The Best Gym Backpacks for Toting All of Your Gear

Outlander's Lightweight Backpack keeps you hands-free and is easily packed away

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If you choose to exercise outside of your home, whether that's outdoors or at the gym or studio, a gym backpack is a must. From storing your gear and apparel to organizing your essentials if you're going from place to place, a gym backpack keeps your hands free—while holding everything you need for a successful workout. They're especially ideal if you find duffel bags too bulky, string bags too flimsy, or tote bags too small for your needs.

Reviewed & Approved

The Outlander Packable Backpack was one of the most budget-friendly among our picks and is especially travel-friendly as it's water-resistant and can fold into pocket size. The MZ Wallace Metro Backpack is a stylish pick for gym and studio sessions.

When selecting a gym backpack, look for one that makes sense for your go-to workout. If you're a swimmer or sweat easily, you may need something water-resistant to hold any wet apparel. If you'll be going to the gym straight from work, opt for something with a laptop or electronics compartment. And if you usually carry a lot on you, whether that's personal belongings or fitness accessories, consider a backpack with many pockets to keep things separate. We reviewed products and bestsellers from trusted retailers and evaluated them based on material, size, and pocket features.

No matter your preferred form of exercise, these are the best gym backpacks

Best Overall: Outlander Ultra Lightweight Packable Water Resistant Travel Hiking Backpack

4.9
Outlander Ultra Lightweight Packable Water Resistant Travel Hiking Backpack

Courtesy of Amazon

If you're looking for something inexpensive, compact, and effective, the Outlander Ultra Lightweight Backpack is our top choice. This no-frills option features dual mesh pockets for water bottles and a large open interior, and it weighs only half a pound. However, this bag also folds up into a tiny zippable pocket that you can attach to another bag with the included carabiner.

It is made with tough, water-resistant nylon and features two-way, high-quality zippers. The bag includes multiple pockets for easy organization. This budget backpack is perfect for the gym, and it comes in more than a dozen solid colors so that you can match your bag exactly to your style.

Best for Women: MZ Wallace Metro Backpack

MZ Wallace

Nordstrom 

There's a reason you've been seeing this bag everywhere. The MZ Wallace Metro Backpack is both chic and practical—the neutral color palette ensures that you'll find an option to go with most outfits, and the pockets provide ample storage space. It also comes with a removable interior pouch and smartphone pocket, and it fits most 15-inch laptops. An added bonus? The nylon material makes cleaning a cinch.

Best for Laptop: Under Armor Recruit 2.0 Backpack

Under Armor Recruit 2.0 Backpack

Courtesy of Dick's Sporting Goods

A gym backpack is perfect for bringing your exercise gear to work as well as bringing your work gear to the gym. The Under Armor Recruit 2.0 Backpack is one of the best gym packs and a great option to safely carry your laptop with you. There is a soft-lined pocket for your laptop on the large main pocket of this traditionally styled backpack. The pack also has the UA Storm water-resistant finish to protect your computer from rain and damaging splashes.

In addition to laptop protection, this backpack has many other great features. It has two mesh water bottle pockets, an abrasion-proof bottom, small pockets for small items, and a sporty overall design.

Best for Basketball: MIER Large Sports Backpack

MIER Large Sports Backpack

Courtesy of Amazon

Bring your basketball to the gym for your next league game or scrimmage. The MIER Large Sports Backpack is a quality, inexpensive backpack that lets you easily carry your basketball on the go without having to hold it or squeeze it into a tight bag.

The Mier pack has a large mesh pocket that unzips from the front and easily fits a basketball, a pair of sneakers, or some clothes that need to breathe. The Bag has a large internal compartment as well with an oversized laptop sleeve and a water-resistant bottom. This great gym backpack includes a bunch of small features, like the handy zippered side pocket, the mesh water bottle holder, a key hook, a carabiner loop, and much more. The whole bag includes 40 liters of storage capability and comfortable straps.

Best String Bag: WANDF Drawstring Backpack String Bag Sackpack

WANDF Drawstring Backpack String Bag Sackpack

Courtesy of Amazon

Many people like to use a string bag when they head to the gym. However, even if you’re opting for this simple option, you don’t need to give up on the best features of a standard gym backpack. As expected, this small, lightweight string bag includes a large middle pocket. However, this WANDF bag also features a sneaky shoe compartment with a zipper in the back as well as a separate, small front pocket for smaller items.

