Gear Review: REI Balance Gym Bag

This well-designed gym bag has a spot for anything you could possibly want to carry

What makes a good gym bag?

Before I had that chance to tote around the Balance Bag from REI, I honestly had no idea. Could there really be that much difference between my old burlap backpack and a stylish duffle equipped with a bunch of strategically placed features?

OK, well when I put it that way, I guess the latter does sound a lot better. But still I wondered, could it really make lugging my workout gear around the city that much easier?

It turns out that it did. This bag is so smart; REI thought of everything, so that now when I head to work with my lunch, workout clothes and everyday accessories in tow, I don’t have to juggle three different bags and fight for extra space on the subway during my rush hour commute.  

Speaking of space, the bag’s sleek shape was designed specifically to accommodate gym lockers, which are often slender and not ideal for fitting duffle bags or backpacks. Even with an outfit, shoes and a few books inside of it, I was able to fit the Balance Bag into an extremely slim, S-style locker with ease.

The bag’s extra features are genius.  Like I said, REI thought of everything. From the interior mesh pocket for small items to the fleece lined mini-pockets inside the back zipper compartment and the side water bottle pocket to the seam-sealed, waterproof vented compartment (great for storing sneakers or sweaty clothes) there’s a spot for anything and everything that you could possibly want to carry.

My favorite feature, though, is the “front flap compression system” that was designed for storing your yoga mat. Although I haven’t yet used it to tote around my mat, I’ve found that it’s also super convenient for easily carrying around your umbrella on a rainy day, and REI notes that it also works as a convenient place to stash an extra jacket, too.

Aside from all the bells and whistles, the best part about the bag as a whole is probably the fact that it’s so comfortable to carry. The padded shoulder strap is extra cushiony, which helps to reduce some of the load even when the bag is stuffed full.

And I would know because I’ve stuffed this thing to the brim. It’s not enormous but I was able to fit everything I needed for a two-night weekend trip in it. Pretty impressive for a “gym bag.”