No one carries a briefcase any more. Meanwhile, the free gym rucksacks you might see people wearing to work are as office appropriate as the battered Asics the same commuters pair with a suit for their walk to the office. Your bag is an everyday essential that requires smart investment, but it remains something to which most of us give little thought. It’s time you bucked this trend.
The 2018 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report highlights that one in seven people now has a gym membership and, according to one Total Jobs survey, around a third of all commuters spend at least part of their journeys to work either on foot or in the saddle. Add to this the fact that the wellness travel sector has grown 14% in the past two years – nearly twice as fast as overall tourism – and it’s clear that staying active has become a constant in most people’s lives.
So you need a carry-all that can match your ambitions – be that for your weekday training or the active weekend you have booked for next month. To help shoulder the burden and ensure that you invest correctly, our editors took to the MH Lab to run, ride, work and travel with the best bags on the market. We’ve done the heavy lifting, so you don’t have to.
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What to look for in a gym bag
Smart pockets, clever zips and snug padding all play a part in creating a bag that can move between business and leisure.
Sure, it helps if the bag looks cool but, more importantly, it has to be all-weather and robust enough to keep pace with your plans.
Size does matter. If it’s too small or too big, the bag’s use will be limited. It needs to be just right.
The North Face Access 22L Backpack
This commuter bag is sleek and smart. Its back panel padding boosts comfort while the rigid casing allows you to carry valuables assuredly. Nice touches include ejector tabs that let you remove your devices quickly when you get to work. The Access 22L walks the line between business and bench press successfully. Compartments keep your office kit protected while affording you plenty of room for your gym gear. However, while it is physically tough, this backpack falls down on its all-weather capabilities. And winter is coming.
BUY IT NOW: £110, thenorthface.co.uk
OMM Phantom 12
Designed to be used by endurance runners, this lightweight bag is just 190g, and is both waterproof and rip-resistant. The six-point strap attachment system ensures you maintain stability and comfort during your cardio. The Phantom is fit for purpose, and that purpose is running. It may not be the highest performer in this line-up, but it’s so light and comfortable to wear that there’s little competition for the cardio commuter. What holds it back is its 12L capacity. If you’re able to leave your clothes at work, this is your go-to.
BUY IT NOW: £100, theomm.com
Filson Ballistic Nylon Duffle Pack
With its tear-resistant ballistic nylon fabric and 46L capacity, this bag will keep pace on wild weekends. Extra padding keeps the contents secure and a smart, expandable side pocket with water-resistant lining separates wet gear. Outdoors brand Filson prides itself on durability and delivers with multiple straps that transform this bag from duffle to shoulder to backpack in seconds. It’s not the cheapest, or the daintiest. But for the man who packs for any eventuality, be it in the urban jungle or forest wilds, this has got your back.
BUY IT NOW: £240, filson.com
Lomo 40L Dry Bag Rucksack
Big and bold, this is for men who are active come rain or shine. The PVC fabric will keep your belongings dry, whether you’re caught in a storm or have capsized in a canoe. Chest and waist straps allow you to carry heavy weight with ease. For its cost, the quality is staggering. The 40-litre capacity is enough for active weekends, but because of its roll-top design, it’s not cumbersome on commutes. It lacks the sophisticated compartments and protective padding of other bags but, at such a low price point, we’re in a forgiving mood.
BUY IT NOW: £29, lomo.co.uk
Castore Dayton Backpack
Castore’s perfectly proportioned commuter backpack has enough room to pack for a short trip, with laptop space, 10 compartments and a 16L capacity. It’s covered with robust fabric and reflective detailing for good measure. Stylistically, it’s a winner, with a design that resembles a briefcase for the active man. Though compact, the different compartments can stow away more than you think and the laptop sleeve is snug, keeping your tech stable even when the bag is empty. This will take you from gym to boardroom in fine fashion.
BUY IT NOW: £95, castore.co.uk