You'll need the best gym bag now that gyms are open for business again (for the time being, anyway). If you don't want to carry your gym kit around in a plastic bag, a decent gym backpack or duffel bag can help house all your sweaty gear in a mannerly fashion.
Unlike fashion backpacks, gym bags are versatile, hard-wearing item carriers that were designed to be hurled over to the nearest empty bench or locker as soon as you arrive in your chosen gym.
Many – if not most – gym bros will tell you that the only way to establish dominance in the gym is to carry your gym kit around in a duffel bag, but don't be fooled so easily. Real pros will house all their sweaty gym gear in a backpack as it distributes the weight evenly between the two shoulders.
Want to learn more about how to pack a gym bag? We've got you covered. We can also tell you which type of gym bag is better: duffels or backpacks?
Whether you're pounding the treadmill at 6 AM or have to drag yourself to the gym after work each evening, we all approach exercise in different ways. But no matter your level of expertise (and ability to not repeatedly hit the snooze button), the humble gym bag is an essential bit of kit for beginners and pros alike.
Need some new gym gear? Check out T3's best workout shoe guide, best workout top and best workout shorts guide for inspiration. For advice on supplementation, you might also want to read through our best protein powder and best protein bar guide, not to mention the best weight gainer roundup.
Best gym bags to buy right now
What's better than a gym backpack? A gym backpack that can be carried around like a duffle. The UA Project Rock Duffle Backpack is this kind of bag; it's super versatile and offers a slew of features you expect to see in the perfect gym bag.
For one, the bag features the weather-proof UA Storm technology that will help your bag stay dry when you're being rained. The bottom of the bag is made of tough, abrasion-resistant nylon so it won't fall apart if you treat the bag like a ball and kick it to the other side of the locker room.
The main compartment is large enough to house a basketball and opens up in a clamshell fashion for easier access. Your dirty workout shoes can be stored separately from the rest of your gear in the gusseted laundry/shoe pocket placed at bottom of the bag.
There is even a soft-lined laptop sleeve that can hold up to 15-inch laptops; what else can you possibly ask for?
Regardless of whether you like Project Rock-branded apparel or not, this bag is certainly worthy of your attention.
Chrome Industries might be famous for its cycling backpacks but the Barrage Duffle is a bag made for different kinds of sports. Well, you can use it as a cycling backpack but given the size and layout of the handles, the Barrage Duffle is not well-suited for cycling.
The Barrage Duffle works perfectly well as a gym bag. The tote straps make it easy to carry the bag in hand or throw it over the shoulders and there is just so much space for anything and everything you might want to include in your gym bag, including shoes, towels, skateboards, etc. I'm pretty sure you can fit a smaller foldable bike in the Barrage Duffle if you wanted to.
It's not only spacious but the Barrage Duffle is also full of compartments and pockets so you can keep your used gym gear away from your laptop and paperwork. You've got a daisy-chain style net, too, that can be used to store your shoes or cycling helmet. Two additional smaller pockets on the outside can be used to house water bottles and wallets.
The Chrome Barrage Duffle is not a small bag that might put some people off. It's fine if you're 6"3' and have a lot of stuff to carry around; not so much if you're 4"9' and have only a pair of shoes and a laptop to shove in the bag.
Read our full Chrome Industries Barrage Duffle review
This number from Decathlon's own brand Domyos caught our eyes for two reasons. One, it has a rather peculiar name, and two, it's cheap but has a lot going for it.
The 'This Bag Is One Of The Range's Originals - But Is Still Ultra-Functional!' is a gym bag aimed at people who like to embrace their feminine side. It kind of looks like a giant marshmallow with its puffy exterior, but don't get fooled: this bag is as functional as it is pretty.
The 30-litre capacity is more than enough to store all your gym essentials, and the removable waterproof pouch is just perfect for carrying toiletries around. The main compartment opens fully, so it is super easy to find your stuff in the bag, no matter how much stuff you got in there.
A slight downside is that you will need quite a lot of space to lay the bag down flat, and considering gym lockers are not famous for people having a lot of room to change, it might be a bit harder to locate stuff in it.
Size can also be an issue when you carry the gym bag around. You might want to throw it on your shoulders, and based on how the handles look, we wouldn't blame you for thinking that.
However, when worn on the shoulder, the bulk of the bag is in the way of your elbows, resulting in you carrying the bag in a funny way. Not to mention, this gym bag can be pretty heavy when full.
If you're a taller person or carry the bag around in a car, none of this is a real issue, though. Plus, the bag just looks so damn nice, you probably won't notice these ergonomic issues anyway.
Not to mention, it's cheap as chips.
Can't really go wrong with an Adidas duffel bag, can you? Especially in this case, for the price, you'll get a good-sized holdall bag with plenty of extra compartments to separate your used gym gear from the clean items.
The list of compartments is as follows: zip main compartment, ventilated zip shoe pocket, zip pocket on end and you even get three inside slip-in pockets. The base of the bag is TPE-coated so it can withstand some trashing around at least.
The 'convertible' part in the name might give this away but this duffel bag doubles up as a sort-of backpack as well, if not a comfortable one, but at least you can distribute the weight of the bag and its contents equally between both shoulders by throwing it on your back.
Sometimes you can tell if a bag manufacturer knows its target market and this seems to be the case with King Kong Apparel. At King Kong, the mission to create the best gym bag was fulfilled by the CORE range which includes the CORE25 Backpack (UK (opens in new tab)/US (opens in new tab) retailer links) and the equally as versatile CORE35 Duffel Bag (opens in new tab) (also a retailer link).
