The Best Backpack for Gym & Work Life

In this post we explore the challenges of carrying a separate gym bag and work bag and suggest the top features and considerations for finding the best laptop backpack for gym and work.
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Packing for a workout, whether it's at the gym, at the park, or at a local outdoor track, requires a good amount of planning. There’s nothing worse than arriving to work out, only to realize you forgot something critical like socks or your pre-workout powder.

Unfortunately, carrying both a gym bag and a separate work bag every day is both uncomfortable and, at times, can feel unprofessional. This problem isn’t surprising, since most bags, and especially gym bags, are designed for one specific use, even though our days are dynamic and can be unpredictable.

Read on to find what makes the perfect backpack for the gym and the office and the key things to look for.


Gym Bags vs. Backpacks: Finding the Right Solution for Work and Gym Life

While going directly between the gym and work is extremely common, gym bags and work backpacks are worlds apart in terms of design and both are designed to do only one thing. Most backpacks (particularly the ones that you take to work) have a compartment and pockets to organize the many things you need for your job, whereas most gym bags have a single large compartment (and maybe a separate pocket for shoes). Gym bags don't have protected pockets for your laptop and tech gear while your work backpack doesn't have separate compartments for your gym clothes, towel and shoes. Yes, you could put your dirty shoes and sweaty clothes in a work backpack or you could dump your laptop into a gym bag, but do you really want to?

"I love this backpack because of its versatility. I use it as a gym bag, on my business trips as a carry-on and as a daily business-style backpack. It fits all of my workout essentials my large laptop plus the tools needed to run a successful meeting." -Malcolm B


What Makes a Great Laptop Backpack for The Gym?

Best Backpack for Gym and Work Life

If you’re a workout fanatic that needs to look the part of a working professional, the following tips will help you find a professional backpack that can do it all and go pretty much everywhere with you. 


Most gym bags are designed to look sporty with bright patterns, mixed materials and big logos. They tend to have duffle carry handles that flop and a shoulder strap that usually can't detach. Since they tend to use lightweight materials, when they’re loaded with all of your gym gear, they tend to bulge and sag in all the wrong places. If you need to look professional for your job, so does your bag and a gym bag doesn't cut it.

To look professional, find a bag (like a backpack) that holds its shape and that does not have loud colors, patterns, or logos. Handles and straps should be able to be tucked away when you are not using them. And the overall bag design should be streamlined so that your coworkers won’t be able to tell what you have inside your bag. If you’re looking for a sleek backpack for both the gym and for the work day, check out our expandable backpacks.

Space for your gym gear

It goes without saying that any bag that you take to the gym needs to be large enough for your gym stuff. You need to fit your shoes, a towel, your water bottle, snacks, and potentially a change of clothes. And you want to keep all these things separate from your work items while keeping your bag compact and lightweight. 

Knack Pack laptop backpacks have a super organized main compartment for all your everyday work items. But what makes them a great bag for the gym is that they also have a separate, hidden expandable compartment that adds up to 16 additional liters of space to your bag (which is enough room for all of your gym stuff and a change of clothes). These two compartments make sure your work things and your gym things never share the same space. 

Antimicrobial Lining

Besides aesthetics, the other reason that most people don’t use one bag for their gym and work stuff is because they don’t want their work stuff to pick up the smells from their dirty gym things. All Knack Packs are made with an antimicrobial lining, so that your bag will always smell fresh, no matter what you put (or forget) inside of it - damp towels, sweaty t-shirts, and even your sneakers. Looking to keep your dirty shoes separate from your clean clothes? Check out our Compressible Shoe Bags, built for Knack Packs.

>>MORE How to Clean A Knack Pack 


If you’re hauling both your work and gym stuff around in a single bag, it may get pretty heavy. Backpacks do a much better job than gym bags in distributing weight across your shoulders and hips. Look for a backpack that has padded, adjustable shoulder straps, as well as a padded back panel. Ideally, the back panel should be breathable, just in case you’re biking, walking, or commuting on a hot summer’s day.

