The best gym bags are built for more than the just the gym. Sure, they come with the product specs you’d expect from a bag designed to store your sweaty workout gear—water-resistant fabrics, adjustable shoulder straps, ample shoe compartments—but these aren’t bags made exclusively for exercising.
Functionality is paramount, but so is form. And now that you’re hitting the gym again with some regularity (or swear this is the week you’re going to start!) you’ll need a bag up to the task. A tote bag won’t do the job. A backpack feels inadequate. But a specialty gym bag (AKA a duffle bag) with a generous main compartment to keep those filthy gym clothes separated from the chinos and button-up you’ll be changing into post-shower? That’s just what the doctor ordered. (Especially when said gym bag comes with an abrasion-resistant laptop sleeve so you can bring your work with you wherever you go, you sick puppy, you.)
And don’t forget: Even the most technical gym bag can double as a slick weekender on a last-minute summer getaway or a lightweight carry-on for your first airplane trip in months— provided, of course, you invest in a style with the right accoutrements. Durability is a must, as is an easy-access side pocket to store your water bottle. A few carefully placed external pockets to hold all your small items never hurt, either. So even if you’re an expert gym-goer getting reacquainted with the day-to-day grind, it’s worth reminding yourself what a game-changer a high quality gym duffle can be, and then tracking down the best one for your routine.
Luckily, GQ Recommends unearthed 17 of the absolute best gym bags on the market right now, so you can hit your PRs—or hop on the Hampton Jitney—in style.
The All-Weather Pick
Rains is famous for outerwear that laughs in the face of inclement weather. Its duffle bag harnesses the brand’s trademark waterproof tech to protect your workout gear from the worst of the elements, whether it’s raining cats and dogs or you’re the bedraggled owner of a pet insistent on slobbering all over your gym shoes.
The Budget Pick
This one’s a no-brainer. The Brasilia is one of the most popular gym bags in Nike’s arsenal, and if you can’t trust the Swoosh to provide a spacious, heavily-zippered duffle to store all your swoosh-emblazoned gear, who can you turn to?
The Retro Pick
The bag you toss your sweaty tennis gear in—and then gingerly place your trophy—after dominating Wimbledon in the ’50s.
The “Actually, It’s a Backpack” Pick
Okay, yes—Aer’s day bag is technically a backpack. But its fan-favorite style comes chock full of the type of product details you’d expect to see in a next-level duffle designed for heavy-duty wear and tear. Its exterior is made out of abrasion-resistant 840D nylon with Cordura side paneling, and a padded interior ensures your laptop stays secure no matter how many dirty socks you’ve wedged in there. Factor in an easy-access water bottle pocket and Duraflex hardware, and you’re looking at a formidable gym bag alternative that might convert even the staunchest duffle devotee.
The Cult-Loved Pick
Why do people love Baboon to the Moon so much? (For one, its name is “Baboon to the Moon.”) But the relatively new luggage brand specializes in endlessly versatile, deceptively durable bags made out of a cheery ballistic nylon you’ll never have to worry about damaging. Its signature go-bag makes traveling a breeze, whether you’re waltzing your way through TSA or hunting down an unused cubby in the locker room.
The Designer Pick
We’ve sung the praises of Daniel Lee’s bags before, mostly because the Bottega Veneta head honcho knows exactly what not to do: Ruin an iconic design with any extraneous details. There’s not a single intrecciato weave out of place here, only a serious flex of a gym bag elevated to the realm of modern-day grail via luxe calfskin and a shade of blue that’s like catnip for the eyes.