With increasingly busy lives, we need a gym bag that can take us to the studio, get us through the commute and handle all of life’s little extras too – we know we’re not the only ones lugging around a laptop, a packed lunch and a book as well as our workout gear. It’s also got to be stylish enough to swing by a bar on the way home, should the mood take us. For that reason, it’s time to trade in that cheap grubby promotional tote for something fit for purpose.

Don’t worry, we’ve rounded up the best women’s gym bags that will take care of your kit with ease, whatever your budget.

When putting our bags to the test, we were looking for lightweight styles that could hold everything we need without weighing us down. Zips needed to feel good quality, compartment sizes had to be practical and handles comfortable. We were also on the lookout for extras such as separate sections for trainers, space to hold a water bottle and waterproof fabrics.

When considering which bag is best for you, think about what you need to carry. Is it just trainers, leggings and a bra? If so, one of the smaller styles might be best. However, if you also need to squeeze in a hoodie, towel and boxing gloves, you might want to invest in something larger. Do you prefer carrying a rucksack on your back or a duffle across the body? We’ve found both – in fun, brightly coloured designs as well as timeless classics that will last for years.

Not only will a properly designed gym bag be better suited for your kit, but is also more likely to protect your back and shoulders. So, whether it’s spin, yoga, barre or weightlifting that gets you sweaty, here is our roundup of the best gym bags for women.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Lululemon dash all day duffle: £128, Lululemon

Stay organised and look smart with this sleek black bag from sporting superstars Lululemon. It’s a roomy duffle with sturdy straps, which can be carried or worn over the shoulder. However it’s lightweight and practical too, with a multitude of compartments – we particularly appreciated the large internal sections, ideal for separating the sweaty from the clean. The pockets are helpfully labelled with names such as “laptop” or “items of importance”, which is a small zippered section where we kept our keys and jewellery.

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Sweaty Betty icon backpack: £90, Sweaty Betty

The chevron quilted design of this new offering from Sweaty Betty has a sporty feel and is so lightweight, we could fill it to the brim and still carry it with ease. Inside there’s a handy mesh pocket for sliding your laptop into, a main compartment where we stash our trainers, as well as another inner pocket that is perfect for smaller items. The outside pockets have a magnetic closure and are the perfect size for a water bottle, while the adjustable straps are wide enough to fit comfortably on the shoulders. The rose gold hardware is a pretty finishing touch, making this a bag we’d be proud to be seen with.

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Adidas women training ID tote bag: £42.95, Adidas

Can’t decide between a backpack, a tote or a shoulder tote? Well, fear not because this clever little number from Adidas can be all three. It’s part of the brand’s recycled collection, which uses recycled polyester to help cut down on waste and comes in an eyecatching pink, grey and white print. Inside there’s a padded section to protect your laptop, while the outer mesh pocket was perfect for sliding in a book for the commute. We appreciated the coated base, which meant we could pop it on the floor without fear of it getting damaged. A roomy bag that handled our shoes and training gear with ease.

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Arc’teryx carrier duffle 40: £120, Arc’teryx

If you’re not familiar with the brand, Arc’teryx is a Canadian company specialising in high-performance outdoor clothing and accessories. This duffle delivers just as well as the rest of the brand’s range, it’s perfect for the gym and other quick trips. Particularly useful if you run to your workout, the fabric is completely weatherproof, made from nylon with sealed seams and a watertight zipper, so there’s no chance of rain soaking your leggings. Another clever design feature is the white interior, which makes finding what you’re looking for so much easier, and the zipper, which extends right to the very edge, making it easy to reach inside. The shoulder straps are easy to adjust and can be removed altogether if you prefer to carry with the handles instead.

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Ban.do work it out gym bag: £19.99, Ban.do

If going to the gym is something you endure rather than look forward to, make it a little easier on yourself with this cheerful gym bag. The flat base panel provides structure so even when empty it doesn’t completely collapse in on itself, and the cotton handles taper in the middle, making it easier to hold. Aside from the cheeky slogan, our favourite bit was the eyelets designed to feed your earphones through so you can keep your phone securely in your bag and listen to music at the same time. Cute, colourful, yet practical and lightweight, if this doesn’t get you to the gym, nothing will.

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Nike radiate women’s graphic training duffle bag: £37.95, Nike

In bright white with contrasting fluoro orange and pink trims, this training bag from Nike has a slightly retro feel about it. The main compartment was plenty big enough for our clothes, with smaller pouches for the bits you don’t want to lose. However, it was the separate side compartment for our trainers that we got really excited about. We wore it across the body when it was full and by the handles with a lighter load. The only negative is that we could see this getting dirty with time.

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Asos 4505 tote bag in blurred camo: £22, Asos

Cheap, cheerful yet perfectly functional, this lightweight tote is ideal if you’re just looking for something basic to throw your kit into and run out of the door. In a fun, on-trend camo print, there are no separate sections inside, however the external one would fit smaller items. Easy to carry, this tote is slightly smaller than other bags we tried – so although it’s fine for clothing, you’d struggle to fit any additional extras in it such as equipment or a large towel.

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Tumi alpha bravo mccoy gym bag: £465, Case Luggage

At the other end of the price spectrum is this serious sporting accessory. It’s made with lightweight nylon but finished with luxurious leather trims and features more pockets then we could count. There’s space for your laptop, elastic loops for your yoga mat and a separate waterproof shoe compartment to keep your smelly kicks firmly out of sight. If you already own a Tumi travel case, you’ll find this style fits snugly over the handles making it easy to carry both. Eyewateringly expensive, this is only for the avid gym-goer.

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State of Escape escape neoprene tote: £255, Selfridges

Practical and stylish, these neoprene totes from Aussie brand State of Escape come in an array of bold colours, but we loved this cheerful neon yellow. Again, the inside is bright white, making finding what you’re looking for a doddle, and the main body opens out nice and wide so you can have a good rummage. There’s also a handy removable pouch, which we stored our card and phone in while leaving the rest in the locker room.

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The verdict: Gym bags for women

If money is no object, we’d recommend investing in the clever Lululemon dash all day duffle. With well thought out sections for everything you need, you’ll wonder how you ever got to the gym without it. However, for those wanting to carry their load on their backs, the Sweaty Betty rucksack is so comfortable to wear and stylish enough for every day too.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.