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From duffels to totes, find a bag that can stand up to your sweatiest workouts.
There was a point when a gym bag was merely a utilitarian purchase. With the evolution of athleisure, though, gym bags have morphed into multitasking holdalls that wouldn’t look out of place in the office and even double as weekenders or carry-ons.
Sure, you could just use that random free tote floating around your closet or even an old, oversized purse. But the best gym bags are made from water-resistant materials that avoid damage caused by sweat or unintentional water spills; have built-in pockets to store everything from resistance bands to your laptop; and generally make you look like you have your sh*t together (even when you’re rolling up to your morning workout with seconds to spare).
To make sure we’re recommending the best of the best, we evaluated the size, materials, color options, storage features, and strap options for each bag. No matter what silhouette you prefer, we’ve got options—and budget-friendly ones across the board.
Best Overall : FocusGear Ultimate Gym Bag 2.0 Duffel Bag
What We Love: The oversized shoe compartment.
What We Don’t Love: It’s a little more functional than fashionable.
This may not be the sexiest gym bag on the market, but it checks all the boxes: There are 10 total compartments to keep all your gear organized (including a dedicated shoe pocket that fits up to men’s size 14s and a wet pocket for swimsuits or sweaty sports bras); mesh pockets on the outside were designed to hold a 32-ounce water bottle and a standard size protein shaker so you don’t skimp on hydration or refueling.
Price at time of publish: $30
Size: 20” x 11” x 10.5” | Colors: 8 | Shoe Compartment: Yes | Material: Unlisted
Best Budget: Nike Brasilia 9.5 Duffel Bag
What We Love: The oversized Swoosh makes you look practically elite.
What We Don’t Love: There’s no water bottle holder.
Nike’s Brasilia Duffel Bag rings up at under $50, but has all the essentials of a more expensive bag: a zippered main compartment; a separate, zippered inner compartment to keep your shorts or sweaty workout clothes from stinking up the rest of your stuff; a coated bottom that protects anything stored inside; and outer pockets so you can easily stash your keys or phone on the go. It’s also available in a smaller and larger size.
Price at time of publish: $42
Size: 25” x 12” x 12” | Colors: 3 | Shoe Compartment: Yes | Material: Polyester
Best Splurge: MZ Wallace Nik
What We Love: There are 16 pockets!
What We Don’t Love: There’s no padding on the luggage strap, which may dig.
MZ Wallace’s bags are perennially popular among gym-goer’s because they don’t look like a gym bag, but they easily store anything you could possibly need during a workout. There are seven exterior pockets, nine interior pockets (including one that fits a 16-inch laptop), a luggage sleeve that turns it into a cross-body bag; and a key ring strap so you don’t waste time digging. And it’s made from the brand’s signature lightweight material, that’s foldable and water- and stain-resistant. “An investment for sure, but MZ Wallace bags are some of my favorites,” says Shannon Bauer, InStyle senior commerce editor. “This duffle is practical and stylish and looks brand new several years after I got it. I also get endless compliments on my yoga matt bag from the brand.”
Price at time of publish: $315
Size: 16.93” x 7.09” x 12.20” | Colors: 6 | Shoe Compartment: No | Material: REC Oxford
Best with Shoe Compartment: ICEIVY Gym Duffle Bag
What We Love: There are straps on the outside that secure a full-size yoga mat.
What We Don’t Love: Reviewers had some complaints about quality.
The updated version of ICEIVY’s highly rated gym bag has an expanded storage capacity, complete with a built-in, zippered shoe compartment with venting to let out any post-workout stink. And the main compartment is divided into two pockets: one for your dry stuff, and one for any wet gear. Depending on how much you stuff inside, hold this bag by the straps, add the detachable shoulder strap to turn it into a crossbody or shoulder bag, or wear it as a backpack.
Price at time of publish: $28
Size: 19” x 10.2” x 8.7” | Colors: 9 | Shoe Compartment: Yes | Material: Unlisted
Best Duffel: Alo Yoga Traverse Duffel
What We Love: The luxe neoprene fabric is durable and water-resistant.
What We Don’t Love: There are only two pockets.
You can’t go wrong with a classic duffle, especially one made from hardy neoprene. It has both an interior and exterior zip pocket for tucking away anything important, but you can toss anything else into the roomy main compartment. It’s also structured enough to stand in as an overnight bag, with a detachable carrying strap that makes hauling it around a little less tough on your hands.
Price at time of publish: $158
Size: 17.75" x 8" x 10.5" | Colors: 1 | Shoe Compartment: No | Material: Neoprene, polyester
Best Small: Dagne Dover Landon Carryall Bag
What We Love: It’s also available in a range of sizes
What We Don’t Love: Reviewers noted some pilling on the fabric.
