You carry your whole life your gym bag, you might as well get a good one.
By Amanda Burrill, MS
There’s no such thing as the one “one size fits all” for gym bags. You’ll certainly want something that deters odor, is water resistant, durable, and maybe has a separate compartment for food and drink. But your workouts are highly personal, and so should your gear experience.
There are about seven million gym bag options, many of which pass the initial tests. I dragged some of my favorite contenders around smelly, dirty, wet NYC, offering a level of damage bombardment on top of my own beatdown, to help choose the best hardbody handbag.
Apera Performance Duffel
Where to buy: AperaBags.com
An Apera bag, virtually indestructible, lasted through being my gym bag for a year and then living and traveling abroad in Europe for another. The Performance Duffel, Apera’s best-seller, is my top choice for keeping everything organized especially if you’re a “from work to gym” type. There are two carry handles and a padded shoulder strap. The inner capacity is substantial, with two water bottle holders; a pocket on each end, both big enough for a pair of men’s size 12 shoes; laptop storage; and their signature antimicrobial product protection that resists the formation of bacterial odor. Also to love about Apera, free shipping and hassle-free returns.
Where to buy: MZWallace.com
My love affair with this water- and stain-resistant bag is deep. I first saw it in the Equinox shop and the camo version caught my eye, military gal that I am, and it had leather trim and gold hardware. The next day I saw the actual flagship store in Soho and I knew it was meant to be. Sutton comes in small, medium, and large, and all versions have interior pockets, detachable travel pouches, and an adjustable crossbody strap. What put the last nail in the coffin for me is the incredibly lightweight nylon construction, making it crushable and rollable. My gym stuff weighs enough and I am about to go destroy some steel—I don’t need a bag that adds to my workout. But this one certainly adds to my style.
Six Pack Bags Expedition Backpack 3-Meal
Where to buy: SixPackBags.com
As a chef and sponsored athlete, this bag is where my two worlds collide. It’s called “Expedition” because it will take whatever beating you give it, in our out of the gym. This backpack allows you to safely carry three insulated meals, gym gear, and a 15-inch laptop/tablet in a safe separate compartment. The setup comes with three 20-ounce leak-proof meal containers and three freezer packs (two small, one large) that fit snugly into the removable meal core. If you meal prep, you need a Six Pack Bag.
Ogio X-Train 2
Where to buy: Ogio.com
This is the ultimate badass urban bag. Some of the features include a removable external helmet-carry strap, side cinch straps perfect for a towel or yoga mat, a dedicated compartment for wet or smelly stuff that is also big enough to fit a pair of shoes, and a hydration pocket with tube port that accommodates a water bladder. Anyone carrying a full load will appreciate the ergonomic fully adjustable padded shoulder straps, sternum strap, padded laptop/tablet compartment, and valuables compartment—aka tech vault—that is uncrushable. Don’t worry about damaging your phone or glasses as you brave the day! This bad boy packs a lot of awesome for a relatively low price.
Herschel Novel Duffle in Nylon
Where to buy: HerschelSupply.com
I can’t leave the house without seeing a dozen Herschel bags. Newsflash: Style alone isn’t enough, so I got myself their duffle in the durable nylon construction, and it was boss. The leather handles and details keep it on the dressy side, and the padded shoulder strap adds practicality. The shoe compartment is plenty big for men’s sneakers, and I love the quality construction. The price may seem steep, but this is a bag you will have for a very long time, and it will never go out of style.
Where to buy: Gaiam.com
This eco-chic Gaiam bag, slightly feminine even in the black, has features galore presented in an understated package that goes from street to gym. Compartments include an exterior zip pocket, an interior elastic pocket, a vented compartment, and a very spacious interior. Adjustable shoulder straps allow for hands-free, as do two side Velcro pockets that double as drink holders, and a cinch cord on the bottom of the bag to stash your yoga mat or towel. I like the vented exterior compartment that can hold shoes or wet items separately. Most of all, I like the price.
Everest Sports Duffel
Where to buy: Walmart.com
If you don’t care about frills but prioritize function, this can be your huckleberry! This economical duffel has everything you need including a spacious main compartment, two front zippered compartments to separate your valuables, a waterproof pocket for damp or dirty clothes, and a dedicated shoe space. The shoulder strap is padded and comfortable, but you can also carry the bag with the tote handles. The bag comes in black or a choice of black with three different color accents. I imagine the Brawny Man uses this gym bag. He gives zero F’s about being fancy. IM