The 14 Best Gym Backpacks of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

The North Face’s Never Stop Utility Pack is comfortable to wear, with lots of storage

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Best Gym Backpacks

Verywell Fit / David Hattan

Gym backpacks are a convenient, hands-free way to organize your fitness gear. If you’re frequently toting your essentials among your home, the gym, and the office, a backpack is a sturdy solution that’s easy to carry around.

Reviewed & Approved

Nike’s Utility Speed Training Backpack is one of our top overall picks, because it’s durable and spacious and has comfortable straps for all-day wear. We also recommend The North Face’s Never Stop Utility Pack, which has a ton of storage, including designated compartments for your shoes and electronics.

Tamara Teragawa, a 500 RYT-trained yoga instructor and YogaSix XPRO for Xponential+ from San Dimas, California, agrees. “I personally love backpacks for the gym and working out,” she says, “not only for the obvious reason of carrying all of my stuff, but because it is much more comfortable than wearing a duffle bag or something I can only wear over one shoulder.” 

A great gym backpack should be comfortable, durable, and spacious, with enough compartments to hold all of your gear. It should also be the right size for your body, adjustable, and designed to avoid back strain when loaded up.

To find the best gym backpacks, our testers at Verywell Fit spent several weeks walking and working out for hours while bringing their bags with them. Then, they evaluated each backpack on a scale of 1 (would not recommend) to 5 (highly recommend) in key categories like comfort, fit, adjustability, stability, chafing protection, storage, and value. Here’s how our top picks stack up:

Best Men’s Overall

Nike Utility Speed Training Backpack

5
The North Face Women's Never Stop Utility Pack

Nike

Our Ratings
  • Comfort
    5/5
  • Value
    5/5
  • Storage
    5/5
  • Stability/Bounce Prevention
    5/5
  • Fit/Adjustability
    5/5
Pros
  • Large main compartment

  • Sternum strap for added support

  • Comfortable straps

Cons
  • Not as stylish

  • Interior mesh sleeve isn’t as secure

This Nike backpack is our top overall men’s pick, because it’s spacious, durable, and comfortable. The bag opens flat, so you can easily access your essentials from the roomy main compartment. It also has multiple pockets throughout to keep you organized, scoring a 5 out of 5 for storage. 

Although it’s roomy, our tester noted that the bag didn’t feel too bulky, oversized, or uncomfortable. An interior mesh sleeve can store items like books, resistance bands, or a 15-inch laptop. However, our tester found that the sleeve’s location made it less secure than she would have liked. 

She also noticed that the air-cushioned straps helped relieve the pressure on her shoulders, scoring the Utility Backpack a 5 out of 5 for comfort and fit. The haul handle on top was easy to pick up, even when the bag was full, and the sternum strap felt balanced and secure. Our tester also liked the cargo loops, which are handy for clipping additional gear like keys, shoes, bottles, or gloves. 

The basic design and square structure might not please every wearer. 

Price at time of publication: $95

Dimensions: 18 x 11 x 6 inches | Storage Capacity: 27 liters | Materials: Polyester | Water-Resistant: Yes | Straps: Adjustable shoulder straps, top handles, adjustable sternum strap | Care: Wipe and spot clean

What the Experts Say

“The Nike Utility backpack is nice and has lots of sections for all the various equipment that is needed to work out. This one gives me a little more of a sporty vibe than Lululemon's Everyday Backpack and seems to fit a bit more stuff inside.” —Tamara Teragawa, 500 RYT-trained yoga instructor and YogaSix XPRO for Xponential+

Best Women’s Overall

The North Face Women's Never Stop Utility Pack

4.9
the-north-face-womens-never-stop-utility-pack

The North Face

Our Ratings
  • Comfort
    5/5
  • Value
    5/5
  • Storage
    5/5
  • Stability/Bounce Prevention
    4.5/5
  • Fit/Adjustability
    5/5
Pros
  • Breathable

  • Shoe compartment

  • Protective compartments for electronics

Cons
  • Expensive

Our top women’s overall pick is The North Face’s Never Stop Utility Pack, because it has an impressive amount of storage, a simple, stylish design, and plenty of thoughtful features. Lined interior pockets, large exterior pockets, and an included accessory bag earned this backpack a 5 out of 5 for storage.

