The best gym bag essentials

Don't get caught out at the gym with our handy list of everything you need in your gym bag.

Gym bag essentials

by Eleanor Weaver |

Keys? Check. Phone? Check. Wallet? Check. Remembering your essentials day-to-day can become second nature, but when you’re packing your gym bag, it’s so easy to miss the essentials that ultimately you always end up needing. We’ve all used forgotten earphones or a dead phone battery as an excuse to dodge the gym!

Having everything you need in your gym bag puts you in the right mindset to work out and perform your best at the gym and our handy list means you won’t get caught out again.

You don’t need to spend a fortune to get you through the gym door, but having what you need will help you reach your fitness goals, aid in muscle repair, and keep you on top of your workout game.

We’ve included the best accessories, kit and supplements you need to know about, plus included activity-specific musts for the yogis, weightlifters, and resistance trainers out there.

Best gym bag essentials

You can't very well have your gym bag essentials without the gym bag! Designed to carry all your kit in, it needs to be a decent size, waterproof, and comfortable to carry on your shoulder.

Yours loves: This spacious gym tote bag from M&S' Goodmove collection is stylish, comfortable, and is made with wipe-clean nylon, perfect for wiping away that sweat. It's got inside and outside pockets, ideal for storing your keys, phone, and easily accessing your gym essentials.

Playing your music, podcast, or audiobook via wireless earphones will help to optimise your workout - not only because listening to fun music can help to motivate (or distract) you, but also because you won't have any annoying wires connecting you to your phone. You won't get tangled, can move freely, and you won't accidentally end up knocking your phone off the machine and onto the floor.

Yours loves: The Bose Sport Earbuds won't budge during any fitness activity and put out a high-quality sound for you to enjoy your tunes. With three comfortable and secure tips, these earphones will deliver up to five hours of playtime and an additional 10 hours with the charging case. They're sweat-resistant, perfect for the gym, and come in a choice of three colours to match your favourite gym outfit.

You might also like: Wireless headphones for high-quality sound with no interruptions

While this isn't necessary to work out, we love being able to track our progress which always motivates us to go that extra mile or work that little bit harder to outdo ourselves. It's really rewarding, and as well as tracking your workouts, most fitness trackers can now monitor your sleep, activity levels, and steps so you can be healthy in and out of the gym.

Yours loves: The Fitbit Charge 4 comes with up to seven days of battery life and is compatible with both iPhones and Android devices. It can track sleep, active zone minutes, heart rate, as well as providing notifications from your phone on the go. If you want to take your exercise outside, it also has built-in GPS so you can track your route and effort at different intervals.

Protein bars make for a super handy snack that you can pack in your gym bag to have pre or post-workout to help provide you with the energy you need. They're easier to pack than protein powders or shakes, and we personally think they taste better, too.

Yours loves: As part of our MuscleFood Goal Getters review, we tried MuscleFood's High Protein Bars. Convenient and affordable, each bar contains 15g of protein, low sugar, and comes in delicious flavours including Cookies and Cream, Chocolate Orange (our favourite), and Salted Caramel. They're also only 155 calories each, which means you can enjoy them as a lower-calorie alternative compared to other protein bars on the market.

You're going to be working up a sweat in the gym, so it's important to stay hydrated to replenish your body with water. While any old water bottle will do, it's best to have a non-leak bottle for peace of mind, and a snazzy one is always fun to bring along.

Yours loves: The Contigo Ashland Autospout Water Bottle is the ideal companion for the gym. As well as being lightweight and BPA-free, it's leakproof (a must) and has a button to release a straw for easy refreshment during your workout. We also love that it comes with measurement markings so you can track how much water you've drunk, and the clip-lock handle which you can clip the bottle to your gym bag if you're low on room.

Wearing damp, sweaty socks is never enjoyable, so packing a spare pair will help your feet feel fresh when it's time to leave the gym.

Yours loves: We're sure you have some spares at home, but you've got some holey socks that need replacing, this six-pack of Ladies Short Trainer Sports Socks will work a treat. Low in price and available in white, black, or a mix, they're good quality with extra stretch.

If your gym has lockers, bringing a padlock will help to keep all your gear and essentials safe whilst you work out. This is particularly helpful if you're visiting the gym while out and about, as you'll likely have more valuable stuff to hand, and saves you from having to lug your bag from mat to machine.

Yours loves: With over 8,000 reviews, this set of two ZHEGE Combination Padlocks are bound to provide the security you need. They're sturdy, durable, and easy to use. Simply set the four-digit combination to something you'll remember (no lost keys here!) and you'll be good to go.

If you hate the feeling of your hair sticking to the back of your neck and making you feel hotter than necessary, a hairband is a must. Plus, having spares in your bag will come to the rescue if your hairband snaps or you happen to misplace the one in use. Where all the hair bands go, we'll never know!

