This gym bag has it all: wet/dry compartments, roomy interior for clothes and equipment, and separate storage for shoes or sundries. Under Armour seems to have thought of everything in this design.
One of the more expensive gym bags on the market. Larger shoe sizes may not fit comfortably.
Amazing amount of storage space compared to gym bags twice the price. Separate zippered compartments for wet and dry clothes, plus a generous center compartment and shoe storage.
Looks more like a hiker's duffel bag than a gym bag at first. Inexpensive material may not tolerate rough handling.
Classic gym bag design from a well-established athletics company. Sleek appearance and generous storage space. Mesh compartments allow wet clothes to breathe while protecting dry clothes.
Higher price than comparable gym bags, although bargains can be found. Straps may not be easily adjusted.
Geared towards the needs of female gym members: wet/dry storage compartments, room for hand weights and yoga mats, and a sleek design.
More expensive that comparable gender-neutral gym bags. We had some concerns with the size/function of compartments.
The interior is surprisingly spacious. Compartments for shoes and wet clothes comparable to more expensive brands. Affordable overnight bag, as well.
The inexpensive polyester material could wear out quickly. We also have concerns about quality control with zippers and stitching.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
When it comes to staying healthy and fit, most of us have the best of intentions: eat right, avoid stress, exercise on a regular basis. When it comes to that last point, however, it’s oh-so-easy to skip that trip to the gym “just this once.” Unfortunately, all too often, that “once” turns into forever.
While a good gym bag admittedly isn’t a miracle motivator, it can be very helpful in keeping you on track with your exercise program. Owning a gym bag makes it more convenient to leave the house and visit the pool, the YMCA, the trail, or wherever you like to work out.
But finding the right gym bag can be a bit of a workout in itself. There are so many to choose from that it can be tempting to just pick whichever is cheapest. That can lead to disappointment, however.
Luckily, there’s an easier way to choose the perfect gym bag for your needs. You can let us help you.
If you just want to grab your bag and get to that spin class as quickly as possible, check out our favorite we're confident to recommend. If you’d like to learn more about gym bags in general, including how to choose and use them, read on.
Up ahead: a fit, healthy you!
There are actually several different types of bags that fall under the umbrella term “gym bag.” While all of them will transport your clothing, equipment, and water bottle to the health club and back, each has its own pros and cons, and knowing those points makes it easier to select the bag that’s best for your needs.
Traditional gym bags are similar to duffel bags, but they have more pockets. In addition to separate areas for shoes, clothing, and toiletries, some traditional gym bags also have mesh pockets in which you can store wet items. Short handles and a long strap to sling over your shoulder for hands-free use are the norm, and most also have an inner frame that provides a bit of structure. Like duffel bags, you’ll find a wide range of colors and sizes.
Pros: Multiple pockets to separate workout gear, shoulder straps, reasonable price, can also be used as a weekend vacation bag or carry on
Cons: More crevices for mold spores and bacteria to hide
A popular choice not only for trips to the gym but also as carry on luggage, duffel bags are the most basic gym bags. A duffel bag is cylindrical with only one large compartment, although there may be one or two small outer pockets for small items. This type of bag has two handles but no rigid frame.
Pros: Inexpensive, available in a huge range of colors and sizes, good for bulky items, lightweight
Cons: No separation for shoes and clothing, no shoulder strap, seams may be weak
Don’t leave damp clothes, wet towels, or moist shoes sitting in your gym bag longer than necessary. Doing so is a surefire way to grow smelly mildew and bacteria. Your bag should be emptied and aired out after every vigorous exercise session.
Keep your gym bag stocked, ready to go, and near the door or in your car. That way, when it’s time to exercise, all you have to do is grab it and go.
Backpacks for gym use are generally a little larger than the backpack your child uses to lug books to school. Most have a roomy inner space and one or two outer pockets for small items. A handle on top of the backpack makes it easy to tote by hand, but you can also elect to use the shoulder straps and keep your hands free. People who bicycle or make use of public transportation may find a gym backpack particularly convenient.
Pros: Hands-free option, can be used for other purposes
Cons: Not as roomy as larger duffel bags and traditional gym bags, not many compartments for smaller items
Gym totes are basically large bags with two handles. Some have a drawstring or similar closure at the top; others are entirely open. Many totes are quite stylish, making them a good choice if you head directly from the office to the gym or vice versa. They are also handy for packing large items such as a laptop, yoga mat, towel, or bulky equipment. Some gym totes have an outer pocket or an inner divider, but many consist of just one big inner compartment.
Pros: Good for large items, can be stylish, useful for travel or weekend trips
Cons: Usually no separation for shoes and clothing, no shoulder strap, open top may be less secure
If you bike or walk to the gym, a backpack with a ventilated panel in the back will keep you comfortable and sweat-free as you travel.
What is a good gym bag made of? You’ll find several material choices when you go shopping.