Dagne Dover’s Landon carryall is so sleek and chic, it’s hard to think of as a gym bag. It still has enough space to hold a change of clothes and includes breathable pockets and pouches to store everything from water bottles to headphones. But before you think it’s too nice to dirty up with your gym gear, know that it’s made from durable, water-resistant neoprene and lined in a waterproof material made from recycled bottles—so it can handle your sweatiest activities. The medium The small and medium are popular sizes for gym bags but it also comes in extra small (purse size), large, and extra large, so you can select based on your size needs.
InStyle editors are huge fans of Dagne Dover (in fact, our whole team uses the backpack for work), and the Landon Carryall is no exception. “The medium size is my go-to gym bag,” says Bauer. “I can fit my work laptop, change of clothes and shower supplies without feeling like I’m lugging a massive duffle bag around all day.” Samantha Brash InStyle Director of Content Strategy says, “The strap is the perfect length and I love how the snaps on the sides of the bag make it more compact without sacrificing space on the inside.”
Price at time of publish: $150
Size: 12” x 6” x 7.5” | Colors: 6 | Shoe Compartment: no | Material: neoprene, air mesh, and polyester
Best Backpack: lululemon Everyday Backpack 2.0 23L
What We Love: The smartly designed pockets keep your essentials in easy reach.
What We Don’t Love: The straps are not padded.
If you’re racing from a yoga class to the office, a gym session to dinner, or biking to errands on the weekend, you need a bag that keeps up—and keeps you hands free. A backpack is an easy solution and this one from Lululemon was designed with an on-the-go individual in mind. The small pocket on the top is great for keys or lip balm and the front pocket is the right size for items you need in easy reach. The interior is spacious, but not too bulky, with a laptop sleeve. An exterior side pocket for water bottles allows for quick access to refuel. This is an editor-favorite bag.
Price at time of publish: $98
Size: 11.4" x 5.9" x 16.5" | Colors: 2 | Shoe Compartment: No | Material: Recycled polyester, nylon
Best Extra Large Bag: Away The Packable Carryall
What We Love: It packs down into a removable zip pouch.
What We Don’t Love: There’s only one interior zip pocket.
Away knows a thing or two about bags, and this carryall is no exception—it’s big enough to hold multiple pieces of clothing plus shoes, but smushes to the size of a tiny zip pouch. It’s the perfect bag to pack if you’re going to be hitting the gym on vacation (it even has a built-in trolley sleeve that secures to your suitcase if you’re using it as a carryon). And since it’s made from water-resistant recycled nylon, you don’t have to worry about it getting dinged up on the go.
Price at time of publish: $75
Size: 15" x 19.7" x 9" | Colors: 5 | Shoe Compartment: No | Material: Recycled nylon
Best for Crossfit: Rogue Gym Bag
What We Love: The fabric is super lightweight and basically indestructible.
What We Don’t Love: There aren’t many pocket options.
Rogue is one of the biggest names in the CrossFit biz, so it makes sense that they’d have their gym bags on lock. This is a traditional duffle designed to take a beating, just like your muscles on leg day; it’s made from 1000D Cordura, a lightweight nylon fabric that’s way stronger than it looks. Load it up with your weight belt, grips, lifting shoes, and more and you’ve got two carrying options: two handles or an adjustable and fully removable shoulder strap.
Price at time of publish: $80
Size: 24” x 10” x 10” | Colors: 2 | Shoe Compartment: no | Material: Cordura nylon
Best for Boxing: Elite Convertible Boxing Gear Gym Bag and Backpack
Anyone who’s thrown a punch in a boxing gym knows how smelly those gloves can get. Good thing Elite Sports built an expandable mesh compartment into this bag, so all your gear can air out on the go without transferring odors into the main compartment. There’s also a hardshell pocket for valuables so things like your sunglasses and phone don’t see any abuse when you toss the bag around.
Price at time of publish: $75
Size: 9” x 16” x 19” | Colors: 3 | Shoe Compartment: No | Material: Polyester
Best for Yoga: Caraa Yoga Tote
What We Love: The luxury detailing.
What We Don’t Love: It’s only available in black.
A luxury option similar to MZ Wallace’s bag, Caraa’s Yoga Tote (formerly known as Sport Tote)—which converts to a backpack via removable straps—is crafted from a water-resistant Italian nylon and features Italian leather detailing to upgrade your gym experience. Inside, the bag is lined with antimicrobial nylon to combat any odors; there’s also a separate shoe compartment, and plenty of space leftover to carry your own yoga block with you. Hidden yoga mat straps make travel to and from the studio hands-free. “I have used the Caraa tote as my commuter bag for years,” Bauer says. It converts from tote to backpack if it gets too heavy or I need to be hands free and the details make it look more high-end than a typical utilitarian bag.”
Price at time of publish: $318
Size: Unlisted | Colors: 1 | Shoe Compartment: Yes | Material: Nylon
Best for Swimmers: Speedo Teamster 2.0
What We Love: Multiple side pockets give you even more storage room.
What We Don’t Love: The pockets aren’t ventilated for wet gear.
