The first step in crushing your fitness goals is having the right gear to keep you organized and prepared wherever your workout takes you.

By Rachel Sokol
February 06, 2020
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Personal trainers often recommend finding a workout buddy for some fitness motivation. And who says that buddy can’t be a bag? It’s an accessory to which you’re *literally* attached at the hip. Besides, having the right gym bag is a must for keeping your workout attire organized and neat. And while it’s true that whether you transport your workout gear in a faded canvas tote or a shiny, sleek designer duffel won’t affect your fitness routine, owning a gym bag that’s practical and trendy might propel you to actually do that fitness routine more often so you can show off your style. (More: 15 Stylish Gym Bags That Might Make You Want to Work Out More)

Here are the 11 best gym bags in various sizes and styles that’ll meet all your workout needs, whether you’re an active athlete or an indoor cycling class newbie. Some are even proudly recommended by dance and fitness experts who consider these bags their must-haves for staying organized and prepared for anything in the gym, studio, and beyond. Read more on why each of these bags is the best in their category, below.

Best Small Gym Bag: Nike Brasilia

Best Medium Gym Bag: Adidas Defender III

Best Large Gym Bag: AmazonBasics Large Duffel

Best Backpack: The Lululemon City Adventurer 

Best Wet/Dry Bag: Nike Radiate Club Training Bag

Best with a Shoe Compartment: Boost Sports Gym Bag

Best for Motivation: Ban.do After This We’re Getting Pizza Gym Bag

Best Transitional: Anynow Shoulder Bag

Best Luxury: MZ Wallace Small Sutton Bag

Best for Yoga: Y.U.M.C Yoga Gym Bag

Best for Your Back and Shoulders: Under Armour The Works Gym Bag

Best Small Gym Bag

You won’t have any issues squeezing this smaller duffel into thin gym lockers. At 15.8-by-9.8-by-9.8 inches, this mini gym bag is made of easy-to-clean polyether material and has a large front pocket adorned with Nike’s famous swoosh logo. The shoulder strap has plastic clips instead of metal ones, so it won’t dig into your skin when carried. Additionally, this duffel offers a dual-zip main compartment that provides secure storage; a customer review noted it fits a volleyball, two water bottles, and a pair of shoes nicely, but it does not have a separate shoe compartment or any additional internal compartments. Even after some wear and tears, the bag maintains its oval-like duffel shape and doesn’t bunch up like an accordion, making it a great value. Summarizes one reviewer: “I would totally recommend [the Brasilia] if you need for basics.”  Other reviewers like that it’s a “compact bag that carries essentials” and calls it the “perfect size”. 

Buy It: Nike Brasilia X-Small Duffel, $30, amazon.com

Best Medium Gym Bag

This mid-sized gym bag has the added bonus of being taller than most; many customers said it nicely held all their martial arts and boxing gear due to its taller size. The shoulder strap is removable and padded; if you choose to carry the bag with your hands, the handles are easy to grasp and tightly reinforced. The main compartment is roomy, and there are two additional pockets on each end of the bag along with an outside zippered pocket that’s perfect for stashing smaller essentials like keys and facial wipes. This duffel is made of reinforced rip-stop material, meaning it won’t tear easily along the zippers and seams. And while it’s perfect for all of your fitness needs, at 24-by-13-by-12 inches, the Defender also makes for a nice weekend travel bag. 

Buy It: Adidas Defender III Duffel Bag, from $30, amazon.com

Best Large Gym Bag

Amazon

This large nylon gym bag is an Amazon’s Choice product with more than 1,300 positive reviews (so you know it’s popular!). Available in three solid colors, it’s lightweight yet roomy: The 32.5-by-17-by-11.5 inch bag weighs just one pound but can hold up to 50 pounds of sporting gear and attire in its 6,000-cubic-inch capacity. It has two pockets, including a zippered interior one and an outer pocket, and it’s collapsible for easy storage between uses.  It also comes with soft top handles and a shoulder strap, so you can carry it in more way than one. Fans call it stylish and rave about its unique exterior zipper feature—it unzips along three sides: up one end of the bag, across the center to open the main portion, and then down the other end, which makes organizing your stuff much easier. The best part? This budget-friendly find is just $20. 

Buy It: AmazonBasics Large Nylon Duffel Bag, $20, amazon.com

Best Backpack

lululemon athletica

“This bag has a pocket and compartment for everything,” says Danielle DeAngelo, former Radio City Rockette and co-founder of Jane DO, a fitness brand with classes in New York City and New Jersey. “The bottom zip is great for sneakers or post-workout sweaty clothes, while the inside has a designated spot for my water bottle, a small zipper for personal items like hair ties and tampons, and still enough room to throw in sunglasses and other miscellaneous items.” She adds, “There’s a separate padded section for a laptop, and my favorite is the small, super accessible side pocket perfect for keys.” For DeAngelo, when it comes to gym bags, “the less bulky, the better, and most often, backpacks are my main preference. They allow me to be hands-free so I can multitask phone calls, coffee, and finding my cash and card.” (One editor loves this Lululemon City Adventurer backpack so much she's worn it every day for more than a year!)

Buy It: The Lululemon City Adventurer, $79, $128, lululemon.com

Best Wet/Dry Bag

Dick's Sporting Goods

“Nothing is worse than when your sweaty clothes are flirting with your post-workout snack inside your bag,” jokes Jacey Lambros, another former Radio City Rockette and the other co-founder of Jane DO. Lambros prefers gym bags that have separate compartments for wet clothes that are ready to be washed post-workout and dry clothes that you’ll change into after a good sweat session. This chic Nike bag meets her needs with a carrying strap, a large side pocket, a sturdy bottom, and most importantly, areas to separate wet and dry clothes. “It also comes equipped with an internal, very ventilated shoe compartment. It’s subtle and functional; and fashion-wise, it compliments any variety of leggings." 

