As the fitness trend has grown over the last few years, so has the kit that surrounds it, and the gym bags used to carry your stuff to and from your workout are no exception. Gone are the days when you’d use a random old rucksack that was lying around in the cupboard, now we want our bags to be as functional as the rest of our kit.
For those of us who train at the gym near work, we want something that will handle everything from a securely-kept laptop, extra clothes and toiletries, to various gym paraphernalia and an outfit that, more than likely, is going to be a bit sweaty.
That not only means different compartments, some specially designed for what they’re carrying, but a strap system that doesn't make lugging around your gym-life seem like another workout in itself.
Here we run through the best option for the gym-goer in transit, whether you want the most compact, no-fuss option or you’re the kind of person that carries around the equivalent of a thriving personal training business.
Best heavy duty gym bags
Patagonia Black Hole Duffel Bag 40L
When it comes to good-looking kit, Patagonia knows the score. Its Black Hole range isn't just about cosmetically attractive products though, delivering one of the most technically functional bags you'll find out there today. Exactly what you'd expect from a company that focuses primarily on tough adventures in the outdoors.
Built with a recycled polyester ripstop, highly weather-resistant TPU-film laminate and a durable water repellent finish, the Black Hole duffel is a bag that will take a beating, from dealing with the weather to being lugged around all day.
The Black Hole comes in a range of sizes, although the 40L is the smallest and it's unlikely you'll need a bigger one for the gym. It can also be carried as a holdall or as a rucksack and opens via a top zip flap so you can get to your kit easily and quickly. In addition there's a handy side pocket and a large internal mesh pocket that you can slip a laptop into.
The range comes in a massive selection of colourways to choose from and has clever little 'daisy chain' loops on the side so that you can hook in extra items.
Dimensions: 51cm x 32cm x 24cm
North Face Basecamp Duffel 31L
One of the most iconic items in The North Face' s collection, the Basecamp duffel is an impressive piece of kit. Like the Patagonia Black Hole, its beauty comes from the simplicity in design mixed with an incredibly functional build.
As well as a frankly eye-boggling selection of different colours, the Basecamp is made from Phthalate-Free TPE Fabric Laminate for water resistance as well as extra bartacks and double stitching to ensure it's durable enough to keep going for years to come.
There's an inside zipped pocket for a laptop or toiletries and a water-resistant side pocket for quick access to things like your phone or wallet. You can also carry it as a rucksack or connect the alpine-cut shoulder strap to use as a holdall. Want to stow it away for taking on holiday? just pack it down into its own handy mesh carrier.
Dimensions: 45cm x 28cm x 28cm
Built for Athletes Hero Backpack
Although this beast of a backpack is a hefty piece of kit to carry around all day, especially if you need to use public transport, you don't have to use the full 45L of storage space 24/7. The handy straps at the sides and underneath mean that you can minimise the full capacity and make it considerably less imposing to anyone else walking down the street.
Made from tough high-density polyester, it's both water-resistant and rip-proof and includes a host of compartments, including two front pouches for easy access, two large main compartments, a laptop sleeve and internal pockets – so planning your storage efficiently is a doddle.
Although you don't have to unleash the full storage power of the Hero backpack, when you need the space it holds an enormous amount of kit. We've had two pairs of training shoes and kit, a laptop, a foam roller, a selection of toiletries and still had space to fit in the evening food shopping.
Additional features include webbing at the front and sides so you can connect even more items, a comfortable padded front strap system, 180-degree openings so you can access your stuff like it's a suitcase, and, if you're that way inclined, a velcro front panel so you can buy badges to customise the pack.
Dimensions: 46cm x 32cm x 29cm
Best lightweight gym bags
Salomon Prolog 25 Bag 25L
If you're after a hardwearing gym bag but don't need the sort of storage space you'll see in some of the larger options out there, the Prolog 25 bag is well worth a look.
There are no fancy padded straps here, but the durable, incredibly waterproof bottom material will mean that you can safely set it down on any surface as you train. As well as the one main compartment there are two additional internal options for managing your storage.
Because the features and design are focused on the essentials, the Prolog 25 is one of the lightest gym bags around. There are bigger options available if you want to upgrade to something a bit more heavy duty though.
Dimensions: 59cm x 34cm x 17cm
Under Armour Hustle 4.0 Backpack 26L
For those that prefer a full-on rucksack to a duffle-style gym bag, the Hustle 4.0 has a lot going for it. Not only is it one of the lightest options on the list, it also incorporates UA's storm technology to protect against rain and splashes.
A handy shoe pocket sits underneath the main bag compartment, meaning you can keep them away from the rest of the items you carry around with you, and there's a large front laundry pocket to store your used kit – a necessity for any pre-work gym users.
Additional features include two water bottle pockets, two front-access valuables pockets and a 15-inch internal laptop sleeve.
Dimensions: 15cm x 33cm x 49cm
Best for cycling commuters
Osprey Metron Backpack 26L
Osprey knows its stuff when it comes to packing a massive amount of features into a backpack. The Metron is no exception to that, with a piece of kit that's had an awful lot of thought gone into it.
