Though minimalistic duffel bags were the standard for decades, a growing number of highly-calculated purpose-built gym and workout bags have begun popping up over the last few years. Benefitting from ample real-world experience and field-testing, these custom-designed exercise packs boast a number of key advantages over their spartan, single-pocket predecessors. And while athletes and gym rats now have more options to choose from than ever before, the already abundant and rapidly expanding market can make it incredibly difficult to hone in on the few standout products the segment has to offer — a selection of bags that we’ll be highlighting in this guide to the best gym bags.
From backpacks to duffles to duffle-pack hybrids, these hardwearing bags provide an ideal organization and transportation solution for workout enthusiasts, whether they be weekend warriors, hardcore athletes, or bodybuilders. Below, we’ll not only be unpacking our picks for the best available gym bags and backpacks currently on the market but also delving into the five most pivotal factors to take into account when shopping around for a new workout-specific bag. So, without further ado, let’s get into it.
Workout Bags 101
The Five Most Crucial Areas To Factor In When Buying A Gym Bag
While buying a new gym bag is a fairly straightforward process, it does help to be privy to a handful of finer points pertaining to the segment. Knowing this, we’ve pieced together this condensed guide on the five most crucial areas to think about prior to pulling the trigger on your purchase.
Materials: Just like with any other type of everyday use or travel bag, the materials used to create a gym bag will play an enormous role in determining its overall strength and quality — and more often than not will also play a key role in determining its price. While there’s no shortage of constructions utilized in this segment, we tend to gravitate toward the more durable materials used such as high-denier nylons, leathers, waxed canvases, and proprietary constructions such as CORDURA. And, as important as primary and secondary materials are, it’s also worth exploring whether a bag’s composition has been further fortified via special treatments such as a PU or DWR coating.
Construction Technique(s): In addition to the materials used to craft a bag, you’ll also want to explore the way in which said materials have been pieced together. Features such as laser-welded seams and reinforced stitching will almost always yield a markedly more durable bag. This is especially important if you plan on using your new bag to transport weight training devices such as plates or kettlebells.
Size: The size — or volume — of a bag is another wildly important area to take into consideration when buying a gym bag, as this one metric will determine how many garments, pieces of gear, or accessories you’ll be able to accommodate. Typically speaking, anywhere from 15 to 30 liters will usually be sufficient, though larger bags are recommended for activities and workouts that require full sets of gear — such as football or lacrosse.
Workout-Specific Features: As the gym bag market has grown more and more competitive over the last few years, we’ve seen an increasing number of clever gym- and workout-specific features bestowed upon these vessels. This includes everything from pockets for storing oversized water bottles to ventilated shoe and dirty laundry compartments to quick-access pockets for gym membership ID cards and/or fobs. These types of features hugely bolster a gym bag’s overall utility and ultimately provide a markedly better user experience.
Versatility: While your intended workout use should ultimately be the single most important determining factor when shopping, it’s also worth noting that a great many of today’s gym bags have been specifically designed to be extremely versatile. As such, there are workout bags that are designed to accommodate not only your gym gear but also all of your tech and work essentials — streamlining one’s carrying and allowing one to opt for a single bag on gym days. Some of these gym bags can also be incredibly conducive to travel and even outdoor applications, as well.
Video Guide: 5 Best Gym Bags
For a more in-depth and hands-on look at the top bags on this list, be sure to check out our accompanying 4K video review of the best gym bags available for your next workout.
Our Top Workout Picks
Bellroy Lite Duffel
Best Lightweight/Minimalist Bag: A recent addition to the company’s Lite bag lineup, the Bellroy Lite Duffel is a surprisingly durable 30-liter bag that tips the scales at only 1.3lbs. Backed by a three-year warranty, the duffel is made from a diamond ripstop fabric that’s derived from 100% recycled PET plastic bottles. Packable and rollable, the bag boasts a reinforced rim with a full-length zipper, an adjustable and detachable padded shoulder strap, smooth, folded-edge grab handles, internal slip pockets, an integrated key clip, and internal cap pockets at each end of the bag.
Capacity: 30 Liters
Primary Construction: Diamond Ripstop Fabric
Topo Designs Classic Duffel 20
Best Outdoor-Inspired Bag: The Topo Designs Classic Duffel 20 is a thoroughly modern and rugged take on a minimalistic duffel bag. Boasting nearly 26 liters of internal storage space, the duffel features a 1,000-denier nylon primary construction that’s been supplemented via a 210-denier nylon pack cloth liner and ultra-hardwearing, ballistic-grade 1,680-denier reinforcements. Other highlights on the bag include a main heavy-duty YKK zipper, durable hardware, heavy-duty seatbelt strap handles, and natural leather accents on the handle and lash tabs.