The backpack also has a designated shoe compartment, and we like that there are two spots to store your tech—an exterior laptop sleeve in the back, plus a protective interior slot for a computer or your tablet. These storage options make the bag a great pick for days when you’re headed to the office straight from the gym. 

Our tester found that the straps were soft and supportive, scoring the bag a 5 out of 5 for comfort. She also liked the variety of exterior loops and snaps, which make it easy to expand the bag or attach items like keys, water bottles, or a yoga mat. However, she noticed that the sternum strap wasn’t as supportive as others on our list, scoring the bag 4.5 out of 5 for stability and bounce protection. 

This bag is also breathable, since it’s made from recycled materials that are water- and sweat-resistant. But it’s considerably more expensive than others on our list. 

Price at time of publication: $139

Dimensions: 12.5 x 6 x 19 inches | Storage Capacity: 26 liters | Materials: Recycled nylon, polyester | Water-Resistant: Yes | Straps: Adjustable shoulder straps, top handles, sternum strap | Care: Wipe and spot clean

What Our Testers Say

“I love the top handles that can be used to carry it like a tote, the felt-lined electronics and sunglasses pockets, and the bottom shoe compartment, something that I found is rarer than you’d think in a gym backpack. It looks and feels great, too—I get so many compliments on this bag!” —Jessica Murtaugh, NASM-CPT and CNC, Verywell Fit commerce writer and product tester

Best Unisex

lululemon Everyday Backpack 2.0 23L

4.4
Lululemon Everyday Backpack 2.0 23L

Lululemon

Our Ratings
  • Comfort
    4/5
  • Value
    4/5
  • Storage
    4.5/5
  • Stability/Bounce Prevention
    4.5/5
  • Fit/Adjustability
    5/5
Pros
  • Stylish design

  • Water-resistant

  • Luggage strap

Cons
  • Expensive

  • No sternum strap

For a unisex backpack that can help you get organized, we recommend the Everyday Backpack from Lululemon. Our tester liked this bag’s easy-access pockets for water bottles and other items, along with the exterior laptop sleeve. The bag also scored a 5 out of 5 in fit, because it’s easy to adjust. 

Note that this lightweight backpack doesn’t have a sternum strap, so it may not be the best choice for toting heavy gear, but it can hold plenty of essentials, scoring a 4 out of 5 for comfort. We also like that this bag can double as a carry-on, since it has a convenient luggage strap for sliding over a rolling suitcase handle. 

The water-resistant material is nice to the touch and dries quickly after rain, a sweat session, or spot cleaning. Our tester also liked the stylish design, which comes in two neutral colors. However, it’s more expensive than most other backpacks on our list, and our tester noticed that the bag’s chunky zippers can be tough to use. 

Price at time of publication: $98

Dimensions: 16.5 x 11.4 x 5.9 inches | Storage Capacity: 23 liters | Materials: Nylon, polyester | Water-Resistant: Yes | Straps: Adjustable shoulder straps, top handle, luggage strap | Care: Wipe and spot clean

Best Budget

Under Armour Adult Hustle 5.0 Backpack

4.5
Under Armour Adult Hustle 5.0 Backpack

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Comfort
    4.5/5
  • Value
    4.5/5
  • Storage
    5/5
  • Stability/Bounce Prevention
    4/5
  • Fit/Adjustability
    4.5/5
Pros
  • Lightweight

  • Ergonomic shoulder straps

  • Waterproof pockets for electronics

Cons
  • Not as durable

  • Straps may be too wide for some

If you’re searching for a budget-friendly gym backpack, we recommend this bag from Under Armour. Our tester appreciated its sizable cargo space and designated spots for your shoes, clothes, electronics, and more. And we like that it’s available in a wide range of modern colors and patterns. 

This breathable bag has a protective, felt-lined interior laptop sleeve and a waterproof front pocket for your phone or sunglasses. There are also several attachment points on the outside, so you can easily attach any extra gear (similar to our best men’s overall pick, Nike’s Utility Speed Training Backpack). 

The Hustle earned a 4.5 out of 5 for comfort and fit, thanks to ergonomic shoulder straps that are comfortably padded. However, the thick straps may be too wide for some wearers, which is why our tester scored the bag a 4.5 out of 5 for chafing protection. Also, since the bag itself is lightweight, it may not be durable enough to hold many heavy or sharp items, like a pile of textbooks. 

