshade, shelter from rain/snow/wind, and to cover game bags of meat to help cool them down in areas with little or no timber for shade, as well as a glassing shelter to get out of the sun, and as a ‘camp kitchen’ to sit out rainstorms while cooking dinner. It weighs about 12 oz and packs down to the size of a tallboy beer can and is always in my pack.

    Lastly, replaceable blade skinning knives, like Havalon or Tyto. I use the Tyto 1.1 and carry six blades with me. They require a bit more caution as the blades can break with too much side to side torque, but their sharpness is unreal, and make breaking down game animals so much faster, cleaner and ultimately safer (no more trying to force a half-dull blade through meat, etc.)

  • Salt Tabs – Anytime I know I’m going to be making a 4+ hour push in a hot and/or humid environment taking salt tabs and tracking hydration closely has been a game changer. I went from having to work through intermittent cramps and nausea all day to being able to grind out long days and nights in a mountainous jungle environment.  The limfac instead becomes my fitness base/level of preparation. Figuring out individual needs for water intake and hydration/electrolyte balance is key for successful long pushes in different environments. The only way that worked for me to dial in that balance was through real world trials prior to the goal event. There are some formulas and rules of thumb that will get people close, but there’s nothing like real world experience to build confidence and verify what works for you. People can go a long way with no calories if needed, but a salt/electrolyte imbalance will derail a day that has months of preparation behind it.

  • I’m an ice climber and some pieces of gear that I find indispensable, that aren’t the most widely recognized/used are 1) “Hot Sockee” neoprene toe warmers, 2) Petzl “Vizion” lexan face shield (can’t get them anymore, have to make them), 3) GMRS radios, 4) Red Nite-Ize “SpotLit” collar light attached to my pack (for end-of-day descents and walking on roads in the dark), 5) Roll of black hockey tape, 6) Three different colored slings — one for personal gear, one for draws, and one attached to my ice screw bag (an old harness bag).

  • Quad and equalette

  • Swimming as prep for high altitude mountains.

  • Glacier Glove Kenai gloves with silk liners. I live and backcountry hike at Lake Tahoe and these gloves are essential for winter alpine conditions.

  • Skiing or hiking with a heavy ruck heats up the upper body and core. Heat loss/evaporation in the back is limited because the ruck is there – regardless of how fancy it is designed. At the same time the shoulders and arms remain exposed to the wind and cold. Taking off a layer makes the extremities too cold, putting on a layer makes the core too hot. Brynje has solved that problem with their two layer garmet combining mesh and wool. I use it for all my winter training and outdoor activities in Norway and beyond. Not sure if is available in the US… See this link:

  • CARV digital ski coach – innovative product, heavy use of data analytics, and excellent, positive user feedback on the hill. Has a real-time mode that can coach you during a run, and also provides advice at the bottom of the hill, while you’re waiting for the lift. Super intuitive app, very easy to get started, and it’s hard to complain about a product that lets you know where you stand relative to Ted Ligety!

    CARV is gaining traction with ski instructors and coaches, and several top athletes (e.g. Morgan Engel, Tom Gellie, Jens Nystrom) are producing instructional YouTube videos that incorporate use of CARV. It is less well known in the recreational community, though.

    For me, the biggest benefit is quantifying several aspects of my skiing performance. It’s always great to have the guidance of a skilled and insightful instructor – but layering on the measurement of edge angle, fore / aft pressure through the turn, etc. tells me quantitatively whether I’m improving. It also tells me how well some new and different ways of moving are working – even if they still feel weird.

  • Training shoes that are designed to dry quickly.  On long runs/hikes and for travel, once waterlogged,  standard running shoes are heavy and also smell after a couple days.  Astral, some models of Salomon and Goruck all pay attention to this issue. 

  • Electrical tape: for bandaids, waterproofing holes in plastic bags, and braiding into cordage. I’ve used electrical tape in combat and hiking with the kids. It’s always in my kit.


  • An old classic – the army issue sock with the toes cut off, wet and wrapped around a water bottle in Afghanistan. Gives consistently cool drinking water despite 40 degree heat. Cool water was definitely one of life’s simpler pleasures in those days and it made all the difference to keeping a clear head and staying hydrated whilst fighting through Helmand in 2009.

    I hope this is useful! You said anecdotes were welcome!

  • Kifaru Woobie! I never travel without it. Packs up small but is super warm. Great for airports, unplannned stay overs or camping, and couch surfing. It fits perfectly in the bottom of an assault pack and can become a sleeping bag or a pillow in a pinch. Mine saw extensive use on every training exercise and combat deployment for the better part of 20 years in the Army.

  • My squadron issued me Altima maritime assault boots. They look like converse all stars but are a solid shoe. I can wear them with swim fins and they drain water easily. I also can fly in them. They are light weight and comfortable in a helicopter. The shoes are durable to wear on short day hikes and I don’t worry about slipping on rocks! I’d say they are very underrated

Fire & Law Enforcement

  • Wearing a body camera. It allows for incredible AAR material. You can’t deny the stark truth of the footage and it has allowed me to honestly assess my abilities and actions.

  • I’d say a good torch, I use a Modlite whilst working (I am a police officer in Australia) and use a surefire when off duty in my EDC. They are such an important tool which can be turned into a weapon, a signalling device or used for survival, on land in the ocean or mountains.

  • The flashlight. Simple but necessary. It gets used daily in my professional job as a firefighter/paramedic and has helped recreationally in the mountains on numerous occasions. Carry a spare because you can share with a lost hiker climber. Light can sometimes provide the best warmth and hope in a stressful situation.

  • Bobblett strap. It’s a modified ratchet strap specifically used for pack conversions during firefighting rapid intervention team operations. It can also be used as a lot of other strap related features that help in every day operations instead of just keeping it in your pocket. Designed and sold by Kevin Bobblett of the Lexington, KY fire department.


  • As a Flight Test Engineer, the skillcraft B3 aviator multi-functional pen is great for taking notes and making edits with just a quick turn of the pen. Built inside with black and red ink and a mechanical pencil. A great single use utensil while operating within confined cockpits!

  • The Wallet Ninja. It might seem like a stamped metal POS that comes straight out of a “gifts for him/gifts for dad” list but don’t let that fool you. I’ve had mine for 12 years and it’s especially come in handy because I may not always have my tools on me but I always have my wallet. This tiny piece of kit, about the size of a credit card, has been there when I’ve gone to formal events where wearing a leather man on my hip isn’t an option. You’d be surprised about the amount of times you get to be the hero when your nephew needs a screw driver to open up the batteries for a new toy, or when you’re cracking a few cold ones open and no one has a bottle opener, etc. Its certainly no replacement for a proper tool or multi-tool, but it’s an unbeatable contingency. I got mine as a gift, so I’m guessing that the price is nothing crazy, so you won’t be waiting around for this thing to break even on the value. In my experience, I’ve always been thankful when I patted my pockets and found it in the back of my wallet.

  • This may be small but I consistently use a Fanny pack whether to hold gear during workout or on the range.

  • The brain, taking a class on word, PowerPoint, excel, and a professional briefing course has changed my career. We often over look work skills and activities that we are not good at and the waste a lot of time. Learning to make professional products and communicate effectively is a critical skill be we rarely develop it in the military.

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