Tips for Choosing the Best Gym Bag

We all know that exercise is essential to living a long and healthy life, and that’s probably why you signed up for the gym. If you are religiously going there to work out, it’s best to invest in a trusty gym bag dedicated to just going to the gym. You may think that your existing backpack or your old college duffle bag can do just fine, but the thing is, the right gear can make a difference.

A reliable gym bag is necessary if you’re a woman who’s into fitness and is constantly on the move. After all, you’ve probably invested in pretty pairs of leggings, different colors of sneakers, and different styles of sports bras – so now it’s time to treat yourself to a gym bag that’s both functional and stylish. These types of bags will motivate you all the more to go to the gym and crush your workout.

However, getting the best gym bag for your needs can be as challenging as picking a new set of exercise gear. But here are some helpful tips that can assist you in choosing the right type of gym bag for your fitness needs:

Choose the right material

A woman wearing a polyester drawstring backpack for the gym

Your choice of material for a gym bag depends on your personal style. Common materials include nylon, canvas, polyester, and leather. The price of the bag will also depend on the type of material. Here are the different bag materials used to make gym bags:

  • Polyester – This material is water-resistant, extremely durable, lightweight, and comfortable against the skin. It can be shaped differently, leading to more style options. It can also be easily wiped clean. Polyester bags also hold color and fades less than other materials.
  • Nylon – Like polyester, nylon is generally lightweight, durable, and has a fair amount of water resistance, making them a popular material for gym bags. It’s softer, stretchier, and has a higher strength-to-weight ratio than polyester.
  • Leather – Leather is a classy and durable material, giving an upscale look to any gym bag. On the downside, it can be heavy and expensive. If you’re already carrying heavy items in your gym bag, you may also not want your bag to be heavy.
  • Canvas – Canvas is relatively inexpensive, flexible, and easy to clean. Canvas bags are pretty light but are durable enough to handle heavy items, making them a popular material for gym duffel bags.
  • Vinyl – Vinyl is stylish, durable, water-resistant, and can be shiny, depending on how it’s made. However, it’s nearly impossible to repair when it rips.
  • Neoprene – This material is breathable, light, and water-resistant. It’s also expensive and less common in gym bags, which means fewer styles and colors are available.

If you need a bag that can stand up well to the elements, look for its Denier measurement (a number with a D in the end) on the product description. This measurement refers to the thickness of the individual threads. A higher value indicates that the bag is thick, durable, and possibly padded. Meanwhile, a lower count means it’s sheer and softer.

Choose the most suitable design for your kind of training

A woman wearing a gym bag with special straps at the top that carries a yoga mat

Many gym bags nowadays are designed for specific activities, so choose one that will make it convenient for you to store your gym items that cater to that exercise, training, or sport. Here are some examples:

  • Basketball – Often a duffle-style bag that allows you to lay it on the side of the court
  • Yoga – Comes with compartments for rolled-up yoga mats
  • Soccer – Has enough space to hold a soccer ball inside
  • Running – A bag designed to reduce movement while you run
  • Training – Comes with a spacious main compartment that accommodates more clothing

Pick the most appropriate bag type

A woman putting some stuff inside her gym bag

There are many types of bags, but here are the ones most commonly used as gym bags:

  • Duffel bags – These bags have plenty of storage for gym-goers and are usually lightweight. They are carried by the hand by holding its two straps at the top, but most come with a shoulder strap, so you can also wear them as a shoulder or crossbody bag.
  • Backpacks – If you prefer that the weight of your bag and its contents are balanced along the body, a gym backpack is the best choice. The two shoulder straps make carrying the bag less strenuous for your shoulders and back. Backpacks also come with convenient compartments and pockets to suit your storage needs. For those who only carry a few things, drawstring gym bags are also available in water-resistant materials.
  • Tote bags – Tote bags are perfect for gym goers who want a compact and lightweight bag. Some come with one compartment and a few pockets at the exterior, while some come with various compartments for storing all your gear.

Consider the ways you’ll use it

The functionality of a gym backpack mostly depends on how and where you’re training and where else you’ll be hauling it.

For example, if you’re taking public transportation or walking to the gym, you may want a gym bag with more padding in the straps and safe pockets for keeping keys, phone, and wallet.

If you’re taking the bag to the office (because you have a gym in the office building or you go directly to the gym after work), you may want a bag that looks more polished than very sporty.