Price at time of publication: $55

Dimensions: 6.3 x 20 x 12.6 inches | Storage Capacity: 29 liters | Materials: Polyester | Water-Resistant: Yes | Straps: Adjustable shoulder straps, top handle | Care: Wipe and spot clean

What Our Testers Say

“I would recommend this bag as a good basic gym bag on a budget. It’s solidly constructed and great for carrying a good amount of bulky stuff, including boxing gloves, gym shoes, and large towels.” —Patrick Tamisiea, Verywell Fit product tester

Best Convertible

Béis The Sport Duffle

4.3
Béis The Sport Duffle

Béis

Our Ratings
  • Comfort
    4.5/5
  • Value
    4/5
  • Storage
    4.5/5
  • Stability/Bounce Prevention
    4/5
  • Fit/Adjustability
    4.5/5
Pros
  • Water-resistant interior

  • Multifunctional pockets

  • Luggage strap

Cons
  • Only comes in two colors

  • Items may shift when converting

This two-in-one duffel bag is our pick for the best convertible gym backpack. Stash accessories in one of the many pockets, including an exterior, zippered phone pocket that helped The Sport Duffle earn a 4.5 out of 5 for storage. You can also use the included garment bag to tuck sweaty clothes away after a tough workout. 

To switch the duffel into a backpack, just slide the straps out of the bottom zipper compartment, and buckle them into two concealed clips. Our tester noticed that, when converting the bag, you’ll want to secure or remove items from any unzippered pockets so they don’t spill out. As a result, the bag earned a 4 out of 5 for stability. 

She liked the luggage sleeve, which zips up to become yet another exterior pocket when not in use. The backpack is breathable, with a water-resistant interior to protect your belongings from rain or the occasional spill. But while the bag felt secure, our tester wished she could tighten the straps more, scoring The Sport Duffle a 4.5 out of 5 for both comfort and adjustability. 

Note that this backpack only comes in two neutral colors. 

Price at time of publication: $88

Dimensions: 10 x 17 x 8.5 inches | Storage Capacity: 24 liters | Materials: Nylon, recycled polyester | Water-Resistant: Yes | Straps: Convertible, adjustable shoulder and duffel straps, top handle | Care: Wipe and spot clean

What Our Testers Say

“This is a really lovely bag that is so versatile. It has way more storage than I expected and even came with a garment bag for a clean or dirty clothes change. The material feels soft and elegant, and while I wish it was a bit bigger (with a shoe compartment), this means it isn’t too large or awkward to carry as a backpack. This would make a great overnight bag!” —Jessica Murtaugh, NASM-CPT and CNC, Verywell Fit commerce writer and product tester

Best for Yoga Mat

Aurorae Yoga Multi-Purpose Yoga Backpack 2.0

4.2
AURORAE Yoga Multi Purpose Backpack

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Comfort
    4.5/5
  • Value
    4/5
  • Storage
    4/5
  • Stability/Bounce Prevention
    4/5
  • Fit/Adjustability
    4/5
Pros
  • Carries mat vertically

  • Comfortable shoulder straps

  • Padded laptop compartment

Cons
  • Bag can feel off-balance

  • Straps may not tighten enough for some

For bringing your yoga mat to your daily practice, we like this backpack. Unlike traditional yoga mat bags, this one carries your mat vertically in a separate pocket with straps, so it’s easier for you to move around. Our tester’s 6-millimeter mat slid in effortlessly, although she did notice that the bag’s outer straps have to be tightened all the way when carrying a mat, so you’re not thrown off balance while you walk. 

Two padded shoulder straps help evenly distribute the weight of your gear, earning this bag a 4.5 out of 5 for comfort and chafing protection. However, they may not tighten enough for wearers with small frames. The side mesh pockets can hold two water bottles, and exterior attachment loops offer even more ways to carry your essentials. 

A roomy main compartment can hold shoes, blocks, or a towel, while a padded section inside can fit a 17-inch computer. Two zippered pockets are ideal for storing your keys, wallet, and more. 

