What Is the Best Backpack for Gym and Work?

  • October 21, 2020
  • / By Keith Terrell
Pedestrians Carrying Backpacks

When you leave home first thing in the morning, you bring everything you’ll need for the day's activities. Whether you’re sitting at your desk, heading out to meetings, traveling to visit clients, working out at the gym, or popping out for an after-work drink, it’s important that you have a bag that is versatile enough to meet all your needs. 

Man Working in an Office

The best backpack for the office and gym includes compartments for work essentials, gadgets, and accessories, with dedicated space for gym shoes, water bottles, and extra clothes. Combining the requisite compartments with an aesthetic that’s more professional than a gym bag makes the best backpack for both the office and gym.

Choosing a backpack that suits your needs perfectly may seem like a no-brainer, but when you begin your search, you’ll quickly realize there are far too many features to consider, and narrowing down the choice to just one can be overwhelming.

Backpacks are often designed with a primary style depending on how it will be used; nevertheless, there are a lot of choices out there for multipurpose backpacks and we’re here to compare the various factors to help you choose the right backpack for your needs.

Our Top Picks for Best Office Gym Bag

We’ve profiled some of the best options for the gym and office backpacks available right now while keeping all of these features in mind. They’re sorted here by price ranging from low to high, so, if the price is your main priority, this is a good starting point.

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Name

More Info

KAKA Compartment Weekender

Kaka Compartment Weekender

Under Armour Storm Hustle II Backpack

Under Armour Storm Hustle II

Targus Work and Play Fitness Backpack

Targus Play and Fitness Backpack 

Thule VEA Backpack

Thule Vea 17L

Nike Elite Pro

Nike Elite Pro

KAKA Compartment Weekender

KAKA Compartment Weekender

Source: ebay.com

The Kaka is definitely a budget backpack if money is tight, but it has some basic features for the transition between the office and gym.

It is made of a water repellent, breathable, and elastic oxford cloth, woven cotton. It has a three-way carry mount; handbag, crossbody bag, and backpack straps, though they are not padded. It fits a 15.6” laptop in a dedicated compartment.

It has the essential large main compartment for clothes and other smaller organizational compartments in the front, such as the iPad, pens, and other accessories. It also claims to be shock resistant with lockable zips. It has a bottle holder and a separate shoe compartment. 


Under Armour Storm Hustle II Backpack

Under Armour Storm Hustle II Backpack

Source: underarmour.com

The Under Armour Storm Hustle II has a sporty vibe. It’s made from water-resistant polyester and has an abrasion system bottom panel to improve longevity, though some users have complained about durability.

It features a soft-lined laptop sleeve to fit up to 15” MacBook Pro or similarly sized laptop, a water-repellent front valuables pocket, adjustable HeatGear shoulder straps for extra comfort, two side water bottle pockets, a top grab handle, a large main compartment, and a laundry pocket.


Targus Work and Play Fitness Backpack

Targus Work and Play Fitness Backpack

Source: targus.com

The 24-liter Targus is a true hybrid between a gym bag and a travel/ work bag. Made of polyurethane, it’s sturdy and fits up to 16" Laptops with padded protection. It has double zips for padlocks, though is not TSA-compliant.

There is a separate ventilated compartment for shoes and detachable laundry and wash bags. It opens like a suitcase for easy access, has double external water bottle holders, and contoured shoulder straps.

Ventilated cushioning on the back panel helps keep your shirt dry and you can hang it in a locker with a built-in hook.


Thule Vea 17L

Thule VEA Backpack

Source: thule.com

Thule Vea is a sleek, smart pack with extensive features in a compact size. Constructed from polyester melange and 800D nylon for durability, it comes with quality YKK zippers and Duraflex hardware.

It has back-opening padded compartments for up to 15” laptop and 10” tablets, a separate compartment inside the main compartment for other gadgets and accessories, and a velvet-lined anti-scratch side pocket for your phone or sunglasses. It boasts a main compartment and a separate collapsible shoe compartment, though this takes up space in the main compartment.

It has padded straps, a sternum strap, and reflective pads on the front and shoulder for visibility at night. This bag can be carried as a backpack, duffel, or sling bag (straps remove and tuck away when not in use).  