The nylon bag is water resistant and includes wide, comfortable, adjustable straps. While you still get that sleek drawstring design, you avoid the pitfalls of this bag with small interior pockets to prevent all of your gym gear from mixing together. This bag is great for day trips and vacations as well as those daily gym trips.

Final Verdict

The Outlander Packable Backpack was one of the most affordable options on our list and stood out for its water resistance and ability to fold into a pocket size for easy traveling.

If you don't mind splurging for some extra style points, consider the MZ Wallace Metro Backpack. Complete with a laptop and smartphone pocket, it'll take you from work to the gym or even on day trips that require extra storage.

What to Look for in a Gym Backpack

Material

Leather, canvas, nylon, and polyester are among the most commonly used materials to make gym backpacks. Nylon and polyester are durable, easy to clean, and water-resistant. If you carry a water bottle or sweaty gym clothes in your bag, this may come in handy. These materials are also long-lasting if constructed and cared for properly.

If your gym bags tend to get a lot of wear and tear, consider leather for your next backpack. Leather is extremely durable and stands up to wear and tear over time. It's also a stylish look. However, leather shouldn’t be exposed to too much water or it can start to rot.

Canvas gym backpacks are stylish and durable. Some varieties are also water resistant. The downside to canvas is that it can shrink if not washed properly.

Size

If your gym backpack will be used exclusively for the gym, it doesn’t need to be too large. A medium-sized backpack, around 30 liters or less, is plenty large for your gym essentials. Those who plan on storing other items, such as laptops or a change of clothes, may prefer a larger backpack (around 40 liters or more).

You may also want to consider the size of the locker at your gym. Most lockers tend to be tall and narrow.

Pockets

A gym backpack with plenty of pockets and compartments can help you stay organized in the gym or on your travels. Choose a backpack with a variety of small and large pockets, depending on what you plan to carry. 

Small pockets are suitable for keys and wallets. Some gym backpacks even come with a smartphone pocket for easy access. Larger pockets can help separate your workout clothes and accessories or hygiene items you need for showering after a gym session.

Depending on your needs, you may prefer a pack with a shoe compartment or laptop sleeve. Some gym bags even have a compartment large enough for a basketball, or a dry pocket that keeps swimsuits or wet clothing separate from the rest of your belongings.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What should you keep in your gym backpack?

    Depending on how and when you use the gym, you may need to keep fitness equipment, toiletries, and personal items such as keys and phone in your gym backpack. You might need

    • Water bottle
    • Gym clothes
    • Gym shoes
    • Headphones
    • Cooling or sweat towel
    • Lock for your gym locker
    • Pre-workout snack
    • Socks
    • Sweatband, headband, or hair ties
    • Accessories like workout gloves, resistance bands, yoga mat, etc.
    • Smart watch or heart rate monitor
    • Hygiene essentials (hand sanitizer, dry shampoo, deodorant, feminine hygiene products, etc.)
  • What is the best way to get odors out of gym backpacks?

    Housing your day-old gym clothes in your gym backpack is convenient but may lead to unwanted odors. To prevent odors, remove sweaty gear promptly and keep a deodorizing ball or spray or a dryer sheet in your gym backpack to mask or absorb odors.

    To deodorize a backpack without washing it, sprinkle some baking soda in the bottom of the pack or bag, leave it wide open, and let it sit overnight.

    Some backpacks are washable by hand or machine. Check the care instructions on the label. Avoid harsh soaps or detergents to extend the longevity of the pack.

  • How do I keep my gym backpack clean?

    Aside from being filled with sweaty gear, gym backpacks get stuffed in gym lockers or placed on dirty gym floors. To keep your backpack clean, wash it according to the manufacturer's care instructions at least once per month. Clean out the inside weekly—throw away old wrappers and clear out unwanted items. After each use, remove your worn gym clothes as quickly as possible.

  • How big should a gym backpack be?

    Gym backpacks and bags come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from mini packs just large enough to hold your personal items to large backpacks and duffle bags that can also be used for travel. The size of your gym backpack largely depends on the items you intend to store. For most people, a medium-size gym backpack is suitable.

Why Trust Verywell Fit

Tori Zhou is an associate commerce editor at Verywell. She enjoys staying up-to-date on wellness trends and products, with a focus on holistic health. She's tested everything from yoga mats and massagers to dumbbells and heating pads.

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