You carefully choose your sophisticated professional outfits, you shell out big bucks for your green smoothie habit, and you’re decked out in fashion-forward neon spandex for your workouts. It makes sense to care about the way you present yourself. So why are you still toting your gym gear around in a smelly duffle bag that was new when Reagan was president?
You already know that dressing the part can give you a leg up on reaching your goals, so it’s time to take your gym bag game from ratty to ravishing, too. We talked to dozens of chic, professional women (who happen to be fitness nuts) about their favorite gym bags and why they love them. Here are some of our favorite (and most shoppable) finds.
1. City Style Splurge
No surprises here, lululemon has done it again with the All Set Bucket bag. They’ve created the perfect crave-worthy, fashion-forward gym bag for the city dweller who loves to sweat and look good on the way there and back. This slick bucket bag has a water-repellant exterior (because rain and snow and yuck) and just the right ratio of pockets to open space.
Zipper compartments for your keys and phone-type stuff (plus your “sweaty unmentionables”) will keep valuables and grungy items separate as you go from work to the gym to date night, all in one cool carryall. It’s not the cheapest gym bag in the world, but if you’re a lululemon fan, you already know they tend to deliver on quality.
2. Looking Fresh on a Dime
For the fitness queen who is ballin’ on a budget, Jadyn B makes the perfect Women’s Weekender Duffel Bag that comes complete with a shoe pocket, three interior mesh pockets, and one interior zip pocket for your keys, phone, and the like. The white, blue, and black bird pattern adds unique style and a cute pick-me-up to any gym-time outfit. Plus, it doubles as a stylish overnight bag, which makes it a utilitarian addition to your luggage lineup as well as your exercise regimen.
3. Best for Meal-Preppers and Clean-Eating Aficionados
Are you known around the office for taking up all the refrigerator space with your pre-portioned smoothie ingredients and your Tupperware containers filled with Whole30-approved snacks? If yes, FitMark makes the bag for you. The Transporter Backpack has plenty of space in the main pocket for your gym and work essentials, while also including a life-changing, detachable meal prep bag that is well insulated and filled with BPA-free portion control containers and even reusable ice packs. Plus, it comes in the perfect shade of ’80s throwback hot pink to give you a nostalgic boost every time you grab it on the way out the door.
4. For Toting Tons of Gear
Are you that girl who seems to have a bottomless purse stuffed with everything, like the carpet bag in Mary Poppins? We got you.
As Lauren Reilly, a personal trainer, motivator, and self-proclaimed “aspiring boxer” of Ms Buns and Gunz, says, “For me, the right gym bag needs to be large enough to carry all my gear (i.e., boxing gloves, headphones, etc.), chic enough that you wouldn’t mind bringing it to work or out to eat, and durable enough to get tossed around at the gym.”
The Lead & Go Graphic Grip Duffle Bag from Reebok definitely fits the bill.
5. From Work to Gym
As an everyday laptop-toter and exerciser, I can’t get enough of this Shipshape bag from Stella McCartney for Adidas. It features a padded laptop sleeve and interior media pouch that accommodate the way I live, work, study, and work out. I’d go so far as to call this the perfect “lifestyle bag” since it will work for so many of the things women do every day.
Although it also comes in basic black, I love the navy color (aka “dark petrol”), which I think is a simple and stylish win.
6. For the Ballerina (or Barre Fanatic) in You
Carrie Wu, a lifestyle blogger and classically trained ballerina who now does Pure Barre five to seven days a week, says she used to use LeSportsac bags, which she liked because of their lightweight design. Unfortunately, she says they “didn’t always breathe that well.” And if you ever go hard, you know breathability is not a luxury—it’s a must.
Now Wu loves her Vera Bradley bag because it’s “stylish and fun, but practical and [has] just enough room to store my essentials (barre clothes, barre socks, shoes, towel, water bottle, and much more).”
We love the Lighten Up Ultimate Gym Bag from Vera Bradley, which will let you show your style through a variety of colorful patterns. The real kicker? This bag will stand up to a good washing.
7. For the Hip Yogini
The Gaiam All Day Yoga Tote is definitely on our wish lists right now. Its inventive side-secure system will handle your bulky yoga mat (thank goodness that’s solved), and the zippered compartments are a perfect nesting spot for whatever else you need to carry pre- and post-namaste. Plus, the understated gray fabric serves up seriously hip style with a side of functionality. Win!
8. Lovers of Organization and Sleek Design
If you live for the aesthetic fineries in life, Athleta hears you. The Totally Trippin’ Gym Bag from their current collection may have a goofy name, but it has a cool, sophisticated design that doesn’t skimp on fashion or function. Seriously, it looks so put together, you could definitely let it double as your main work bag. With offerings like an interior shoe bag for your muddy kicks and multiple interior and exterior pockets, you can stay organized and look sleek as heck both in and out of the locker room.
