AquaBells Travel Weights

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The idea itself seems like a no-brainer: A way to take weights along on trips or travel to continue training when away from home or the gym. That's what AquaBells are: heavy-duty polymer chambers you fill with water to create weights that you then thread onto a handle so they become convenient dumbbells. The patented idea was developed by Scott Silverman who came up with the idea about 14 years ago when vacationing in Lake Tahoe. His mom wanted to take along some dumbbells but she didn't want to carry the extra weight.

The SNEWS® team used a set of the AquaBells dumbbells for a few weeks, emptying and re-filling, threading and unthreading, and generally putting them through the paces. Bottom line is, unless you want to go with rubber resistance, such as tubes or bands, the AquaBells are about the only somewhat portable strength-training system on the market. They do have pros and cons, with the pros outweighing the cons for some and perhaps vice-versa for others.

First, the entire two-dumbbell kit with eight chambers, two handles and four bolts to hold the chambers on the handle weighs, unfilled, about 30 ounces or nearly 2 pounds. (Add a plastic bag to carry them and you'll easily reach 2 pounds.) This may not seem like a lot but if you're packing your gear in a suitcase, especially a carry-on, every ounce counts. However, if you are traveling by car, you wouldn't think twice about tossing a set in the trunk.

Each of the eight chambers can weigh, fully filled, about 4 pounds, so you have the option for two 16-pound or 8-pound dumbbells — or variations if you only partly fill the chambers. Note, however, there is no way to know exactly how much weight you have, so if you want less, you just squeeze out some water and guess.

Filling the chambers is, hmmmm, interesting and is our biggest complaint: The valve on each is tiny, like a regular small air valve on an air mattress. Turn on the water flow to hard and much of it splashes outside the valve; turn it on lower and you stand there for a up to two minutes for EACH chamber. One wrong move or slip and the chamber dumps into the sink, forcing you to start over again. Then, of course, each chamber is wet, with water that manages to gather between cracks, flaps and seams; dry it and some will still invariably splash out onto the floor, your hands or your face. If you use all eight dumbbells, you could need 10 to 15 minutes just to get set up and ready to go. That's fine if you are going someplace and staying there for a few days or more, but not so ideal if you must empty and fill the weights frequently. If AquaBells would simply add a larger opening, like is found on most hydration reservoirs for hydration packs these days, filling would become a veritable snap.

All those filling woes aside, once you have them filled, they are dang nice. They're soft, there's no harm if you bang a knee or piece of furniture. Drop them and they just land with a soft thunk without ruining a floor or waking a baby or sleeping spouse. The plastic means you don't clank and clunk when you lift them either. They really feel somewhat soothing in your hand — that is, except the chill of the water. Even left filled in a heated house overnight, the water chamber felt a bit cold in the hand.

We thought they would feel bulky and make some exercises uncomfortable, but that didn't really hold true despite them being about 13 inches long compared to regular iron dumbbells (15 pounds) that were about 9 inches long. The only movement that was a tiny bit awkward was a bicep curl, but even that was workable. And the chamber can actually slide onto the weight bar of a leg press or other attachment or bar, making them extra practical even around the house. Overall, they were stable, easy to hold, and comfortable.

One question we have is what will happen to the inside of the chambers after awhile. Will they get gummy and moldy? Hmmm, not sure on that one, but an occasional splash with bleach might be in order.

SNEWS® Rating: 4.0 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)

Suggested Retail: $50

For more information:www.aquabells.com or 1-800-987-6892 or 509-325-7807

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