One of the most used pieces of equipment for any martial artist is the gym bag. A quality gym bag should fit all your training equipment and leave you extra space for a change of clothes and water.
The type of training that you do will determine the best bag. Someone who is only training BJJ just needs a bag big enough for their Gi, groin protection, and their mouth guard. On the other hand, someone training Muay Thai will need space for all their protective gear which requires more space.
Typically, you have two types of bags: the duffle bag (should-carry bag) and the backpack. There is a third type that’s a hybrid — a backpack that converts into a gym duffle bag, combining the best of both worlds.
Why Buy a Training Gym Bag?
Because you need on to bring your gear to the gym. It doesn’t matter what sport or kind of training you are doing; you’ll inevitably need to bring something with you that won’t fit into your pockets. This could be:
- a change of clothes
- a towel
- electronics (phone, iPod, etc.)
- training gear (bag boxing gloves, sparring gloves shin guards, head gear, Thai pads, focus mitts, mouthguard, etc.)
If you are training MMA or Muay Thai, you will probably be hauling around quite a bit of gear to the gym every day. For example, a well-equipped student could easily pack headgear, two pairs of gloves (sparring and bag gloves), shin guards, ankle wraps, groin protection, mouth guard, Muay Thai shorts, Thai pads, food and drinks and even a change of clothes in their bag.
Thus, you want a bag that’s big enough to carry all of this while also making it easy to access this stuff. You’ll also want a durable bag that will hold up to the wear and tear. Carrying around trained-in fight gear is rough on bags (not to mention smelly). So a bag that resists odor and consistent moisture exposure is important. This is why you just don’t want to bring a plain old duffle bag or backpack to do the job.
For one, a normal bag will:
- Fall apart from the moisture.
- start to smell bad after a few weeks
- Accessing your gear will be a pain in the ass, requiring you to pull everything out to get at the stuff underneath
Every martial artist has their own specific needs. Choosing the right bag often comes down to the amount of stuff you need to fit in your bag. This article is going to break down everything you need to know about training bags and help you choose a bag that is suitable for your needs.
Choosing the Right MMA/Muay Thai Training Bag
When it comes to training bag, there is no one size fits all solutions. If you have a LOT of training equipment, then obviously, space is going to be one feature that you want to look for. Some bags have better sorting compartments to allow you to organize your stuff neatly when you go to training.
The following are some important factors that you should consider when purchasing an MMA training bag.
Duffle Bags vs. Backpacks vs. Hybrids
One of the first decisions you need to make when it comes to choosing a bag is what type of bag you want to buy.
The Duffle Bag
Duffle bags have the advantage that they are bigger and can hold a lot more, while backpacks are easier to transport by foot.
If you must walk a long distance to your class, duffle bags can put a lot of strain on your shoulders because of the imbalance.
If you drive to the gym, then it really doesn’t matter what bag you wear because you won’t be traveling to far. If it’s just a simple drive to your gym parking lot then a walk inside, a duffle bag is probably the better choice.
Training duffle bags (made specifically for fight sports) will usually have separate compartment areas to stash your main gear like boxing gloves, shin pads, etc. So it makes it easier to access your gear.
Backpacks are much better for your posture and ideal for people who are walking to class or transporting longer distances by foot (taking the bus, the subway, riding a bike, etc. ). Backpacks are also much more flexible in use — you can use them for any situation.
One advantage that MMA backpacks have is that they have lots of compartments in the bag that allow you to separate your training equipment. There is the main storage area of the ba, and there are smaller compartments to put your mouth guard, wallet, and side compartments to put a change of clothes, etc.
While duffle bags have compartments, backpacks tend to have more compartments due to the need to better utilize the limited space.
The disadvantage with the backpack is that it can be harder to access the gear at the bottom. Some of the better-designed backpacks though are designed to accessed like a duffle bag by putting them with the back flat against the ground and unzipping the entire top.
