Whether you prefer to exercise at the gym, take a spin class, or get in a yoga flow at the local studio, you need a way to carry your gear back and forth. Gym bags don’t necessarily need to have fancy features or cost a good chunk of change—but they should be durable, comfortable, and make your trip to the gym or studio easier.
We put some of the most popular gym bags on the market to the test, but in the end, found the Nike One Club duffel bag (available at Nike) is the best gym bag you can buy. We also named the Under Armour Undeniable Signature(available at Amazon) our Best Value pick.
Editor’s note: We’ll be revisiting this guide soon and will have new reviews to share.
Nike One Club
The Nike One Club duffel makes it easy to tote your gym gear back and forth while staying organized. It has internal and external pockets to securely store toiletries or accessories, and a vented compartment to keep dirty gym shoes and clothes away from your non-sweaty items. This bag also has bungee cords on the front to hold a yoga mat or foam roller—a useful feature no other gym bag we tested had.
The bag’s material, made of polyester, repelled water and scratches during testing. The zippers are easy to grasp and smooth to move back and forth, making it easy to access your stashed items. There are two ways to carry this large duffle bag, by the handles—which can be snapped together for ease of use—or by a detachable shoulder strap.
The only minor downside: That abrasion-resistant, water-resistant fabric is thicker and stiffer than others, making the bag heavier (though not intrusively so) when empty and more difficult to fold up and squeeze into particularly small storage spaces, like a locker when you’re wearing most of the gear you carried with you.
Lots of organization and storage, including for a yoga mat
The Under Armour Undeniable Signature bag is a simple, high quality option with a value price tag. Like the Nike One Club, it has separated shoe storage, but it doesn’t have as much small-item storage—only one larger zip pocket on the outside, an open mesh pocket on the end, and a zip mesh pocket on the inside. It’s a lighter weight option that’s comfortable to carry around and easy to fold up and store in smaller lockers.
Though the fabric is lightweight and flexible, this bag resisted water and scratches well on our tests. Additionally, the zippers were smooth to move back and forth, rarely getting stuck, and it felt sturdy, like it would last a long time.
The Puma Medium Gym Duffel is ultra lightweight and a solid option for anyone who wants a no-frills bag. It has shoe storage to keep dirty soles separate, but no interior pockets for toiletries or accessories, which was a downside for me, as I always carry an assortment of necessities with me, including but not limited to: lip balm, hand cream, ibuprofen, and Band-Aids.
It has one exterior pocket that’s made of mesh and doesn’t snap, zip, or velcro shut, so it isn’t a good option to store valuables or items you can’t bear to lose. Its straps are comfortable to carry around, but I found it difficult to remove the padded shoulder strap due to the tight clasp.
If you need the toughest, most durable gym bag out there, get the King Kong JNR. You can tell just from holding this bag that it’s made of a heavy duty, long-lasting material. Like many other options, it has a shoe organizer, a few external pockets, and can be held via the hand or shoulder strap.
However, this bag is designed to be so tough that I found it impractical to use. This bag doesn’t have any internal toiletry pockets, and the few external pockets are so secure I found them difficult to snap open and close. The last thing I want after an exhausting workout is a struggle to open my gym bag.
Additionally the rubber coating on the handles felt sticky and uncomfortable to hold after a sweaty session, and the zipper tags are made of the same rubber material and felt grimy after touching them with my sweaty hands.
While most duffels have some sort of zipper opening on the top of the bag, the FocusGear Ultimate Gym Bag opens all the way down the side of the bag, allowing the top and one entire size to unzip. I personally didn’t love this feature, as I found items occasionally slipped out of the bag—especially when my sneakers in the shoe storage created an uneven surface. This design also meant there were none of the internal pockets that would typically be placed along the inside of the bag.
That said, the FocusGear could be useful for minimalists who don’t store too many small objects in their gym bag or those who hate rummaging around inside their bag and want a way to get a better look inside.
Dalix 20" Sports Duffel Bag with Mesh and Valuables Pockets
The Dalix 20-inch sports bag was the least comfortable bag I tested. The material feels stiff and scratchy, and the handle padding is inflexible and makes it uncomfortable to hold the bag. I also found it difficult to attach the removable shoulder strap, as the metal clasp requires a forceful push to open.
Additionally, this duffel doesn’t have enough small storage for my liking. There are two larger zip pockets on either end of the bag, along with one other exterior pocket and a mesh water bottle holder, but no toiletry pockets inside the bag. It also lacks a separate shoe compartment.
To find the best gym bags, we rounded up some popular options and tried our best to ruin them. We spilled water on them, scratched them, attempted to rip them—anything we could think of to rule out flimsy, low-quality bags. We also packed them with the typical gear you might bring to the gym or studio to ensure it would fit and be well organized.
One of the most important qualities we looked for in a gym bag is durability. To test this I spilled water on the bags, scratched them with a set of keys, and carried them around stuffed with weights. Additionally, I tried to rip the handles by pulling on them as hard as I could. (Fortunately, the bags all remained intact.)
We also evaluated the bags’ day-to-day usability, including the softness of the material and overall how comfortable it was to hold and carry. This is where we saw more variability between options, and found a few standouts.
What You Should Know About Buying a Gym Bag
Gym bags come in a variety of sizes, but for consistency’s sake, we only tested bags from 30 to 45 liters, or 1,830 to 2,746 square inches. This means every bag we tested could hold at least two outfits and a pair of shoes. Some had specific compartments for separating dirty gym shoes, clothes, and toiletries, and bonus features like water bottle pockets. Whether you need these depends on how many extras like hand sanitizer, ibuprofen, or headphones you tend to carry with you, and how organized you like to be.
You’ll also want to consider the material and how durable it might be, considering gym bags tend to take a beating. All of the bags we tested were made from nylon or polyester, or a combination thereof, making them all decently water- and scratch-resistant, and easy to clean and deodorize—a necessary feature when you’re stuffing a bag full of sweaty clothes on the daily.
A last consideration is the straps for comfortable carrying. All we tested had at least two ways to carry them, by handheld or adjustable shoulder straps. However, only some shoulder straps were removable and only some bags had a padded handle cover to snap around the handles and hold onto—all features you may find useful.
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