Price at time of publication: $55

Dimensions: 21.2 x 12.6 x 5.1 inches | Storage Capacity: 23 liters | Materials: Polyester and nylon | Water-Resistant: Yes | Straps: Adjustable shoulder straps, top handle | Care: Wipe and spot clean

What Our Testers Say

“Unlike many bags for yoga mats, which are usually duffel-style, totes, or cross-body slings, I like that this backpack has two shoulder straps to balance weight upon your body. It also holds the mat vertically, so you can walk through doors easier.” Jessica Murtaugh, NASM-CPT and CNC, Verywell Fit commerce writer and product tester

Best Large

Elite Convertible Gear Gym Bag and Backpack

4.6
Elite Convertible Gear Gym Bag and Backpack

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Comfort
    4.5/5
  • Value
    5/5
  • Storage
    5/5
  • Stability/Bounce Prevention
    4.5/5
  • Fit/Adjustability
    4.5/5
Pros
  • Converts into a duffel

  • Water-resistant

  • Insulated cooler pocket

Cons
  • Only comes in a few colors

If you need a large backpack for hauling heavy gear, we recommend this two-in-one option from Elite Sports. The padded, quick-release backpack straps can be tucked away to convert the bag into a duffel. Even our petite tester felt comfortable wearing this bag when it was fully expanded, earning it a 4.5 out of 5 for comfort and fit. 

Great for MMA, boxing, field and court sports, and more, this heavy-duty backpack has a water-resistant PVC coating, so your belongings stay protected. During our test, the breathable mesh pockets and details kept our tester’s items dry.

Our tester also liked the bag’s multiple entry points and drop-out bottom, which can expand to hold more items. The backpack’s exterior pockets helped her stay organized: An insulated cooler pocket can keep snacks and protein shakes cold, while a laptop compartment keeps your tech separate and protected.

Price at time of publication: $45

Dimensions: 9 x 16 x 19, expands to 9 x 16 x 27.5 inches | Storage Capacity: 44.8 to 64.9 liters | Materials: Polyester | Water-Resistant: Yes | Straps: Convertible and adjustable shoulder and duffel straps, top handle | Care: Wipe and spot clean

What Our Testers Say

“This is a clever, versatile bag that would make a great pick for anyone who wants options. It’s so easy to expand or switch from duffel to backpack. The insulated pocket is really handy, too.” —Jessica Murtaugh, NASM-CPT and CNC, Verywell Fit commerce writer and product tester

Best Small

The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack Pack

4.8
The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Comfort
    5/5
  • Value
    4.5/5
  • Storage
    4.5/5
  • Stability/Bounce Prevention
    5/5
  • Fit/Adjustability
    5/5
Pros
  • Compression bungees can hold extra gear

  • Wide range of colors

  • Made with recycled materials

Cons
  • External water bottle pockets are small

The North Face’s Borealis Mini Backpack is a compact bag that still holds an impressive amount. We love this bag for walks, hikes, or other times you don’t want to be weighed down by a full-on pack. Our tester noticed how durable and spacious this backpack was for its small size, scoring it a 4.5 for comfort and storage. 

The ergonomic straps are easy to wear, while shell loops and compression bungees make it easy to bring all of your must-haves with you. While it has two water bottle pockets, our tester noticed that they can only fit 12-ounce drinks. But we like that the Borealis Mini is made with recycled materials and available in a wide range of bright colors. 

An internal pocket is large enough to fit a tablet, in case you need to bring your tech with you. Our tester also scored the bag a 5 out of 5 for stability and fit, since the shoulder straps are adjustable. If you like the design but aren’t sure about the size, the brand also makes a larger version of the Borealis Backpack.

Price at time of publication: $59

Dimensions: 8.65 x 4.15 x 13.5 inches | Storage Capacity: 10 liters | Materials: Recycled polyester | Water-Resistant: Yes | Straps: Adjustable shoulder straps, top handle | Care: Wipe and spot clean

What Our Testers Say

“I really like this mini backpack for light trips to the gym, when all I need is a pair of gym shoes or minimal essentials. It’s great for walks, hikes, or other times you don’t want to be weighed down with a full-on pack.” Jessica Murtaugh, NASM-CPT and CNC, Verywell Fit commerce writer and product tester

Best for Running to the Gym

lululemon Active Backpack 14L

5
Lululemon Active Backpack 14L

Lululemon

Our Ratings
  • Comfort
    5/5
  • Value
    5/5
  • Storage
    5/5
  • Stability/Bounce Prevention
    5/5
  • Fit/Adjustability
    5/5
Pros
  • Breathable mesh panel

  • Water-repellent

  • Reflective details

Cons
  • Expensive

  • Only two color options

For busy mornings spent rushing to the gym, we recommend Lululemon’s Active Backpack. It’s made from durable, water-repellent polyester and nylon, with plenty of pockets for stashing essentials. The sternum and chest straps buckle close to the body, earning the bag a 5 out of 5 for fit, adjustability, and stability. 

