5 Things To Look For In A Great Gym Bag

How to select the right gym bag.
Photo by: Getty Images, Image Source

What makes a great gym bag?  To some it is the bag that is most fashion forward. To others it is the one that lasts the longest. Some people look for one with all the right pockets and spaces.  Still others desire a bag that can double as a carry-on for tight airline spaces.  Gym bags mean different things to different people. Let’s take a look at the things that make a great gym bag. Maybe these thoughts will help before you make your next investment.


What your bag is made out of will not only be the first thing you see, but will determine how long you own that bag. Here are three of the most common materials and their upsides and downsides.


Upside:  Solid

Downside: Cost

An oldie but a goodie. Leather is likely the most expensive of options, but the price you pay will also transfer to its consistency. Leather is straight forward, not too fussy about fashion and, if the leather is high quality, will last many years. Fun, new colors have emerged in recent years so black and brown have been replaced with turquoise, pewter and pink. If you go this route be sure to check if it is water resistant and can handle damp workout clothes, wet swimsuits or a water spill here an there.


Upside: Durability

Downside: Fashion Effect

Canvas bags have been around forever. Just ask the US Military. Why? Because they last. Buy a canvas today and you won’t need to replace it until you can no longer handle the smell.

Canvas is actually cotton or linen fibers woven tightly together. Canvas won’t be your most fashionable choice but it will be faithful.


Upside: Choices, Choices Choices

Downside: Won’t last forever

If you like designs that stay current with the latest fashion trends and colors, nylon is for you. It is also for you if you’re looking to take a little weight off your load.

Nylon comes in the largest variety of colors and patters and is the lightest of the choices making it easier to tote around. It is, however, the least formidable when it comes to withstanding over-packing, dragging or just regular wear and tear. On the other hand, the cost reflects this and you are able to replace your bag more often for less.


The way your bag is put together is entirely personal to your individual workout style. Several design features will help determine if the bag suits your needs.


Landscape or portrait? You choose it for your photos and you choose it for your gym back. Traditionally people have enjoyed the more horizontal version. It’s a bit easier to see and access everything you put in it. The downside, perhaps, is the space it takes. For those who like a more vertical style it is compact and fits nicely in the backseat with your other items. However, this version tends to trap odors more easily so make sure you clean your bag out often.


The traditional over-one-shoulder is still around.

Be careful you aren’t lugging a heavy bag if you choose this style. If so, you could end up with pinched nerves in the neck or upper back from “shrugging” your way into the gym. If you choose this style make sure the strap is the correct length. Too long and you’ll “scrunch” up to keep it from flapping around. If you carry a heavier load a back-pack style might be more for you.  They take an extra few seconds to pick up and set down but could be worth it in the long run. Back-packs are especially nice for moms or dads toting kids into the gym. They leave your hands free for holding on to those other precious hands.  Still, for many, the typical two handles at the top of the bag works fine.


For me this is where the rubber meets the road.  I need the right pockets in the right places or its never going to work. Think about the things you tote to the gym and check to see if your bag will comply. To name a few:


Water bottle




Yoga Mat

Wet stuff like a swimsuit

If you are good with dumping everything into the middle- so be it. That would never work for me!


Bags with with wheels are available everywhere. If you are a “gym rat” it might seem like a juxtaposition to pull your bag into the gym on wheels only to park it and go lift weights.  However, it actually may save your back and keep you lifting longer into the future. Wheels are not only a good choice for those with back pain but also the elderly, frequent traveler or those lugging across bigger parking lots or who walk to the gym.


The size of you gym bag reflects exactly what kind of use it gets. If you are a casual gym goer that hits the elliptical or treadmill a few times a week then a small bag – something just big enough to hold your shoes and water – will be good for you. If, on the other hand, you vary your workout from lifting to spinning to zumba, you might want something a little bigger to hold a couple pair of shoes, store snacks, deodorant and anything else you want to have on hand “just in case”.  The largest bags are usually for those that need bigger equipment or like it to double as a carry-on for travel. Remember that the bigger the bag, the heavier the bag. Lugging your bag around could become half your workout!


Some of you are nodding and others are laughing. For many fitness fanatics you know your brand and you are faithful to it! This name always comes through for you and has never given you a reason to stray. For others, you could care less what the name on the gym bag says. As long as it gets the job done, its good enough for you. If you haven’t bought one in a while, you should know the list has grown in the past few years. Too many to mention all of them some of the most popular include:

Nike, Adidas, Puma, Reebock, Under Armour, Athleta, LuLuLemon, Victoria’s Secret, The North Face


My favorite answer to any test is “all of the above”. In this case its true. Everything about your bag from its construction to its size is going to determine the cost. And while we all need to be realistic and wise about what we spend, one of the worst feelings is going cheaper to save a few bucks and regretting it later because you didn’t get what you really need or want. Eventually you only spend more in the long run when you head back a year later to replace the first mistake. Search the internet for low end to high end price options and determine where you fall within the scope.

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