Our Favorite Gym Bag, Plus 7 Essentials We Keep Inside

There's a reason Aer's Gym Duffel 3 has become a cult favorite

The Aer Gym Duffel 3, our favorite gym bag. We talk about what makes the design so great, and the fitness essentials we keep inside.
So many compartments. Here's how we fill 'em.

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There was a time, just a few years ago, that purchasing a gym bag would’ve seemed like a waste of money. The WFH era led to other kinds of wellness investments, like connected fitness machines and mobile training subscriptions. We learned to exercise on our own. But gym attendance has rebounded since the pandemic. Strength training is more popular than ever, and surveys indicate Americans would rather exercise outside of the house, many yearning for the added burst of community.

It’s once again a good time to be making gym bags, in other words. I would also argue that some of the solo exercise strategies we adopted during quarantine are made better by them. For instance, there are still pandemic-inspired days where I head down to the track, or even just an empty field, to run myself through calisthenics and circuit drills. Having a bag of tricks by my side is invaluable.

For these workouts, and for everything else that qualifies — lift days, intramural games, pick-up basketball, pickleball — my bag of choice is the Gym Duffel 3 from San Francisco-based Aer. I dive into the bag’s specs below, along with a list of the exact “tricks” I carry around in it.

The Case for the Aer Gym Duffel 3

For those not in the know, Aer came up during that swell of mid-2010s “urban explorer” brands. It’s stuck around because its designs are timeless (but not boring) and technical (but not intimidating).

The Gym Duffel 3, in particular, is an online cult favorite. It’s absurd how compact the bag is (17″ in length) considering how many compartments it offers. There’s a top section for your clothes; side sections for equipment, valuables and catch-all items; and my most appreciated: a “stowaway bay” for your gym shoes. This particular duffel fits men’s size 13 and under.

It’s the thoughtful little touches in the construction that put the bag over the top, though. For instance, there are water-bottle pockets in and outside of the duffel, the laptop pocket is padded, and larger compartments are either ventilated or lined with anti-microbial coating, so you’re not lugging your stink around town.

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7 Things We Keep Inside It

The Gym Duffel 3 comes in two different colors: black and gray. Simple folks, those Aer designers. I have the black. Here’s a snapshot of what I keep in the bag on a regular basis:

  • Athletic shoes: More often than not, I’ve got my Reebok Nano X4s in here. They’re a do-it-all fitness shoe. If I’m packing my bag for a more specific purpose, I’ll sub in basketball shoes or soccer cleats.
  • Recovery slides: I’ve got a great pair from Oofos. They take some pressure off my lower half after a tough session.
  • Weighted vest: As I wrote about in detail for The Charge last week, a weighted vest is a great way to shake up your bodyweight routine. The Omorpho one I use isn’t that heavy, so it fits nicely in the duffel.
  • Jump rope: The easiest way to fit in a 15-minute scorcher at the park. My go-to jump rope is made by Crossrope. Great grips, good length for taller guys and you can buy heavier ropes for more of an upper-body blast.
  • Massage gun: I roll with the Hypervolt 2 these days (with the heated head attachment, of course).
  • Stretch sleeve: Sometimes I’ll remove this from the bag, because it’s a little heavier and I like to use it at home, too. But Castleflexx’s stretch sleeve is a perfect way to revive a static stretching routine.
  • Extra socks: You know them for their shoes, but On makes excellent socks now, too. Always smart to have an extra pair on command, especially if you take your shoes off for certain exercises at the gym.

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