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Buyers Guide

The Best Gym Bags for Every Type of Exerciser

by , March 23, 2017

Updated on August 2018

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.

Suitable Organization

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.

Good Access

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.

Carry Comfort

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.

Appropriate Aesthetics

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.

Useful Features

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.

Versatility

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…

The North Face Apex Gym Duffel (US$59.95)

The North Face Apex Gym Duffel

Athletic carry at an affordable price

The Apex Gym Duffel offers a straightforward and functional design with two compartments to separate clean and dirty clothes. A mesh top on the dirty clothes compartment helps ventilate your gear, while a fleece-lined pocket provides protection on the go for valuables. There’s also a choice of grab handles or a removable shoulder strap to get your bag where you need it to go. Bonus? If you’re on a budget, don’t sweat it. This duffel won’t break the bank.

Patagonia Lightweight Black Hole Duffel 30L (US$79)

Patagonia Lightweight Black Hole Duffel 30L

A packable duffel that sheds the pounds

A heavy bag can give you a serious workout before you’ve even reached the gym. But weight isn’t a problem with this duffel which comes in at a mere 453 g (1 lb). The packable design stuffs into its own pocket for convenient storage inside a larger bag or when not in use, making it a handy gym or day bag for your travels too. A diagonal zipper provides easy access to the main compartment, and the carry straps are adjustable for slinging over a shoulder, using as backpack straps, or carrying by hand.

Speedo Tri Clops (US$84.97)

Speedo Tri Clops

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.

Aer Fit Pack (US$120)

Aer Fit Pack

Fit for work and play

A Carry Award winner for Best Work Backpack, the Aer Fit Pack brings clean aesthetics and clever organization to the table with a design that stores work and workout gear separately. The bag looks at home in an office environment, with space for a laptop, EDC and work tools. But it also packs in storage for gym clothes and a separate shoe compartment – ideal for a quick run during your lunch break or hitting the gym after work without having to carry two bags.

Topo Designs Classic Duffel (US$129)

Topo Designs Classic Duffel

A hard-wearing and multifunctional hauler

Topo’s Classic Duffel delivers on simple functionality and rugged durability. Crafted from 1000D Cordura, this duffel can take a beating while hauling plenty of gym or sports gear in its 42L volume. The bag features pockets for organizing smaller items, along with grab handles 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.

GORUCK Kit Bag (US$135)

GORUCK Kit Bag

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.

lululemon athletica Para Duffel (US$148)

lululemon athletica Para Duffel

Urban style for gym essentials

The Para Duffel combines urban-friendly aesthetics with separate storage for shoes and dirty clothes, and a choice of pockets for smaller items. The grab handles can also be worn as backpack straps for easier carry over longer distances.

lululemon athletica Para Backpack (US$148)

lululemon athletica Para Backpack

Sleek style with handy organization

If you like the understated aesthetics of the Para Duffel but want a bit more organization and a dedicated backpack style, the Para Backpack could be a good fit for your needs. The pack includes a padded pocket for your tech, separate pockets for dirty clothes and shoes, water bottle storage, and reflective detailing for increased visibility on the go at night.

Aer Duffel Pack 2 (US$150)

Aer Duffel Pack

Working hard in the office and the gym

Like their Fit Pack, Aer’s Duffel Pack 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.

Aer Gym Duffel 2 (US$170)

Aer Gym Duffel 2

A thoughtful blend of functionality and style

The Gym Duffel 2 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.

RYU Quick Pack LUX 1.1 (US$185)

RYU Quick Pack LUX 1.1

Minimalist style with thoughtful access for the gym, travel and EDC

The Quick Pack LUX 1.1 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.

DSPTCH Gym/Work Bag (US$192)

DSPTCH Gym/Work Bag

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.

DSPTCH Gym/Work Pack (US$198)

DSPTCH Gym/Work Pack

Slim daypack to versatile gym buddy

Like the bag above, this pack embraces the gym/work divide with a padded laptop compartment, ventilated shoe compartment, and internal tablet sleeve. Additionally, it also offers an exterior pocket with a Fidlock closure for storing clothes, a ball, shoes or a range of other items you may need for work or exercise purposes.

Incase Sport Field Bag (US$199.95)

Incase Sport Field Bag

Tailored for active tech users

Incase are known for their streamlined silhouettes and tech-friendly designs. With the Sport Field Bag you get all that and a little extra. The bag offers an exterior padded laptop compartment for quick access to your tech, a mix of pockets for keeping small items tidy, and a wide opening on the main compartment for easy access to your gear. In addition, the interior features a dedicated ball storage compartment, with the option to collapse the compartment to increase the internal storage space if you don’t need to carry a ball. The ventilated ball compartment also doubles as a wet/dry storage area. Rounding things off is moisture and odor-resistant Ariaprene foam technology in the back panel, shoulder straps and carry handle – handy for a pack designed to help you get active and sweaty.

RYU Locker Pack LUX 1.1 (US$215)

RYU Locker Pack LUX 1.1

Practicality with panache

We doubt a portable locker ever looked this good. The Locker Pack LUX 1.1 exudes the same clean style of the 17L RYU Quick Pack LUX 1.1, but with its 22L 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.

Lexdray Portland Sneaker Duffel (US$325)

Lexdray Portland Sneaker Duffel

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.

Stuart & Lau Regimen Gym Bag (US$395)

Stuart & Lau Regimen Gym 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.

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