Historically, gym bags have been horrible, generic and saggy excuses for carry – but there’s been a shift in the past few years. Gym rats and fitness fanatics have been asking for more, and brands have delivered with some exciting offerings. But before we dive deeper, let’s talk context: what makes an awesome gym or exercise bag?
Here are a few useful considerations to think about.
The amount of organization you need will depend on what you use the bag for. But essentially you want your gear to be tidy and accessible – after all, sorting through a jumbled mess wastes time you could be spending on your workout. Look for organization that separates your dirty/wet clothes from your clean/dry clothes. If you already have a bag you enjoy but it doesn’t offer this feature, you could use the likes of packing cubes or breathable stuff sacks to organize your gear.
A good gym bag should allow you to easily pack your gear and access it quickly when you need it. Consider features such as wide openings and quick-access pockets to get to your gear quickly.
Your body is already getting a workout from your exercise – don’t put it under further strain by hauling around an uncomfortable bag. Features such as ventilated back panels in packs, padded shoulder straps and grab handles, and options to alternate carry modes to suit longer and shorter distances can help reduce carry strain and keep you comfortable on the move.
When it comes to gym bag aesthetics, there’s two considerations you want to keep in mind. Personal tastes and where you’re going to be carrying the bag. First off, it should suit your personal style and preferences. After all, you’re not going to be inclined to carry something around if you don’t like how it looks. Secondly, is the bag strictly going between home and the gym, or are you going to be taking it into a work environment? If you’re taking it to the office to squeeze in a lunch break workout, go with a bag that looks suitably smart for your work environment.
What features are you looking for in a gym bag? Maybe you want a ventilated shoe compartment. Do you need to carry bulky items like a mat or basketball? Do you want a laptop compartment in addition to storage for gym gear? How about easily accessible water bottle pockets? Think about what features will help satisfy your carry and gym needs.
You’ve probably heard of one-bag travel. There’s no reason you can’t apply that philosophy to your gym carry. A bag that serves as both a work and gym bag means greater carry freedom. And if you don’t need it for work, you could consider a bag that doubles as a gym and travel bag instead. Getting more out of your carry is awesome.
Now we know that looking for bags can be fun but time-consuming. So we’ve made things a little easier by rounding up our top picks of the best gym bags to complement a range of exercise preferences and budgets. So if your current gym bag just isn’t working hard enough for you, give one of these workout partners a try…
Athletic carry at an affordable price
Nike’s Vapor Energy 2.0 offers a variety of useful features, without breaking the bank. The rolltop main compartment offers flexible storage space for changing loads. Organizers will also appreciate the exterior pockets that keep quick-access items close at hand. As an added bonus, the front pocket offers inbuilt ventilation, while rear storage handles tech too. And with a choice of grab handles and shoulder straps, this pack offers convenient grab-and-go portability.
An award-winning pack for triathlons
The Tri Clops was designed to cater to the needs of triathletes, with dedicated storage for running, cycling and swimming gear. The pack scooped a Red Dot Award for its design, which can be opened up for fast and convenient access to your gear. The Tri Clops is hydration bladder compatible and features a removable smaller bag for keeping wet and dry (or dirty and clean) items separate.
Rugged versatility for the gym and beyond
GORUCK’s Kit Bag combines tough construction with a simple, versatile design that works equally well as a gym bag, weekend getaway bag, or for day-to-day carry needs. The water-resistant 32L bag is made in the USA and backed by GORUCK’s Scars lifetime guarantee. It opens wide for easy packing and access and comes with a choice of interior and external pockets for storing smaller items.
Iconic outdoor heritage for conquering workout demands
The iconic Base Camp Duffel is a legendary expedition-ready bag. And the Small option is great when you’re swapping mountains for treadmill treks. With 50L of space and a large D-zip opening, storing and accessing large amounts of gear is not an issue. The rugged, weather-resistant build is ready to tackle everyday use. And with a choice of grab handles and removable shoulder straps, you can alternate between backpack and hand-carry mode for easy portability on the move.
A hard-wearing and multifunctional hauler
Topo’s Classic Duffel delivers on simple functionality and rugged durability. Crafted from 1000D nylon, this duffel can take a beating while hauling a good amount of gym or sports gear in its 25.7L volume. The bag features pockets for organizing smaller items, along with leather lash tabs, a leather grab handle, and a detachable shoulder strap. It’s also suitable for travel use, whether you’re off on a weekend adventure or clocking up the miles over several days.
Access, looks and luxe
We doubt a portable locker ever looked this good. The Locker Pack LUX 24L exudes the same clean style of the 18L RYU Quick Pack, but with its 24L volume it may be your preferred choice if you need to carry a little extra. The pack includes an externally accessible laptop sleeve, along with a hanging loop, molded internal shell and drop front design so you can avoid rummaging for specific items.
Recycled meets ready to go
Patagonia’s 40L Black Hole Duffel features a 100% recycled body fabric, lining, and webbing, giving a high-five to the planet while helping you haul a diverse range of gear. The generous capacity accommodates a variety of gym gear, with a wide opening making it quick and easy to grab and store items. The duffel offers multiple carry options including top carry handles, grab handles, and removable shoulder straps. The tough, weatherproof build and padded base help keep gear safe from the elements and bumps too. And its versatile design also makes this a great duffel for short travel needs.
