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Gym Bag Essentials: 15 Things to Pack

A well-packed gym bag can save you a lot of time, both at home and at the gym. Once you’ve got your essentials, you can take your fitness to the next level no matter where you are.

Here’s a list of gym bag essentials you’ll want to be sure to pack to make your workout life easier.

gym bag essentials

1. Gym bag with pockets

A good gym bag will have the following features:

  • Pockets for storing small items like resistance bands, hair accessories, and other miscellaneous items
  • A light, waterproof fabric such as neoprene or similar to work in all weathers
  • A comfortable strap that fits in your hand or over your shoulder
  • Wet pockets for damp gym clothes, a damp towel, or a swimsuit

2. Water bottle

Make sure to bring your own water bottle, so you don’t have to wait in line at the water fountain. Choose one with a soft grip that’s BPA-free and closes tightly to avoid gym-bag spills.

3. Gym lock

If you’re off to a new gym, check before you go what kind of locks they use, and bring your own if needed. Some locks come with a fingerprint padlock which can be handy as you won’t waste time hunting for keys or trying to remember your combination.

4. Music gear

Earbuds and your favorite music player are definitely workout essentials! Try to get exercise-specific earbuds that are made to deal with sweat and movement. Choose a music player that’s light and that holds a long charge.

5. Gym towel

It’s worth investing in a quick-dry, microfiber towel that absorbs moisture fast, folds up small, and dries in minutes.

6. Travel-friendly wallet

For your credit cards and keys, you can get a travel-friendly wallet to keep these items secure. Some models are light, sleek, and easy to carry without cramping your style on the treadmills.

7. Activity-specific gear

If you love swimming, make sure you’ve packed your swimsuit and goggles. Go for anti-fog lenses so that you can spend more time swimming and less time wiping your goggles.

If cycling is your thing, you may want to pack a collapsible helmet.

Yoga lovers may want to pack a light mat that can fold down flat without taking up a lot of room.

8. Footgear

Pack the right shoes for the activities you’ll be doing, whether that’s running on a treadmill, doing a spin class, or dancing across the room.

Pack extra socks, too, just in case. Avoid plain cotton socks, which can lead to blisters on sweaty feet. Opt instead for gym-specific socks that are made to absorb sweat and reduce rubbing inside your sneakers.

9. Gym clothing

Bring an extra set of workout clothes. Make sure you have (as appropriate) leggings, a sports bra, a gym shirt, a hoodie, and shorts.

In terms of the kinds of fabric for your gym clothes, polyester is a good choice. It’s durable, doesn’t wrinkle, is lightweight, and doesn’t absorb moisture. As you sweat, the sweat evaporates rather than soaking into your clothes (as it would with cotton fabrics).

Nylon is another good choice for workout clothing, as it’s very flexible and tough – even more durable than polyester.

If you wear many leggings, look for ones made of Elastane (also called Lycra or Spandex). Elastane is tough on wear and tear and is stretchy (and therefore comfortable).

10. Hand sanitizer

Some gyms provide disinfectant wipes for cleaning the machines and weights after you use them. If you’re going somewhere new, pop a small bottle of hand sanitizer in your bag or some sanitizing wipes.

11. Headband

A headband – or hairband – is another essential for keeping sweat out of your face. Some headbands feature a soft and absorbent fabric underneath to prevent them from moving around while you exercise.

Use good hairbands rather than rubber bands which damage your hair.

12. Shower shoes

Flip flops or sandals for the shower are essential to keep your feet clean and free from picking up whatever might be lurking in the shower stalls or on the tiles. Choose something that you won’t mind getting wet again and again, and that’s lightweight.

13. Toiletries

Have the following (as applicable) in your toiletry bag:

  • Body wash
  • Shampoo and conditioner (an all-in-one is even better)
  • Dry shampoo (if you don’t have time for a shower)
  • Body moisturizer
  • Makeup
  • Face wash
  • Deodorant (choose a brand that’s free from aluminum or alcohol)
  • Body wipes (for when you’re really in a hurry)

14. A fresh set of clothes

Remember to pack a fresh set of clothes for when you come out of the shower. Breathable fabrics that won’t wrinkle are an excellent choice, as you can tuck them in your bag in a dry pocket to keep them separate from your workout gear.

15. Post-workout snack

After all that hard work, you’ll want not only to rehydrate but replenish lost nutrients. Pack a light, protein-rich snack such as a protein bar, a bag of nuts, some rice crackers with peanut butter (in a small container), or your favorite fruit.

You may wish to pack your snacks in its own small bag to have it handy.

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