I use a training backpack because I drive a motorbike to class, but if I took a car, it wouldn’t matter. Duffle bags tend to be cheaper as well, so if the price is a factor, this could be another reason to choose duffle.
I am more a fan of the backpack than the duffle bag — it’s just more flexible.
I’ve seen (and owned) a recent hybrid Backpack and Dufflebag.
This is MY personal preference right now as it’s the best of both worlds (though usually more expensive than either).
These backpacks function as a large backpack but also can be unzipped at the bottom to extend an extra compartment adding a good 30 to 40 percent more length (making it a duffle bag in size). There is also an included strap that basically lets you flip the ‘backpack’ to the side and use it like a regular duffle bag. As such, you get a full duffle bag if you wish. While it’s not as ‘stable’ as a regular duffle bag, which is built to be a duffle bag, the backpack-converted-to-duffle bag does a pretty decent job.
I’ve used mine to travel countries, packing it with a ton of gear. Overall, it’s a great compromise.
Internal Storage Space
The most important job of any bag is to carry all your equipment. If you buy a bag that is too small, then you might as well buy another bag. There is no point in having a bag that isn’t going to fulfill the need of carrying all your gym equipment to training.
As I mentioned before, duffle bags can hold more equipment. So, if you are training MMA and need to hold your BJJ Gi, Headguard, Gloves, Shin Guards and a few changes of clothes, you may want a duffle bag.
I recommend getting a large training bag — be it backpack or duffle bag. It’s better to err on the side of caution here and get a bag that has extra room.
At the very least, you’ll want to be able to carry a pair of Thai pads, two pairs of gloves (sparring and regular gloves), a set of shin pads, a bottle of water and a change of clothes. As such, you want a big bag.
One thing I’ve noticed is that gym bags can end up stinking if you leave any old equipment in the bag. This is even more so if you live in a humid climate (like Thailand).
Some bags have built-in mesh linings that allow air to circulate in the bag when everything is closed. That means if you forget your groin guard it will end up destroying your entire bag with stench.
Bags that have better breathability are much less likely to suffer from mold and other moisture related problems. It is a good idea to always take your equipment out of the bag and let them air dry. This will make your equipment smell better, and it will ensure you don’t trap odor in the bag.
Look for bags that have breathable mesh if you find that your bags tend to smell bad. Hockey players tend to have this problem because they have a lot of equipment that sits in their bag after training.
Some of the better bags are built from odor-resistant material — definitely look for this option if you can find it. It keeps the stink down.
You also need to maintain the bag to keep prevent odor build up. This means you’ll take out all your gear after using the bag and let the bag dry out. If you leave your used wraps and gloves in the bag overnight, the entire bag will stink and you won’t be able to completely get rid of it.
Durability of the Bags
Training Muay Thai in Thailand made me realize how easy it is for equipment to start breaking down if you don’t care for it. The durability of your bag is going to depend on the materials used to make the bag. Cheap heavy bags are going to start ripping if you load them up with too much weight.
The better training bags have better stitching in the seams to ensure they are less likely to tear. Any bag will tear after enough weight, but the cheap bags tear after a few weeks of use.
Usually, it will start to tear on the side of the bag, or you will notice that the straps start to come loose. This is a sign that you probably should have spent a little bit more money on your Muay Thai training bag.
Most bags will last a few years if you take proper care of the bags. After a time, they will start stretching, and you will notice a may start noticing small holes or rust in the metal if you live in a humid climate. Humidity is the biggest enemy of your training equipment, so make sure you do try to dry out your bag after use to extend the life of the bag.
Humidity is the biggest enemy of your training equipment, so make sure you do try to dry out your bag after use to extend the life of the bag.
Another thing you need to consider is the cost of the bag. The more features that are included in a training bag, the more you can expect to pay for the bag. The cheapest option is to buy a big duffle bag with no compartments, but that will result in you having to dig through your entire bag whenever you want something.
The training duffle bags tend to be a bit cheaper than training backpacks because they usually have a couple of compartments. The general price of a good bag will range from $40-120 depending on the brand and features that the bag offers. The best bags have strong stitching along the seams to ensure they don’t break when you load them up with all your equipment.