Sleek, practical style for sport and everyday use
Thule’s Chasm Backpack serves up sleek multifunctionality with a design that keeps things clean on the outside but offers a solid range of features for sport and everyday use. The laptop pocket efficiently handles tech carry, with both external and interior access. The wide-opening main compartment offers space for a variety of gym gear, while an organization panel keeps smaller EDC or work items neat and tidy. You also get an exterior water bottle pocket, a tough and weather-resistant build, and comfortable carry with the padded back panel and adjustable sternum strap. And with its pared-back aesthetics, it’s easy to hop between work, workouts, and a multitude of additional EDC settings with this pack.
Minimalist style with thoughtful access for the gym, travel and EDC
The Quick Pack 18L is suave enough for the office and roaming the city streets in style. But this pack is more than just appealing aesthetics. The drop front opening enables easy packing and great access to your gear, while the molded internal shell helps to protect the contents against life’s bumps and scrapes, making this a handy pack for the gym, travel or daily use.
Fit for work and play
If you want a pack that plays equally well in work and gym settings, Aer definitely needs to be on your radar. Their Fit Pack 3 is an excellent option thanks to its super-clean work-friendly style and clever organization that stores work and workout gear separately. The bag offers dedicated space for a laptop, EDC and work tools. But it also packs in storage for gym clothes and a separate ventilated shoe compartment – ideal for a quick run during your lunch break or hitting the gym after work without having to carry two bags.
If you’re after a gym bag with plenty of pockets to organize your essentials, this might be just the bag for you. lululemon’s Command The Day Duffle offers a wide range of interior and exterior pockets to neatly store various items, including a dedicated shoe pocket to keep shoes separate from the rest of your gear, as well as an exterior padded pocket that fits up to 13″ tech devices. The duffel also offers water-repellent construction and a compressible design for storing in smaller spaces such as gym lockers.
A thoughtful blend of functionality and style
The Gym Duffel 3 features a ventilated main compartment and separate ventilated shoe pocket, handy for airing out your gear when not in use. There’s also plenty of organization for your EDC and clean clothes. Additionally, the bag features a padded laptop pocket, which combined with the sleek, low-key aesthetics makes this a great work/gym hybrid.
Working hard in the office and the gym
Like their Fit Pack 3, Aer’s Duffel Pack 3 provides a smart single-bag solution for carrying gym and work essentials. The front-loading main compartment provides easy packing and access for your workout gear, along with a ventilated and separate shoe pocket. A padded laptop pocket on the back keeps your tech protected on the move, and side pockets ensure your water bottle and smaller work and EDC items are organized and within easy reach when you need them.
Practical design for grafting at work and the gym
As the name suggests, this bag is designed to find the balance between work and gym carry needs. It does so by packing in useful features such as a ventilated shoe pocket, a separate padded laptop pocket, and a moisture-resistant lining. The main compartment features an interior water bottle pocket as well as a hidden pocket for storing your valuables.
An adaptable and tough gear hauler for larger volumes
Filson’s Ballistic Nylon Duffle Pack doesn’t mess about in offering a host of handy features to accommodate changing needs, from three portability options to a large 46L capacity. And at 2 lb 4 oz, it won’t weigh you down either. The bag can be carried by hand, over the shoulder, and as a backpack. Dedicated padded storage keeps up to 15″ laptops safe, and there’s also separate storage for wet/dirty gear or shoes. Add in the quick-access exterior pockets and convenient wide-opening access to the main compartment and you’ve got a solid hauler for diverse sporting or travel needs.
Smart separation for wet and dry gear
If you need flexible separation for wet/dirty and dry/clean gear, look to this duffel to get the job done. The Patagonia Stormsurge Wet/Dry Duffel 65L features top and bottom compartments, with a floating divider that provides maximized storage in either compartment depending on your needs. The duffel has top and side carry handles as well as a removable shoulder strap. Rounding things off is a burly, highly weather-resistant build that will embrace rugged use in all weathers and is also a great choice for water-based activities too.
Understated style meets everyday/travel versatility
Bellroy’s Weekender serves up the kind of smart-casual styling that moves effortlessly between everyday and travel settings. But its thoughtful design ensures it also puts in the hard work to make your carry experience better, whether you’re stashing gym gear inside or packing for a weekend away. The main compartment folds out wide for convenient retrieval and storage of gear. The cleverly organized tool-belt style pocketing keeps smaller items readily accessible, with interior pockets for shoes or water bottles. Made with water-resistant, recycled fabric, it salutes sustainable carry too. And you benefit from a choice of top carry handles, a removable shoulder strap, and a luggage pass-through.
A touch of urban luxe with gym and carry-on functionality
This duffel may be inspired by sneakerheads, but its versatile design adapts to the gym and beyond. The bag’s rolltop central compartment holds two to three pairs of shoes, with further compartments providing suitable storage for keeping clean and dirty clothes separate. There’s also plenty of pockets to organize smaller items, a removable shoulder strap, and carry handles. Size-wise it’s suitable for carry-on use, allowing double duty as a travel bag.
Luxurious versatility for work, workouts and travel
Suave and sophisticated, the Regimen Gym Bag from Stuart & Lau adds understated luxury to your gym setup. The weatherproof bag features a ventilated shoe pocket, a padded laptop pocket, and additional pockets for water bottles, EDC and other smaller essentials. A versatile and stylish piece, this bag works hard at the gym, looks good in the office and is ready to go when travel beckons.
This buyers guide was updated on June 2021