How to pack a gym bag: 10 tips on what to have in it and how to pack it right

Just remember: no one is interested in your dirty underwear

how to pack a gym bag
(Image credit: Built for Athletes)

Choosing the best gym bag for your needs is not easy, let alone packing it correctly. What should you pack in the gym bag? Does it matter what goes in first and what last? What if you have to carry around your used gym clothes all day? We aim to answer all these very important gym bag-related questions here. And then some. 

No need to spend any more sleepless nights over not knowing the answers to these essential qs about gym bags. Sure, T3 might not be known for providing meatheads with the best advice but this needs to change now. We can not only tell you how to lose weight quicker but also help build muscles faster with two-day push-pull workouts.

And, of course, we also have all the information there is to know about gym bags. Here we listed 10 top tips about what to look out for when buying a gym bag, as well as some tips on how to maintain your bag on a regular basis so it stay box fresh (sort of). Enough of my yakkin'; let's get packin'.

On the market for new gym gear? Check out T3's best workout shoes plus the best workout buds guide, or the best protein powder guide if you need some advice on supplements.

How to pack a gym bag

When it comes to packing a gym bag, you want to load your spare clothes, like extra socks and underwear, at the bottom of the bag. These items are there on a just-in-case basis and might not be taken out of the bag, so having them out of the way is a good start.

In another bag or pouch, place all snacks and supplements on top of the spare stuff; these will come out last, after the workout.

Then, you want to pack your toiletries and the towel you want to use for the shower; place these in a waterproof organiser (more on this below).

Now it's time to pack your gym clothes: gym shoes, compression tights, base layers, you name it.

Water bottles and shakers should be kept separately and upright, as well as gadgets, these can go in a separate pocket, too.

There you have it: you are ready to hit the gym! Here are some workout plans to get you started:

10 tips to master gym bag packing

gym bag secrets

Backpacks are better for your back and easier to carry around

(Image credit: Built for Athletes)

1. Get a backpack

I know, dropping bombs right at the beginning. Gym bags are synonymous with duffle bags, these elongated, tube shaped carriers you can throw on your shoulders. You know what else can you throw on your shoulders? Backpacks.

Carrying a gym backpack has many benefits over a duffle bag. For one, it places equal amount of weight on both of your shoulders, helping you keep your spine more aligned.

It is also more comfortable to wear on a long run. Duffle bags hang low and bump into your leg as you walk, sag in the middle and place all pressure on one shoulder. They are also harder to organise and take up more space on the floor, which can be especially awkward using public transportation.

Get a 30-40 litre backpack that has at least one all-around zip so you can open the main compartment fully. Some organiser pockets and a bottle pouch on the side could also come in handy. If it has a molle system so you can hang items on it, that would be perfect.

gym bag secrets

Packing cubes make organising in your gym bag easy

(Image credit: Getty Images)

2. Use packing cubes to organise items in the bag

You could just chuck everything in the bag and mix dirty underwear and sweaty socks with your phone and snacks, but if you aren't a psychopath, you might want to consider organising items in the bag using packing cubes.

You don't have to go crazy and pack everything away in cubes, but dirty clothes and food should definitely be separated, if for nothing else, for health concerns. Your wet towel can also be placed in a waterproof bag, to keep the rest of the bag as dry as possible.

You don't need the compression organisers either, just opt in for some medium sized cubes, they'll do just fine.

You won't need any packing cubes if you get the Matador SEG30 Segmented Backpack

3. Use a name tag

You aren't travelling far to go to the gym, but even so, you can end up misplacing your bag by accident, or leave it on top of the locker as opposed to in it, and if someone moves it, that could potentially send you into panic mode.

It might sound surprising, but even in commercial gyms, you can find decent people who would return your bag if they knew who it belonged to, or at least drop your bag off with a member of staff. By including your name somewhere on the bag, it makes identification all the more easier.