Every Muay Thai or MMA brand makes their own line of training bags. I don’t have any brand preference when it comes to training bags. At the end of the day, nobody is going to look at your training bag with envy. It is simply a tool of transportation for all your other training equipment.
Best Muay Thai / MMA Training Bags (Backpacks & Duffle Bags)
Best Training Duffle Bags
Venum Trainer (Lite) Sport Bag
There’s a ton of training bags out on the market, but none that offers the best value, comfort, durability, space, and specific design aimed at fighters like the Venum Sports Bag. There are ‘better’ bags out there, but they are more expensive. Considering this bag is just about $60 bucks, you are getting a good deal.
The Venum MMA Bag is an excellent bag for MMA, Muay Thai, and BJJ training. The large storage space in the main compartment, allows you to fit all your training gear inside the bag.
This bag will hold everything that you will need for MMA training and just about any other sport you might do. There is a large main pocket in the bag that allows you to put your shin guards and gloves in it and a smaller side compartment.
There is a large main pocket in the bag that allows you to put your shin guards and gloves in it and a smaller side compartment. The built-in side compartment is a great option if you want to keep your clean clothes separate from the dirty stuff you use in training.
The built-in side compartment is a great option if you want to keep your clean clothes separate from the dirty stuff you use in training.
There is breathable mesh on the side of the bag to allow some air into the bag. This helps when it comes to drying out your bag after you stuff all your wet equipment in the bag. The adjustable shoulder straps come with a foam padding, so it doesn’t weigh down too much on you.
Inside the main compartment, there is a smaller pocket that you can store your mouthguard, wallet or any other smaller items that you want to keep separate from your training equipment.
The bag is best used for holding training equipment, so if you plan on storing a bunch of heavy dumbbells in the bag, expect the straps to break.
One thing I like about this bag is the durability that it offers, with the breathable mesh that gives the bag some circulation. This helps prevent the bag from smelly like your dirty training equipment.
Buy It……. This bag is good for MMA/Muay Thai Training if you want a pure duffle bag.
This is a great training bag and will work for most people. If you don’t like carrying around a big backpack, this bag offers great storage compartments to use. It will easily fit your training gloves, shin guards and change of clothes without feeling like it’s too full.
Alternative Choice (For More Space)
Hayabusa Recast Mesh Gear Bag
If the Venum MMA bag isn’t big enough to hold all of your equipment, then you can go with the Hayabusa MMA bag. This is the largest bag available for MMA related training.
The top of the Hayabusa is lined with mesh material to allow more breathability. This is a good thing if you happen to walk around with a lot of equipment that carries a lot of funky smells. The downside of a mesh bag is that it makes it easier to tear. If you get something caught in the mesh then it will rip.
The Hayabusa MMA bag is the biggest bag on the market and offers the most space. If you have 3 pairs of gloves, Thai pads, shin guards and a massive amount of stuff you want to bring to training, this bag gives you ample room to fit everything.
If you want to take a lot of training gear on long-haul airline flights, this would be the bag to get. Say for example coming back from Thailand with a ton of Muay Thai gear you bought.
Buy It……. If you want a massive mesh duffle bag.
The mesh lining offers great breathability and a lot of space for all your equipment. The only downside to the mesh is it won’t protect you from rain and it is more likely to tear than regular bags. However, your bag won’t smell nearly as bad as other bags in the gym.
Best Casual Do Anything Duffle Bag
Under Armour Storm Undeniable II SM Duffle
While you may want a heavy duty oversized duffle bag specifically to haul all your fight gear around, you may be looking for a smaller do-anything gym bag. While you can certainly use a fight gear bag, sometimes you want something that’s more understated, smaller, and minimalistic.
My pick goes to the Under Armour Storm SM Duffle. It’s made from quality materials (Under Armour, Yo!), it’s durable as rock, it’s understated yet aesthetic and it’s highly functional.