Capacity: 25.7 Liters
Primary Construction: 1,000D & 1,680D Ballistic Nylon
DSPTCH Gym/Work Bag
Best Office-to-the-Gym Bag: Made entirely in America and protected by a lifetime guarantee, DSPTCH’s Gym/Work Bag was engineered from the ground up to serve as the ultimate hybrid duffel needed to accommodate all of one’s office essentials along with all of their necessary gym gear. On top of a spacious main compartment, this also includes dedicated padded sleeves for laptops and tablets, multiple organizers for pens, flash drives, and tech cables, and a ventilated compartment for shoes or dirty laundry. Sold in several material and color options, this bag is also compatible with shoe straps and a variety of other accessories from DSPTCH.
Capacity: 23 Liters
Primary Construction: DWR-Coated 380D Poly-Nylon Blend
Aer Gym Duffel 3
Editor’s Pick: Designed specifically to meet the needs of the modern gym rat, the Aer Gym Duffel 3 is a highly-calculated, cleverly-engineered workout bag built for a lifetime of use. Crafted around an ultra-rugged 1,680-denier CORDURA ballistic nylon shell, this 24.1-liter bag sports an interior liner that’s been treated with an antimicrobial coating, Duraflex hardware and YKK zippers throughout, a padded soft-lined laptop compartment, a luggage handle pass-through, a padded and adjustable shoulder strap, exterior and interior water bottle pockets, a quick-access back pocket, a massive ventilated primary compartment, and a ventilated sneaker compartment that can fit pairs of gym shoes as large as a men’s size 13.
Capacity: 24.1 Liters
Primary Construction: 1,680D CORDURA
Best Luxury Bag: Made by hand in Los Angeles, KILLSPENCER’s plainly-named Duffle is a super-top-shelf gym bag that’s cut from premium full-grain leather and accented via bull hide leather accents on the handles and straps. Under the surface, the bag also boasts an IFAC class 1 fire retardant interior with a waterproof black nylon lining. Other highlights include an internal zippered pocket, blacked-out hardware, and Swiss-made Riri zippers. On top of being offered with an optional custom monogram, KILLSPENCER also produces this ultra-premium duffle in black ripstop nylon or waxed canvas variants, as well as in an OD green English parachute construction version.
Capacity: 34 Liters
Primary Construction: Full-Grain Leather
10 More Stellar Gym Bag Options
Carhartt Legacy Gear Bag
Sold in four colors and a trio of different sizes (20”, 23”, 30”), the Carhartt Legacy Gear Bag is technically a workwear-focused duffel meant for accommodating tools and gear, however, it’s immensely durable makeup and suite of organizers also make it an ideal candidate for use as a gym bag. Built atop an abrasion-resistant Duravax base and outfitted with ultra-hardwearing top and side haul handles, the Legacy Gear Bag features a 1,200-denier heavy-duty polyester shell that’s been fortified via a proprietary Rain Defender durable water repellent finish.
Capacity: 34 Liters
Primary Construction: DWR-Coated 1,200D Polyester
Matador Freefly Packable Duffle
With certain bags, it quickly becomes abundantly clear that they were born out of extensive real-world experience, and such is the case with Matador’s Freefly Packable Duffle. Part of Matador’s Advanced Series — the brand’s most weatherproof, lightweight, and packable product range to date — the Freefly Packable Duffle is crafted around an ultralight UHMWPE-reinforced Robic nylon shell and features a UTS coating, sealed seams, sealing zippers, an adjustable shoulder strap, multiple grab handles, and buckle closure compression straps that allow the bag to be used as a backpack, duffel, or secured to a cargo rack.
Capacity: 30 Liters
Primary Construction: UHMWPE-Reinforced Robic Nylon
Peak Design Travel Duffel
Peak Design’s Travel Duffel is an incredibly versatile bag that lends itself to an enormous variety of uses — largely thanks to its rugged construction, a well-thought-out bevy of organizers, and its intuitive layout. Constructed around a DWR-impregnated and double poly-coated, recycled 600-denier nylon canvas shell with a 900-denier waterproof bottom liner, this weatherproof duffel boasts anodized aluminum and glass-reinforced hardware throughout, UltraZips zippers with abrasion-resistant UHMPE threading, fairtrade leather accents, Hypalon zipper pulls, reinforced stress points, and a high-visibility gray nylon interior that makes it markedly easier to find contents inside the bag. On top of being sold in two color options, Peak Design also offers the Travel Duffel in a massive 65-liter size, plus packing cubes made specifically for this bag.
Capacity: 35 Liters
Primary Construction: DWR & Double Poly-Coated Recycled 600D Nylon Canvas
Fjällräven Greenland Duffel 20
The Fjällräven Greenland Duffel 20 is a minimalistic and sustainably made bag that’s spacious and rugged enough to lend itself to workout duties. Tipping the scales at only 1.69lbs, this 20-liter bag is made from the renowned outdoor brand’s G-1000 HeavyDuty Eco S material — an environmentally-friendly construction composed of a recycled poly-cotton blend. This Fjällräven bag also sports a detachable shoulder strap, a set of grab handles, an external quick-access pocket, and a pair of large and small interior mesh pockets.