We like the breathable mesh panel in the back, which promotes airflow. Our tester appreciated the bag’s many pockets—including pockets in the shoulder straps, a hydration sleeve, and side pockets for water bottles. External drawstring bungees and loops give you even more ways to store your gear. 

Our tester noticed the backpack’s streamlined design, which looks sleek and sporty. We love the reflective details to keep you visible to those around you in low-light conditions. 

Price at time of publication: $148

Dimensions: 9.8 x 5.5 x 17.3 inches | Storage Capacity: 14 liters | Materials: Polyester, nylon, thermoplastic polyurethane, elastane, elastomultiester | Water-Resistant: Yes | Straps: Adjustable shoulder straps, top handle | Care: Wipe and spot clean

What Our Testers Say

“As a runner, I absolutely love this backpack for on-foot commutes to the gym, errands, hiking, and more. It’s secure and comfortable while running, and holds way more than most other running vest-style backpacks.” Jessica Murtaugh, NASM-CPT and CNC, Verywell Fit commerce writer and product tester

Best for the Gym to the Office

Aer Fit Pack 3

4.8
Aer Fit Pack 3

Aer

Our Ratings
  • Comfort
    5/5
  • Value
    4.5/5
  • Storage
    4.5/5
  • Stability/Bounce Prevention
    5/5
  • Fit/Adjustability
    5/5
Pros
  • Streamlined design

  • Antimicrobial interior

  • Luggage strap

Cons
  • Expensive

  • Shoes take up main compartment space

When you’re traveling from the gym to the office, this streamlined backpack is our pick for a versatile bag that can organize all of your must-haves. The front unzips vertically, while the rear compartment has plenty of space for electronics and valuables. This bag is also excellent for bike commuters, with ergonomic straps and an outer shell made from durable, water-resistant nylon.

Our tester loved the top quick-access pocket, which is lined to protect your phone or sunglasses. She also appreciated the separate shoe compartment, but when full, it takes up a lot of room in the bag, earning this backpack a 4.5 out of 5 for storage. 

Inside, the lining is treated with an antimicrobial coating, to prevent odors from building up. It makes a great carry-on with a luggage strap, but it is more expensive than other backpacks on our list.

Price at time of publication: $149

Dimensions: 17.5 x 12.5 x 8 inches | Storage Capacity: 18.7 liters | Materials: Ballistic nylon | Water-Resistant: Yes | Straps: Adjustable shoulder straps, top handle | Care: Wipe and spot clean

What Our Testers Say

“Not only is it a solid bag with great storage, but it also doesn’t look like your typical gym bag. It’s a stylish, cool, and clean look. I love the forest green color, and the quality of the material, as well as the storage space and unexpected pockets.” —Patrick Tamisiea, Verywell Fit product tester

Best Mesh

TYR Big Mesh Mummy Backpack

4.6
TYR Big Mesh Mummy Backpack

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Comfort
    4.5/5
  • Value
    5/5
  • Storage
    5/5
  • Stability/Bounce Prevention
    4/5
  • Fit/Adjustability
    5/5
Pros
  • Adjustable straps

  • Budget-friendly

  • Wide range of colors

Cons
  • Not supportive enough for heavy gear

For swimmers or those who frequently carry sweaty gear, we recommend TYR’s Big Mesh Mummy Backpack. During our test, the bag held an impressive amount of equipment, scoring a 4.5 out of 5 for storage. Our tester appreciated the zippered side pocket and mesh water bottle pocket, which sets this drawstring bag apart from others. 

This lightweight bag’s breathable mesh allows wet items to dry quickly. The straps are easy to adjust, earning a 4 out of 5 for comfort and fit. However, they aren’t padded or supportive, meaning this bag isn’t the best choice for heavy gear. 

