Back in the day, a mention of men’s gym bags conjured up images of stocky, menacing-looking blokes lugging around massive, unsightly holdalls. Now, however, modern workout bags are more practical and easier on the eye.
As the much-anticipated grand reopening of gyms draws near, now is an excellent time to retire that battered backpack you got free from your first health club donkey’s years ago and start looking for something fresh.
“You’ll want something spacious and durable that has plenty of compartments for all your gym stuff, like your water bottle, toiletries, towel, snacks and clean clothes. Separate compartments for gym shoes and wet stuff are handy too, but it really depends on your needs” Charlie Summers, personal trainer and founder of CVS Fitness, explains.
“If you’re someone who spends hours pumping iron, you’ll probably need something bigger for your protein shakes, snacks and sweat towels. Whereas if you’re a casual gym-goer that does half an hour on a treadmill after work, something compact and subtle might be more suitable.”
Still, whether you’re a yogi, spin-king or cardio fanatic, you’ll likely be stuffing your bag into a locker that’s never quite big enough. For that reason, you’ll probably want something that squashes down and can take a battering.
Don’t worry too much, though. In our round-up of the best gym bags for men, we’ve selected various options, from designer weekend bags and commuter-style backpacks to no-nonsense duffels. All picks were packed with gym gear, lugged around and stuffed into small spaces to ensure they were hardy and functional, as well as easy on the eye.
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Columbia street elite convertible duffel pack
This grey, minimalist unisex gym bag by Columbia is quality. Not only is it lovely to look at, it’s also multi-functional (it transforms from a backpack to a duffel). With a water-resistant outer shell that’s easy to wipe down, it comes with heaps of different storage areas. From internal mesh toiletries pouches to a separate shoe pocket, which can be used to store your wet stuff too. The clever design also means that when using it as a backpack, your bag’s contents are concealed by your back, making it a quality option for before/after work gym-goers.
Thule chasm 40l
This Swedish brand, founded in 1942, is a good choice for men looking for a cool, functional and robust bag to carry their gear. You’ve probably seen someone pulling, pushing or lugging a Thule bag through the airport – and we now know why they’re so popular.
The Chasm, with its tough tarpaulin outer shell and various mesh dividers, is top class. We particularly like the sneaky semi-hidden pocket for your expensive stuff. You’re not short of grab handles either (we lost count at ten). It doesn’t quite fit a yoga mat inside, but if you use it as a duffel, you can slide one nicely on top. The best bit? It comes with a dinky bag, which doubles as a handy toilet bag.
PS Paul Smith men’s zebra logo canvas weekend bag
In the market for a stylish, lightweight, designer gym bag you’d be happy to take to the office? You’d be hard-pressed to find a better option than this. Alright, it’s technically a men’s weekend bag, but it works well as a gym bag too. We’re into the subtle, slightly military aesthetic, which comes complete with Paul Smith’s synonymous multi-coloured zebra logo.
The main compartment comfortably fits a towel, running shoes, a couple of drinks bottles and toiletries. There’s also a smaller zipped inner pocket for your valuables and if you’re prone to snacking, the two outer pockets are ready-made for protein bars. One slight downside is that it lacks an individual compartment for wet clothes and the synthetic material isn’t waterproof, but that’s only an issue if you’re going for a dip or heading out when it’s wet.
Eastpak stand CNNCT
Eastpak is the bees’ knees when it comes to luggage, from its understated backpacks and gym bags to its effortlessly-cool suitcases and bumbags. Although the U.S. company hasn’t always been a go-to for urbanites, professionals and roving hipsters – Eastpak originally started out making gear for military purposes back in 1952.
Part of the Eastpak’s “connect to the city collection”, this model works well as a gym bag thanks to its good-size main compartment, tough, textured outer shell, and its’ ability to convert into a backpack. Ready-made for folk who workout straight after work, it comes with a padded laptop sleeve (big enough for a 15” Mac) and a well-hidden zipped pocket for your treasures. Our only niggle is when used as a backpack, it has a slightly odd-looking step above the straps near your neck. Redeeming features? It’s 100 per cent vegan and cabin-sized, so you can use it for that cheeky city trip you’ve got planned when lockdown lifts.
Decathlon fitness bag 20l
This barrel bag will do the job just fine for men who want a no-frills vessel to transport their foisty workout gear. It costs less than a pint of beer in some London pubs, so don’t expect it to come with loads of innovative features. There’s next to no padding, and the carry strap has a seatbelt texture to it, but it fits a pair of running shoes, towel and drinks bottle easily.
