Everyone needs a good gym bag, whether you actually belong to a gym or—like me—you simply like to keep your workout stuff in your car or office so it’s always handy. Since my daughter Zoe recently commandeered mine to carry her books, dolls, and stuffed animals whenever we go somewhere, I found myself in need of a new one.

September 10, 2009


By Su Reid-St. John
Everyone needs a good gym bag, whether you actually belong to a gym or—like me—you simply like to keep your workout stuff in your car or office so it’s always handy. Since my daughter Zoe recently commandeered mine to carry her books, dolls, and stuffed animals wherever we go, I found myself in need of a new one.

So, I rounded up six of my fitness-savvy female coworkers to help me comb through about a dozen promising new offerings. We put them through their paces, checking size (space for all your stuff, but fits easily into a locker or under your desk), durability, and stylishness. We slung them on our shoulders, crammed stuff into them, and debated the merits (and demerits) of each.

Finally, we chose our three favorites: Patagonia’s Lightweight Travel Tote, Reebok’s Sport Fusion Handbag, and Timbuk2’s Cargo Tote. Here's why.

Patagonia Lightweight Travel Tote (brown bag in photo)
We were won over by that fact that it’s super-light and really versatile, with both hand straps and backpack straps. Two handy outside pockets could be used either for your shoes (to keep them separate from the rest of your stuff) or for a couple of water bottles.

There are small pockets both inside and outside to hold items like your cell phone, comb, and toiletries, and the whole bag can be stuffed (with some difficulty) into the outside pocket when you’re not using it (although really, why would you bother?).

One grumble: The hand straps are too short to allow the bag to be worn on your shoulder.

Reebok Sport Fusion Handbag (red bag in photo)
This colorful bag was the all-around favorite, particularly because it doesn’t scream “gym bag!” It’s stylish and light, with lots of cool little touches, like an iPod pocket with external port, two small inner pockets that snap out if you don’t need them, and two inner sleeves to hold water bottles or your shoes. And you can’t beat the price.

One grumble: We wish it were a little larger.

Timbuk2 Cargo Tote (silver/blue bag in photo)
Great looking, durable, and roomy, this bag could double nicely as an overnight bag. It has a waterproof lining, removable shoulder strap, hand straps long enough to slip over your shoulder, and lots of pockets. Bonus: It’s made of partially recycled fabric, so it’s easier on the environment (always a plus in my book).

One grumble: It’s a little heavy.

The question now, I guess, is which one I should choose. Hmm. I know! I'll ask Zoe.

Products: Patagonia Lightweight Travel Tote, Reebok Sport Fusion Handbag, Timbuk2 Cargo Tote

Category: Gear

Costs: Patagonia bag, $80 at Patagonia.com; Reebok bag, $36 by phone, 800-228-7967; Timbuk2 bag, $110 at Athleta.com

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