There’s something they didn’t tell you before you started training. That is, just how much gear you’ll need to carry to class.
Gi, No-Gi gear, MMA shorts, gloves & shin guards, hand wraps, water bottle, towel, change of clothes… as it happens, the hardest thing about training BJJ or MMA is finding a bag to carry all of your stuff!
It’s far too much to carry in a regular backpack. If you don’t invest in a quality gear bag for your training, you’re going to end up leaving vital pieces of equipment at home, or even worse, choosing not to go and train because of the hassle it causes.
If you’ve only just started to train, you can get away with a regular backpack and just a pair of shorts, rashguard, towel and water bottle. But if you want to get serious, you’ll need a serious bag.
Continue reading for our personal recommendations on backpacks and gym bags for grapplers, fighters, and all kinds of martial artists.
What to Look For in a Gear Bag
There are a few important characteristics that separate an okay gym bag from a great gym bag. Keep these in mind when shopping for your next bag (or follow our recommendations!)
Size & capacity
Your bag needs to be able to fit all of your gear. It feels pretty stupid when you have to carry half of your stuff because it didn’t fit in your bag.
The actual size you need depends on what kind of training you’re doing. For example, if you only do No-Gi, you don’t need a whole lot of size. Your Gi, however, takes up a lot of space. Add boxing gloves, shin guards to the mix if you train Muay Thay and/or MMA.
Getting a bag that’s big enough means you won’t have to make any sacrifices when buying gear, in order to get gloves or other gear small enough to fit in your bag.
Personally, since I usually train in a bigger commercial gym, I keep my main gear bag in the lockers and bring along a drawstring “sackpack” like this to the mats with my water bottle, towel, etc.
A big plus is if your backpack has separate compartments, in order to keep all your gear organized.
With a regular bag, you have one big compartment and everything is lumped together. But when you’re training, you’re going to have all kinds of sweaty things, flip flops that you used to walk to the bathroom, a water bottle, and more.
You ideally want to separate all these things, or else sweat and bacteria from your used gear is going to mesh with everything, and you’re going to have a bad time. Especially if you have a gap between classes (say, a morning class and an evening class).
Small compartments for all your bits and pieces (mouthpiece, finger tape, joint braces, etc) is also essential, since these things always get lost under everything by the end of practice.
Take it from me, regular backpacks don’t hold up well to carrying a heavy Gi and a bunch of MMA gear. Straps and zips start to come apart, and soon enough you’re shopping for a new bag.
You’ve also got to take into account water protection, both internal and external. You want to be able to take a little punishment if the weather turns on your way to training, and you also need to consider that there will be moisture inside the bag from your sweaty Gi and rashguard.
Stock backpacks will degrade pretty quickly from prolonged moisture. MMA and BJJ gear bags are designed so they don’t pick up so much water, and the best bags have built-in airflow so bacteria won’t cultivate so easily in moist conditions.
A lot of us are out the whole day, spending the day at work or school and going to training right after. This often means you’ve got to lug your gear around everywhere you go.
That’s why you need a backpack that’s comfortable. A poorly-designed gear bag is going to make you exhausted, physically and mentally, and you’ll be running out of gas before class even starts.
Some cheap bags may even end up doing damage to your back or shoulders. As if you don’t have enough injury worries as it is!
Duffle Bag or Backpack?
There are two types of bags you’ll see in this list – duffle bags and traditional backpacks.
Backpacks are a better fit if you don’t have quite so much gear, and prefer something that is comfortable and easier to carry around all day. Backpacks are best if you’re only carrying gear for BJJ – most of the backpacks we’ll list are big enough to carry a Gi, No-Gi gear, and a bunch of miscellaneous items. Backpacks tend to have a lot more little compartments to keep small items like mouthguards, tape and keys.
If space is your top priority, you want to go for a duffle bag. These give you a ton of capacity, generally more than enough to carry all the gear you need for striking, such as gloves, shin guards, and sometimes even striking pads. The downside is they take a little more effort to carry around than a backpack.
Top 7 MMA & Jiu Jitsu Gear Bags
Without anything further, here are the best options for your money out there today.
Elite Sports Convertible & Expandable Gym Bag
The first is a duffle-backpack hybrid. It’s super convenient, being able to expand or contract depending on how much space you need that day. Great for those casual No-Gi days where you don’t want to bring a massive duffle bag. Yet at 16” x 9” x 27.5” fully expanded, it’s big enough to fit a Gi or two.
