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The best gym bag

2019-09-29

Is the gym your home away from home? Spending as much time there as you do, it's important to have a gym bag equipped to carry your essentials.

Gym bags house a wealth of accessories, including a change of clothes, footwear, and hygiene products. Because everyone has different needs, gym bags come in a variety of sizes and levels of organization to suit your needs. There are simple bags that hold select items, and larger styles that are designed with plenty of compartments and features to keep each trip to the gym or field as organized and convenient as possible.

We're helping you hit the gym in style with our buying guide on gym bags. We're including our favorite, the Under Armor Undeniable Duffle 2.0, which has impressive construction that can keep up with fitness gurus who train every day.

Considerations when choosing gym bags

Styles

Traditional bags: These gym bags contain a series of compartments to house various accessories. While they offer a high level of organization, it's easy for dirt and bacteria to accumulate inside, so keeping them clean is a commitment.

Duffel bags: Duffel bags boast large capacities, so they're convenient for carrying large items and often double as luggage. They have a signature main compartment, which means clothing, shoes, and delicate items may end up mixed together even when it's best to separate them.

Totes: These two-strap bags are on the small side and are often stylish enough for use outside the gym. Totes generally have one large main compartment, but given their carrying style, they end up being bulky and awkward with no crossbody adjustable strap.

Backpacks: Backpack styles are spacious with a modest level of organization, and they're comfortable to carry. Even though they're conveniently hands-free, it can be difficult to keep clothes from getting wrinkled. Compartments don't always have the best structure.

Materials

The most popular materials for gym bags are polyester and nylon. Polyester is durable and prevents wet clothing and swimsuits from soaking through the fabric. Unfortunately, it's not a breathable material, so keeping wet items inside can result in a stinky bag. Nylon is equally durable, though it's less effective as a moisture barrier than polyester. Since it's lightweight, it's a popular material choice for casual use gym bags. Leather and canvas are also used for gym bags, though they tend to make the bag heavier and more expensive.

Features

Compartments

Regular compartments: Some gym bags simply have a variety of compartment sizes, whereas others feature specialized compartments to hold accessories, valuables, or personal care products.

Shoe compartment: These are often located at one end or beneath the bag, usually in a zipper compartment to seal them off from coming into contact with clothing. Since you don't know what footwear attracts on the field or at the gym, it's a desirable feature.

Water bottle compartment: These compartments are typically made of mesh and are located at the corners of the bag for easy accessibility.

Waterproof compartments: Certain gym bags also have waterproof compartments that separate wet and dry items. They're good for swimmers and those who end up with sweaty gym clothes.

Structural integrity

Well-placed reinforced seams and zippers help the bag stay upright as a sort of boning. Gym bags also have lined or padded bottoms to serve as a firm base for folded clothing.

Padded straps

Gym bags usually have padded areas on shoulder straps to lighten up the tension of carrying a full bag. They're usually movable, so you can place it across your shoulder if you carry the bag to your side or across your back if you carry it in front of your body.

Price

If you're on a budget, you can find a basic gym bag of fair quality for around $10. If you're willing to spend between $10 and $50, you can buy a bag of significantly better quality and with better organization. To go all out for a fashionable and high-functioning gym bag, expect to spend well over $50 for one with a premium brand name.

FAQ

Q. Can I use my gym bag as carry-on luggage?

A. It depends on the airline's policy regarding size. Large duffel styles likely exceed the limit, so your best bet is to choose a backpack style or mid-size bag. 

Q. Are there gym bags that also fit my fitness equipment?

A. Yes, and some bags are uniquely designed for use with certain types of sports, like soccer or football. They have dedicated compartments for pads and footwear. If your sport requires a racket, stick, or bat, you'll likely need to carry it separately.

Gym bags we recommend

Best of the best: Under Armor's Undeniable Duffle 2.0

Our take: Well-rounded bag with plenty of compartments to accommodate equipment, gear, and clothing for athletic individuals.

What we like: Wet/dry compartment is a winner for swimmers or those who need to change sweaty clothes. Separate compartment for shoes is convenient and sanitary.

What we dislike: Daunting sticker price, and shoe compartment doesn't fit larger sizes.

Best bang for your buck: Everest's Sporty Gear Bag

Our take: Structured bag great for packing clothing. Large main compartment is nice for travelers.

What we like: Space-savvy design with well thought-out compartments, like wet/dry areas and accessible exterior pockets.

What we dislike: Doesn't have the traditional gym bag feel, and material may not withstand a lot of wear and tear.

Choice 3: Adidas' Sport to Street Bag

Our take: Perfect for bringing a change of clothes or accessories to a fitness class. Trendy and modern with a bit of edge.

What we like: Bag holds its shape and can stand upright. Comes in a dozen colors and can double as a sporty handbag or work tote.

What we dislike: It's smaller than traditional gym bags, so you need to be picky about what you pack.

Sian Babish is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

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