Finding the Best Gym Bag
In your search for the best gym bag, it’s important to think about your must-haves, deal breakers and bonus features. For instance, one of your must-haves might be a wet-dry compartment, which should not only keep your dirty clothes separate from your other items, but ensure that sweat and smells don’t infiltrate the other parts of the bag. A deal breaker might be a bag that doesn’t have a separate shoe compartment or stretchy water bottle pockets. Bonus features (that are usually worth it) include a laptop sleeve and at least two zippered pockets for small items like earbuds.
Still, the features of your future bag aren’t the only thing to think about. In making our recommendations, we also checked out customer service reports, product reviews and warranties. We don’t think every decent bag must come with a warranty, especially if you’re choosing an affordable option under $50, but the warranty is important to check over if you’re investing in an expensive product. Ready to get started? Dive into our comprehensive list of the best gym bags.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Gym Bag
Before purchasing a gym bag, we encourage you to think about the bag type, number of compartments, size, product reviews and price.
Typically, gym bags come in one of three styles: backpack, duffel or duffel-backpack hybrid. Backpacks include both heavy-duty, padded backpacks with adjustable straps and simple drawstring bags. Duffels are cylindrical bags with a shoulder strap and two lugging handles. Hybrid bags can be shaped like a traditional backpack or a traditional duffel. All types of gym bags come in small, medium and large sizes, so you can typically find the size you need in any category.
Are you a person who carries a lot of small items that easily get lost in your gym bag? If so, you would benefit from a product that has many storage compartments. Your ideal bag likely won’t have one giant compartment, but rather two or more separate spaces for different items, like clothes, shoes and a laptop. Keep in mind that separate compartments also reduce your ability to carry big, bulky items.
How big do you need your gym bag to be? Most brands will list the size of their bags in liters, but they will also give you the bag’s dimensions. Generally, a 20-inch-long bag is large enough to carry the essentials, like a change of clothes, a towel, shoes and a water bottle. You may need something larger if you plan to bring your shower toiletries to the gym or you want your bag to double as a work bag.
Nearly all gym bags listed online look great from the pictures, but you never know exactly what type of product you’re getting. It’s therefore important to check out customer reviews. In creating our list of the best gym bags, we made sure to look at reviews that discuss durability, comfort, customer service, materials and functionality.
Unfortunately, the days of inexpensive gym bags are behind us. You will most likely need to spend at least $40 to get a high-quality bag, and the top products on the market cost between $200 and $300. Our top recommendation is $62, which is relatively affordable.
What Are the Different Types of Gym Bags?
Duffel bags are the classic gym bag. Traditionally, they have one center zip enclosure, and possibly a few pockets on the interior and exterior. Modern duffel bags have extra bells and whistles, like a wet-dry pocket for dirty clothes, a shoe compartment and sometimes even a yoga mat strap underneath. Keep in mind that extra compartments often take up interior space when they’re full.
Any backpack can become a gym bag, but backpacks designed for the gym have a few extra features that come in handy. For instance, they may have a separate laptop compartment, extra large water bottle pockets, a shoe compartment and even a meal prep compartment. Gym backpacks are ideal if you have to walk to and from the gym because they’re easier to carry over long distances.
Hybrid gym bags come in one of two forms: a duffel that has backpack straps, and a backpack that has one or more duffel straps. Either option will give you the best of both worlds — you can carry your bag any way that makes sense and still benefit from features like a shoe compartment and wet-dry pouch.
- Can be used as a work bag
- Meal prep/wet clothes compartment
- Padded back panel
- Comes in just 2 colors
- One large compartment may not be ideal
- Not sold at most retailers
If you need a gym bag that does it all at a reasonable price, take a look at the GymShark Sleek Backpack. It has a waterproof exterior, a front zipper pocket, a padded back panel, pockets on either side for water bottles, a meal prep or wet clothes compartment at the bottom and a few internal pockets. It even has a padded laptop sleeve if you want to make it a work bag, and the size is about 23 liters.
The downsides: This bag has one main and very large compartment, which might not be everyone’s ideal design. It also comes in just two colors and it’s not sold at most retailers, so you will likely have to purchase it through the GymShark website.
- Separate wet pocket
- Sneaker compartment
- Water bottle pocket
- Only 3 colors
- Sneaker compartment takes up interior storage space
- Smaller than it seems
What we love: The BAGSMART Expendable Sports Duffel (34 liters) has a durable polyester exterior and zippers that can withstand bulky items. It also comes with a lot of bells and whistles — like a separate wet pocket, a sneaker compartment, a mesh side pocket for a water bottle, many external zippered pockets and a trolley/luggage sleeve.
What could be improved: The bag comes in just three colors, and the sneaker compartment takes up a lot of interior space when it’s in use. (Note that BAGSMART has other duffels on its official site in different styles and colors.) Buyers note that the bag is a touch smaller than what they were expecting, but that this helps them fit the bag into tight spaces.