9. A Bike Commuter’s Best Friend
You may be a hardcore bike commuter all throughout the winter months or just a fair weather cyclist. Either way, you need a gym bag that’s more than just a rucksack—one that won’t keep falling off your shoulders as you go to and fro on your sweet ride.
This gorgeous eco leather bike commuter bag from MmeVelo can be worn as a regular backpack or be mounted on the back of your bike like a saddlebag. Problem solved.
Its gold-toned studs lend shimmer to an otherwise muted color palette, which will add the perfect little bit of edge to your work-to-gym ensemble.
10. Actually Works for Your Run
If you work just a few miles from home or are trying to get in your miles for marathon training, you may have, at one time or another, been tempted to try out the ever-elusive “run commute.” Especially if your office has a gym with a shower in it or if you plan to bus it there and run on the route home, this may sound like a super appealing way to multitask. The question is this: How can you carry your necessities? A normal backpack is way, way too bouncy, and a little running belt with pockets just isn’t big enough.
Enter another life-changing product from lululemon: the Run All Day Backpack II. It’s so cute and compact you wouldn’t think it could hold everything you need, but somehow it does. It doesn’t come cheap, but if you really want to nail the run commute, there’s nothing else quite like it.
11. For the Retro-Style Gym Queen
Oh adidas workout wear, why can’t I quit you? In addition to the fact that this retro glam logo gym bag perfectly matches my current pair of adidas running shoes, it’s also functional, durable, and roomy enough to work for a totally exercise-addicted gym rat with tons of gear.
The Squad III Duffel Bag, which is accessibly priced, is billed as having “a spacious main compartment with zippered pockets for easy accessibility and organization” and “a ventilated exterior compartment [to keep] your shoes and post-workout clothes separate.” Get in my shopping cart already!
12. For Getting Out Into the Wilderness
I do my fair share of hiking and trail running (just don’t ask me how fast I am), so I know the importance of hydration when you’re far from a treadmill cupholder or water fountain. Enter the extremely cool “hydration backpack,” which includes a watertight pouch called a “bladder” (yuck) that you can fill with water or your favorite sports drink and just strap on your back. You won’t need to wrench your shoulder around to fish out a bottle every time you need a sip, since a long bendy straw with a bite-down mouthpiece makes this hydration solution hands-free.
These bags are designed with the liquid held high up on your back, and I can say from experience that this results in minimal bouncing. There is always at least some if you’re running with liquid weight in tow, but you get used to it fast.
13. Minimalistic Design
Are you a fan of normcore? Are you put off by “fancy schmancy big bags” that promise the world and then are just too heavy or bulky or covered in a million pockets? We say, go minimalist!
The adidas Alliance Sport Sackpack is definitely just that, and it’s also a steal. Its basic drawstring design and black and “pink zest” pattern will fit in and function anywhere you need to go without a lot of bells and whistles.
“I love a gym bag that is light and hands-free,” says Nicole Brodie, founder of an online fitness and wellness program designed specifically for women who are planning to conceive—cool, right?
“I’m always on the run and I need a bag that I can put keys, water bottle, phone, and gym towel in … I can’t stand heavy bags, that end up [mostly] empty and super heavy,” she says. “I find a crossbody bag or a drawstring bag on my back is perfect… Understated, yet super cool.”
14. For the Nursing Mom on the Go
As the mother of a 2-year-old, I’m not breastfeeding anymore, but I can certainly recall how much it sucked (pun intended) to pump and pack and tote that milk when you’re not in the same place as your mini-me. Get your body (and your peace of mind) back with this very cool travel breast pump and milk storage bag that can double as a workout tote with enough room to toss in the essentials. Plus, the trendy patterns scream “cool lady,” not “sleep-deprived mom.”
15. Futuristic Style and Utility
This one is a bit of a love-it-or-hate-it wildcard, and it doesn’t come cheap. But if you’re into the futuristic street style look, you’ll absolutely die when you see the Dakota Backpack designed by Dagne Dover. Fashion meets function with five muted and ultra-hip colors of quick-drying neoprene to choose from.
Alice Williams of Honestly Fitness shares that she “looks for backpacks which have a variety of pockets (to store small items such as hair bands, locks for gym lockers, etc.) and moisture wicking fabric so that my workout clothes don’t ruin [the bag].” Check, check, and check. Williams says that moisture-wicking thing is “an especially helpful feature if you plan to use your gym bag for hikes…like I do often.”
16. Treat Yo’self
If you’ve got money to burn, or maybe high style and gym life are just really high on your priority list, then this splurge might be worth it. Louis Vuitton handbags couldn’t get any more famous, but did you ever even think of snagging a high-end gym duffel from this iconic fashion house? Yes, they do make them.
This lovely, soft duffle from the 2017 collection, the Neo Eole 65, is lightweight yet structured enough to keep everything from your running shoes to your Nars makeup palette (for after your workout), to your lacy unmentionables under wraps. Just be prepared to get out that plastic, given the price tag.
Inspired? It’s time to toss (or, better yet, recycle) that smelly old rucksack and upgrade to a new boss gym bag, built for a boss lady like you.