We like the backpack’s budget-friendly price point—plus, it’s available in a wide range of bright colors. 

Price at time of publication: $25

Dimensions: 19 x 25.25 inches | Storage Capacity: 40 liters | Materials: Polyester | Water-Resistant: Yes | Straps: Adjustable backpack straps and top handle | Care: Wipe clean

What Our Testers Say

“This bag was so spacious! It kept gear aired out for quicker drying. It would be great for activities with large gear that gets wet and needs extra ventilation, like swimming, martial arts, or sweaty gym workouts.” —Jessica Murtaugh, NASM-CPT and CNC, Verywell Fit commerce writer and product tester

Best Waterproof

REI Co-op Ruckpack 28 Recycled Men's Daypack

4.8
REI Co-op Ruckpack 28 Recycled Men's Daypack

REI

Our Ratings
  • Comfort
    4.5/5
  • Value
    5/5
  • Storage
    4.5/5
  • Stability/Bounce Prevention
    5/5
  • Fit/Adjustability
    5/5
Pros
  • Sternum strap buckle doubles as a whistle

  • Made with recycled materials

  • Thick foam padding throughout

Cons
  • Back can warp if not stored correctly

  • Doesn’t stand up on its own

REI Co-op’s Ruckpack is our multi-functional pick for rainy commutes or outdoor workouts in wet weather. Made from recycled, heavy-duty nylon and treated with a durable water-repellent finish, it also comes with a rain cover in case conditions get torrential. 

Inside, the bag has a large main compartment with a deep mesh pocket for small items. There’s also a tall waterproof sleeve for your laptop or a hydration reservoir. The exterior features a top pocket for essentials and side pockets that were large enough to hold our tester’s 32-ounce water bottle. We like that the zippers can be locked to keep your gear safe when you can’t be next to your bag. 

Our tester liked the foam back panel, which is covered with mesh to keep your back comfortable and dry. But she noticed that, in order to prevent the panel from warping over time, she had to store the bag either completely flat or hanging vertically. The sternum strap is easy to use, earning the bag a 5 out of 5 for fit and adjustability, and the buckle even doubles as a whistle. A men’s version is also available.

Price at time of publication: $100

Dimensions: 19.5 x 11 x 9 inches | Storage Capacity: 28 liters | Materials: Recycled ripstop nylon | Water-Resistant: Yes | Straps: Adjustable shoulder and sternum straps, top handle | Care: Wipe and spot clean

What Our Testers Say

“I’ve taken my REI Ruckpack everywhere from the gym to camping trips. It has a ton of storage without being too huge to manage, and it doesn’t look out of place in the office or the gym. It does a fantastic job keeping the contents dry and protected.” Jessica Murtaugh, NASM-CPT and CNC, Verywell Fit commerce writer and product tester

Best for Kids

REI Co-op Kid's Tarn 18 Pack

4.8
REI Co-op Tarn 18 Pack

REI

Our Ratings
  • Comfort
    5/5
  • Value
    4/5
  • Storage
    5/5
  • Stability/Bounce Prevention
    5/5
  • Fit/Adjustability
    5/5
Pros
  • Lightweight

  • Seven pockets

  • Easy to clean

Cons
  • Sternum strap may be uncomfortable

Active kids will love this lightweight backpack from REI Co-op. Made from water-resistant materials, it can stand up to the rain and snow and is easy to wipe clean. Our tester scored the bag a 5 out of 5 for storage thanks to its seven pockets, which include easy-access hip belt pockets, space for a water bottle, and plenty of zippered compartments. 

During our test, the nylon material held up through water bottle spills and outdoor treks. The padded shoulder straps were easy to adjust, although our tester noted that the sternum strap was uncomfortable and didn’t seem necessary. Otherwise, the bag scored a 5 out of 5 for fit and stability. 

Durable with a modern design, we like that this backpack can be handed down to siblings or friends years down the road. Bring it along to soccer games, karate class, or gymnastics meets.

