Most of us won't stop and think about how to pack a gym bag. We're busy--that's why we're having to pack the bag in the first place. We know what we need, so we just throw everything in and hope for the best. Is there a better way to pack a gym bag though? I've wondered about this, because I practically live out of my gym bag. Most days, I get up, pack, leave my house, and then return 12-14 hours later. Sound familiar to anyone?

I feel that I have a pretty good system, as I'm sure most of you do. I wonder, though, if we can't save time and optimize our productivity if we just take a few more minutes to prepare. If we're living out of a bag for the next 12 hours, shouldn't we think about what we're putting into it?

Gym Bag Essentials

Our gym bag essentials are pretty obvious, but let's consider how we can save space. My list looks like this:

  • Clothes for the Gym
  • Clothes for the Workplace
  • Clothes for Dates/Recreation
  • Supplements/Water Bottle
  • Toiletries

That's just four things, and already, our gym bag is looking full.

We can take simple steps to maximize our space, though.

Choose Versatility

Obvious statement number 1: You don't need a water bottle for your protein shakes and another for hydration at work.

This is an example of overpreparing, and it's analogous to your apparel as well. Pack versatile clothing and dress in it for more than one venue. Don't take this to mean you should keep your sweaty gym clothes on at the office or wear your slacks and tie to B'dubs. If your work involves manual labor, though, can you work in the same shoes you exercised in? Could your business casual button-up work for your date night if you paired it with jeans instead of khakis?

Bonus Tip: I also recommend clothes that don't wrinkle too easily. The most efficient way to pack is to roll your clothing up like a sleeping bag, and while this helps prevent wrinkles, it's no insurance against them.

Go For Travel-Size and Two-In-One Toiletries

There's no reason to have a family size shampoo in your gym bag. Furthermore, there's no reason to have shampoo that isn't also body wash in your gym bag. Go for two-in-one shampoo and body wash and travel-size deodorant and hair care products to watch the space in your bag grow.

Now, for the more virtuosic tips.

Items You Should Have, But Won't Think About


  • Bleach Pen: You never know when your buddy is going to get overly enthusiastic about the highlight reel and, in his frantic hands-to-the-sky cheer, make his lunch everyone's lunch. Be ready.
  • Mint Gum: Whether you normally take a toothbrush in your toiletries or not, gum is a must-have. If we're honest, bad breath or foreign objects in our teeth are some of our greatest fears. Always have a pack of gum and you won't have to worry.
  • Plastic Bags: If you're throwing your gym clothes or towel in with your clean clothes for later, you're being counterproductive. Use shopping bags for your gym clothes; they block odors and moisture and don't take up any more space in your bag.
  • Granola Bar: Your day could throw anything at you. Maybe it's traffic. Maybe it was the guy ahead of you in line who decided today would be a good day to buy in bulk. Whatever it is, going hungry or losing time don't have to be your only two options. Get a dense protein/granola bar and have it for those "just-in-case" moments.
  • Pain Reliever: Whether it's sore muscles from your workout or a headache from your co-worker's "sales call" that's actually a Pinterest commentary with her girlfriends, pain slows you down. That's not what we want.
  • Antacid: It's long past the age where we had to just accept the consequences for eating spicy food. You know a day will come when your stomach is killing you; you also know that day will come at the least convenient time possible. Who wants to spend the afternoon regretting lunch?