Steer away the Hello Kitty tags, though, if you don't want people to talk behind your back.

gym bag secrets

Don't leave your lock behind

(Image credit: Master Lock)

4. Attach the lock ON the bag

Forgetting your lock home is a classic gym goer strife. One way to avoid this situation is to attach the lock ON the bag, as opposed to leaving in it. This way, you can make sure you won't forget it.

If you got a backpack with the aforementioned molle system, all the better, you can just attach the lock into one of the many hoops on the surface of the bag. But even if you haven't, loop it around the handle, that can work, too.

5. Use odour balls

Please, just don't be that person with the smelly bag/clothes. Odour balls are inexpensive, unobtrusive and can make the difference between you being the healthy person or the smelly person in the office.

If you are using organisers, pop one ball in the bag and one in the pouch/box with your used gym gear in. You can never be safe enough.

gym bag secrets

Travel towels are perfect for gyms, too

(Image credit: Mountain Warehouse)

6. Use a quick drying towel

Big Egyptian cotton towels are wonderful and would definitely recommend those for home, but when packing space is of the essence, you have to plan carefully what you include in your gym bag.

Travel towels make excellent gym towels, too, since they are designed to be carried around and to dry quickly. Microfibre towels take up less space and wipe off the moisture from your skin, as opposed to soaking it up.

One thing is for sure: don't walk around the changing room naked, keep your private parts – well – private.

gym bag secrets

Plan and pack your snacks right

(Image credit: Oatein)

7. Pack some snacks

If there is one thing we can't stop talking about here at T3 (apart from Playstation 5 rumours) is how important it is to eat enough protein if you are exercising. This is true for bodybuilders, CrossFitters, runners, triathletes and so on.

Lucky for you, there are loads of ways to top up your protein levels, the most obvious being drinking protein shakes. Alternatively, you can also pack protein bars in your gym bag. Foodstuff should be kept separately from the rest of the lot, especially from dirty clothing, for health and safety reasons, as mentioned above.

gym bag secrets

Small or big, have at least one water bottle on you in the gym

(Image credit: Bulk Powders)

8. Don't forget your water bottle

As well as taking in enough protein, it's also important to drink plenty before, during and after the workout. Your muscles – and body – need water to function properly, and although there should be at least one water fountain in any decent gym, it's most usually on the other side of the establishment.

Get a decent gym water bottle and shove it in the side pocket of your gym bag, making sure it stays upright when you travel. This is another advantage of having a gym backpack; you never know which way the water bottle is in a duffle bag and at the end, the bottle always ends up being upside down in the duffle, leaking slightly.

gym bag secrets

Multi-sport watches can enhance your performance in the gym

(Image credit: Garmin)

9. Keep your gadgets in a separate pocket

Not only it is easier to locate them if they are kept separately, you can also protect gadgets from moisture, for example, by placing them in pockets in your bag. In this time and age, every bag has a phone pocket, but many decent backpacks have multiple storage compartments to keep electronics in.

Granted, you will most likely wear your fitness watch on your wrist and your sport headphones in your ears, but in case you want to take them off, it's better to keep them away from your towel and used socks.

10. Unpack your bag when you get home

Probably the most important advice we can give you: when you arrive back home, get all the stuff out of your bag and load it into the washing machine with all the other clothes from the washing basket that's sitting there for the last two weeks.

Regularly unloading your gym clothes from your bag and airing it out is the best way to keep it fresh for longer. Dirty clothes and wet towels can not only make the bag smell foul, they can also leave damp marks on the fabric of the bag, eventually helping the development of mold.

Matt Kollat
Section Editor | Active

Matt Kollat is a journalist and content creator who works for and its magazine counterpart as an Active Editor. His areas of expertise include wearables, drones, fitness equipment, nutrition and outdoor gear. He joined T3 in 2019. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar and Fit&Well, and more. Matt also collaborated with other content creators (e.g. Garage Gym Reviews) and judged many awards, such as the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance's ESSNawards. When he isn't working out, running or cycling, you'll find him roaming the countryside and trying out new podcasting and content creation equipment.