18 Gym Bag Essentials You Should Never Forget
Going to the gym is hard enough, but this is doubly true when you are traveling. Navigating a new city and a new locker room? It's tempting to let exercise to fall by the wayside. That’s why we’re all about pre-packing a workout bag with all the essentials for sweating comfortably and freshening up after. A well-edited bag includes all the basics you need to get ready before and after your workouts, as well as those few often-forgotten essentials (we’re looking at you, flip-flops and locks!) that take your gym routine to the next level. Here are the gym-bag staples to pack every time.
Gym Bag Essentials: Gear
In a pinch, you can always throw all your workout gear into a tote or plastic bag. But having a designated gym bag makes all the difference. Look for a carryall that’s designed with features that make packing for exercise easier. Dagne and Dover’s Landon bag is made out of water-resistant and shock-absorbent neoprene fabric, so your gear will stay dry and safe no matter what conditions you’re traveling in. Practical pockets let you stash water bottles and separate smelly and fresh clothes.
No matter where you’re sweating, hydration is key. Since not all facilities have water on hand, it’s a good idea to keep a portable bottle handy. The Hidrate Spark 3 Water Bottle tracks your water intake and—get this—glows to remind you that you should drink more. A soft body means it won’t slide out of sweaty hands and the easy-to-open spout lets you sip easily but secures firmly to ward off dreaded gym-bag spills.
If we could have one gym-bag motto, it would be: be prepared. When you’re traveling, it’s hard to know what facilities will or won’t offer, so it’s good to have a few essentials on hand, like a lock to store your items while you are working out. Fingerprint padlock uses your finger print to close and open the bolt—so you’ll never stress about forgetting another combination or look shady as you pick your own lock.
Playing music or listening to a podcast is a great way to drown out screaming babies on a flight—and boost motivation and drive during sweat sessions. For a stress-free workout, pick earbuds that are designed to stand up to movement and sweat, like the Jaba Elite Active They’re both Apple and Android compatible, and have a rapid charge feature that’ll give you an hour and a half of juice from just a 15-minute charge.
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You could grab a towel from your hotel room or Airbnb, but standard ones are often bulky and stay wet forever. Pack something workout-friendly instead, like this Sea to Summit microfiber towel. It dries quickly and folds down super small, making it a gym-bag-worthy investment.
Stash your credit card, room key, and gym access voucher (if your hotel doesn’t have on-site fitness facilities) in a travel-friendly wallet. Tumi’s sleek card holder has three card pockets and comes with ID lock technology that shields credit cards from electronic theft.
If your preferred method of working out requires equipment, it’s a good idea to have your own gear handy. This clever Lululemon mat folds down flat, so you can pack it in a gym bag or backpack and not worry about a schlepping a giant roll. Swimmers will like Aegend swim googles, with their anti-fog coating and ergonomic design that keeps water out. Planning on biking? This collapsible bike helmet from Overade protects your noggin’ on the road but won’t hog all the space in your bag.
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Gym Bag Essentials: Clothes
Pick shoes that work for exercise but can also look put together after the gym, in case you want to hit the town immediately after the treadmill. We like the stylish designs of APL’s Techloom Bliss sneaker for women and the Adidas Alphaboost for guys.
Depending on your workout, any old sock might do. But if you’re doing anything with a lot of movement—running, cycling, even long bouts of walking—regular cotton socks won’t cut it. They’re not absorbent (hello, sweaty feet!) and tend to shift around, which can lead to blisters. Instead, opt for socks that are motion-friendly, like Balega’s antimicrobial no-show socks. They have bacteria-slaying silver ions woven in and their blend of synthetic fibers help reduce friction.
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Keep a complete fitness outfit in your bag or else, well, plan on not working out. Good staples for ladies include moisture-wicking sports bra and leggings, and a seamless mesh tank to keep cool. Guys should stash a lightweight gym shirt and hoodie, and quick-drying, odor-fighting shorts.
Hairband or Headband
Keep pesky baby hairs and flyaways out of sight during exercise. This Lululemon headband is not only sweat-wicking, the velvet fabric on the underside helps it to stay put while you’re moving.
You never know what could be lurking in shower stalls—and to be honest, it’s probably best to not to know—so it’s a good idea to keep a barrier of sorts between your feet and the floor. These classic cheap flip flops do the trick: they’re affordable, waterproof, and come in a wide range of colors for both men and women.
Change of Clothes
You’ve worked out, showered, and now…oops! Clean clothes are miles (or several hotel floors) away. It never hurts to keep a spare outfit tucked in your bag. Choose garments that are breathable with a relaxed fit—they’ll help cool you down. For women, that could be a cotton button-down, comfy yet tailored pants, and easy-to-slip-on mules. Men can pack cotton trousers, a structured polo, and stylish sneakers. Oh, and don’t forget a fresh pair of undies, like a seamless thong or microfiber boxer brief.
Gym Bag Essentials: Toiletries
Toting along a few essentials for an après-workout shower can give you more flexibility to squeeze in exercise, knowing you’ll be able to freshen up and go about your day (instead of running around a sweaty mess). We like Dermalogica Foaming Wash, which has sweat- and grime-dissolving tea tree oil and revitalizing orange peel extract.
Products that do double duty and save us room? Yes, please. Love Beauty and Planet’s shampoo and conditioner bar, not only cleanses and rehydrates hair, its solid form makes it spill-proof and TSA approved.
RELATED: Best Powdered Toiletries for Bypassing TSA’s Liquid Restrictions
Pretty much any workout session requires an underarm refresher after. Even if you don’t have time for a shower, slicking on a deodorant gives some semblance of feeling put together. Malin Goetz Eucalyptus Deodorant is a great pick: it’s aluminum- and alcohol-free, and is made with eucalyptus and citronellal, ingredients that have extra odor-busting capabilities.
Let’s be honest: sometimes a post-workout shower isn’t possible. Not all facilities have a place to scrub down after exercise and there’s not always time to do so. This is when wipes, like The Body Wipe by ShowerPill, are your best friend. In a pinch, you can take away sweat from face and body, and its added aloe vera extract helps cool and calm redness.
Hitting a waterfall of water after exercise is one of the best feelings. But all that H2O can be drying, and, combined with the heat of working out, skin might have a little freakout. A hydrator like CliniqueFIT Workout Face Body Hydrating Spray can swoop in to help. The lightweight formula rehydrates skin and ingredients like witch hazel and clary sage help to keep redness at bay.
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