The best gym bags are built for more than the just the gym. Sure, they come with the product specs you’d expect from a bag designed to store your sweaty workout gear—water-resistant fabrics, adjustable shoulder straps, ample shoe compartments—but these aren’t bags made exclusively for exercising.
Functionality is paramount, but so is form (kind of like, uh, going to the gym). And now that you’re hitting the gym again with some regularity—or swear this is the week you’re going to start!—you’ll need a bag up to the task. A tote bag won’t do the job. A backpack feels inadequate. But a specialty gym bag (a.k.a. a duffle bag) with a generous main compartment to keep those filthy gym clothes separated from the chinos and button-up you’ll be changing into post-shower? That’s just what the doctor ordered. (Especially when said gym bag comes with an abrasion-resistant laptop sleeve so you can bring your work with you wherever you go, you sick puppy, you.)
The Best Gym Bags Shopping Guide
- The Do-It-All Gym Bag: Patagonia Black Hole duffel 40L, $129
- The All-Weather Gym Bag: Rains gym bag, $95
- The Retro Gym Bag: J.Crew canvas duffel bag, $125
- The Budget Gym Bag: Nike “Brasilia” training duffle bag, $61
- The Need-for-Speed Gym Bag: Red Canoe Boeing stowe duffle bag, $109
- The “Actually, It’s a Back Pack” Gym Bag: Aer Fit Pack 3, $149
- The Office-to-Gym Bag: Lululemon City Adventurer large duffle bag, $168
- The “My Gym Costs More Than My Rent” Gym Bag: Saint Laurent logo-print ripstop duffel bag, $1,150
And don’t forget: Even the most technical gym bag can double as a slick weekender on a last-minute summer getaway or a lightweight carry-on for your first airplane trip in months—provided, of course, you invest in a style with the right accoutrement. Durability is a must, as is an easy-access side pocket to store your water bottle. A few carefully placed external pockets to hold all your small items never hurt, either. So even if you’re an expert gym-goer getting reacquainted with the day-to-day grind, it’s worth reminding yourself what a game-changer a high quality gym duffle can be, and then tracking down the best one for your routine.
Luckily, GQ Recommends unearthed 21 of the absolute best gym bags on the market right now, so you can hit your PRs—or just hop on the Hampton Jitney—in style.
The Do-It-All Gym Bag
Is there anything Patagonia’s legendary Black Hole bags can’t handle? In tote or dopp form, the waterproof 14-ounce 900 Denier nylon fabric works like an impenetrable forcefield, repelling whatever the world throws at it (and looks way better for the wear, though you can always hose it down for a makeshift factory reset). Its duffel, though, remains a standout, thanks to features like daisy chains for you to hook on an extra pair of climbing shoes or a portable speaker for your bike commute to and from the gym. The cavernous 40-liter main compartment is enough to house a weekend’s worth of outfits, and features a separate mesh pocket that’s great for keeping your sweaty gear far away from your crisp 9-to-5 standbys. Plus, its handles and straps mean you can carry it however you prefer—no more straining your biceps with extra work after a gnarly arms day.
The All-Weather Gym Bag
Rains is famous for outerwear that laughs in the face of inclement weather. Its duffle bag harnesses the brand’s trademark waterproof tech to protect your workout gear from the worst of the elements, whether it’s raining cats and dogs or you’re the bedraggled owner of a pet insistent on slobbering all over your gym shoes.
The Budget Gym Back
This one’s a no-brainer. The Brasilia is one of the most popular gym bags in Nike’s arsenal, and if you can’t trust the Swoosh to provide a spacious, heavily-zippered duffle to store all your swoosh-emblazoned gear, who can you turn to?
The Retro Gym Bag
If you’re the type of fella who geeks out on heritage Americana, your thigh-high running shorts and trim ringer tees (we’re assuming here) deserve a home as nostalgic as their wearer. J.Crew’s beefy canvas duffel bag points to its New England heritage, back when it was just a paper catalog, but its old-school good looks are ready-made for the here and now. That canvas make and white trim riffs on classic country club fashions (or the bag you schlepped to your high school track meets), but they’ll give you a leg up on the spin class competition—stylistically, at least.
The Need-for-Speed Gym Bag
Can’t stop thinking about how darn cool Maverick looked cruising along at Mach 10 in the Top Gun sequel? You need a bag that can handle your newfound need for speed. Even if your idea of supersonic travel involves a quickie bike ride uptown bumping Kenny Loggins on your AirPods, this bag is built to be put through the paces. A durable water-resistant construction, YKK zippers, tons of pockets, and a signature orange lining evoke the same cool factor as your favorite bomber—though the only danger zone you’re headed to is dangerously big fits territory.
The “Actually, It’s a Backpack” Gym Bag
Okay, yes—Aer’s Fit Pack 3 is technically a backpack. But its fan-favorite style comes chock full of the type of product details you’d expect to see in a next-level duffle designed for heavy-duty wear and tear. Its exterior is made out of abrasion-resistant 840D nylon with Cordura side paneling, and a padded interior ensures your laptop stays secure no matter how many dirty socks you’ve wedged in there. Factor in an easy-access water bottle pocket and Duraflex hardware, and you’re looking at a formidable gym bag alternative that might convert even the staunchest duffle devotee.
The Office-to-Gym Bag
If you tend to book it to the gym as soon as you log off, you need a bag that can hold your workout duds and your office essentials—and won’t look out of place at either. Lululemon’s sleek, deceptively tech-y duffle comes with plenty of storage for your sweat-wicking, four-way stretch gear along with a padded sleeve for laptops up to 16″ (you know, in case you need to bang out some emails while you wait for the bench to free up). It’s cut from a lightweight waterproof fabric and tricked out with handles, a cross-body strap, and exterior pockets, including an expandable option specifically for your sweat-soaked garms. We’re also giving it bonus points because it’s shaped like a bowling bag, which you should definitely use it for if this guy’s energy matches your own.
The “My Gym Costs More Than My Rent” Bag
They say that showing up to the gym is half the battle, but for plenty of folks, it’s more like all-out war. That’s why you pay thousands of dollars a year to go to a gym jam-packed with amenities like a juice bar and a day spa—storming the beaches, or, in this case, hauling your ass to the gym, feels like way less of a struggle when you’re not slumming it to your local NYSC. Enter Saint Laurent’s ripstop bag, which took home top honors in this year’s Fitness Awards for its ability to transform your workouts into bona fide fashion moments. You’ll never have to worry about ID’ing it in the locker room, but don’t blame us if someone “accidentally” walks off with it while you’re on the treadmill. All’s fair in love, war, and lifting.