Of course Speedo’s most popular bag would support every swimmer’s need. There are multiple pockets to keep wet suits, caps, and goggles separate from any other gear—including your laptop, which has its own dedicated sleeve. And with an abrasion-resistant shell and water-resistant bottom, you can rest easy tossing this bag around the pool area. There’s also a huge range of colors to show off your personality as well.
Price at time of publish: $85
Size: 20” x 17” | Colors: 12 | Shoe Compartment: no | Material: polyester
Best for Tennis or Pickleball: Ytonet Tennis Bag
What We Love: This affordable bag offers tons in the way of pockets.
What We Don’t Love: If you need room for extra outfits or shower supplies, it may be too small.
Whether a pickleball novice or a tennis pro, this bag is love-all. The main compartment has an opening at the top for the tennis racket handle to stick out and can hold up to two rackets or six pickleball paddles. There are also separate pockets for balls, a phone, and large front pocket for other needed items. A small exterior water bottle sleeve, anti-theft zipper, and a hook for hanging your bag on a fence rounds it out. It is available in six colors at an affordable price on Amazon.
Price at time of publish: $30
Size: 13'' x 5.5'' x 19.3'' | Colors: 6 | Shoe Compartment: No | Material: Polyester
Best Yoga Mat Bag: Athleta Flow Freely Crossbody Yoga Bag
What We Love: The side zipper makes it easy to get your mat into the bag.
What We Don’t Love: The straps tend to get looser from the weight of the mat.
Bags you can slip your yoga mat into and be on your way to class are often the best if that is your modality of choice. This bag has a little something extra in the form of a large side pocket for yoga towels, mat spray, or even a water bottle. The bag has a zipper all along the side (rather than an opening at the top) that makes it simple to slip your mat into the bag without spending five minutes wrestling it into place. You can carry it as a backpack or like a tote, too.
Price at time of publish: $109
Size: 27" x W: 5" x H: 5" | Colors: 2 | Shoe Compartment: No | Material: Recycled nylon ripstop
Best Tote: Adidas by Stella McCartney Tote
What We Love: It’s made from a minimum of 25 percent recycled content.
What We Don’t Love: The max carrying weight is under nine pounds.
This oversized tote from Adidas is so large, you could pack an entire weekend’s worth of outfits in it (including shoes). One reviewer reported being able to fit multiple towels in it, and the only complaints were that it was too big. If you do load it up, switch from the handles to the adjustable shoulder strap to disperse the weight. In true Stella McCartney fashion, the fabric is 100 percent recycled polyester. While the bag is roomy, the brand warns to not carry more than nine pounds—a difficult task with a bag this large—so keep that in mind when packing.
Price at time of publish: $130
Size: 9.75” x 27.5” x 17.75” | Colors: 2 | Shoe Compartment: no | Material: recycled polyester
What to Keep in Mind
The size of your gym bag is entirely personal—are you looking to stash your wallet and keys while you pop into a class or need a full change of clothes, plus water bottle and some gear? If the former, Dagne Dover Landon Carryall in the small size is going to be right up your alley. For a carrying everything kind of bag, Away The Packable Carryall may be your best bet. A happy medium, FocusGear Ultimate Gym Bag 2.0, can fit your things in a small duffle that isn’t heavy or overly cumbersome.
Type of Workout
The workouts that you do the most will also determine the type of bag you choose. Swimmers are going to want lots of pockets and waterproof components, like Speedo Teamster 2.0, whereas boxers need a bag large enough for gloves and wraps (with mesh to let the stink out), such as Elite Sports Convertible Black Boxing Gear Gym Bag & Backpack. Yogis will love a bag with mat straps (see: Caraa Yoga Tote) and studio hoppers will like the versatility and organization of MZ Wallace Black Nik. If you have specific gear to tow, like a yoga mat (Athleta Flow Freely Crossbody Yoga Bag) or tennis rackets (Ytonet Tennis Bag), there are bags designed especially for you, too.
Your Questions, Answered
How big should a gym bag be?
The size of a gym bag depends on how you’re using it. If you’re carrying a whole change of clothes plus any specific gear (think: yoga blocks, boxing gloves, weight belts), you’ll likely want a larger back. Same goes if you’re looking for versatility in a gym bag; a larger bag can also be used for travel. If all your workout calls for is a change of clothes, you can probably get away with a smaller bag.
Should I take everything out of my gym bag once I'm done using it?
It’s good practice to remove anything that could be stinky—shoes, boxing gloves, etc—from your bag in order to let them (and the bag) air out post-workout. That’s especially true for anything wet, whether that’s a sweaty sports bra or a bathing suit; leaving those lingering in the bag for too long can be downright stanky. Every so often, you should also wipe down the inside of your gym bag to keep germs from taking hold.
Why Shop With Us
Ashley Mateo is an award-winning journalist and editor who currently works as a freelance editorial consultant. She was previously the site director of Redbook and the deputy digital editor at Shape. She is a running coach, marathoner, and well-versed in the activewear industry, making her an expert in all things gym bags, too. InStyle editors also weighed in with their favorite gym bags and what makes them so great.
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Read the original article on InStyle.