Nike Elite Pro

Nike Elite Pro

Source: nike.com

The Nike Elite series is an aesthetic mix between sporty and smart. The Pro features a large main compartment with dual-zip closure. It has a large wet/ dry ventilated pocket for dirty clothes or shoes.

It has a duffel-style opening and a selection of interior pockets for smaller items. It fits a large laptop and water bottles, plus small essentials on the outside. Curved and padded adjustable straps along with a sternum strap distribute the weight across the chest.


Locker Pack Lux

Locker Pax Lux 24L

Source: ryu.com

This sophisticated backpack is innovatively designed with lots of useful features. It fits a 15” laptop and iPad in the separate rear compartment, complete with a leather flap and magnetic closure. There is a large main compartment with a clamshell opening convenient for quick access, two water bottle pockets, and three mesh compartments inside. 

The leather shoulder straps will mold to your shape over time and the sternum strap stabilizes the load. It has a soft-lined, anti-scratch hidden pocket for your phone and sunglasses. The bag is made of a combination of polyester, canvas cotton, and high-strength nylon to offer a combination of durability and weather protection in a lightweight package.

You can find it on their website here


Aer Fit Pack 2 

Aer Fit Pack 2

Source: aersf.com

This full-featured pack is another highly rated option. It opens like a duffelwith a quick access pocket on top for smaller items. It’s made with a durable and water-resistant Cordura-blend material. 

It features an isolated and ventilated shoe compartment on the bottom, a padded laptop pouch that fits up to 15.6”, and abundant organizer pockets internally. The contoured and padded shoulder straps come complete with a sternum strap, while the padded mesh back panel allows for airflow.

You can find it on their website here


Samsonite Konnect-i Standard Backpack

Konnect-i Standard Backpack

Source: samsonite.com

We looked at the Samsonite Konnect-i backpack should your foray into the “smart bag” class. This technologically integrated backpack uses Jacquard™ by Google technology.

It is the only backpack in the world that you can answer calls with, receive rideshare alerts, get updates, change music tracks, as well as other customizable features, just by tapping or touching the interactive threads on the backpack strap. 

Beyond its smart features, the Konnect-i is a versatile and durable pack with a padded laptop compartment, multiple storage pockets for your essentials, two external water bottle pockets, and an accessible zipper main compartment.

The straps are well-padded and the back has a breathable mesh panel. Reflective strips improve nighttime visibility and a Teflon-backed polyester composite ensures water-resistance.

You can find it on their website here


What Features Make the Best Gym Bag for Work?

We considered what an ideal hybrid backpack for the office and gym means and precisely the features some of us just can’t do without. While most backpacks we evaluated had some of these features, only a few had them all.  

Fortunately, all of the backpacks we looked at had some degree of weatherproofing, water bottle pockets, sunglasses/ phone pouches, padded laptop compartments that will fit at least a 15” laptop, and internal organizer sections or pockets.

Among the other features we looked for, we’ve made a convenient table for you to compare the areas where these bags differ and hopefully help you narrow down your selection to the one backpack that checks all your boxes.

PRODUCT NAME

SHOE SECTION

Laundry area

EASY ACCESS

LAPTOP SIZE

KAKA

15.6"

Storm Hustle

15"

Targus

16"

Thule Vea

15"

Nike Elite

16"

RYU Locker

15"

AER Fit pack

15.6"

Konnect-i

15.6"

NOTE: All backpacks evaluated above had weather-resistance, water-bottle pockets, sunglass/phone compartment, padded laptop compartment, and internal organizer pockets.

Equipments at the Gym

Other Factors to Consider When Choosing a Backpack for Work and Gym

Price

What’s your budget and how much bang do you get for your buck? For many of us, this is a rational starting point.  If it has all of the other features we want, but it is $100 or more than we’re willing to spend on a backpack, you were probably better off not even knowing it existed.  

You can either hope to get a good deal on a used one on eBay or Craigslist; wait around for a Black Friday sale or other major discounts, or move along and find something that checks your boxes without having to live off saltines and spam for the next five years. 

The price range of backpacks starts around $30 for your cheapest, smallest, barebones options and can reach several hundred dollars for one made of premium materials with all the bells and whistles.