Price at time of publication: $45

Dimensions: 16.5 x 9 x 4.5 inches | Storage Capacity: 18 liters | Materials: Recycled nylon, cotton, elastic | Water-Resistant: Yes | Straps: Adjustable shoulder and sternum straps, adjustable waist belt, top handle | Care: Wipe clean

What Our Testers Say

“Loved the color and size—it’s durable and has good storage space.” —Jack T., Verywell Fit product tester

Best for Court Sports

MIER Large Sports Backpack

4.6
MIER Large Sports Backpack

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Comfort
    4.5/5
  • Value
    5/5
  • Storage
    5/5
  • Stability/Bounce Prevention
    4.5/5
  • Fit/Adjustability
    4.5/5
Pros
  • Wide, supportive straps

  • Large main compartment

  • Easy-access ball pocket

Cons
  • Straps be too wide for some

If court sports are a large part of your workout routine, we recommend this spacious backpack. One of the first things our tester noticed is how large the 40-liter main compartment is, with a separate mesh section that can fit a basketball or volleyball inside. 

The bag also has pockets throughout for organizing smaller items, earning it a 5 out of 5 for storage. There’s a velvet-lined pocket for your phone or sunglasses, an insulated side pocket, and room to store a water bottle. A laptop sleeve makes this bag a great choice for after-work games. 

In testing, this bag was comfortable, with wide, supportive straps that earned a 4.5 out of 5 for fit, adjustability, and stability. We like the breathable mesh details and the water-resistant bottom, for damp outdoor games or locker room floors. 

Price at time of publication: $66

Dimensions: 12.6 x 9.8 x 19.7 inches | Storage Capacity: 40 liters | Materials: Polyester | Water-Resistant: Yes | Straps: Adjustable shoulder straps, top handle | Care: Wipe and spot clean

What Our Testers Say

“It's spacious and well thought out, with great, clever storage. I was also impressed by the huge capacity!” Jessica Murtaugh, NASM-CPT and CNC, Verywell Fit commerce writer and product tester

How We Rated the Best Gym Backpacks

4.8 to 5 stars: These are the best gym backpacks we tested. We recommend them without reservation.

4.5 to 4.7 stars: These gym backpacks are excellent—they might have minor flaws, but we still recommend them.

4.0 to 4.5 stars: We think these are great gym backpacks, but others are better.

3.5 to 3.9 stars: These gym backpacks are just average.

3.4 and below: We don't recommend gym backpacks with this rating; you won't find any on our list.

How We Selected and Tested

To choose the best gym backpacks, we first consulted Dr. Brad Hochstein, DC, ART, a chiropractor at Provision Chiropractic and Wellness in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Tamara Teragawa, 500 RYT-trained yoga instructor and YogaSix XPRO for Xponential+ in San Dimas, California, to find out which features set good bags apart. Then, our expert—a certified personal trainer—researched dozens of backpacks from the top, trusted brands on the market. 

Our team of testers filled each bag with their essentials and spent hours wearing them to determine how comfortable they were. They also brought the backpacks to the gym to see if the bags could fit in a locker and hold up to the demands of a regular workout routine. 

After a few weeks, testers evaluated each bag on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) based on size, fit, adjustability, storage, chafing protection, price, overall value, and more.

What to Look for in a Gym Backpack

Material

Gym backpacks are usually made from a combination of leather, canvas, mesh, nylon, and polyester. Nylon and polyester are durable, easy to clean, and water-resistant. Leather is stylish and stands up to wear and tear over time, but it can fall apart when exposed to water. While canvas is often water-resistant, it can shrink when it’s not washed properly. Whatever your backpack is made of, make sure it’s comfortable against your skin (to prevent chafing) and that it’s easy to maintain over time.

Size

It’s important to choose a backpack that is appropriately sized for your body to avoid overloading, which can harm your back. To avoid back strain, weight should always be evenly distributed, never overloaded, and adjusted properly, Dr. Brad Hochstein, DC, ART, a chiropractor at Provision Chiropractic and Wellness, says. For most wearers, a medium-sized backpack (around 30 liters or less) is large enough to hold your gym essentials. If you also plan on carrying a laptop or a change of clothes, you may need a larger backpack that’s at least 40 liters. 

Consider how big the lockers in your gym are to make sure your bag will fit. If you need a bag with a slim profile that still holds plenty of gear, we recommend Lululemon’s Everyday Backpack.

