The 4 Best Gym Backpacks Both Big & Small

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by Tiana Crump
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When you’re heading to the gym, the best gym backpacks will keep all your workout essentials organized and ready to go, and be the right size for your favorite activities. Your workout bag should have plenty of room for everything you need, with different compartments to store clothing, gear, a water bottle, and maybe even sneakers — along with small essentials like your phone and keys. But storage isn’t the only thing that matters in a gym backpack — you'll also want to look for a bag that has adjustable, comfortable straps so it's comfortable to carry.

Gym backpacks come in a number of different styles and sizes, so be sure to consider your storage needs and where you’ll use the bag. If you need to stash a lot of little odds and ends or use the bag for more than just gym items, look for a backpack with lots of compartments. If you tend to carry gym shoes, a specialized compartment is a useful way to keep dirt off your clean clothes, but you can also use a compartment like this to store stuff like sweaty gym clothes. And if you’ll be taking your backpack to school or the office in addition to the gym, you might want to look for a bag with a padded laptop sleeve.

Most backpack pockets utilize zip closures, but drawstring closures can be convenient for a simple gym bag that can be opened wide in a cinch. Durable, water-resistant fabric can also be nice for those carrying or commuting with laptops or notebooks in all kinds of weather. That said, if you like to swim or tend to sweat a lot, you might prefer a breathable mesh bag that gives your clothing the airflow it needs to dry.

Luckily, whether you need a mesh backpack to carry your wet towel after swimming laps or simply want a commuter backpack that doubles as a gym bag, these highly rated gym backpacks should do the trick.

1. The Best Multipurpose Gym Backpack

The Under Armour Hustle 4.0 backpack is a top pick, with an overall 4.8-star rating from more than 8,000 (and growing!) reviews. It features a bottom shoe compartment, two side water bottle pockets, two small zip pockets on front, and two major compartments that zip to close. One of the compartments features a few interior pockets to help you stay organized, and the other one has a soft lined laptop sleeve that can hold a 15-inch laptop, which is great for anyone who wants to work out right before or after work or class. Adjustable padded shoulder straps should be comfortable to wear, and a water-resistant coating makes it protective.

The bag measures 19.3 inches from top to bottom, and is 5.9 inches wide and 13 inches long when full, giving it a 26-liter capacity. It's available in dozens of different shades and designs so you can choose a style that you love. Essentially, this pick has everything you could need from a standard gym bag while remaining an extremely functional commuter backpack — it's hard to go wrong with that!

Positive Amazon review: "Currently using it as my work/gym bag! I'm able to for my laptop in the laptop sleeve and can squish my sneakers in the bottom compartment [...] I can put my gym clothes in the bag and use the side pocket for my water bottle. I can't quite squish my entire lunch in there, but there are plenty of smaller pockets for snacks plus lotion, keys, chargers."

2. A Drawstring Gym Backpack With A Shoe Compartment

The Wandf drawstring backpack is great for anyone who's looking for a gym backpack but doesn't need it to double as a commuter bag (though it does have ample space to stow non-gym items in a pinch, measuring 17.7 inches tall, 14.1 inches long, and 6.6 inches wide). It has a 4.4-star rating overall after more than 1,000 ratings, and it's easy to see why people like it so much. A separate compartment at the bottom is a good place to stash shoes or dirty clothes, and the main pocket has lots of room for gear, plus a drawstring closure means it can open wide for convenient packing and rummaging. It's worth noting that there's no separate water bottle pocket, but your water can easily fit in the main pocket as long as it seals tightly. A front zip pocket holds anything you need to access frequently, and an interior pocket is good for little odds and ends.

The drawcord for the main pocket pulls double duty as shoulder straps and is nice and wide so it's comfortable for your shoulders. The bag is made from water-resistant fabric, which means it'll protect your stuff from rain (or sweat). The bag doesn't hold its shape when it's not full, which makes it especially convenient to stuff in a locker or suitcase. It's available in a bunch of colors and is less than $20.

Positive Amazon review: "This bag is what I looking for, for a very long time! I got sick and tired of the over the strap gym bags that make me feel crooked when walking and puts all the weight on one side. This bag has a shoe compartment and the inside is good for bringing my sweaty clothes back home. It fits like a regular bookbag so I don't have all the weight on one side of my body. Worth the buy and price!"

3. A Breathable Mesh Backpack That's Great For Wet Items

The Speedo mesh bag is a roomy backpack option that's ideal for holding wet or sweaty clothes. It features large panels of breathable mesh material that allows for ample airflow so towels, clothes, and more can dry quickly. Its main compartment has a drawstring closure, making it quick and easy to open it all the way up or close it again. A front zip pocket offers another place to stash things away, and a mesh front pocket is large enough to keep a water bottle. The wide, adjustable straps are comfortable to wear, and the material is water-resistant as well as quick-drying.

If you're wondering whether you could fit a wet towel in this bag, you'll be happy to know the bag has a fairly large 33-liter capacity and measures 24 inches by 17 inches in size. It comes in more than a dozen colors and patterns, and more than 3,900 Amazon reviewers have given it an overall rating of 4.7 stars.

Positive Amazon review: "I've been using this as my gym bag for over two months and really like it. The mesh sides allow me to put in my dirty clothes, wet towel, and shower items (i.e., soap, washcloth) without them getting smelly/moldy if I need to make a stop between the gym and home. [...] The thicker straps help the bag not cut into my shoulders when I have a heavier load in the bag. I would recommend it!"

4. A Stylish Commuter Backpack That Has Space For Workout Gear

If you need a commuter backpack that happens to work just fine for holding gym items, the Matein backpack is a sleek, sharp-looking option. This bag features a separate zippered compartment for holding a laptop, making it ideal for commuting to work, while a side water bottle pocket helps you stay hydrated and a large main compartment with a zip closure is great for storing workout clothes and gear. The bag has a front organizer compartment for stashing your phone and other electronics, plus an anti-theft zippered back pocket for essentials. A built-in USB charging port makes it easy to charge your phone and more on the go. Adjustable padded straps help you carry your stuff in comfort, and water-resistant fabric means your stuff won't get soaked in a little rain.

The backpack doesn't have a dedicated shoe compartment, but if you don't mind storing your sneakers with the rest of your items, there's likely enough space. The bag comes in two available sizes (15.6-inch or 17-inch). The 15.6-inch option measures 18 inches tall, 12 inches long, and 7.8 inches wide when upright and can hold a 15.6-inch laptop. The 17-inch size can hold (you guessed it!) a 17-inch laptop and measures 19 inches tall, 13.75 inches long, and 7.8 inches wide.

Positive Amazon review: "I'm a 25-year-old professional woman living in a city. I go straight from the gym to work and don't have a place to put shoes and dirty clothes. I wanted a professional backpack that fits my laptop and would look good at work too. The outer material is of great quality. Super thick and durable. I love it and have gotten a lot of compliments on it."