Capacity: 20 Liters
Primary Construction: G-1000 HeavyDuty Eco S
JOSHUVELA Small Duffle in Canvas
The JOSHUVELA Small Duffle in Canvas is the San Francisco-based bagmaker’s attempt at delivering a contemporary interpretation of a timeless sports duffle. Made by hand in Northern California, the duffle is crafted from an 18-ounce cotton twill that’s been accented via bridle leather straps, solid copper rivets, and antique brass construction zippers. Affording around 19 liters of internal storage space, this premium sports bag will slowly form a unique patina over time with regular use.
Capacity: 19 Liters
Primary Construction: 18oz Cotton Twill
Mystery Ranch Mission Duffel
Taking numerous cues from modern military rucksacks, Mystery Ranch’s Mission Duffel was engineered to carry heavy loads — making it a stellar option for everything from rucking to trips to the gym. Crafted around a 1,000-denier CORDURA shell, this fully-lined gym bag boasts a pair of padded, removable, and adjustable shoulder straps that can tuck away into a zippered compartment, plus a full-length horseshoe-shaped primary opening that’s secured via YKK zippers, a quick-access zipper-secured exterior pocket, and four zippered internal organization pockets. Also offered in a waxed nylon version and in a TPU-coated 840-denier variant, this 40-liter bag even meets carry-on size requirements for air travel.
Capacity: 40 Liters
Primary Construction: 1,000D CORDURA
Aer Duffel Pack 3
Considered by many to be the ultimate gym-office hybrid pack, Aer’s Duffel Pack 3 features just about every amenity one could hope for in a workout or work bag. This includes an insanely-rugged 1,680-denier CORDURA ballistic nylon exterior, YKK zippers and Duraflex hardware throughout, an antimicrobial-treated interior lining, a ventilated shoe compartment with a collapsible stowaway design, a soft-lined padded and suspended laptop pocket that can fit notebooks up to 16”, exterior pockets for housing full-sized water bottles, a luggage handle pass-through, a heavily-padded mesh back panel, and a weight-distributing set of shoulder straps that are helped along by a supplementary sternum strap.
Capacity: 21.4 Liters
Primary Construction: 1,680D CORDURA
lululemon lab Convertible Large Duffle Bag 29L
The lululemon lab Convertible Large Duffle Bag 29L is a lightweight and versatile item that was designed to lend itself to as many applications as possible, with the ability to be worn like a backpack or carried like a standard piece of hard luggage. Measuring 20.1″ x 7.9″ x 10.6”, the 29-liter hybrid-style bag from the athleisure leader features a nylon shell and trim that’s heavily water-resistant and comes paired with a polyester liner and poly-mesh pockets. Amplifying this bag’s versatility — both inside and outside of the gym — are a luggage handle pass-through, stowable backpack straps and grab handles, an exterior water bottle pocket, a plethora of internal pockets and organizers, and a full-size padded laptop sleeve that can accommodate notebooks as large as 16” in diameter.
Capacity: 29 Liters
Primary Construction: Water-Repellent Fabric
Filson Ballistic Nylon Duffel Backpack Hybrid
The Filson Ballistic Nylon Duffel Backpack Hybrid is a thoroughly modern gym-ready bag that boasts an unmistakably old-school design that’s been brought to life using premium, modern-day materials. Capable of being worn like a backpack, as a satchel, or carried like a duffel, this hybrid bag is made from ballistic-grade 12oz 600-denier nylon and features genuine bridle leather accents and trim, plus a Filson logo patch. Inside, the pack sports a full-length padded laptop pocket, a lined mud pocket, and a dedicated pocket for housing and protecting smartphones, while the exterior of the bag has been outfitted with a set of zippered side pockets and padded stow-away backpack straps and grab handles that are made from military-style nylon webbing.
Capacity: 46 Liters
Primary Construction: 12oz 600D Ballistic Nylon
Shinola Canfield Classic Holdall
An elegant, spare-no-expense take on a classic duffel, Shinola’s Canfield Classic Holdall is cut from an incredibly soft, Italian-sourced natural grain leather that’s accented via genuine Vachetta leather. Utilizing old-world craftsmanship, the bag also boasts a leather card pocket, a 15” laptop sleeve, a zipper-secured exterior quick-access pocket, a detachable and adjustable shoulder strap, a lined interior, matte nickel hardware throughout, and a pair of interior slip pockets for housing smartphones and other gadgets. Sold in black or brown color options, this bag will also form its own distinctive patina over time with regular use. What’s more, the fact that this is an heirloom-grade item means that, after a lifetime of use, this timeless bag can be passed down to future generations of gym-goers.
Capacity: 41 Liters
Primary Construction: Italian Leather
The 25 Best Everyday Carry Backpacks
Looking for a more versatile do-it-all bag for everyday use? Then be sure to check out our feature article — and accompanying 4K video guide — on the best everyday carry backpacks for a look at more than two dozen of the finest options currently on the market.
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