Ideally, there is a happy medium where you can find a backpack that combines the size, security, durability, aesthetics, organization, and comfort that suit your needs based on how you plan to use the bag, and also fits within your budget. 

Consider what matters to you among these factors and also what you are willing to sacrifice.

Size

What kinds of things do you normally carry with you, i.e. how big does the bag need to be? And how small can the bag be but still meet your needs? When we leave home in the morning, we want to make sure we have everything we will need for the day without bringing along the kitchen sink. 

Whether you’ve got a jam-packed itinerary or it’s a simple home to work, to the gym, to home kind of day, your backpack needs to have the right amount of space for your essentials without compromising for those busier days.  

At the smaller end of the spectrum, a 15-20 liter bag could conceivably carry all your daily essentials, but it doesn’t leave much room for extras. If you opt for one of these, you might want to consider some expandable or external storage options.

From there, most of your ideal bags will be in the 20-30 liter range.  These bags tend to have the additional space you need for those days when you do need to carry a bit more, but without being bulky or looking like you’re planning to backpack around South America for the next few weeks. 

The exact configuration of pockets and openings will make a difference in how you’re able to use the space effectively, but this is generally the sweet spot when balancing capacity and needs. 

On the larger end, bags over 30 liters up to 40 liters even will provide you ample space for anything you could possibly need on a given workday, and may even double as an adventure backpack on the weekends. At this size, you’re no longer looking at the possibility of low profile or discreet, but this is compensated for by the fact that, if you so choose, you can bring along that kitchen sink.

Woman with Big Red Backpack

Security

Will you be traveling with the bag on public transport or overseas? Does it have dual zips, a locking system, RFID blocking, and is it Transportation Security Administration (TSA) approved?

These are all important considerations and you may prioritize them differently depending on where you live, where you’ll be using your backpack, and how valuable your bag’s contents are.

Obviously, being on public transportation can increase your exposure to pickpockets or thieves. Additionally, thieves are more tech-savvy than they used to be and can steal your data via wireless technologies. A few different brands have implemented protective measures to secure your belongings and your data, the most well known being Pacsafe. 

Another aspect of security is not having to empty your bag when passing through security checkpoints. Several bags that are traveler-friendly have utilized TSA-approved laptop or device pockets where you can unzip or fold-out an attached compartment for easy x-raying, without actually removing your gadgets.

Weatherproofing and Durability 

If you’re carrying expensive hardware such as your laptop or other gadgets, it's a priority that they’re kept safe from the elements. Are you likely to be spending time outside with the backpack or even walking between destinations?

You also want a bag that will take what you throw at it and live to see another day. How long will your bag realistically last? These aspects of bags combine many different facets that go into their design and construction.

Having covered seams and openings rather than exposed ones will improve the weather resistance of any bag. Using higher grade or heavier materials in constructing the bag will ensure that the bag lasts beyond a few months of daily abuse.

In addition, reinforcing high-friction areas of the bag such as the bottom, of the straps will improve the bag's overall lifespan. Regardless of the material used, most companies resort to weatherproof or weather-resistant coatings to protect your belongings.

Consider whether the climate in your location requires you to have a truly waterproof bag or if it will only need to withstand a sporadic summer shower. With regards to the materials, most bags will be made up of some sort of nylon or polyester blend, heavy-duty cotton, or leather. 

Generally speaking, the thicker the nylon, as in a bag made from Cordura, the longer it will last. There are other nylon blends such as ripstop or pack-cloth which will be lighter weight and more receptive to waterproofing, but also more likely to break down over time.  

If you prefer natural alternatives, cotton or leather are your only real options. Cotton will predominantly be in the form of canvas, though keep in mind that many companies are using synthetic blends in their canvas to reduce weight or improve weather-resistance. 

In whatever form it comes, canvas tends to be quite durable and similar to Cordura in lifespan. Leather is another natural alternative that is also very durable, though you may have to take extra care by waterproofing your bag since moisture can wreak havoc on leather.

Standing with a Backpack In-Hand

Aesthetics

A lot of gym bags have a sporty look and might be out of place in a business environment. Nowadays a lot of brands are taking this into account and shifting towards a minimalist, smart, and professional look for hybrid packs. Once again, this comes down to design and materials.