Designed specifically with cycling in mind, the Metron has a lot of space whilst still being thin and compact enough to not be bulky on the back. The fact that it doesn't stick out too far makes it a great option whether you're cycling or trying to squeeze onto the underground at rush hour.
As well as having a comfortable set of adjustable compression straps, a removable hip belt and a LidLock bike helmet attachment, there's a heap of really nice added features that make the Metron really stand out.
If it's pockets you're after – and what gym commuter isn't – there's an enormous range of options, including a large padded laptop sleeve, an internal shoe pocket, a secondary document sleeve, a large front zipped pocket, a small front zipped pocket, a side zipped scratch-protective pocket for sunglasses and two external stash pockets for any clothing you need to stuff in quickly.
Wait – we've not finished. Other nice elements include an emergency whistle on the sternum strap, a detachable rain cover that fits neatly into the base of the pack and an interesting 'StraightJacket' compression strap which hugs the entirety of the rucksack to hold everything together and pack it in tight.
What's more, all of Osprey's kit comes with its All Mighty Guarantee – which means they'll try and fix any issues with old products instead of you having to buy new kit.
Dimensions: 26cm x 35cm x 48cm
Gymshark X Series Backpack 0.2 27L
On the outside, the X Series Backpack may look as minimal as they come, but don't let its simple, sleek design fool you. As well as holding 27L of commuting kit, it has a number of nice features that will make the daily grind a doddle.
The large main compartment has more than enough space for everything from your gym kit to laptops whilst the easy-access outer pockets mean that you can organize the items that you need more frequently. Those side pockets include wet/dry pockets – especially useful for sweaty kit – and there are two open mesh pockets for water bottles or stashing things quickly.
Additional features include a key attachment, an adjustable chest harness for a more secure fit, an air mesh back panel for breathability and comfort and a top-entry laptop sleeve.
Best gym bags for women
Sweaty Betty All Sport Backpack
When it comes to a bag that works seamlessly between the gym and anything else you decide to do with your time, the All Sport backpack is by far one of the best options out there.
As well as looking like the sort of bag you'd be happy wearing if you were never going to set foot in the gym again, the technical features are some of the most impressive we've seen. The material is a durable scuba style fabric which makes it is lightweight for easy carrying, it features six compartments (yes six!) to organise your things, and there are some ridiculously clever straps underneath which mean that you can carry a yoga mat without lugging it over your shoulder.
Dimensions: 40.5cm x 43cm x 24cm
Lululemon On My Level Duffle Bag 22L
If you're looking for a lightweight gym bag that's incredibly versatile, then the Lululemon Duffel offers one of the nicest solutions to fitness commuters. Although it's one of the smallest options on the list at 22L, it offers a surprising amount of space.
Made with a light, collapsable fabric, the bag can be stored easily and that same fabric is also easily wipeable, so you don't need to worry about the occasionally spillage or sweat soaking in. There's also a handy internal pocket to protect your daytime items from your your post workout clothing and a zipped valuables one for your cards and phone.
Best budget gym bags
Reebok Active Core Gym Bag 27L
Sure, there's no clever water-resistant fabric or advanced features on the Active Core gym bag, but considering the price, there's a lot to love about this budget piece of kit.
The main compartment has an enormous amount of space for its 27L size and the fabric used is impressively durable for the price, allowing you to carry a lot of heavy stuff. There's even an internal pocket to keep your wet things in if you don't want them touching the rest of the stuff in your bag.
Dimensions: 43cm x 23cm x 23cm
Gym Fold-Down Barrel Bag 30L
A gym bag, for that price? Well, yes, and it actually has one big thing going for it. As well as being cheaper than a trip to the cinema, the bag handily slims down and packs away into its own internal pocket, so it's the perfect option to have as a back-up gym bag or for someone that very rarely needs one.
At 30L, it can carry a lot of stuff, although you won't want to make it too heavy, and there's even an internal compartment to put your valuables in.
Dimensions: 48cm x 30cm x 25cm
Best secure gym bags
Pacsafe Vibe 25L Econyl Anti-theft Recycled Backpack
Pacsafe has made a name for itself over the years for creating bags, luggage and rucksacks that have a host of innovative security features. Not only that but it's making waves in the form of sustainability with packs that use Econyl regenerated nylon fiber, a material made from regenerated waste yarn that keeps the same purity and characteristics of the original.
The issue of pack security is something affecting anyone that lives in a busy town or city and Pacsafe has long been developing products to help keep your valuables safe. The Vibe rucksack incorporates a number of those features.
Those security features include knife resistant straps, lockable zips, special strap locks that allow you to attach the pack to a stationary object, a hidden stainless steel wire mesh in the material and RFID blocking pocket to protect your credit cards and passport electronic data.
In addition, this 25-liter rucksack holds a 13-inch laptop in a padded sleeve (that can also be used for a hydration pack), internal pockets, an attachment for keys, a quick access pocket and an adjustable, removable hip belt for carrying stability.