Travel Light with Steve Maxwell

Steve Maxwell is a world renowned fitness professional and highly ranked Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt, trained directly by the Gracie family. His original, innovative experiments established the American-style kettlebell movement, and he’s considered by many to be the founding father of US kettlebell training.

A fitness classicist, Steve lives what he preaches: he travels full-time around the world, carrying only his backpack (packed with KÜHL essentials) and inspiring people to take their physical fitness experience to the next level.

How did you get started in martial arts training?

I began training in wrestling and lifting weights when I was 10 years old, so I have been working out for more than half a century.

I got my start in the fitness industry in 1972 as an undergrad PE major. Later, I worked part time in a gym to supplement my income as a physical education teacher and high school wrestling coach. In 1980, I began working full time in the fitness industry.

I ran my own gym, Maxercise, in Philadelphia from 1990 to 2006. It was a cutting edge, unique gym. It was a destination for many young men and women, and people made pilgrimages to train there. I established the first Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy on the East Coast and taught the first group kettlebell classes in the USA.

When did you take your experiences on the road?

After my divorce, I sold the business and took to the road, living in my camper van for three years. It was a kick ass Mercedes work van that had been retro fitted by Westfalia. But I started traveling so much I decided to sell it rather than have it deteriorate in storage.

Today, I am a digital nomad. I have no home, no apartment, no condo, and no car. Everything I own I carry in a 45 liter Tom Bihn Aeronaut bag. I live in hotels and AirBnb places.

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Steve gets in an outdoor workout in Nakanojo, Japan

I travel to a new city and country every few days to hold seminars and training camps. Sometimes I’ll stay in one spot for a few weeks.

Each winter I stay for 6-8 weeks in Australia, and I spend 6-8 weeks every year in Maui. Last year I did two week long camps on the Greek island, Ikaria in the Aegean Sea. I also did a week long Jiujitsu camp on the beach in El Salvador.

What do you carry in your travel bag?

I first heard about KÜHL from a former Jiu Jitsu student who was in the USMC. I’ve been wearing KÜHL pants, shorts and jackets for several years now because they meet and exceed my expectations, and I really like the cut, durability and quality.

The only non-KÜHL apparel I wear is socks, underwear and t-shirts. I also pack a pair of lightweight running shorts.

These KÜHL essentials are always in my carry-on:

Tell us what you like about the new Firefly Jacket:

I’d been looking for a lightweight winter jacket that wouldn’t take up much space in my travel bag. I wasn’t sure how warm the Firefly Jacket would be since it is so light.

I’d like to point out that I don’t ‘do winter.’ I usually avoid cold weather and travel to points south during northern winters. I spent the last Northern winter in Sydney, Australia ( their summer) and Maui. But this year I have business in Moscow, Vienna and Berlin in November and December. So I made sure to pack warm clothing.

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Hiking in Vöcklabruck, Austria in Skull Cap, Firefly Jacket and Renegade Pant

With only a t-shirt and a long sleeve mock turtleneck underneath, the Firefly Jacket provided good warmth even in 20°F weather in Moscow. While I didn’t want to stand around or sit down for long, I was quite comfortable as long as I was moving.

I walked from my hotel in the Garden Circle of Moscow to Red Square. The wind was blowing with snow flurries. I also had on my Renegade Pants and KÜHL Skull Cap. My legs were not cold at all, nor was my upper body. My face and neck were cold, and I wished I’d brought the KÜHL Gaiter. That would have been perfect!

What I Like about the Firefly Jacket

  • Superior warmth-to-weight ratio
  • Looks sharp, very stylish and expensive looking
  • Breathable
  • Good wind resistance
  • Nice fit
  • Great pockets, including internal chest pocket  for iPhone, zip chest pocket on the outside for passport and tickets, two side zippered hand warmer pockets, are perfect for the traveler
  • Sleeve cuffs are easy to slide up to look at my Fitbit watch

There’s really nothing I don’t like about the Firefly Jacket. I’m a weird size in that large is okay and looks fine, but medium is too tight. I’m 5’8″ and 167 lbs with a muscular build and between sizes. Larges are usually a little baggy through the torso, and mediums usually pull and restrict movement through the shoulders.  The Large Firefly fits well, isn’t too baggy and is perfect for layering.

Kühl Editor

At KÜHL, the passion remains to get outdoors and have fun. Our Born in the Mountains contributors share their love for the mountain culture with their stories, reflections and photographs.