If you’re anything like us, it doesn’t take much to find an excuse to skip a day at the gym – or any training day for that matter.
From old classics like “I’m too busy”, to the more inventive “I really need to reorganise the fridge”, it’s never hard to find a reason why you really don’t need to go and lift dumbbells.
However, having all your kit ready to go in a quality bag might at least give you one less excuse to miss getting a sweat on, and may even motivate you to make the most of that gym membership.
We trawled the shelves, both online and off, to find bags that were comfortable to carry and offered good compartmentalisation, so we knew exactly where our headphones were before the workout and had no trouble finding the protein shaker once we were done.
Good separation means trainers could be safely stowed away from other gear, and sweaty kit destined for the washing machine didn’t end up in the mix with everything else. So, here’s our list of holdalls, duffels, sacks and backpacks that we think are a cut above your usual carriers.
How we tested
Gym towel, protein shaker, recovery ball, locker padlock, meal prep box, running chest rig… the list of things that you might be taking to the gym these days is a lot longer than it used to be. So, we crammed every bag with kit to test its utility, functionality and comfort, and then saw how easily we could access everything without having to litter the floor of the changing room. Here’s how they fared:
The best gym bags for men for 2022 are:
- Best overall – Under Armour project rock duffle backpack: £115, Underarmour.co.uk
- Best for versatility – Built For Athletes small gym backpack: £67.99, Builtforathletes.com
- Best for keeping kit dry – Rains gym bag: £65, Rains.com
- Best locker-friendly bag – Gymshark barrel bag: £21, Gymshark.com
- Best for lunch breaks – Nike utility training gymsack: £16.95, Nike.com
- Best value – Nike brasilia 9.5 duffel bag: £32.95, Nike.com
- Best for under your desk – Puma training small sports bag: £35, Puma.com
- Best large bag – Under Armour undeniable 4.0 large duffle bag: £31.97, Underarmour.co.uk
- Best commuter bag – Stubble & Co the backpack: £105, Stubbleandco.com
- Best for big loads – Nobull horns waxed canvas duffleback: £185, Nobullproject.com
- Best for durability – Fjällräven vardag duffel 30: £80, Fjallraven.com
Under Armour project rock duffle backpack
Dwayne Johnson has given his seal of approval to this 36l backpack, and like the man himself, this is a gym bag with a very tough exterior, from its abrasion-resistant bottom panels to a finish made from Under Armour’s storm technology (made with water resistance in mind).
The straps are configured so the bag can be carried either as a backpack or a duffel, with an ingenious zipped opening doubling as the backpack straps panel, for easy access to the main compartment.
Inside you’ll find a lined sleeve that will secure a 15in laptop, and plenty of other pockets so that you can separate your phone, car keys and headphones from the bigger items. Post workout, your shoes and laundry can then fit into a roomy, gusseted pocket placed at the bottom of the bag.
Built For Athletes small gym backpack
Best: For versatility
If you take a determined, military mindset into the gym, then you might want to reflect that with this Bergen-esque 25l backpack. It’s made up from four compartments, the largest of which can easily house your shirt, shorts and trainers. The three other compartments come in descending size order, and will be able to take a 15in laptop, notebooks and all the other pocket shrapnel that we carry around. The two biggest compartments open out to 180 degrees, making it easy to pack and unpack, and there are two side bottle holders.
No matter how loaded the bag was, we were still able to dial in some good ergonomics, thanks to waist and sternum straps, along with some compression straps that can slim the bag down when it’s not fully loaded.
If you want an extra bit of #fitinspo, you can buy Velcro patches to personalise the top pocket of the bag with motivational phrases that range from the encouraging “Hard work pays off” to the brutally blunt “Nobody cares, work harder”.
Rains gym bag
Best: For keeping kit dry
Made from the same waterproof PU material which makes up the brand’s highly effective rain coats, this 30l bag is perfect for anyone who doesn’t let a downpour get in the way of their daily workout. Comfortable on the shoulder or in-hand, we liked the boxy, simplistic styling, which is restricted to one main compartment and a zipped front pocket. So yeah, maybe not the biggest bag going, but everything was where we needed it to be when we got to the gym.
Gymshark barrel bag
Best: Locker-friendly bag
This excellent-value (especially as it’s currently reduced by 30 per cent from £30 to £21) 23l barrel will get you to the gym and back with minimum hassle. What’s more, you won’t have to battle with it if you’re storing it in a locker, thanks to its compact size and shape.
One large compartment will take care of all the bulky stuff, while the internal Velcro pocket will house the more important bits and pieces. And the supplementary shoe tunnel will come in very handy if you want to change out of your smelly trainers before work.
The bag can be carried over the shoulder as a backpack, or vertically from the end, so you’ve got plenty of portability options, too.
Nike utility training gymsack
Best: For lunch breaks
If you really travel light to your workout, then this canvas sack might be all you need, with a top-opening, zipped main compartment and a small zipped pocket on the outside.
It’s only 17l, but we were still able to fit in all our regular kit, including trainers, water bottle and shaker.