It’s also quite affordable at around $40. If you don’t need a massive bag to haul a ton of fight gear around, this bag should be good enough for MMA, Muay Thai, weight lifting, or anything really.
If you are trying to transport a huge amount of fight gear, then look at the other options I’ve given — this is not that bag.
But if you want an understated bag to haul around to the weight gym, cross fit, BJJ, or MMA and you are not carrying gear for two people with you, this bag is a lovely buy.
Best Budget Training Duffle Bag
WEWEON Gym Bag
Not as fancy or as big as the other options, but it’s half to a third of the price at under $30 bucks. If you don’t have THAT much gear to bring and you are really trying to save your cash, the WEWEON bag is all you need.
Yes, it won’t have all those fancy compartments for holding individual pieces of gear and it’s not designed specifically for fighters, but this general gym bag is cheap while still being functional and well-designed, for the price.
So you budget hungry fighters, look at this one if you are counting pennies.
Best MMA / Muay Thai Training Backpacks
If you want more flexibility on how you can carry your bag, then you’ll want a backpack over a duffle bag. Typically, Duffle Bags do have more space and are better for long distance travel. But they are a pain to walk around with.
Backpacks make it easy to carry around a lot of fight gear while still allowing you mobility (you can ride a bike to training, walk around, etc). If you want even more space, you can look at a Hybrid Backpack Duffel Bag which is designed as a backpack first, but can be converted into a larger duffle bag on the fly.
My personal training bag of choice is the hybrid backpack duffel bag. However, some people don’t want the extra size and weight that such a hybrid bag entails — if you only have a bit of gear (say boxing gloves and shin pads), then a regular training backpack is a better choice as it’s lighter and smaller.
The Best Training Backpack
Twins Special Gym Backpack (Duffle Bag & Backpack Hybrid)
The Twins special gym bag is the backpack that I use for training. The bag is built very well and has an expandable compartment that allows it to nearly double in storage size. This backpack will hold pretty much everything you need, including Thai Pads or Boxing Mitts.
The bag is built very well and has an expandable compartment that allows it to nearly double in storage size. It also includes an extra shoulder strap that you can pull out to convert it to a duffle bag (when you unzip the bottom fall out compartment at the bottom that adds 40 percent more size to it)
This backpack will hold pretty much everything you need, including Thai Pads or Boxing Mitts.
In fact, fully loaded with the bottom section pulled out, you can fit 3 pairs of gloves, 2 pairs of shin guards, a pair of thai pads, headgear, and more in the same bag!
This bag is in fact bigger than the Venum Duffle bag, which says a lot about the storage capacity of the bag. The side compartments of the bag allow you to put your water bottle or even some clothes in the side area.
Basically, this bag is enough to stash both your Muay Thai gear, your partner’s gear, and maybe your kids’ gear as well.
One of my favorite features of this backpack is the small compartment at the top of the bag that I use to put my keys, wallet, and phone. This is a handy compartment because it allows me to separate my important stuff away from all the dirty equipment I have.
Inside the compartment, there is another small storage area at the bottom. I usually put my mouth guard, skipping rope, and Thai oil in these compartments.
As far as the construction and durability, it’s top notch. The zippers ends are oversized and thick — high quality — and the zipper is quite thick. The bag material is made from a thick, water resistant nylon. Overall, it’s pretty high quality. I’ve been using mine for about a year in Thailand at this point and it’s still kicking — which says a lot as you go through bags like beers down here.
If you are looking for a training backpack, I highly recommend you check this one out.
This is the best training backpack that I have used. The expandable storage allows you to increase the size by 40%, which is a huge amount. I have never run out of space with this backpack and am happy with my purchase.
Venum “Challenger Xtreme” Backpack
This is about the same as the Twins — it offers extra space, it converts into a duffle bag and it has multiple compartments for your gear. There’s plenty of mesh compartments to help your gear dry out as well, if you put used gear in it after a hard training session.