"I commute every day and needed something to organize my daily life. The Knack Pack has done just that. The best part is that with the expandable pocket, I no longer need to carry a gym bag and that has made my walk and train ride lightyears more enjoyable." -Megan J

>>MORE The Best Backpack for Commuters 

Weight Distribution

As we mentioned, good weight distribution is an important factor in finding a do-it-all backpack. Look for pocketing that keeps the heaviest items you carry every day, like your laptop, closer to your back. For example, Knack Pack's separate padded zip laptop pocket lies against your back so that when your laptop is packed, it doesn't pull the bag away from your body like backpacks with laptops in front or middle pockets. Similarly, the Series 1 Knack Pack’s bottom cable pocket can double as a shoe pocket for smaller shoes. This pocket allows you to keep your shoes at the bottom of your backpack where you should always pack heavier items in order to distribute weight from your shoulders to your hips.

A Gym Bag With a Laptop Compartment

Of all the stuff you bring with you to work, your laptop is probably the MVP. If you are going to use one bag for both work and gym things, you must ensure that the bag protects your laptop and other tech equipment. That’s why Knack Packs have a separate padded, zipped, side-access laptop pocket. Not only is your laptop protected from everything else in your bag, it’s easy to access. The interior of every Knack Pack also has a fleece-lined tablet pocket as well as other pockets for charges, cables, batteries, and cords.

Looking for a slim-profile solution? Check out our Expandable Sling Bag and how it works great for the gym and everyday as well..

MORE >> Must-Have Features for Your Tech Travel Backpack


Reviewers Love Using Their Knack Packs for the Gym

Because there are so many different ways you could use a Knack Pack as a gym bag, we’ve collected some helpful reviews from a number of workout experts who share how they use their Knacks:

Anthony of Biking Punk - Biking to Work

Biking to work is a great way to fit a workout into a busy day.  Anthony, a blogger behind “Biking Punk”, uses his Knack Pack while biking every day. He finds Knack makes it easy to carry his work clothes to change into when he gets to the office.

“I haven’t used the subway or public transit in over 100 days! Biking everywhere in NYC means carrying everything on your back. If you are like me and don’t pack light, check out Knack Bags to get there and back.”

“If you plan on using your Knack Pack as a commuter laptop bag, make sure to pack the heaviest items at the bottom of the bag, for better stability!”

The Best Backpack for Gym and Work Life

Dr. Jena - Live Core Strong

Dr. Jena is a physical therapist and blogger at LiveCoreStrong.  She wrote to tell us that she uses her Knack Pack as a work bag, diaper bag and gym bag.

Here’s some of what Jena had to say: “When I go to the gym, I don’t need to carry my diaper bag and a gym bag, because I am able to fit it all into the Knack Pack. The hidden suitcase compartment is deep enough to fit 2-3 outfits, shoes, toiletries and anything else personal you might need for the gym. There’s a secret water bottle compartment on the side that doesn’t take up any space from other compartments.

The other day when I went to the gym for a quick workout, I was able to put all my stuff in a completely separate compartment from my kids’ stuff. I didn’t have to worry about crumbs from my kids’ crackers getting into my phone. My water bottle was securely separated from the rest of my items in the bag, which reassured me that water would not spill out into the other compartments.

When I need to change out my clothes, I can quickly go to the compartment where everything is nicely folded and secure with no possibility that my blouse will get stains from one of my kids’ wayward markers!”

The Best Backpack for Gym and Work Life

Gio – Working Out with The Knack Pack

In addition to his full-time job, Gio also runs a non-profit – making his schedule packed.  He uses his Knack Pack to pack for his day, keeping his workout clothes in the separate, expandable compartment.

From Gio: “There’s a compartment for everything. Whether I’m packing my laptop up for work or heading to the gym, there’s a spot for everything to fit AND be secure. When you have a Knack Bag, it’s the only bag you need. I’m looking forward to taking this bag on my next travel adventure which I’ll be off to soon!”

The Best Backpack for Gym and Work Life



One-bag Solutions for Work, Gym, and Everyday Life

If you’re interested in trying out a Knack Pack for your commute to work, the gym, and everywhere in between, then check out our new Knack Convertible Duffel bag. Our newest style lets you convert an everyday laptop office backpack into a spacious duffel that carries your gym things (or travel things). The Duffel's many organization pockets keep your work tech safe, while the expandable main compartment gives you a little, or a lot, of extra space that you need for whatever the day holds. It's the perfect One Bag for work and the gym.

We Want to Hear From You

We’d love to hear about your favorite experiences using a Knack Pack. Drop us a line at and we’ll share your comments with fellow Knackpackers in a future blog. Don’t forget to tag @knackbags and use #knackbags on social media!

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