One of the most common looks for these hybrid backpacks is a minimalist design with few to no external straps except for the required shoulder straps, and a streamlined outer shell. This design looks clean and neat and also serves the function of avoiding getting your bag hung up on a door handle, subway/ bus seat, or anywhere else where loose external straps like to cling.

Alternatively, some companies like to accentuate the backpack’s material (leather, canvas, Cordura) and/ or colors. This comes down to your own taste. Do you want a fashionable bag that you can use to accentuate your outfit and invite attention, or do you want a bag that is low profile and serves its function without trying to make a statement?

When it comes to color, anything other than black or brown tends to be noticed by others. So again, do you want to be low profile or do you want to make a statement? The choice is yours.

Compartments

Compartments enable you to have an organized bag and can help with easy access to your content. You probably want to keep your laptop, lunch, change of clothes, and gym shoes in separate compartments.

Having padded laptop and iPad compartments are important for protecting your gadgets; and keeping your sweaty gym shoes away from the rest of your things is always a plus.

When choosing a bag, you want to be sure you’ve got the right amount of options to organize the things you will most likely be carrying. Whereas size was about how much you bring, compartments matter for what you bring.

Do you want a dedicated phone pocket? How about sunglasses, keys, pens, and coins? Is your laptop compact or oversized? Do you want your food and clothing in the same compartment?

All of these questions will guide your choice of the right backpack for your needs. Many bags offer small pockets specifically for phones or sunglasses that have non-abrasive inner linings to protect the screen or lenses of your items.

Another possibly useful compartment has inner sleeves and zipper pockets to store pens, business cards, coins, chargers, or other useful smaller items that tend to get lost at the bottom of larger compartments.

In your laptop compartment, how much padding do you need to adequately protect your devices? Do you need an additional area to store a tablet? In the main compartment, do you want one large area or do you prefer dividers to keep your things separate? Are there separate pockets for a change of clothes/ dirty clothes and athletic shoes? 

Weighing your priorities, you need to figure out what organizational method works best for you and choose accordingly.

Pedestrians Carrying Backpacks

Comfort and Weight

Comfort is a major factor to consider when purchasing a backpack, especially if you are likely to wear it for long periods of time. Consequently, the weight of the pack will affect comfort. A lot of the better quality packs incorporate padded and/ or contoured straps to improve a backpack’s ergonomics.

Companies even make backpacks specifically for men and women with different contouring to cater to your particular body type. Whatever you are carrying, you want the backpack to suit you, and having a backpack that was designed with you in mind will go a long way to ensuring that that’s the case.

Another feature many bags incorporate is sternum straps. These help to center the load in your backpack and keep it from shifting to one side or the other. If you are in a rush and throw everything in your bag in the morning without making sure it is evenly distributed, this can be quite useful.

If you do carry a lot with you and the weight of the bag causes shoulder or back pain after prolonged use, waist straps are another useful feature. When worn properly, waist straps help to distribute the weight from your shoulders and back, instead of supporting much of the load on your hips.

If you’re prone to sweating or you live in a warmer climate, you don’t want to show up at work with a soaked back. A well-designed back panel usually uses a combination of mesh, contour, and padding channels to improve airflow and keep the bag from resting directly against your back.

A backpack’s material also impacts the weight, and subsequently its comfort. Heavier materials such as leather, canvas, or Cordura, while possibly more sustainable or aesthetically pleasing, may add to the weight of the bag even when empty; alternatively, lightweight materials such as the thinner forms of nylon are negligible in their weight.

You also want to be aware of zipper and buckle placement on bags as a poorly positioned one can prove to be a nightmare with regular use if it digs in your back, shoulders, chest, or anywhere else.

Finding an ideally comfortable backpack really can be a challenge when buying online. If you’re unable to physically test out a specific bag to make sure it suits you, at the very least you can look at online reviews from other users to identify any red flags or issues other users have had.

Conclusion

Some people like to have a variety of backpacks to choose from - for work, for play, for travel, and so on. Some people like to have one backpack for all their needs. If you belong to the latter group, you will know what a struggle it is to find a bag that meets all your requirements. 

Hopefully, this guide has helped you choose the best backpack for your office and workout needs.