The best gym bags match style with convenience and should feel comfortable on your shoulder when traveling from A to B. After all, no one wants to navigate an oversized duffel on the subway.
If you reckon a bag is just a bag, you might be unsure what to look for from the best gym bags. Firstly, handy pouches are a must for sweaty kits post-workout, but they're also useful for stashing your valuables. Easy access compartments for your gym equipment and the best running shoes are also handy, and a waterproof lining with ziplock pockets could be a savior for outdoor training.
Gym bags come in all different shapes and sizes — from double-strap backpacks to small one-strap duffels — so you’ll need to consider what you're using them for. If it’s time to upgrade your fitness kit, we’ve tested the best gym bags on the market to help you find the best one for you.
The best gym bags to buy right now
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There is no question this bag is an investment. However, there is also a reason why it’s a top choice among New York gym-goers and is flying off the shelves at upscale gym boutiques. This bag has all the bells and whistles, or at least all the pockets!
With seven exterior and nine interior pockets (10 if you count the business card/credit card holder as a pocket), this bag gives you lots of places to stash your stuff. It comes with a separate detachable pouch as well, attached to an interior key strap. There is also a padded slot secured by a snappable leather strap that will fit a 16-inch computer (when testing, a MacBook Air slid in there with ease) along with whatever paperwork/folders/magazines you’re lugging with you.
The exterior pockets are also ingenious. Not only are there two open side pockets perfect for water bottles, two spacious zippered pockets for valuables, and two phone-sized slots, but there is a large pocket with a zipper on the bottom. Though this was ostensibly created so you could securely slip it on the handle of a rolling suitcase if you were traveling with this bag (it’s called a “luggage sleeve”), it took only a minute to realize you could also slide a yoga mat through there. The versatility here is just fantastic.
The exterior material is REC Oxford which is a sustainable “recreational” water-resistant nylon fabric that feels sort of like a parachute. The whole bag is quilted but only subtly padded with “PowerPuff” fill (made from recycled water bottles), which gives it some structure. Basically, it’s pillow soft but light as a feather. The only “weight” probably comes from the minimal and tasteful Italian leather trim (which is also responsibly sourced).
The downside to this REC Oxford material, however, is that it’s also super slippery. So, when you put the 11-inch drop handles on your shoulder, they slide off unless you hold the bag. These handles could have benefitted from a snap to hold them together like the powerful magnetic ones on some of the bag’s other pockets. For that reason, it’s good this bag also comes with an adjustable shoulder strap.
The bag even has “feet” so if you set it down it has four leather dots that help protect the bottom of the bag from wear and tear. On the whole, this bag is a multipurpose winner if you’re willing to lay out the cash.
This bag was an absolute surprise. It’s the least expensive bag on the list, but also one of the best.
Considering the minimal price tag, it’s amazing how many top-end features this bag manages to squeeze into its construction. Built a little like a cross between a bucket bag and a tote, it’s spacious while still managing to be compact.
Made of super lightweight polyester, this bag still has structure even though it’s simultaneously collapsible down to nothing (i.e. shoves in any size locker with ease). The only downside of the exterior material is that it feels a little cheap. However, the black camo also reads urban sexy in an almost latex way. If that’s not your thing, however, there are several other colors including gray, orange, and a flat black, which may have a different texture. It also apparently comes in a large size (we ordered a medium and it was perfect for everyday gym use, but for those who need to cart more gear, there is an even bigger option available).
Overall, the bag could do with a few more pockets that zip. There is one pocket inside that zips shut, but it’s a wet/dry pouch—which is great, but the whole bag is wet/dry as it’s totally waterproof! Point being, you could use the wet/dry pocket for valuables and such, but the other two interior pockets are small and only good for dropping in like a lipstick or smartphone.
The bag’s clever design does include four additional pockets, however, that are “sort of inside, sort of outside” as they’re located next to each drop strap. Running the whole height of the bag, they hold a lot! They also account for the unique ruching detail on the outside of the bag. But they’re not zippered, so once again, be wary of what you store there.
A nicely hidden side zipper on one side of the bag opens to become shoe storage away from your other items. It even has two ingenious “vents” on that side to prevent sweaty, stinky shoe funk from happening. Beware, however, that if you use the shoe pocket, it will take up some of the space in the main compartment, but that is typical of most bags with this feature.
Even with shoes in the bag, however, there was still plenty of room to fit in gym clothes and toiletries. While there is no dedicated water bottle slot, one of the “four corner” pockets could easily be used for that purpose, and it would keep a bottle upright without spilling.
A “built-in” elastic yoga strap is the finishing touch to the whole thing. This bag offers a lot of bang for the buck and at this inexpensive price point, you could afford to wear it out and then just buy a new one. But, if it happens before a year, there is even a one-year warranty. Like we said, this was the surprise bag of the bunch.