It’s also a bit more aesthetically designed then twins with a better combination of colors. Basically, it looks better than the Twins.
However, it’s more expensive, costing about $100 plus shipping. This makes it 30 percent more expensive than the TWINS model, while offering just about the same functionality.
As such, my recommendation for ‘the best’ goes to the TWINS due to the price difference. If you really don’t like the look of the TWINS or you can’t find it to buy, then the venum is my runner up choice.
Good Training Backpack
The Fairtex is made for Muay Thai — it’s about the same size as the TWINS but does not convert into a duffle bag. I’ve owned this one myself and it’s a good oversized training backpack for anyone doing Muay Thai or MMA, with many discrete compartments for your gear. Again, it’s made specifically for Muay Thai boxers in mind and can easily hold your shin pads, your boxing gloves, and Thai pads, in addition to other stuff.
My only complaint with this one is that the zippers came off after about 8 months of use in Thailand. The nylon material as well started to fall apart — but this is in part due to me keeping wet gloves and shirts inside without removing them after training more than a few times.
For a pure ‘Muay Thai’ backpack, it’s one of the best on the market.
Ring to Cage Convertible Backpack
Another decent convertible bag. Not as well designed or as durable as the TWINS or Venum, but it’s a decent knock-off design. A good mid range bag for those who are in dry climates.
Note, the bag materials are bit on the thin side — so the durability won’t hold up in the tropical climates. However, this is priced quite cheap — it’s cheaper than the Venum Challenger Extreme and the Twins backpack. As such, it’s a good ‘budget’ pick if you want the functionality of the hybrid without paying too much.
It’s still not bottom dollar cheap, but if you manage to get one of the Ring to Cage sales, you might find it for about 60 bucks which is a pretty good price, giving you the best budget buy for a hybrid duffle bag backpack designed especially for fighters.
Whether you choose a duffle bag or backpack for your training needs it comes down to preference. Do you want something that you can easily throw everything inside or you do you want something with compartments to allow you better organization?
I use a training backpack for my equipment because I travel on a motorbike and need something that I can wear on my back. The backpacks also have a lot of extra small storage compartments that allow you to place your keys, wallet in a place easily accessible.
It is important to choose something that offers you the space you need. If your bag can’t hold all your training equipment than you might as well carry around two bags, which is a pain in the ass. Opt of a bigger bag than you think you might need — you’ll end up with more gear as time passes and the extra space will come in handy.
It’s also equally important that the bag be durable. There is nothing more frustrating going to the gym, packing all your gear in there, only to have the zipper tear off or hole burst open and your gear spill out — and yes, this has happened to me several times already in Thailand with several gym bags.
This is why I recommend only bags designed specifically for sports (and MMA / Muay Thai) because the bags are designed to handle the rigors of carrying wet, sweaty gear. Use a generic duffle bag or backpack and the bag will fall to pieces in a few months — and stink to high hell.
If money is the biggest thing you are worried about then you should go with a duffle bag. They tend to be cheaper than the backpacks and provide lots of storage space.
The best bags, I feel, in terms of flexibility are the backpacks that convert into duffle bags. However, these bags are usually more expensive, heavier and more bulky than a pure backpack, and are not structurally as strong as pure duffle bag. When converted up into a duffle bag, the extra area (several of these converted bags have mesh extensions) are not as strong as the rest of the bag (which is nylon).
As such, any gear may get scratched or be exposed to outside elements (like moisture, rain, etc). For this reason, if you plan to have your bag outside for long periods, travel in rainy weather with the bag, or do long-haul flights, it’s best to use a PURE duffle bag rather than the hybrid bag converted to a duffle bag.
The reason I prefer the training backpack is because of the different compartments that allow you to separate your equipment, clothes easily. If you are the type of person that just likes to throw everything together, then any regular duffle bag will work just fine.
I’ve find that the first thing to break in most bags is the strap or handle of the bag. If you plan on stuffing your bag with a lot of weight, make sure you are buying something that will be able to hold the excess weight.