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Whether you’re planning to start a new workout routine or you’re a seasoned gym-goer, having the right gear can make all of the difference. Owning a unique gym bag that’s organized with all of the essentials can help give you that last push you need to get out of the door.

Read on to get the scoop on what to look for in a gym bag and what to stash in it after you pick out the perfect one.

What To Look For In A Gym Bag


The material you choose for your workout duffel bag will depend on your personal style and budget. Here are some of the most popular materials for gym duffel bags, along with the pros and cons of each.

  • Polyester: Polyester is durable, affordable, and water-resistant. Unfortunately, it isn’t breathable, which may result in a smelly duffel bag if you keep wet items inside for too long.
  • Nylon: Nylon is durable and lightweight, making it a popular choice for a workout duffel bag or backpack. Unfortunately, it isn’t as water-resistant as polyester.1
  • Canvas: Canvas is affordable, lightweight, and easy to clean. It can be made water-resistant if the canvas is coated, but water will typically seep through if it is not. Depending on the quality, canvas may wear down faster than other materials.
  • Leather: Leather is durable, sophisticated, and has a high-end appearance. However, leather requires care, may be damaged by wet clothes and can be heavy if you have to walk long distances.2unique gym bag | Activated You


When picking out a design for your gym tote bag, consider how you’ll be using the bag. Some workouts that require you to bring your own gear (like CrossFit or yoga) may call for a larger bag. Some people prefer a gym bag that can transition from the workplace to the gym. Here are a few popular styles:

  • Gym duffel bag: Duffel bags are the standard style of gym bags and for good reason. Duffel bags typically offer a ton of room to store workout gear and pockets to organize items like water bottles, shoes, and toiletries. Duffel bags are available in a wide variety of materials, colors, and designs, so you can easily find one that fits your needs.
  • Backpack: If you commute by bike or you just like to travel light, a backpack may be more your style. Backpacks offer more structure and make it easy to stash a laptop or other work gear in with your exercise clothes.
  • Zippered tote bag: If you’re looking for a carryall that doesn’t scream “gym bag,” you may look for a large tote you can take to the gym. Look for a bag that has plenty of pockets for stashing all of your fitness gear.3,4


stylish gym bag | Activated YouIf you pick up a backpack or duffel that is specifically made for the gym, you’ll likely find a variety of features and specialized compartments. Here are some common ones you may want to look for:

  • Shoe compartment: A shoe compartment may be located underneath the bag or on one side of the bag. A shoe pocket is typically contained with a zipper to help seal your shoes off so they don’t come into contact with your clothes or water bottle.
  • Water bottle compartment: Some gym bags come with mesh pockets where you can easily stash your water bottle. They may be on the outside or inside corner of your bag.
  • Waterproof pockets: Certain gym bags may have waterproof pockets to separate wet workout gear from dry items. If you’re a swimmer or a heavy sweater, this may be a priority for you.
  • Padded straps: Some gym bags come with padded straps to help relieve the tension of a heavy bag. If you tend to pack heavy items or experience back pain, you’ll want to seek out padded straps.
  • Plenty of extra pockets: Some gym bags will include various inner pockets that can hold accessories, cell phones, or toiletries. Extra pockets are nice to have, so your gear isn’t floating around in one large duffle bag.5

Gear To Stock In Your Gym Bag

What you pack in your backpack or duffel is just as important as what the bag looks like. Here’s a list of gym gear essentials you won’t want to forget.workout clothes and supplies | Activated You

Workout Clothes You Feel Good In

First things first: don’t forget to pack workout clothes for your trip to the gym. Leaving out some of these items, like shoes, can be a showstopper. Forgetting others, like proper gym socks, can make a workout uncomfortable at best. Depending on your workout, here’s some gear you’ll want to pack in your duffel:

  • A workout top
  • Workout bottoms, like shorts, track pants, or leggings
  • A clean pair of athletic socks
  • A clean pair of underwear, including a sports bra for females
  • Gym shoes that are appropriate for your workout activity
  • Something to deal with your hair, whether it be a hair band, headband, or bandana
  • A swimsuit, goggles, and swim cap if you plan to go swimming6


earbuds | Activated YouCan you still exercise if you discover that you haven’t packed headphones in your backpack? Maybe, but it won’t be nearly as satisfying.

Studies show that listening to music while you exercise may help improve the quality of your workout. Music might help to increase your stamina and support your mood.7 So, don’t forget to throw a pair of headphones in your duffel bag.

A Water Bottle

If you’re planning to hit the gym, don’t forget to throw a water bottle in your duffel bag. Hydration can help you maintain comfortable core temperature and support good athletic performance.8

Most gyms will have a water fountain you can use, but if you bring your own bottle, you can avoid lines.

A Towel (Or Two)

If you’re planning to exercise, you’re probably hoping to sweat, right? Here’s a word of advice: bring a towel or two in your backpack or duffel. You can use the towel to wipe down equipment, give your head a place to rest, wipe off sweat, or dry yourself off after a shower.9

A Shower Kit

shower kit | Activated YouIf you plan to hit the gym before work, a shower kit is a must. You don’t want to be that person in the women or men’s gym locker room who is constantly asking to borrow shampoo. To ensure you’re covered in the hygiene department, stock your backpack with these essentials:

  • Small bottles of shower gear, like shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and face wash
  • Facial wipes
  • A small toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • A hairbrush or comb
  • Other gear you may need, like tampons, pain reliever, blister pads, or a razor10

A Plant-Based Protein Snack

A good workout will likely make you hungry. Fuel your body before or after your workout with a plant-based protein snack. Protein may help with muscle performance before, and muscle recovery after, your workout.11,12 Here are some ideas for snacks to throw in your backpack:

Go Hit The Gym

packing gym bag | Activated YouNow that you’ve picked out your perfect backpack or gym bag, it’s time to put it to use. If you tend to drag your feet when it comes to hitting the gym, here are a few tips to hopefully make things easier.

  • Pack your bag ahead of time so you can grab it and go.
  • Put your gym bag by the door so you have a visual reminder.
  • When you get home after a workout, remember to empty out your dirty gear and replenish it with clean items.

With an organized gym bag and a plan to use it, you just may find that hitting the gym is that much easier.