If you want a gym bag that doesn’t scream “I’m a gym bag,” this is it. This bag looks classy and stylish, while still being gym appropriate—if that’s what you decide to use it for. This bag could also make an excellent small carry-on or even overnight bag.
The pocket situation could be stronger, but you do have some options here. There is a slip pocket on one side (with a luggage sleeve in case you decide to take this on the road), and a small zip pocket on the front. Inside there is one zip pocket and two mesh pockets.
However, even without tons of pockets, there are some major construction wins. The unobtrusive, sightly-padded exterior section that fits a 16” computer quickly turns this bag into something multipurpose. And the shoe compartment design is the best of any bag we reviewed. Instead of taking up extra space in the main compartment, the shoe storage is zipped into the base of the bag. This smart design allows you to keep your shoes or sweaty clothes separate from your main items, but it also keeps the main compartment open for your other gear. Brilliant.
The exterior is 100% polyester, but it looks like black satin. Though it’s not machine washable, it is water-repellent and can be spot cleaned if necessary. The silver hardware used is high quality and adds to the city chic look. The drop handles are long enough and snap together well such that you don’t need a shoulder strap, but if you want to use one, it’s included.
The only questionable design feature here was the grab handles on each side. They seemed like a relatively bulky and useless addition at first, and are only needed when opening the bottom shoe compartment. Still, they don’t really seem necessary, especially since the bag feels slightly heavy while empty. However, part of that weight is probably reflective of the fact that this feels like a solid bag made of quality materials that will really hold up.
Bottom line, this is a sleek and expensive-looking bag with many potential uses. It will look great on your arm at the gym and everywhere in between.
If you’re not looking for a bag that will hold everything but the kitchen sink, this simple Adidas tote-style bag gets it done. There is nothing super fancy about this bag and yet at the same time, it looks sleek and sporty. A mesh overlay adds texture to the exterior, and the subtle Adidas logo lets people know you’re serious about your gym game without blatantly advertising your after-work plans.
The downside to this is that it’s not a dual-purpose bag. Meaning, it will happily house your gym gear, or perhaps some books and an iPad, but it’s not set up to do both at the same time. However, if you’re looking for a bag just to take to the gym, you can easily get in a pair of shoes, a water bottle and some workout gloves in this tote, with room to spare. There aren’t a lot of separate pockets though, and the ones that are inside are deep so you’ll again likely be digging to find stuff. However, the open-mouthed tote design and long top zipper (which is super solid hardware and zips in both directions) make it easier to get in this bag if you do find yourself in a frantic search for your phone, air pods or keys that you dropped down within its depths.
The polyester material makes this bag very easy to spot clean, but at the same time makes it more likely that anything you spill on it will just roll right off (unless you dump your afternoon latte on it and then we can’t help you).
Speaking of liquids, there are two water bottle pockets on the sides. There is also a big fleece-lined front pocket. The straps are very sturdy and wide enough that they don’t dig into your shoulder if that’s what you use to carry the bag (though it does come with a separate shoulder strap if you prefer to carry the bag crossbody). The vertical design also makes it fit in gym lockers much easier than a class duffle.
All-in-all, this is a cute, functional gym tote for a great price.
If “going to the gym” for you includes a CrossFit sesh or maybe softball practice, you might really dig this bag. It feels more industrial strength than the other bags on this list. But along with this more heavy-duty feel also comes well, a heavier feel. In other words, this bag is not lightweight when empty. So, once you pack all your gear inside, hauling it around may become part of your workout.
That being said, you can get a lot in it! You could easily fit sneakers and cleats in there along with a pair of flip flops for the shower. The only problem with it being so cavernous, however, is that you can lose things inside the bag, even with the six interior pockets. One thing you won’t lose, however, is your face mask thanks to the fact that this bag actually has a “mask case” attached. If that’s not a sign of the times, well?
One big drawback with this bag, however, is that the top opening is too small for the size of the bag, so you could find yourself rummaging through what feels like a black hole of your stuff through the tiny opening.
Thankfully there are two side pockets and one front pocket as well, but again, these aren’t problem free. The side ones really add bulk to the bag — while the brand’s measurements suggest the bag is 17” long, if you measure the actual dimensions, it’s more like 25” long because the side pockets stick out in a triangular shape making the bag feel much bigger.
One of the side zip pockets has a couple mesh compartments inside, making it useful for storing toiletries and such. The other one has a unique design where you can unsnap it to make it big enough to slide in a pair of dirty shoes or wet/soiled clothes. However, when you do that, the pocket extends into the interior compartment of the bag taking up a good chunk of the interior storage area.
