This Genius Duffel Bag Solves the #1 Problem With Gym Bags

I can’t believe I’m a gym person now, even though I’ve been one for, like, nearly a decade. For so many years before that, it just seemed so undignified to work out in public—like, I’m supposed to go get sweaty around a bunch of other sweaty people? I’m going to let some guy in a tank top chugging a protein shake watch me awkwardly try to tone my triceps? SOS, mate. My 16-year-old self would have thought that 30-something me is a real sellout, belonging to a fancy gym and actually enjoying patronizing it. 

Anyway, the other thing I always feared about going to the gym before I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Doing Healthy Adult Stuff was having to haul an entirely separate outfit with me to a public space, and then, if I were to go somewhere directly after the gym, have to shower (in public!!!), change into my clean clothes that I brought, and stuff my now-damp and sweaty leggings, socks, and shirt into an enclosed vessel and take that back home with me. Something I realized, however, was that a great gym bag isn’t just whatever tote bag you stole from your last boyfriend/girlfriend/one-night-stand after a trip to the farmer’s market, nor is it even a fancy duffel bag. The price and aesthetic of a gym bag are less important than its features, and the most important feature one can have is compartments. Compartments are what will keep your things where you expect them to be, prevent cross-contamination, and generally make your gym experience more seamless. 

It was with this in mind that I began my search for the Next Great Gym Bag after my Opening Ceremony mini duffel’s zipper committed seppuku due to me constantly overstuffing the poor thing and forcing it closed. When I say I “began” my search, I must reveal that it continued for a very long time; the zipper was broken for probably… about a year before I finally found a replacement. I finally made the switch courtesy of a brand called Haven Athletic that specializes in thoughtfully designed gym bags. 

Unlike many of those of other major athletic gear retailers, the brand’s gym bags are no afterthought; every backpack and duffel is specifically designed to keep your sporty stuff organized and minimize problems and distractions during your workout experience.

I ordered Haven Athletic’s small duffel, and it’s been an instant quality-of-life upgrade on gym days. For starters, this modestly sized bag can actually hold 30 liters worth of equipment, which is wild. (If you’re a serious sports person, the larger signature duffel can hold way more, and is best suited for someone who brings a lot of “gear” with them, not just clothing and toiletries.) The compartments of the super-durable bag (it’s made “beyond the durability specs for military tactical-gear,” according to the brand) are also structurally self-standing and ventilated, so the whole thing doesn’t just collapse the second you, say, take out your sweatshirt. There’s a padded shoulder strap and dividers galore, and if you bring resistance bands, jump ropes, or extra shoes with you on top of the usual outfit change, this comes in super handy. 

Oh yes, speaking of shoes, Haven Athletic tags pride in its bags’ “Shoe Garage,” the ventilated separate compartment for stashing your sneakers and keeping them happily tucked away from your other goods. I don’t know how stinky your shoes are, and I don’t care—they should always be separate from your clean clothes and especially from your protein bars, toiletries, and other stuff that goes into or onto your body. 

Image courtesy of Haven Athletic

Now, these bags are not cheap (the small duffel typically runs $299, but is on sale right now for $249), but I can attest that mine really does solve real-world problems for gym-goers like me. For instance, my gym offers not only the usual weights and machines, but also a wide array of workout classes (Pilates, boxing, etc.) and a pool that can be enjoyed recreationally. This may mean that on any given day, I might need to bring boxing wraps, Pilates socks, and/or a bikini in my bag alongside the usual stuff. Also, I’m vain, and if I’m going to shower at the gym, I like to have all of my Hot Girl Products with me so that I can walk out of the gym with perfectly blow-dried hair and a face of makeup if I have dinner plans straight after. In a typical duffel bag, this could mean that a pair of sweaty socks, running shoes, a wet bathing suit, loose makeup, damp leggings, headphones, and any other number of things may end up jumbled together into a terribly disorganized and unsanitary casserole. With the Haven Athletic duffel bag, each of these components remains neatly tucked into its respective organizational space. Clean stuff stays clean, and sweaty stuff says siloed. Skincare products do not rub literal elbows with my shoes. It’s just a better way to live, bud. 

There’s enough to worry about in the world; your sweaty running shoes contaminating your tube of Aquaphor is now one less thing. 

Grab the ultra-organized Small Duffel over at Haven Athletic

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