Buy It: Nike Radiate Club Training Bag, $45, dickssportingoods.com

Best with a Shoe Compartment

Amazon

There was so much online buzz about this best-selling bag that we had to see what all the fuss was about—and we’re sold. Basically, it’s a hot-commodity Amazon’s Choice duffel that meets your needs at a decent price point and caters to a variety of sports and activities. And it’s not made of canvas or nylon like most gym bags: Instead, it employs a lightweight fabric that’s stretchy and breathable. Reviewers like its versatility, saying it’s suitable for everything from basic workouts and sports to traveling, hiking, and camping. The large main compartment can hold all of your essentials while the rest of your items can fit in the front and side pockets, the inner waterproof pouch, and the handy shoe compartment on the bottom. It comes with an adjustable strap so you can carry it or wear it across your body, and without anything in it, it weighs just slightly over one pound. (Related: The Best Hiking Backpacks for Women)

Buy It: Boost Sports Gym Bag, $26, amazon.com

Best for Motivation

Amazon

Truth: Working out isn’t always fun. You probably (ok, definitely) have days where you need all the support you can get just to pack your gym bag. That’s why this duffel for pizza lovers is so fab: It adds a little whimsy to your workout outfit and will put a smile on your face to help you get through HIIT class. It’s a small, lightweight bag with side pockets and a hot-pink inner lining—pretty simple and compact overall, making it perfect for quick sweat sessions. In a never-ending sea of black duffel bags, why not stand out? (Psst: There’s also a taco version.) 

Buy It: Ban.do After This We're Getting Pizza Gym Bag, $36; amazon.com

Best Transitional 

Amazon

“This simple tote works nicely if you plan to go straight from the gym to a night out,” says DeAngelo. “It’s large enough to throw everything in but trendy enough to transition from day to night, plus it comes in so many color varieties.” Customer reviews back up her enthusiasm: “It’s really roomy and gorgeous,” said one. The metallic style features a long adjustable shoulder strap and a gold-colored zippered closure. Made of real leather, it also includes an inside pouch—kind of like a snap-in-liner—that, when removed, opens the bag up, providing ample space for a tank top, leggings, and a sports bra. “This bag made it so easy to go from an evening Rockette performance to a girls’ night out,” DeAngelo adds. “It’s the perfect throw-and-go, and I have it in both black and pink.” These days, she uses it to transition from a studio class to a date night.

Buy It: Anynow Genuine Leather Shoulder Bag, $58, amazon.com

Best Luxury 

Nordstrom

This sleek and stylish bag is definitely not for everyone, but it’s so beautiful, we couldn’t resist adding it to our gym bag round-up. You can argue that it’s really a purse, but it fits much more than a wallet and lip gloss—it’s perfect for carrying all of your basic accessories for a quick morning workout when you’re already dressed in your activewear. Made of lightweight quilted nylon, the carryall is reinforced with sturdy (but soft) double handles and can also be worn as a crossbody thanks to the longer strap that’s also included. It has a flat bottom, which helps the bag stand on its own (great for leaning into if you need to grab a mini towel from it in the middle of Zumba class), and it’s fully lined on the inside, which includes a removable zippered pouch to hold additional valuables. Additionally, it’s water-resistant and folds flat for easy storage. 

Buy It: MZ Wallace Small Sutton Bag, $225, mzwallace.com

Best for Yoga

Available in medium and large sizes and three cute colorways, this is a stellar all-purpose gym bag—especially for yogis. It has two large front pockets, a wet/dry pocket to divide your sweaty and clean clothes, a separate shoe storage area, a large main compartment, and, of course, an easy-to-reach place to store your rolled-up yoga mat. Made of waterproof, breathable fabric, this bag is both tough and trendy. The built-in yoga mat strap is very secure, so you’ll never have to worry about your mat slipping out when you’re in transit. And in a busy yoga studio, items can get lost easily, so it’s nice to have a bag with several pockets to help keep you organized. As one satisfied customer writes: “The mat can be held on the top of the bag, so it doesn’t tip over. The material is very sturdy and easy to clean, and there are so many pockets and places to keep things, and plenty of space for shoes.” (Related: The Best Yoga Towels for Even the Hottest Hot Yoga Sessions)

Buy It: Y.U.M.C. Travel Yoga Gym Bag, $27, amazon.com

Best for Your Back and Shoulders

Amazon

Carrying around a gym bag that’s comfortable and doesn’t strain your neck, shoulders, or back is just as important as getting in a good sweat sesh. And this Under Armour option is not only practical, according to Lambros, but it’s also really easy to transport and doesn’t cause any unnecessary body pain. “As a Rockette, I had to carry a large bag to accommodate all our dance shoe varieties. With 8-hour rehearsals 6 days a week, my bag of choice—this one!—had to have a stash for used rehearsal wear, snacks, and, on occasion, clothes for cocktails. So, comfort was also a must.” It has four pockets total and comes with a laundry bag for shoes or sweaty clothes, a safe “hot pocket” for a curling iron (really!), and exterior straps to carry a yoga mat. And though the cushioned bag is pretty roomy, when used correctly (don’t fill it with bowling balls or something), it also won’t put extra strain on your shoulders or back when carried around all day. “With its padded straps and incredible washability, this bag kicks butt,” says Lambros.  

Buy It: Under Armour The Works Gym Bag, from $70, amazon.com

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Comments (1)

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