- Separate laptop compartment
- Easy-access front zipper
- Ventilated shoe compartment
- No separate wet clothes compartment
- No-stretch water bottle pocket
- Not sold at most retailers
If you’re looking for a bag that has the chic feel of the GymShark Sleek Backpack but can work as a duffel, we recommend the Aer Duffel Pack 3. It’s designed for both the gym and office, and has a separate, zippered compartment that can fit a laptop and a few notebooks. The center front zipper makes it easy to store bulky objects in the biggest compartment and the ventilated shoe compartment at the bottom doesn’t take up much interior space.
However, this backpack is smaller than others at 21.4 liters. It also doesn’t have a separate compartment for wet clothes (the shoe compartment can work as one). The water bottle pocket doesn’t stretch, either, so you may not be able to fit large bottles (32 ounces).
- Two water bottle pockets
- Wet-dry compartment
- Shoe compartment
- Slim straps can dig into shoulders
- Non adjustable straps
- May tear if overstuffed
A drawstring bag might sound like an ineffective gym bag, but the YOULERBU Dry Wet Backpack Bag may be exactly what you need for a small locker. This lightweight product has two water bottle pockets, a wet-dry compartment for dirty clothes and a shoe compartment at the bottom. The shoe compartment can fit one pair of sneakers or even a soccer ball.
The downsides? The straps are slim, unpadded and unadjustable, which can get uncomfortable if you’re carrying heavy items. Also, the bag may not hold up well if you overstuff it and can tear at the seams, and it’s sold only on Amazon.
- Responsive customer service
- Lifetime warranty against defects
- Bag seals in moisture and smells
- Clip may break after multiple uses
- May be too bulky to use in duffel
- Water resistant, not waterproof
If you want to keep sweaty, smelly gym clothes contained until you can get home and wash them, we recommend using a dry bag. The Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack is our pick because it comes in a wide variety of sizes (2 liter to 35 liter). Plus, it really holds in moisture and stinky stuff.
However, a few buyers have complained that the bag clip broke after multiple uses. (Sea to Summit has a lifetime warranty against defects, so if this happens to you, it’s worth reaching out to the company.) In addition, the bag may be too bulky to use inside a duffel.
- 13 different color patterns
- Reinforced zippers and rip-proof fabric
- Can hold about 33 pounds
- Two-way compartments can get tedious
- Bulky look
Tired of the shoe compartment in your gym bag taking up all the interior space? Try a bag that fits anything and everything, like the Built for Athletes Large Gym Backpack. It has reinforced zippers, rip-proof fabric, two extra-large water bottle/shake pockets, multiple inner compartments and plenty of space for shoes, clothes, towels and meal prep.
While we love that every compartment has a two-way opening, closing everything up when you’re done can get tedious. The bag also has a bulky look which may not be everyone’s style, though you can opt for a smaller size (25 liters as opposed to 45 liters).
- Variety of colors and styles
- Main compartment stores dry items
- Ventiled gear pocket for wet items
- No hip strap
- Wet compartment less isolated than original
- Some pockets are narrow
Wet clothes are never easy to deal with, especially when they leak water on the other items in your bag — yuck! Fortunately, the Speedo Teamster 2.0 backpack handles this issue better than any other bag on the market. It has an unlined main compartment for dry items and a hidden, ventilated gear pocket for wet suits, caps and goggles. We love that the zippers are reinforced and this bag is incredibly durable — buyers report that they last for years.
However, the 2.0 bag no longer has the hip strap that the original did, which some buyers liked because it reduced the weight on their shoulders. The wet compartment also isn’t as isolated as it was in the original bag, and some of the compartments are narrower.
- Water repellent outer
- Ventilated laundry/shoe pocket
- One large pocket could lead to disorganization
- Laundry/shoe pocket takes up interior space
- Base could have more structure
Crossfit enthusiasts rejoice! The Under Armour Duffle can fit all of your gear thanks to its sleek, simplified and not-too-large design. Specs we like include a water-repellent exterior, a water bottle pocket, a large ventilated pocket for laundry or shoes and a removable, padded shoulder strap. Plus, buyers note that this medium-size bag lasts for years.
However, you might not like this design if you have a lot of small items that tend to get jumbled at the bottom of a bag. The ventilated laundry and shoe pocket can also take up a lot of the interior space when in use, and some buyers dislike that the base of the bag is a little flimsy.
- 83 liters of space
- Backpack-duffel hybrid
- Stretchy, ventilated compartments
- Zippers could be bigger
- May be too large
If you need a bag that can fit boxing gloves, hand wraps and more without ripping, try the Superare Enorme Gear Bag. It’s shaped like a traditional duffel but can also be carried like a backpack. Plus, it has plenty of stretchy compartments for big and small items. We particularly like the separate storage area for wet gear and clothes and the mesh pockets which helps moisture evaporate.
The downsides: This product is pricey, and a few buyers wish the zippers were a bit larger so they can easily be used when boxing gear is on. The bag may also be too large for what you need, so you may prefer one of Superare’s smaller gear bags.