Yours loves: If you're looking for hairbands that promise to keep your hair back without leaving those awkward post-workout kinks in your hair, then we'd recommend the Invisibobble Hair Ties. Strong holding, waterproof, and comfortable, they won't tug on your hair and can be easily removed too.

While taking a flannel or an old bathroom towel to the gym might seem like the best solution, a gym towel is best for wiping away that sweat. Gym towels are designed to help keep you cool and dry even at your sweatiest and are made to be extra absorbent. They're also more compact than having to pack a bath towel, taking up less room in your gym bag.

Yours loves: The Fit-Flip Microfibre Towels come in eight sizes, and 13 colours so you're really spoilt for choice! Lightweight, fast-drying, and absorbent, this ultra-soft towel is made from the finest microfibre and boasts antibacterial effects that prevent the formation of unpleasant odours.

If you're going to the gym after a long day at work or out and about, it's likely your phone battery might be exhausted. To keep your phone juiced up to play music, watch your favourite TV show on a machine, or last long enough to get you home, a portable charger will help keep you powered up.

Yours loves: The compact portable charger from Anker is perfect for all phones and comes with PowerIQ Technology to deliver the fastest possible charge speed for your device. Up to 2amps, that's four times faster than a computer USB charge! It's pocket-friendly, comes with a rugged drop-tested shell, and can provide one to two full charges to your device.

If you're planning to shower at the gym, along with taking your toiletries and a change of clothes, you might want to think about packing shower shoes for grip and to keep your feet off the floor. We're not saying the shower floor is going to be dirty, but it'll certainly give you that peace of mind.

Yours loves: The Ranberone Anti-Slip Bathroom Slippers are lightweight and quick-drying, ideal for popping back in your gym bag, with the closed-cell structure helping to protect your foot health from bacteria. With increased grip and friction, these shower shoes come in nine different colours and range in shoe size from 3.5 to 10. The sole is also designed to be silent so you don't need to announce your arrival at the showers with squeaky shoes!

Alternatively, if you'd rather shower in the comfort of your own home, it might be worth packing some face or body wipes so you can clean away that sweat before your journey home. This is especially useful if you've got some errands to run on the way and don't want to be conscious of any smells.

Yours loves: This pack of 12 body wipes from Freshwipes is antibacterial with one wipe being big enough to cleanse your whole body. In a light coconut scent, they'll remove sweat and leave you smelling shower-fresh. And don't worry, these wipes are made from plant fibres that are 100 per cent biodegradable and can be composted after use.

If you suffer from arthritis or are concerned about how your knees may begin to feel during your workout, knee support will be a handy addition to your gym bag that'll use targeted compression to relieve aches, pains, and stiffness. Comfortable and lightweight, you can easily slip it in your bag if you're not wearing it already, or pack it as a spare for post-workout.

Yours loves: The Bracoo Adjustable Compression Knee Patellar Tendon Support Brace will help to relieve pressure and stress on the knee joint during exercise. With a reinforced stabiliser ring, this support will make sure your knee is properly aligned during movement for optimal recovery. It eases chronic and acute knee pain due to arthritis, strains, sprains, and fatigue, and is fully adjustable for universal fit.

Activity-specific gym bag essentials

Strength and resistance training

Lifting belt: If you're planning to lift heavy or are looking to master exercises with added safety and confidence, a lifting belt will provide you with the lumbar support you need.

Resistance bands: Resistance bands can help to increase your muscle engagement with increased resistance, or can even be used to assist in bodyweight exercises.

Weightlifting gloves: Protect your hands when lifting weights with gloves that'll support your wrist, protect your palms, and improve your grip.

Ankle straps for cable machines: From kickbacks to abductors, there are plenty of leg exercises you can do using the cable machine. Gyms often don't have these, so it's worth packing your own.

Liquid chalk: Less messy than regular chalk, it'll help improve your grip strength and reduce sweating when climbing or training.

Woman with gym bag
©Getty Images

Yoga and pilates

Yoga mat: A yoga mat will protect you from the hard gym floor and help prevent injuries in your back when you're lying down or doing stretches. Gyms often have mats to hand, but you may prefer to bring your own. You can also buy eco-friendly yoga mats.

Yoga socks: These will help give you the best grip so you can master your poses and keep your balance without shuffling out of position or, as we’ve experienced, having your sweaty bare feet sliding on the mat.

Yoga block: If you're a practised yogi and looking to deepen your yoga poses, a yoga block will provide the stability and balance needed in your practice to help with optimal alignment and increased strength.

Cardio

Skipping rope: If you want to get in some great cardio at the gym, a skipping rope is a super lightweight piece of kit that you can pack in your bag with loads of benefits including improved overall heart health, mental health, and efficient calorie-burning.

Wrist and ankle weights: If you want to add more resistance and body strength training to your cardio exercises, wrist and ankle weight straps are perfect for beginners and a sure-fire way to add weight.

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