The 10 Best Gym Bags
This wiki has been updated 35 times since it was first published in February of 2015. If you've ever had to lug sweaty clothes to the office after your workout, then you know how handy a good gym bag can be. The right one can keep all of your gear organized, so you can exercise without worrying about losing your keys or wallet, and some of these options can double as excellent weekend travel luggage, as well. We've included many sizes and colors to suit all tastes. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
June 10, 2021:
Our recommendations haven't changed since our last round of updates. In particular, it's still hard to beat the top two selections. The Adidas Team Issue II is particularly durable and spacious for its mid-range price. The Herschel Sutton, on the other hand, is just a bit nicer, more durable, and more expensive. If you want to save some cash, consider the Everest Unisex, although it won't last as long as most others.
February 29, 2020:
Because we know that your gym bag will probably take a lot of abuse, we have looked for rugged options that can haul everything from small to huge amounts of gear. And after some consideration, this still includes the Everest Unisex, even though the mesh side pocket can tear if it catches on anything, like a locker door or your keys. For this reason, it's perhaps best for those who are looking for a light duty or occasional use option. The same goes for the AmazonBasics Overnight, as it's budget-friendly but not ready to take a beating. And we've ultimately opted to remove the Ogio Crunch and the Runetz Sport, as they have issues with the durability of their zippers and fabric, respectively.
As for top sturdy choices, we've updated our Adidas pick to the Adidas Team Issue II, which was crafted with athletes in mind. You can wash it by hand if it should get dirty, which it just might, considering it has a dedicated pocket for muddy shoes. There's also the Nike Brasilia, surprisingly affordable for the quality, and the Herschel Sutton, which is stylish enough to double as a weekend bag. And speaking of travel options, we've kept the huge Bago 80L, which can swallow tons of gear whether that's for a workout or a plane journey.
Topo Designs Classic You can feel free to be a little rough with the Topo Designs Classic, since it boasts ultra-robust 1,000-denier Cordura fabric. And even though it's built for the hard life, it is still plenty stylish thanks to natural leather accents, a sleek shape, and handsome color choices. topodesigns.com
Aer Gym Duffel 2 If your gym gear goes with you to the office, you may not want a sporty, bulky bag, which is where the Aer Gym Duffel 2 comes in. The rounded shape is reminiscent of a briefcase, and in fact, it has a padded laptop compartment. There's space for your shoes, too, as well as a front pocket for those crucial smaller items you need to get to quickly. aersf.com
King Kong Jnr Kong The King Kong Jnr Kong has just about every feature you could want, from a dedicated shoe compartment to water-resistant spaces for your grimiest gear. It has a 33-liter capacity, which allows it to double as a weekend bag, but weighs in at just 2.8 pounds, so it doesn't feel unnecessarily bulky. kingkongapparel.com
How Do I Choose the Right Gym Bag For ME?
Durable, yes, and yet agile enough that you can carry it to the gym.
Obviously, the first question you need to ask yourself before purchasing a gym bag is, "What do I need this gym bag to hold?" The answer might not be as elementary as you think. Purchasing the right gym bag requires taking into account whether you'll need to shower after a workout. It also requires considering whether you'll need compartments for medicine and toiletries and such.
As a general rule, you'll want a gym bag to have an insulated, and perhaps even padded, compartment for any items that are fragile, or that hold the potential to leak. Conversely, you'll want a perforated compartment for any items, like, say, a pair of gym socks, that might have the potential to stink.
Beyond that, you'll want to consider what your workouts consist of. If you're a weightlifter, you'll need a gym bag to accommodate gloves, powder, tape, a weight belt, and any other equipment that you're known to bring along. If you're a swimmer, you'll need a bag that can accommodate goggles, flippers, a bathing cap, eye drops, ear drops, and any other accessories that you commonly associate with going in the water.
The idea of a gym bag is to keep everything compact, which is what separates this type of bag from, say, a hockey equipment bag, or a bulky duffel. One of the benefits of owning a gym bag is that the bag itself is lightweight. More often than not, you'll want a gym bag that weighs somewhere between 12 oz. and 2 lbs. Durable, yes, and yet agile enough that you can carry it to the gym.
Several Little-Known Advantages to Owning a Gym Bag
Do not underestimate the power of a gym bag. Gym bags are designed by using strong, lightweight materials, many of which are waterproof at the very least. This, combined with the fact that any gym bag features multiple compartments, means that the bag itself can be repurposed for any number of things.
Along those same lines, a gym bag is considered more acceptable as a carry-on item, which is important if you like to keep everything at arm's length.
Gym bags can be used for weekend trips as they provide compartments for toiletries and make-up and medication and clothes. Gym bags can be used for a day at the beach as they provide compartments for magazines and sun block and inflatables and shoes. If you've got toddlers, a gym bag can be used for storing formula and wet wipes and diapers and toys. If you've got teenagers, a gym bag can be used for attending sleepovers, or going to any type of practice after school.
Gym bags are preferable to suitcases if you happen to be traveling somewhere by bus or by train. Along those same lines, a gym bag is considered more acceptable as a carry-on item, which is important if you like to keep everything at arm's length. If you live in an apartment, an empty gym bag can be tucked into a closet or a drawer. If you work in an office, a brimming gym bag can be tucked beneath a desk on the floor.
The point of all this being that a gym bag might hold more potential than you think. Gym bags are a tremendous utility for transporting cargo, and they're intentionally designed to make you look stylish and chic.
How The Duffel Bag Became a Gym Bag
Duffel bags derive their name from a town in Belgium where the bag's heavyweight cloth was originally manufactured. Early duffels were adopted by the military during World War II specifically because they could fit a great deal of cargo, and they were resilient enough to take a beating.
In the years immediately following World War II, American soldiers brought their duffel bags home, whereupon these bags continued to be used for easy storage. Duffels became particularly popular along the California coast, where a local surfing craze had taken hold.
Early duffels were adopted by the military during World War II specifically because they could fit a great deal of cargo, and they were resilient enough to take a beating.
Surfers gravitated toward duffel bags organically. These heavyweight bags were perfect for the day-to-day that accompanied living out of a Woodie, or chasing a wave out on some foreign coast. During the sixties, outdoor enthusiasts began using duffel bags, as did anyone who enjoyed a transitory life.
By the 1970s, the duffel bag had become a reflection of the bohemian culture. You packed a bag, you hit the road. It was around this time that physical fitness became a major trend throughout Southern California. Long-time gymrats were using duffel bags to carry gear and other equipment to and fro.
Manufacturers responded by introducing a much more stylized bag that had a mainstream look and appeal. These newer bags had a lightweight sheen, and they had multiple compartments. Gym bags, as they came to be called, meant athletes no longer had to be concerned about mildewed items or wrinkled clothes. A gym bag represented an all-in-one utility. A duffel bag, on the other hand, represented a no-frills valise for hitting the road.