Another unique feature of this bag is that it has two sets of drop handles of varying lengths to accommodate different ways of carrying it. It also includes a detachable shoulder strap, but the strap attaches diagonally across the bag which makes it a little harder to get into the already tough to open top zipper. However, it certainly does give you lots of options for how you want to carry your bag. But, the extra handles do add more bulk again to the overall aesthetic.
Though the material is said to be recycled nylon, it has a more canvas feel and at least with the black version, it attracts literally everything to it (lint, hair, etc…). It’s treated with a durable water repellent to make sure it is resistant, but the good news with this bag is that it’s completely machine washable and dryable. In fact, that’s probably one of the biggest selling points about it.
Overall, this one is really best for people participating in sports. It would be perfect tossed on the grass next to the soccer field, or in a dugout.
If you’re looking for a very classic small gym bag with a conscience, this could be it. While the Vera Bradley line usually conjures up visions of florals (and there are some very flowery versions of this bag available, as well as flowers on the interior lining), this is definitely not your mom’s quilted Vera Bradley bag.
Made from 16 recycled PET bottles in each bag, the exterior material feels like a very durable nylon and is highly water resistant. The interior is also a nylon blend but of a thinner variety. The bag is very lightweight, which is fantastic if you don’t want to be carrying a bag that’s heavy before you put anything in it. However, it also doesn’t have much structure at all. It pretty much collapses the minute you put it down unless you have items in it to fill it out. That being said, the u-shaped top zipper entry makes it easy to get to your things.
The lack of many pockets on the interior is a drawback if you are an organizer and like to keep things separate. There are two small plastic zip pockets on the inside “lid” that you could put maybe some jewelry or a few hairbands in, but they don’t hold a lot. Additionally, there are three open mesh pockets, but items can fall out of these and into the main section fairly easily. There is also a mesh water bottle holder on the interior, but it only holds a small water bottle—we’re talking 16 ounces. It seemed a little odd to have it on the inside, but it would probably ruin the aesthetic of the design if they’d tried to attach it to the outside. So, at least there is an option to keep it from spilling in your bag.
There are also two large Zippered pockets on either side of the bag separate from the main compartment. One of these side pockets is completely lined with plastic and is highly waterproof, making it perfect for sweaty or wet clothes after a workout. If you’re a swimmer, this bag is a winner — it’s ideal for holding a wet swimsuit, swim cap, and goggles.
The materials and waterproof pockets really are the standout features. Plus, it’s very easy to carry thanks to the light weight and the sturdy drop handles on either side (which snap together as well if desired). For those who prefer a shoulder strap, that is also included.
This bag is a little pricey for the small size, but the Vera Bradley name is part of the deal. And the environmentally friendly aspect definitely adds to the allure.
Unless you’ve been living under one, you’ve probably heard of “The Rock” (aka movie star and hard body Dwayne Johnson). This bag is part of his “Project Rock” line for Under Armour, and it is as serious about your workout as you are. But it also assumes you’re carrying your own equipment…or lots of gear!
This bag will hold a ton of stuff and yet interestingly, it doesn’t feel as big or bulky as some of the other bags that are almost the same size. But part of the reason may be that this bag also doesn’t sport a lot of special features. It’s literally a hardcore bag — you could easily put a soccer or basketball in there, maybe both, as well as some workout wear and possibly a pair of shoes. Plus, you could carry a yoga mat or biofoam roller at the same time as all of that thanks to the external elastic straps (which work great).
But what’s missing? Pockets. There are two pockets inside (that thankfully have zippers or your stuff would be all over the interior of the bag), and an unzipped slip pocket on the outside of the bag, but that’s about it. Yes, there are four mesh pockets on each side, but really those only seem appropriate for holding water bottles, sports drinks, and maybe chalk or athletic tape.
That being said, the women’s bag does have a very pleasing color scheme—it’s stone and khaki gray (though that might get quite dirty with use, it’s very pretty when brand new). And the material feels expensive and smooth, though it’s supposedly 100% polyester.
One of the best kitschy features about this bag is that the zipper pulls are also hair ties — for someone who consistently forgets to bring those to the gym, this was a really awesome touch!
If you’re looking for a bag without a lot of bells and whistles, but that will carry a lot, this bag will fit the bill. “The Rock” said he made this line for the “hardest worker in the room.” If that’s you, then it might make sense you want to carry this bag which is emblazoned with the words “Blood. Sweat. Respect.”
Earthy types, listen up. This bag feels like you should be out among the trees. Plus, not only is it outdoorsy looking, but this training duffel is also made from recycled polyester. In fact, Nike diverts an average of one billion plastic bottles annually from landfills and waterways and turns them into sustainable materials to be used in their products.