The over-the-shoulder straps are fully adjustable, and it’s a good option for lunch-break workouts, porting over the necessary kit from your bigger commuter bag and letting you get there and back with minimum fuss.
Nike brasilia 9.5 duffel bag
Best: For value
We liked the busy swoosh graphic, which certainly makes this bag stand out from the gym crowd. There’s plenty of room inside the 60l duffel, with its zipped main compartment, which has another one underneath that’s really cavernous and will store two pairs of trainers with ease.
The outer pockets are good for quick-grab items and the whole bag feels very well made, especially in the areas that usually start to degrade over time, such as zips, seams and straps attachments.
Puma training small sports bag
Best: For under your desk
There are two kinds of gym-kit packers in this world: the folders and the throwers. If you’re the former, then you’ll probably be able to get the most out of this space-saving 20l bag, which is perfect for keeping all that neatly folded kit crease-free when you hit the gym floor – just the way you like it.
There’s a two-way zip into the main compartment, which also has a divider, as well as two front pockets for easy access.
Thanks to the neat compartments, this bag was very easy to organise, and because it’s so compact, everything was right where it should be when we opened it up – even after the bag had been thrown about a bit on the way to the gym.
Under Armour undeniable 4.0 duffle bag
Best: Big bag
With a nice comfortable shoulder strap that takes the weight of a fully loaded bag, this voluminous 85l duffel has two big external pockets, which we found were ideal for used gear and trainers, and a handy slip pocket inside to store your earphones. This still left plenty of room for changes of clothes, a water bottle and protein shaker.
Considering how big this bag is, it doesn’t feel unwieldy, and it’s comfortable to carry over the shoulder or in hand. The reinforced panels at the bottom and sides means that it also makes for a good weekender bag when you’re having a well-earned rest from all that training.
Stubble & Co the backpack
Best: Commuter bag
Stylish and supremely comfortable, this canvas bag has a 21l capacity, which is plenty of room for all your workout gear, as well as a work laptop and folders. There’s plenty of functionality, too, with an internal 16in padded laptop compartment, as well as two side pockets and inner and outer zipped pockets for smaller items.
The canvas material ensures durability and breathability, and will help you stand out from the gym herd in town, too.
You’ll have to figure out how you want to segregate your sweaty socks post workout, but if you want something a little more permanent than a bin bag, you can purchase a bundle of three different-sized packing cubes from Stubble & Co, which will add £30 to the total cost.
Nobull horns waxed canvas duffleback
Best: For big loads
If you’re a heavy lifter even before you get to the gym and port a lot of kit with you, then you’ll like this 33l carrier, which has the convenience of a backpack but the easy access of a duffel.
Comfortable and ergonomic in backpack mode, when you put the bag down, a large zipper opening means that you can easily find what you need without having to take everything out. There’s an internal, padded, 15in laptop compartment and two external easy access pockets, as well as bottle pockets on either side of the bag.
The whole bag feels high quality too, made from waxed, water-resistant fabric, and we really liked the false bottom, which means you can dump it down on the ground when it’s really heavy and know that any hardware or valuables inside are well protected.
Fjällräven vardag duffel 30
Best: For durability
If your gym bag gets plenty of use, then firstly, good for you, and secondly, this 30l duffel will be able to stand up to plenty of changing-room action.
It has a big main compartment, which will give easy access to training apparel, and a zipped inner mesh pocket to keep all of your tech bits and valuables separate.
The vardag has a padded base and is constructed from G-1000 HeavyDuty eco S, Fjällräven’s hard-wearing outdoor fabric, which weathers very nicely, so the bag will only look better the buffer you get.
Men’s gym bags FAQs
What should be in a men’s gym bag?
When it comes to packing a gym bag, everyone is different. Not only will the time of day you go to the gym affect what you bring with you, but also the type of exercise you plan on doing – there’s no need to bring goggles if you plan on lifting weights or extra equipment if your gym is fully stocked. But no matter what there are some essentials no one should head to the gym without:
- Water bottle
- Coin/lock for a gym locker
- Small towel
- Shampoo – if you’re going straight to work/out after a sweaty session
Of course, you may have some other essentials that you personally can’t head to the gym without. Be that your weightligting gloves or belt, a spare change of clothes or your protein powder/shaker, the good news is you can tailor your gym bag to fit your needs.
What’s a good size for a gym bag?
According to Nike, “a medium-sized bag will suffice for most gym-goers”, and they recommend a size of around 30-40l. This should be plenty big enough to hold a pair of trainers, change of clothes, water bottle, small toiletries, and a few other gym accessories such as gloves or wristbands.
However, should you need to pack in more kit – for example, a protein powder/shaker, the weightligting gloves or belt mentioned above, or even your work laptop – then a bag that’s at least 50l should give you more flexibility. Ultimately, though, you need to find what works best for you.
The verdict: Gym bags for men
Offering plenty of compartments for all the necessary kit, along with separation within the bag for quarantining your gear after a particularly brutal spinning class, the Under Armour project rock duffle backpack will transport your load with ease and will, hopefully, inspire Dwayne Johnson levels of gym commitment.
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