Fit

Your gym backpack should feel comfortable and snug, with straps you can adjust for a better fit. “The adjustability of the backpack is key to fitting the user to a more personal level,” Dr. Hochstein says. “Components like adjustable straps around the shoulder, chest, and waist area, breathable mesh fabrics, cushioning on the shoulders, shoulder blades, and back, all affect the strain on the individual.”

When adjusted correctly, the best gym backpack should be form-fitting, without feeling too tight or painful, and it should never restrict your range of motion. The shoulder straps should also have enough padding and support for the weight you plan to carry, whether it's a spare pair of shoes, a yoga mat, locker-room essentials, your laptop, or all of the above. 

“Trying various backpacks may be necessary before you find what fits the best,” Dr. Hochstein adds. “Searching for an ergonomic backpack with multiple strap adjustment features, chest and waist straps, etc. is the best place to start.”

Storage

A gym backpack with plenty of storage can help you stay organized. “Smaller pockets to hold my phone, keys, wallet, headphones, etc., are important so I don’t lose them inside of my bag,” Teragawa says. Some gym backpacks, like Under Armour’s Adult Hustle 5.0 Backpack, even come with a smartphone pocket for easy access. Larger pockets can help separate your workout clothes and accessories from the rest of your essentials. 

And don’t forget storage that supports your hydration goals: “Definitely have a water-bottle holder, at least one! Mine has two bottle pockets,” Teragawa explains, “one for water and the other for my shaker, which may include some sort of energy/pre-workout and/or protein!”

Additional Features

You might need a pack with other features, like a shoe compartment, multiple interior slots, exterior ties or bungees, or a padded electronics sleeve. “I like having a backpack where there is an area that I designate for dirty clothes or towels and one where I only place clean items,” Teragawa says. Some bags even have a compartment large enough for a basketball, like MIER’s Basketball Backpack.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the benefit of having a gym backpack?

    Besides the convenience of hands-free hauling, a gym backpack can be better for you than a cross-body or duffel bag, Dr. Hochstein says. “Backpacks are preferred as they distribute the weight being carried evenly across the shoulders. This decreases the pressure on one side as an over-the-shoulder gym bag creates,” he explains.

  • How big should a gym backpack be?

    The size of your gym backpack largely depends on how much you’ll be carrying around. Most common are 30- and 40-liter packs, but make sure the bag you purchase isn’t too big for your frame. Lugging heavy items around unevenly can put stress on your shoulders and back. “The upper trapezius, erector spinae, and even abdominal muscles are directly impacted by the position, weight, and ergonomics the backpack creates,” Dr. Hochstein says. “The activity of these even vary from side to side, depending on the distribution of the weight in the bag.” 

    To protect your back, “load the backpack with the heaviest materials closest to the body and as evenly as possible from side to side,” Dr. Hochstein adds. “Try to keep the weight being carried to no more than 5% to 10% of your body weight.” And be mindful of where your bag sits: “An oversized backpack that hangs below your waist should be avoided,” he adds.

  • What should you keep in your gym backpack?

    “This entirely depends on the type of workout or activity,” Teragawa says. “Whether I’m doing hot yoga, CrossFit, dancing, or lifting at the gym, the backpack I use can accommodate all of the equipment I need for any of those activities,” she says. Based on your workout routine, you may want to pack a water bottle, headphones, a towel, snacks, or hair ties. Extra clothes and shoes are also a good idea, as is a lock for your gym locker to keep your bag and belongings safe.

Why Trust Verywell Fit

A life-long athlete and certified personal trainer, Jessica Murtaugh, NASM-CPT, knows her way around the gym and regularly researches the latest and best options in fitness gear. She understands how beneficial an organized and durable gym backpack can be. Jessica often relies on The North Face’s Never Stop Utility Pack for its excellent storage and comfort, whether she’s commuting with it to the gym or using it as an overnight or carry-on bag. 

For this guide, she researched and prioritized brands that provide item durability, safety, versatility, innovation, and value. Dedicated to reporting authentic content to her readers, she is careful to recommend products and brands that are trustworthy and promote size, gender, and race inclusivity in their core values.

1 Source
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Drzaƚ-Grabiec J, Truszczyńska A, Rykaƚa J, Rachwaƚ M, Snela S, Podgórska J. Effect of asymmetrical backpack load on spinal curvature in school children. Work. 2015;51(2):383-388. https://content.iospress.com/articles/work/wor1981