Beyond that, this is a pretty standard gym duffel. The style is very similar to the Lululemon City Adventurer bag, but it’s not as high end in quality.
The unique yoga strap situation is one of the things that sets this bag apart. Its crisscross elastic pattern on the side not only gives it a cool look, but it’s also highly functional. This is thanks to a clasp that allows you to tighten or loosen the elastic to fit the size of whatever mat you’re carrying.
On the not-so-great spectrum, though, the shoulder strap has plastic hardware that feels a little cheesy in comparison to the rest of the metal hardware on the bag.
Like many of the bags on this list, it could stand to have a few more pockets as well. On the exterior there is a front zip pocket by the yoga mat holder, a small side pocket with a snap, and a slip pocket with a magnetic closure on the back. On the inside, there is only one zip pocket and one mesh slip pocket. None of them feel like they would really allow you to get super organized, but at least they would help keep a few things separate.
There is a shoe compartment, but this is of the variety where if you use the feature, it takes up a lot of space in the main compartment. It can be manageable if you plan for it, but this isn’t a huge bag so you have to know that you either put shoes in the side pouch or the main area, but you won’t have room for both.
Because there is no structure in the bottom of the bag as well (i.e. no padded or plastic base), the bag will sag if you carry a lot of heavy stuff in the main compartment. Still, this bag is definitely usable and the relaxed khaki feel really gives off a “Just Do It” vibe.
If you’re picturing a classic duffel in your mind, it probably looks something like this bag. Longer than it is wide and sort of rectangular in shape, this bag is kind of no frills, while also still having some decent “extras.”
To begin with, there are many colors from which to choose. We’re talking not only the lovely light pink we tested, but also green, denim blue, black, gray, and purple. Basically, whatever your gym bag personality, you have an option here.
Made from the Oxford nylon, it’s highly water resistant, but this bag has the bonus of sporting a completely waterproof gray base. It’s like a plastic guard between your bag and the world around it. But speaking of plastic, there is a bit of a plastic smell when you open it. Not sure if it comes from the heavy-duty bottom, or the wet/dry pouch (which is clear and looks like a giant goldfish bowl for your wet things), but there is definitely a strong odor. Hopefully that will abate with time, but it’s slightly off-putting.
And about the pockets. In addition to the plastic wet/dry pouch (which oddly is accessed from the outside of the bag), there is a very small pocket inside that wouldn’t hold much more than a couple tiny items like lip balm and a few hairbands. There is also a somewhat flimsy key strap (the connector is plastic and doesn’t look like it would hold up well).
However, it does sport a decent number of exterior pockets. There are two pockets on the front with sturdy zippers, as well as a valuables pocket (which is also a luggage sleeve if you’re attaching it to a wheeled suitcase). The side pockets are different, though both are zippered — one gives extra storage, the other has two air holes, which lets you know that’s the side with the separate shoe compartment (but like other bags with this feature, if you use it for shoes, it will take up room in the interior of the bag). All these exterior pockets are handy for organizing, however, which is good since there aren’t many interior pocket options.
The drop handles are short, so unless you’re petite, if you’re planning to wear this over your shoulder, you’ll probably end up wanting to attach the adjustable and padded separate shoulder strap to the bag. However, the hardware is sturdy, so you don’t have to worry about it damaging the bag. There is also a side handle if you need another way to hold onto things.
In other words, this is a get-it-done basic grab-and-go gym bag, however you decide to carry it.
How to choose the best gym bag
When deciding what kind of bag you want, here are some things you might wish to think about:
What activities will you be using this bag for? In other words, are you going to take it to the swimming pool? Or are you using this for cross training? Will you be carrying it to work first? This might change the requirements of the bag.
How much room do you need? Are you carrying shoes? Actual sport equipment? Just a change of clothes? Toiletries? All of this adds up to what size bag you should choose.
What special features would you like? Do you want a separate shoe compartment? How about a waterproof pouch? Do you want lots of pockets? Does it need a shoulder strap? How about a secret zippered compartment?
What kind of materials and colors do you prefer? Are you into black? Something wild? Something girlie but tough? Nylon? Leather? Canvas?
How much are you willing to spend? Are you fine with cheap and expendable? Are you willing to spend more for a name brand?
Once you know what your “must-haves” are, you can start narrowing down the field.
How we tested the best gym bags
To find the best gym bags on the market, we put them through their paces going back and forth to the gym. We’d carry different equipment, wet kit, shoes, and a change of clothes to see how each bag performed, and how easy it was to use on the go. We’d look for extras such as waterproof compartments for sweaty kit, tech compartments, pockets to keep us organized, and straps to hold yoga mats, water bottles, and more.