If you’re also into outdoor sports (besides indoor gyms), a water-resistant bag is your best bet.

If you travel a lot and want to bring your workout gear to a gym at your destination, look for something foldable and easy to fit in luggage or an overnight bag.  

But if you’re only planning on taking it to the gym, any casual backpack made of lightweight materials like nylon and polyester might be enough for you.

Pick the right size

Size matters in a gym bag. It comes in all shapes and sizes, and you have to choose the right one for your needs. If you’re a casual gym goer, you don’t need to buy a huge duffel bag that can fit everything. But if you’re a hardcore fitness enthusiast, you may need something larger to accommodate all your gear.

If you’re getting a backpack, check the height, width, and depth and measure it against your back. It must not be wider than your shoulders and sit so low down the buttocks. The right backpack must fit your torso comfortably to the waist level.

How many items do you need to pack in the bag? Do you spend long hours in the gym that you need more than one set of clothes for changing (or maybe a towel for showering in the gym)? If so, you may need a large-capacity bag. Do you only visit the gym for a few hours, and it’s close to your house? In this case, you might need a small, casual gym bag only.

Sometimes, the capacity and size of gym bags are described in liters, which means it assesses the volume. A medium-sized bag of about 30-40 liters would be enough for most gym goers, as it can hold a pair of sneakers, a water bottle, a change of clothes, a small toiletries kit, and some gym accessories. But if you also plan to use the gym bag for your occasional hiking or travel, you may want to go for something bigger.

Consider your needs

An open gym bag with contents revealed and with shoes and water bottle on the side

To make sure you buy a bag that’s not too big or too small, consider your needs. Make sure it’s large enough to hold the things you need. These are some stuff that you may or may not need to bring:

  • Change of clothes
  • Shoes
  • Socks
  • Flip flops
  • Wipes and toiletries
  • Towels
  • Water bottle
  • Snacks
  • Book
  • Headphones and gadgets
  • Laptop
  • Wet bag for dirty and sweaty clothes or swimwear
  • Workout accessories like a yoga mat, wristbands, gloves, resistance bands, etc.

A one-compartment gym bag might work fine if you need to carry a few things. But if you want to bring more than just a towel and a water bottle, you may need a bag that offers more containment and organization.

If you always need to carry spare shoes for training, it needs to be separate from everything else so you won’t get foot stink or floor dirt into the rest of your stuff. This is why many bags contain a waterproof, tunnel-shaped compartment for shoes. You load it from the outside, making it perfect for keeping shoes. If it sounds convenient for you, a good gym bag with a shoe tunnel to consider is one with a mesh pocket on the outside so that your shoes will be able to breathe even while inside the bag.

Think about how you will organize your stuff

A good gym bag should come with plenty of storage space for your needs and compartments to keep your things organized.

Gym bags often come with zippered or hook-and-loop fastener pockets made from mesh so you can easily see what’s inside them. Separate compartments are also great for storing your sweaty shoes, clothes, and used towels.

If you plan to carry a laptop with you (for workout purposes or if you’re going to the gym from work), make sure it comes with a padded pocket to hold it in place. Here are some features in a gym bag to look out for:

  • Main compartment – The bag’s main compartment must have ample space for carrying all your essentials.
  • Shoe compartment – Some gym bags offer a pocket designed for carrying sports shoes to keep them separate from your other items.
  • Bottom compartment – A pocket at the bottom of the bag can be handy for carrying bulkier or heavier items.
  • Side pockets – Some come with mesh pockets for water bottles, but some have zippered pockets. Decide what you need more.
  • Sleeve or laptop compartment – A padded laptop pocket is great to have if you’re going to the gym to and from work or school.
  • Front-loading compartment – This pocket has easy-access zippers to open and secure items more easily.
  • Top-loading compartment – Some gym backpacks come with a sleeve or pocket that allows you to slide items directly in from the top.

Consider the straps

It’s not just the bag itself that’s important – the straps are equally essential as well. The straps support the bag and keep it in your body while you carry it to the gym, so you don’t want to overlook it.

Think of how you will carry your gym bag. If you are toting your bag from the car to the gym and back, a duffel style that you can hold by hand might be preferable.

On the other hand, if you have to walk or take a bus ride to go to the gym, backpacks or bags with crossbody straps make more sense for your convenience.

You may also want to choose a bag with comfortable padding, especially if you’re going to take the bag when on public transportation or if you’re carrying heavier loads with it.