Polyester is one of the most common gym bag materials. Heavy-duty polyester is strong and fairly easy to wipe clean. It holds in moisture well, so your wet bathing suit won’t soak through the fabric. On the downside, because it doesn’t breathe, polyester bags are prone to the growth of stinky mold and bacteria.
Nylon is lightweight and inexpensive, but it doesn’t hold a shape and isn’t very durable. It stains easily and doesn’t hold in moisture as well as polyester does. Still, if you just need a lightweight bag for occasional use – and you don’t want to pay a lot – nylon can be a good choice.
Leather looks luxurious, no doubt about it. It’s also durable and holds its shape well. On the downside, leather is heavy, expensive, prone to staining, and known for retaining odors. You might not want an entirely leather gym bag, but if you like the look of leather, consider a polyester or canvas gym bag with leather trim or handles.
Canvas is a heavy fabric made from cotton or a cotton blend. It’s lightweight, inexpensive, and usually machine washable. In short, it’s a great choice for gym bags that often carry stinky clothing. Unless treated for water-resistance, however, canvas doesn’t hold in moisture very well. Canvas bags often have leather trim and handles for extra strength, giving them a touch of style.
Remind yourself to stay hydrated with a gym bag that sports a water bottle pocket. Refill your bottle before every workout, and let it dry between uses to prevent bacteria growth.
Once you’ve determined the gym bag style and material that best suit your needs, there are still a few other features to consider. The following is a list of gym bag features that we think you might appreciate.
Maybe you just need a couple of compartments to separate your shoes from your clothes, or maybe you want several pockets to organize a multitude of items. Either way, we think most people find compartments are pretty important.
If you swim, you’ll want at least one waterproof compartment to store your suit after hitting the water.
A waterproof bag is a must if swimming is your regular form of exercise.
Many gym bags include an outer pocket, usually made of mesh, to keep a water bottle close at hand.
Nobody wants their gym bag to rip apart in the health club parking lot. Reinforced seams keep your bag together longer. They are especially important if you carry heavy, bulky, or pointed equipment.
One of the bulkiest items you might want to carry in your gym bag is a yoga mat. Instead of tucking it under your arm or jamming it into your duffel, go for a gym bag with a strap or compartment specifically designed to carry your mat.
Damp gym shoes are a guaranteed recipe for stink. A ventilated shoe pocket lets your sneakers air out, cutting down on the opportunity for germs or mildew to gain a foothold.
Consider a gym bag with a separate shoe compartment. This can help keep your clothes fresh and clean.
The zipper on your gym bag is often the weakest spot. Reinforced zippers have extra stitching and supportive fabric to bolster their strength.
If you carry an excess of gear, you’ll appreciate a bag with wheels.
A heavy bag can really pull on your shoulders or hands. You can take a bit of the pressure off, and improve your comfort, if you carry a bag with padded straps.
Whether you want to show off your personality with a neon bag or carry something a bit more discreet, there’s a gym bag to match your style and color preference.
If you plan to tuck your gym bag in the health club locker room during your class or exercise session, make sure any bag you’re considering will fit inside the club’s lockers.
How much do gym bags cost? That depends on how much you want to spend.
During the course of our research, we found nylon totes for less than $10 and structured leather gym bags for over $400.
But those are the extremes. Most people will likely find a gym bag in the $20 to $50 range that suits them well.
Many of the gym bags that sell for less than $10 are made of cheaper materials and likely won’t last too long. If you have a light, short-term need, this could suffice for you.
Your clothes will remain wrinkle-free if you fold and then roll them before storing them in your gym bag.
The bulk of “mainstream” gym bags are found in this price range. As you move higher up the range, you’re likely to find sturdier bags with more pockets and closures. Gym bags from fantastic brands like adidas and Under Armour are found here.
If you’re looking to make a statement with a leather gym bag or one that hails from a chic designer, you’ll find many good choices over the $50 mark. As mentioned above, you can find gym bags that cost $400 or more. In most practical scenarios, this type of expense wouldn’t be necessary.
Q. How big of a gym bag should I buy?
A. Resist the urge to buy the biggest bag you can find – unless you genuinely need the space for large equipment. And unless you only need a bag to hold your keys, water bottle, and hand towel, you should also resist buying a tiny gym bag. A too-large bag can be heavy and difficult to store, and a too-small bag limits what you can carry.
The best size is the one that holds whatever equipment you need for your workout, a change of clothes, a small toiletry kit for the shower if you’ll be needing it, and any belongings you like to stow for easy transport, such as a laptop. For most people, that means a medium-size gym bag.
Q. How do I get the smell out of my gym bag?
A. A smelly gym bag is one sure way to get dirty looks on your commute. Stave off the stink by emptying dirty clothing, shoes, and towels out of the bag as soon as you get home. Let the bag air out before restocking it, and wipe away any visible moisture.
If your bag is washable, go ahead and wash it whenever odors develop. If it’s not washable, toss in a few deodorizer balls (the kind made for tennis shoes), or place small bowl of baking soda in the empty bag overnight.
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