There are loads of features that make the King Kong CORE25 Backpack the ultimate gym bag. For one, it is made of Ripstop nylon material so it can withstand some throwing around and all those times when you have to cram your bag into those tiny gym lockers. It is also the perfect size for any gym session – 25 litres – nor unnecessarily big like some of the duffel bags, neither it is too small to actually contain all the stuff you'll need in the gym (and after the sesh).
There are also plenty of options to organise your gear inside the bag: the top flap opens fully so you can see what's inside the main compartment better, but there is also a separate laptop compartment inside and a zipped compartment at the bottom so you can keep your shoes or towels away from your prepped meals. There are also multiple zipped pockets at the front and the side of the bag for phones, wallets or whatever you would like to carry with you to the gym or elsewhere.
If you need some more space, opt-in for the slightly larger CORE35 Duffel which also has all the features as the CORE25 Backpack but in the duffel form. There isn't a reason why the King Kong CORE25 Backpack shouldn't be your next gym bag. Buy it now.
It might only be available in one colour but the Lululemon Go Getter Bag 2.0 is a great gym bag nevertheless. It's the perfect size for being your everyday carry bag but it's spacious enough to store gym gear if that's what you need it for.
There is a quick-access phone pocket and a water bottle pocket on the external of the bag while several pockets and a padded laptop compartment inside will help you organise all your belongings in an orderly fashion.
The Lululemon Go Getter Bag 2.0 is made of water-repellent fabric which won't be able to keep your stuff dry in case you decide to walk around in torrential rain but it's good enough for keeping your sweaty workout gear tucked away nicely in the bag.
The Zone3 Transition Bag was designed for triathlon but it can function equally as good as a gym bag, too. With the holding a capacity of 40 litres, the bag has been designed so that each compartment can be accessed in a different direction to help maximise space and functionality.
There isn't enough space here to detail all the features of this well-equipped bag, but in summary, it consists of three main compartments, along with many smaller pouches and removable wallets to make prepping all your stuff easier.
The bottom compartment is great for the items you would like to keep completely separate from all your other items in your gym bag, let it be a wet towel or your gym trainers.
The middle compartment has a zipped mesh pocket for accessories and features removable waterproof PVC wallets for small valuable items.On the sides, you'll find two large, soft mesh pockets, ideal for gym water bottles and protein shakers.
The top compartment is perfect for snacks and phones and other small items. Granted, a 40 litre bag is on the large side, but rest assured, you can literally fit everything into this bag!
You’ll love the Matador SEG30 Segmented Backpack if you’re a bag nerd; it’s sleek, well designed and amazingly versatile. It's probably the most stylish gym bag on this list or any list for that matter. You have to see it to believe how cool it looks in real life.
The best thing about the SEG30 Segmented Backpack – apart from style – is that it allows people to use it in a variety of ways. You can make use of the organising compartment at the front of the bag or chuck everything in using the clamshell opening.
The same goes for how you can wear the bag. It functions as a backpack just but you can carry it in your hand if you wanted to thanks to the many handles this bag has.
Not to mention, despite the durable materials used, the Matador SEG30 Segmented Backpack is super light and flexible, unlike many tough bags. It's well worth your money.
Read our full Matador SEG30 Segmented Backpack review
We quite liked the first version of the Built for Athletes Hero backpack and the upgraded features of the second iteration (opens in new tab) (retailer link) has made this already excellent gym backpack even better. The main appeal of the bag are the newly-added two side bottle holders (big enough to hold a 750ml water bottle each) and the laser cut molle for a stronger and cleaner aesthetic.
The 45l capacity is not only enough for most – if not all – of your gym wear, shakes, snacks and so on, but the volume is also fully adjustable using the compression straps found all around the bag. The main compartment has a clamshell design and opens fully, making it super easy to organise and retrieve items from it. There are plenty of mesh pockets inside and even a dedicated laptop compartment at the back, too.
The material used for the bag is waterproof and ripstop synthetic polyester and even the zips are tough: they are YKK Japanese zips that can withstand even more vigorous pulling. At the front of the bag you'll find the laser cut molle system to which you can attach your locks and keys and anything you want, really.
The Built for Athletes HERO 2.0 backpack is suitable for cabin luggage, although please check with your airline before you try and board the plane. Obviously.
This Nike gym bag is a true classic. Featuring a spacious main compartment, and a separate shoe section providing optimum ventilation to eliminate odours, it’s the ideal bag for every leisure activity you can think of. Carry as a duffel bag, or over the shoulder using the detachable strap, for the convenient convertibility of the North Face Duffel at a more pocket-friendly price.
How to buy the best gym bag
There are no set rules to follow here, but plenty of considerations to weigh up when buying your gym bag. If you plan to exercise on your way home from work, you’ll need a bag to carry your kit and trainers, but also leave space for anything you take to the office – and, preferably, a way to keep them separate.
But, if you pick a bag with space for trainers, your packed lunch, and a laptop, then you should check out the lockers at your gym before buying, as some larger bags might not fit.
And of course, this being T3, how your gym bag looks is an important factor to consider. After all, who feels inspired to head out and hit the gym for an hour if the kit bag staring back at you is a tatty, smelly mess?
Speaking of which, the material of your bag is important if you intend to carry wet swimming trunks and a damp towel home each evening. Waterproof rubber or neoprene is good for the swimming gear and shower stuff, but the inferior airflow of these bags means they can start to smell if not aired out properly.
Canvas is better for starving off that distinctive damp smell but may wear out more quickly if used often. If you walk or cycle, look for lightweight bags made from Nylon or polyester. Finally, there’s leather, which gives you the luxury looks and even smells nice if your trunks don’t get involved - but brings with it a high price and some regular maintenance to keep it looking its best.