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There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to the subject of gym bags.
Not to sound dramatic, but pre-workout prep can make or break a session. Arrive ready, with refreshments, accessories, and a change of clothing, and you’re golden.
Turn up with just a towel in a Tesco bag and, well, you know the rest (though, props for reusing!).
All that to say, it’s time you invested in a solid gym bag – one that sets you up for the best workout possible.
Best gym bags at a glance:
- Best for swimmers: Speedo Teamster 2.0 Rucksack 35L, £45
- Best for keeping your kit separate: WIT Ripstop Backpack, £125
- Best for carrying heavy weights: Built for Athletes Small Hero 2.0 Backpack, £79.99
- Best light-weight duffel bag: Unisex OutDry Ex 40L Duffel Bag, £80
- Best for easy-access to kit: Fjällräven’s Vardag Duffel, £69
- Best for storage space: Reebok Training Weave Backpack, £78
- Best backpack for water-proof commuting: Lululemon New Crew Backpack
- Best for carrying heavy weights: Built for Athletes Small Hero 2.0 Backpack, £79.99
How to shop for the best gym bag
Let’s not overcomplicate things – gym bags largely come down to preference and specific requirements.
So, consider the type of workouts you do and the kit required (do you need to lug around weight belts and barbell pads, or do you just need space for a resistance band or two?), along with how much space you need for additional items.
If you tend to commute to work from the gym (or vice versa) it’s likely you’ll want a gym bag with a laptop pocket, or one that’s spacious enough for work essentials as well as gym kit.
Keep an eye out for bags with water-resistant properties if you often exercise outside or walk between the gym and your home or workplace, and those which allow you to separate stinky, worn kit or footwear from clean items.
If you travel with lots of smaller items (keys, cards, earbuds, for example), a bag that has multiple, zipped pockets might be preferable for you, whilst padded, adjustable shoulder straps should be prioritised for those who cycle or walk a substantial distance to or from the gym.
Once you’ve got your gym bag you’ll also need the right things to put in it, and to wear at the gym.
Here are our fitness gear guides:
- The best gyms shoes for CrossFit, weight-lifting, and cardio 2022
- Best weightlifting shoes 2022: are Olympic strength shoes worth it?
- Best dry robes UK 2022: waterproof changing robes for open water wild swimming, from Robie, Gorilla, dryrobe
- Best gym leggings for all kinds of exercise and every kind of workout
For those in search of a compact and practical caddy for gym kit, Under Armour’s Undeniable Duffel 4.0 XS will do the trick.
The main compartment is spacious enough for clothing and toiletries, and the large vented pocket is ideal for storing shoes or laundry post-workout.
The fabric boasts a water-resistant finish, and there are durable, hard-wearing panels on the base and sides.
The top handles are padded and there’s a removable shoulder strap, so usage is as seamless and comfortable as possible, and a small slip pocket on the inside allows access to tiny items (looking at you, earbuds) sans needing to empty the entire bag.
It’s available in black and navy and, frankly, at £15 it’s a steal.
Lululemon’s New Crew Backpack is ideal for taking from gym, to desk, to dinner – by which, we mean that its super-sleek and smart aesthetic doesn’t scream stinky-gym-kit-carrier, and wouldn’t look out of place in any environment.
It has three zipped compartments, one that’s padded for a 15” laptop, one for workout gear, and a third for small items – there’s also an exterior bottle pocket.
It’s made from water-repellent and wipe-clean fabric, perfect for commuters exposed to the Great British elements, and is lightweight for comfort, too.
It has a minimalistic, understated appearance, and is available in five colours.
Reebok’s Training Weave Backpack has style and substance.
Yes, it has tons of storage space in the main compartment and pockets aplenty for smaller items (there’s a laptop sleeve, side pockets, and a front zip pocket), but also a smart appearance.
Plus, it can be personalised with badges on the velcro strip on the front of the bag.
The fabric is hardy – which is key for gym bags that are used frequently – and sturdy. There’s an extra little bag for sweaty gym kit post-wear, and shoulder straps are adjustable.
Duffel bags are classics for a reason. They open wide for quick access to all belongings when you’re dashing to make a class on time, and are roomy for ensuring all the essentials fit with ease.
Fjällräven’s Vardag Duffel is case in point – and it’s got good looks to boot, too. Available in four colours and sporting that well-loved, token Fjällräven aesthetic, it really does level-up the everyday gym bag.
Constructed using durable, water-resistant fabric (which is made from a blend of recycled polyester and organic cotton) and with a padded base it’s ideal for outdoor excursions as well as gym sessions.
There are two zipped pockets for smaller items – one exterior and one interior – and an adjustable, removable strap, so that the bag can be carried by hand or slung over your shoulder.
There’s lots to love about Columbia’s OutDry duffel. It’s completely waterproof, for starters, with sealed seams and a water-resistant zipper that helps to keep belongings protected from the elements, so it’s a great investment for commuters and those with a tendency to exercise outside.
It’s roomy – it could easily moonlight as a weekend bag – and versatile, with multiple padded handles and straps so it can be carried in whichever way feels the most comfortable (hoicked over the shoulder or worn as a back pack, for example).
It does lack the pockets and compartments that some other gym bags boast, so if organisation is important to you then this may not be the best option.
However, it is super lightweight, and it folds down and packs into a little zipped bag – ideal for when you’re travelling or living in close quarters.
Don’t let the extreme sports look of this bag put you off, if that’s not your thing.
Whilst its aesthetic may resemble military kit, the Hero Backpack has actually been designed with durability, comfort, practicality and appearance in mind – specifically for gym-goers and athletes, whether competing in obstacle courses or doing circuit training in your local fitness facility.
And, our honest opinion? It succeeds in ticking all of those boxes.
There are four main zipped compartments, some containing pouches and pockets for storing smaller items, and a bottle holder on either side of the bag.
There’s space enough for a pair of trainers, a laptop (there’s a dedicated compartment for a 15” one), a towel, clothing, a wash bag, and more, and it opens flat for super-easy access.
Shoulder straps are adjustable and padded for peak comfort, and the fabric (which comes in six colourways) is waterproof and rip-proof – genius. The 25L can carry up to 15kg, and you can also upsize to the 45L Large Hero 2.0 Backpack, if need be.
All bags have a velcro strip which can be personalised using patches.
If peak organisation is your idea of a good time, then WIT’s Ripstop Backpack has your name – figuratively speaking, of course – all over it.
There are, frankly, more pockets and compartments than you could shake a resistance band at, including one large, main space, expandable side pockets for footwear, a laptop compartment, a bottle pocket, and many small, zipped cavities too.
The exterior fabric is durable and water-resistant, and branding is reflective for nighttime or early morning jaunts to the gym.
The optional shoulder straps are padded, and can be zipped away when they aren’t required, and there’s a custom moulded, padded, mesh back panel for increased comfort whilst carrying.
It’s also available in a smaller, 17L version for those who prefer to travel light.
Swimmers, this is the gym bag for you.
Designed specifically to store swim paraphernalia, Speedo Teamster 2.0 Rucksack 35L has water-resistant fabric (so it doesn’t absorb residue from damp kit post-dip) and mesh side panels to encourage ventilation and aid belongings in drying.
It opens wide to allow easy access, and has a secure roll-top closure.
On the front of the bag, there’s a laptop compartment with an adjustable drawstring and a zipped pocket for stashing smaller items, and there’s a water-resistant base to ensure it can sit poolside without causing issues.
It’s quite brightly branded, though, so if the Speedo label isn’t your thing - be warned.