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Gym bags are a different breed. Regular duffel bags, backpacks and totes usually can’t organize workout gear, and oftentimes they can’t handle the sweat that accompanies a tough day at the gym. Here’s where the best gym bags come in.
The best workout bags offer a smooth transition from regular life to gym mode (and vice versa). They separate sweaty clothes and towels from the clean stuff and often have a compartment for dirty shoes as well (which is especially handy as we continue to be vigilant about sanitation). This means you can go from work to the gym to dinner with all your gym gear packed neatly away — even if, say, you’re commuting on a bike. Plus, we like having a dedicated gym bag that’s always ready to go, so you’re not unpacking and repacking your daily bag.
What Are the Best Workout Bags?
Because we all have different workout habits and gear, some shopping around is necessary to find the best gym bag. Here are a few things to look at while finding the best workout bag.
Bag Type: Most gym-goers opt for a compact duffel that can fit shoes, a change of clothes and maybe a few pieces of workout gear, like an ab roller, a jump rope or a basketball. But others prefer the convenience of a backpack, and some exercisers with a smaller load like streamlined drawstring bags.
Size: We’ve found that gym bags with about 30 to 40 liters of volume are best for most people’s needs. If you want a bag that doubles as a weekender, look for something a bit bigger than this. It can also be handy to have a bag that collapses when not in use, such as when it’s just sitting in your locker.
Compartments: The layout of a gym bag is what really separates the good from the great. The best workout bags feature compartments for dirty clothes, exercise shoes and even balls in some cases. These specialized compartments make a big difference, so keep your eyes peeled for anything of the sort.
Style: Your gym bag will most likely be making an appearance on the street, at the office and elsewhere outside the gym, so it should look good. Most brands are aware of this and try to introduce some style to their workout bags.
1. Nike Elite Basketball Duffel
This Nike duffel is aimed towards basketballers, but it’s an excellent choice for any gym-goer. It’s big enough for all your clothes, shoes and gear — plus a full-size ball (basketball or otherwise) on top of that. Your shoes get their own ventilated area, and an extra internal pocket offers space for sweaty clothes. We also like the duffel’s sporty yet modern look with two-tone color blocking and gold logos.
2. Patagonia Black Hole 40L Duffel Bag
Patagonia’s Black Hole duffels are some of the best bags around — no matter what they’re used for. This smaller 40-liter version is ideal for gym use, and it’s fantastic for weekend or overnight trips as well. It’s called a duffel, but backpack straps and drop handles provide a variety of carry options. There’s also a handy exterior pocket for small snacks, gadgets and other necessities.
3. Lululemon Urban Nomad Backpack
At first glance, this Urban Nomad backpack from Lululemon looks like an undercover everyday pack. But it’s actually a capable gym companion thanks to an expandable pocket specifically for sweaty gear and quick-access side pockets for a water bottle and maybe headphones. The pack also features a padded laptop/tablet sleeve and plenty of space for daily essentials. This makes it a great go-to for any adventure — whether you’re hitting the gym or not.
4. Adidas Defender 3 Duffel Bag
If you’re looking for a classic, no-frills gym duffel, the Adidas Defender 3 is probably your best bet. The medium-sized duffel bag features a roomy main compartment for clothing and gear, plus an array of other pockets. On both sides, you’ll find separate zipper pockets for shoes and sweaty gear, plus a quick-access front zipper pocket for gadgets and essentials. A padded shoulder strap is enough for most carrying needs, and it can be removed if, say, your gym bag just lives in your car trunk.
5. Herschel Novel Duffel Bag
Herschel’s duffel bags are best-sellers. The bags’ ruggedness and simple layout make them great for gym use as well — largely thanks to an external-accessed shoe compartment. This one is just over 42.5 liters, providing more than enough space for most workout needs. It’s also classically stylish with synthetic leather straps, making it great for traveling or work if need be.
6. Nike Brasilia Gym Sack
Don’t need too much gear? Grab this minimal Nike Gym Sack. The main compartment cinches closed with a drawcord that doubles as the shoulder straps, and the pack offers space for clothing or a pair of shoes (although both might be a stretch). It also has a zipper pocket on the exterior for your smartphone, headphones, keys and wallet. The really nice thing about this pack is that it’s super lightweight and, when not in use, barely takes up any space.
7. Gonex 40L Packable Travel Duffle Bag
Gonex is a relatively young brand (founded in 2013), and we’ve become big fans of their duffel bags. They’re durable and water-repellent, but the main draw is a thin, one-pound nylon construction. When empty, the duffel folds up into a small carry case. Storage options are also on-point, as the duffel boasts an exterior shoe compartment and two outside pockets for gear.
8. Rains Gym Bag
If you want a more upscale, fashion-forward gym bag, check out this one from Rains. It’s made of the brand’s signature waterproof fabric that looks cool and keeps everything dry inside. Storage is divided up between a main compartment and a small exterior zip pocket. The main compartment offers an ample 27 liters of space, making the bag comfortably compact yet capable of carrying the necessary gear. Our favorite thing about the bag, however, is the clean, minimal look.