You’ll also find a couple of small, elasticated pockets for goggles, wallets or other small stuff. Plus, at 20l, it’s little enough to stuff into smaller lockers. It comes with a zipped, mesh inner pocket, which will just about fit a sweat towel (and a pair of speedos if you’re lucky). We also quite like the old-school burgundy aesthetic, which has an American College feel to it. A budget gym bag that’ll do the trick if you pack lightly and don’t have loads to carry.
Ellesse™ pelba barrel bag
What does the Great Wall of China, The Grand Canyon and the logo on this Ellesse gym bag all have in common? They’re all visible from space. Jokes aside, we’re a fan of the sporty, bold, retro branding on this mini holdall by the formidable sports company. And although there aren’t loads of features – aside from a kid’s wallet-sized valuables pocket, an extendable strap and two non-zip internal pouches – it’s a decent, cost-effective option for a traditionalist. The outer polyester material isn’t the most weather-friendly, but it’s a super lightweight bag that shrinks down well and the main compartment is roomy enough to fit all your gym gear.
The North Face gilman duffel
The North Face is probably best known for its adventure sports stuff, and rightly so. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t suited to indoor pursuits, too. Modelled on the outerwear brands iconic base camp duffel, this bag is spot on for serious gym-goers. Not only does it look the part, but it’s spacious, efficient and tough as old boots.
We like the separate wet compartment, big zipped mesh inner pocket (big enough for a sweat towel) and a well-placed watertight I.D slot – ideal for a gym card or workout plan. It comes with loads of grab handles, which makes pulling it from a locker that much easier. A solid pick for someone who has loads of gear to stow away.
Riut bag X35
Versatility is the name of the game for Riut – an independent British brand specialising in high-quality bags that’ll last for yonks. We can attest to the longevity, as we’ve had ours for years, and it’s still going strong. This pick is on the money for those who go to the gym before or after work, as it’s a classic-looking commuter bag with loads of ingenious extras.
It comes with two drink holders (one for your water, the other for your protein shake, perhaps?), a 15.6” laptop pouch and a thick base that’s water-resistant and hard to scuff. The main compartment is large enough to fit your trainers, towel and change of clothes. Plus, there are two zipped mesh compartments ready-made for toiletries.
It’s one of the pricier picks, but if you have a bit of cash in your pocket, it’s a worthy investment. Founder Sarah Giblin has also designed a hygiene-friendly backpack for the Covid era, which is due to be released this spring.
Patagonia black hole pack 25l
Are you a planet-conscious gym lover? Don’t worry, we’ve got something up our sleeve for you. Outerwear legends Patagonia has designed this men’s backpack and, thanks to an array of places to stash stuff away, it works a treat as a gym bag.
You’ve got an easy-to-reach zipped pocket on the top for your wallet, keys, fob or gym card. And inside the main compartment, there’s a 15” laptop slot, small mesh pouch and plenty of room for your workout clobber. There’s also two quick-grab drinks slots, a super-comfy strap, and a cushioned air-mesh back panel – a dream for when you’ve worked up a sweat. The camouflage outer might not be to everyone’s taste, but we love it.
RAINS weekend bag
If you’re looking for an elegant men’s gym bag that’s more fashion than fitness, you could do a lot worse than this pick by Rains. We must confess, it isn’t a typical gym bag per se, but it’ll do the job, and you’ll be able to use it on weekends away too.
The design is simple and efficient in true Scandinavian style, focusing on the aesthetic details, like the lovely webbing handles and matted lock slider buckles. Other features are limited – there aren’t loads of extra pouches for your stuff, but there’s still plenty of storage space in the main compartment. Not to mention, the outer material is made from the same stuff Rains makes its iconic anoraks from, so it’ll keep your gear dry. Though it does scuff up a little if you don’t take care of it. A smart, mid-range gym bag for folk who aren’t fussed about all the extras.
The verdict: Gym bags for men
Our favourite bag is Columbia’s street elite convertible duffel pack based on functionality, looks, and price. It’s good-looking, roomy and resilient too. Patagonia’s black hole backpack comes in a close second for its compactness and eco-credentials.
If you can’t be bothered to venture to the gym we have put together a list of all the other exercise equipment you could need to make the most of your home workouts
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