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Packing a gym bag is routine for anyone who frequents the gym. You might have a separate bag that you keep in your car or bedroom so that you’re always prepared. Some people even own multiple bags depending on the type of workout they plan to do.

Whether you’re on vacation or visiting a new gym, it’s easy to forget an essential piece of workout equipment. In addition, some items that are complimentary at your gym (like towels or locks) may not be free of charge elsewhere. So to avoid any problems, pack these must-haves in your bag–plus a few extras just in case.

Gym Bag

Before you pack your gym bag, think about what size would best fit your needs. It’s senseless to bring a gigantic bag or try to stuff everything into one that is too small. The perfect-sized gym bag will hold all of the items you need and be versatile enough to take on public transportation (e.g., bus or subway) if required.

Customize your gym shower experience by investing in a bag that has dedicated wet and dry sections. Of course, your music player or cell phone will have its own space too. The strap should be adjustable for extra comfort, so it won’t cut into your shoulder when you carry it around.

  • Choose bags that are easy to wash and breathable so that you can avoid mildew and musty odors.

Gym Shoes

The shoes you wear to the gym are extremely important because they will impact your workout. For example, if you go to a spin class wearing bulky running shoes, that won’t work well. So make sure you have the appropriate type of shoe for each workout.

If you’re looking for shoes to help improve your performance in the gym, consider investing in a pair (or multiple pairs) that are specific to the type of activity or activities you do most often. For example, you can find affordable weightlifting, cross-training, indoor rock climbing, and indoor running options.

  • By having a few different pairs of shoes, you can take the time to let each pair air out after use. This will prevent smelly feet!

Workout Outfits

There is nothing more frustrating than forgetting to pack a crucial piece of workout gear. A pair of socks may not seem like much, but they can make the difference between a productive workout and one that leaves you with blisters and chafing.

The following are essential items to pack, depending on your workout:

  • Clean undergarments like underwear or sports bras
  • New pair of gym socks
  • Any type of headwear, such as a headband, hair tie or clip, or even a baseball cap.
  • A bathing suit, a swim cap, and goggles.
  • Workout apparel, including a top and bottoms (shorts, sweatpants, or leggings)


Most gyms require that you bring a towel to use while on the floor–and for a good reason. Even if you don’t sweat excessively, any moisture left behind can make the next person using the equipment uncomfortable. So not only is it important to be hygienic when working out at the gym, but it’s also polite.

Cotton towels are often recommended in gyms as they are highly absorbent and dry quickly. Microfiber towels have the advantage of drying even faster, though space might be saved by using gym-provided clean towels instead. Some people prefer to bring their own towel from home, however.

If you’re worried about the sweat and germs deposited by other gym members, carrying hand sanitizer is a solution. Also, most gyms provide antibacterial sprays and towels so that patrons can clean equipment before and after using it.

Water Bottle

Who likes standing in line for the water fountain, especially after a tough workout? A reusable water bottle helps you stay hydrated on the go. Some bottles can keep drinks cold for up to 24 hours.

The average cost for a water bottle is between $10-$50, depending on the quality. If you opt for a reusable plastic option, make sure it doesn’t contain bisphenol A (BPA), which can be harmful. In addition, the newest type of vacuum-sealed water bottles shouldn’t produce condensation.

Workout Earbuds

If you find that music helps improve your workout, make sure to bring along your headphones and a device with enough battery life to last the duration of your exercise.

Furthermore, you’ll need to invest in a carrying case for your device that is both shockproof and waterproof. The same goes for earbuds; it’s usually worth it to splurge on a wireless pair that can withstand sweat and water damage. Finally, to prevent damage during your workout, look for devices or accessories that are marketed as being designed for sports.

Apple Watch to Monitor Your Health and Stats

An Apple Watch is a great addition to your gym bag. It can track your stats, such as steps taken, heart rate, and burned calories. The watch also has GPS capabilities so that you can map out your runs or bike rides.

In addition to being a health and fitness tracker, the Apple Watch can be used to make phone calls, send texts, and play music. So an Apple Watch is a good option if you’re looking for a versatile device to take with you to the gym.

Personal Care Items

No matter your chosen gym or workout, hygiene is always important. In addition to freshening up after a strenuous workout, you also want to avoid places where athlete’s foot and other common locker room infections easily spread.

The following are “must-have” personal care items:

  • Soap: A small, travel-sized bar of soap can come in handy for showering after a workout.
  • Shampoo and conditioner: Many gyms have complimentary shampoo and conditioner in the showers, but it’s always good to have your own, just in case.
  • Deodorant: An obvious one is that deodorant helps you smell fresh and can be reapplied throughout the day.
  • Body lotion: A small tube of body lotion can help soothe any post-workout aches and pains.
  • Sunscreen: If you’re working out outdoors, don’t forget to apply sunscreen!
  • Hair brush or comb: A compact hair brush or comb can help you tame your post-workout hair.
  • Makeup remover: If you wear makeup, gym wipes or a small bottle of makeup remover can help you clean your face after a sweaty workout.
  • Face wash: Follow up with a refreshing face wash to remove any lingering sweat or dirt.
  • Moisturizer: Reapply your moisturizer to help keep your skin hydrated.
  • Lip balm: Chapped lips are no fun, so make sure to keep your lips moisturized with lip balm.
  • Gym clothes: Of course, you’ll need to bring along a change of clothes to the gym. Choose comfortable clothing that allows you to move freely.

Dedicating a bag to your gym-going personal care items can make packing much easier. You can often find travel-sized versions of lotions and shampoos at most drugstores.

Gym Lock

Before heading to the gym on your next business trip, check whether you need to bring a lock for locker usage. If so, note that size can matter – bringing a bulky padlock might make it tough to use the catches available, while small locks could be easily broken into if security isn’t top-notch at the fitness center.

To prevent any problems:

  1. Contact the gym ahead of time to inquire about their lock policy.
  2. Leave any valuables you can at home or in your hotel room. If you feel as though security at the gym is not tight enough, ask if there is a place at the front desk where staff can take care of your belongings while you work out.
  3. If not available, bring them with you to avoid losing track of them.

Protein Bars

Keeping an energy bar or two in your gym bag is a good idea if you want to maintain your energy levels before and after working out. If you didn’t have a chance to eat anything beforehand, choose a high-carbohydrate option so that you can fuel your body for the workout. Once you’re done exercising, go for a high-protein bar if you won’t be able to have a meal soon. That way, you can feed your muscles and help them recover post-workout.


Packing your gym bag doesn’t have to be complicated. Just remember the essentials: workout clothes, shoes, a towel, toiletries, and something to eat before and after your session. With these items in tow, you’ll be prepared for anything the gym throws your way.

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