The bag is made up of several pockets, with a big enough main compartment for your bigger gear as well as a few outer compartments for the small things, or to separate your work/school gear.
A great feature of this is the mesh outer pocket, which is perfect for keeping your dirty gear separate from the rest of the bag.
The backpack has ample size for BJJ gear, but you might be pressed for space if you try and add gloves and pads as well. For bigger sizes, Elite also offers high-quality duffle bags:
Warrior Duffle Bag
Mesh Duffle Bag
Gold BJJ Jiu Jitsu Backpack
Another great product from Gold BJJ, this is a backpack that is made specifically for BJJ, and the issues unique to Jiu Jitsu students. It has compartments for everything, mainly a waterproof section for your Gi, which keeps your Gi clean before training, and everything else clean after training. It even has a pouch for your belt.
All the materials that go into this backpack are high-quality, and it feels extremely comfortable, for when you need to carry your gear around all day. It’s a little small for additional gear, but sufficient for your Gi and No-Gi gear.
Hayabusa Ryoko Gym Duffle Bag
From one of the most recognizable brands in martial arts, the Hayabusa Ryoko is a top-quality duffle for those with a lot of gear. It will comfortably fit your Gi and striking gear, with a 21” length and 11” depth and height.
Unlike many duffle bags, the Hayabusa Ryoko has several convenient compartments to organize your gear, including mesh outer sections to separate dirty from clean. There are also small inner pockets for valuables such as your keys, wallet and phone. It’s a little pricey, but you get a lot of quality for your money.
Venum “Challenger” Xtreme Backpack
The Venum Challenger has backpack in the title, but make no mistake, it’s a backpack-duffle hybrid. While it has convenient shoulder straps, the size is huge, and doesn’t have any dropoff in size from a duffle bag like the Ryoko. The shoulder straps are foam padded, making it easy and comfortable to wear as a backpack, even when fully loaded.
The bag is big enough for all your striking gear, or for No-Gi gear and a couple of Gis. The outer is made from water-resistant polyester, and it has smart mesh panels to aid airflow.
The quality is what you would expect from Venum products, as is the design.
Meister Vented Convertible Duffel/Backpack Gym Bag
The Meister Convertible is a great mix of duffle and backpack. Its shoulder straps can be put away to go from one mode to the next really easily.
The size makes for either a generous-sized backpack, or a slightly smaller than average duffle. The length is a little shorter than the Hayabuse Ryoko, for example, but it’s actually deeper, making it a good fit for a Gi + some MMA gear.
It has a few separate compartments, though it’s mostly one large compartment – a little less convenient than some others here, in that regard. However it comes at a really attractive price point.
The price, mixed with the convenience of a backpack/duffle hybrid makes this the best value option in this list, for the cost-conscious.
Under Armour Undeniable Duffle 3.0
You can’t argue with the quality of Under Armour. And while that sometimes translates into a premium price, the Undeniable Gym Bag is actually very decent value.
One of the best things about this the varied size options. If you only need enough space for BJJ and Gym gear, you can go with the one of the smaller sizes, which are great value for money and a manageable size. But they also have the best option for larger sized bags – the XL size is huge, and should have enough space for several sets of gear.
There are a lot of awesome design options (although not all are available in the larger sizes).
As Amazon’s #1 best selling sports duffle bag, you can be pretty confident you’re getting the best with this one.
Reebow Gear Military Tactical Backpack
No one said you need a backpack made specifically for MMA. If you have one that’s as good as this, you’ll be just fine.
The Reebow tactical backpack ticks all the boxes I look for in a backpack (outside of being endorsed by an ADCC champion). The space is huge, more than enough for a backpack. It’s still a compact design, though, which makes it comfortable and easy to take on a bus, plane, etc.
It’s made for hunting, trekking, or survival conditions, so it will stand up easily to muggy gym conditions or inclement weather. The small outer compartments are great for the little bits and pieces, while you can throw the big boys like your Gi and protective gear in the main compartment.
The only downside is no ventilated compartment for sweaty gear, but that really is the only thing missing. This is a great backpack, which can double as a hiking or trekking pack for those who like the great outdoors.