- Waterproof pocket for sweaty gi
- Zippered compartments for small items
- Main pocket fits gym essentials
- May be too small for competitions
- Main compartment is snug if carrying all JJ items
- Waterproof compartment is snug
Looking for a bag that fits a gi and a change of clothes without swallowing small items like a belt and a mouthguard? We recommend the Gold BJJ Jiu Jitsu Backpack. It’s specifically designed for Jiu Jitsu, so it has not just a water bottle pocket and a compartment for small items, but also a large main compartment for clean clothes and a waterproof pocket for a sweaty gi. We love that Gold BJJ has a satisfaction guarantee, so you can send it back for a full refund if you aren’t happy with the product.
While buyers are highly satisfied with this bag, a few caution that it’s not big enough for Jiu Jitsu competitions. Others note that the waterproof compartment is snug, so you may need to tightly fold your gi in order to get it to fit.
- Handles on all sides
- Easy to organize all items
- Hidden smart tracker pocket
- Not sold at most retailers
- No waterproof compartment
Commuters who go from office straight to the gym always mention the Aer Travel Backpack as a top choice, and it’s easy to see why. It has a storage compartment for everything, from a laptop sleeve to zippered pockets with sleeves for your phone, chargers and wallet. The main interior compartment resembles a carry-on bag — you can open it completely and lay it flat to organize your items. We also like the hidden smart-tracker pocket and the trolley/luggage sleeve.
However, this bag doesn’t have a waterproof compartment for dirty clothes or shoes, so you may need to buy a separate waterproof baggie. The hip belt is also sold separately, and this backpack isn’t sold at most retailers.
- Shoe compartment doesn’t take up interior space
- Waterproof packet
- Laptop sleeve
- Laptop sleeve is flimsy
- Water bottle pouch is shallow
- Available only on Amazon
If you’re looking for a work and gym backpack that won’t break the bank, we recommend the Ytonet Gym Backpack. It has four main compartments: a laptop sleeve, a middle section for large books and bulky items, a zippered front pocket for small items and a shoe compartment underneath. It also comes with a waterproof packet for carrying dirty clothes.
The downsides? The laptop sleeve is a bit flimsy and not well padded, so we’d recommend putting your laptop in a separate sleeve before adding it to the bag. One buyer also felt that the water bottle pouch was too shallow for large bottles. This backpack is available only on Amazon.
- Water resistant exterior
- Fits into locker or under-seat storage
- Trolley sleeve
- Not sold at most retailers
- Spot clean interior only
- Awkward to use shoulder strap
If you’re always on the go and need a duffel that can work for the gym and the plane, try the R. Riveter duffel Bag. The water-resistant, nylon material can withstand a good amount of knocking around, and the leather handles are stylish and easy to grasp. We love that this bag is compact enough to fit into a locker but also has enough give to work as an overnight bag. Plus, it has a trolley sleeve so you can slip the bag onto the handle of a roll-away suitcase.
While this bag is high quality and durable, it is also one of our priciest recommendations. In addition, it can’t be thrown in a washing machine, so you may need to wrap dirty gym clothes or sneakers in separate bags before tossing into this duffel (to prevent the bag’s interior from developing a smell). While the cross body strap is a nice tough, the bag is clunky and difficult to carry on a shoulder.
- Great for travel
- Padded laptop sleeve
- Shoe compartment
- Not available at most retailers
- Just one color
If you need a duffel-shaped bag but want to carry it as a backpack, try the Mack Weldon Atlas 2-in-1 Duffle. The main compartment opens from the side zipper or from the center zipper, and we like that it has a padded laptop sleeve, shoe compartment and bottle holder. The backpack straps can also be tucked away into a sleeve when not in use.
What could be improved: This bag is on the pricey side, and it comes in just one color. It’s also not available at most retailers.
- 2 bags per pack
- Hold in stinky smells
- Machine washable
- Available only on Amazon
- Quality varies depending on patterns
- Not good for soaking wet clothes
Not ready to replace your duffel or gym backpack? Consider investing in a few wet-proof laundry bags instead. The Shappy Travel Bags are a great choice because they hold in sweat and smells, and they’re machine washable. We like that they come in a variety of funky colors and patterns.
However, some buyers have noticed that the quality varies depending on the pattern you purchase, and some bags have ripped at the seams over time. Others note that these bags are better for damp clothes rather than soaking wet, because they may leak.
People Also Ask
Q: What is the best gym bag for beginners?
A:If you’re just getting started at the gym, we recommend an affordable bag like the Ytonet Gym Backpack or the BAGSMART Expandable Sports Travel Duffel Bag, both available on Amazon.
Q: What gym bags are not allowed at the gym?
A:All gyms allow you to bring a gym bag, but some may request that you store it inside the locker rooms rather than hauling it to each workout station. Ask your gym about bag policies before visiting so you know what to expect.
Q: What is the difference between a duffel bag and a gym bag?
A:All duffel bags can be used as gym bags, but duffels and backpacks designed for the gym have additional features that may be useful, like a sneaker compartment.
Q: How much do gym bags cost?
A:A good gym bag costs anywhere between $30 and $300. For a high-quality bag that is still affordable, expect to spend between $40 and $70.
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