If you’re serious about your training, writes MF online writer Laurence McJannet, the Pro Series gym bag won’t let you down.

Building on the success of the large Gym Hero 2.0 gym bag, Built for Athletes has delivered another high-quality backpack made with serious athletes in mind. It’s taken everything that was good about the Hero and improved it. This thing has space for all the best workout clothes you own and much more.

Men’s Fitness verdict

Durable and built to last, this backpack will swallow everything from lifting shoes to massage guns, with plenty of room for tech, fuel & clothes. A worthy investment for serious gym-goers.
  • Superb design with plenty of storage options
  • Rugged construction that’s built to last
  • Spreads load evenly across your back
  • Twice the price of previous design
  • No colour options like the Gym Hero 2.0

How we tested the best backpacks

Our team of reviewers are experienced testers of all manner of fitness kit. While testing out this backpack, MF writer Laurence McJannet assessed the bag in terms of style, storage, and comfort. He also paid close attention to the durability of the design and whether it was worth the price tag. The testing process involved packing the backpack with a range of items – from workout clothes and gym shoes to a laptop and headphones – to assess the storage capabilities, before wearing it over varied periods to assess the comfort factor.

Overhead view of gym kit and Built For Athletes gym bag
The Pro Series backpack will hold gym shoes, massage guns, laptops, shake tubs and more

Built For Athletes Pro Series Backpack: first impressions

I was a little sceptical about this new model primarily due to the price. At $290 / £199 it’s almost twice the price of the Gym Hero 2.0 but with the same 45L capacity. After all, how much can you improve a gym bag to justify doubling the price? 

Most of that scepticism was dispelled the instant I pulled the Pro Series from the zipped polythene bag it came in. (It would have been good to see a recyclable bag, but at least it’s strong enough to be reusable.) Any remaining doubts I had dwindled the more I used it, and the more I found I could fit in it. 

Built For Athletes Pro Series Backpack features

It’s immediately obvious that Built for Athletes’ top-of-the-range bag is seriously robust, and is one of the best gym bags. This piece of kit is going to last years of day-to-day use and abuse. It takes the solidity of the Gym Hero 2.0 and raises it to a whole new level. Made from military grade, quad-stitched, rip-proof 1000D Cordura fabric, it feels indestructible. There’s a real heft to it, too, even when empty. Though there’s no official weight, I measured the pack to be around 6.2lb / 2.8kg. 

As it’s compacted for shipping, it looked a bit innocuous when I first pulled it out of the bag. But the exterior pockets expand significantly once stuffed full, and if packed to the rafters (I never managed to fill it, no matter how hard I tried) you’ll end up with a bag around 16in / 40cm deep. That sounds unwieldy, but thanks to its load-spreading design and carefully placed trio of back pads, it always felt relatively compact and comfortable.

Having had a few unwanted laptop-liquid interfaces in gym bags in the past, the first thing I did was check out the redesigned laptop compartment. Set within the bag’s rigid exoskeleton, the cushioned laptop pocket is entirely separate from the rest of the bag, in its own waterproof compartment. There is no way liquid is getting in there unless you pour it in. Side access makes it quick and easy to retrieve too. 

Close-up of the contents of a gym bag
The Pro Series bag has multiple easy-access waterproof compartments

Built For Athletes Pro Series Backpack capacity

It’s all very well having safe laptop storage, but how about stowing your actual gym kit? The bewildering array of pockets in this 11.9gal / 45L bag means that won’t be a problem, however heavy you pack. After a month of use I’d encountered the side zipped laptop compartment close to your back, the zipped shoe compartment underneath, three external zipped pockets and one large zipped compartment (with a main drop-in pocket and two small mesh pockets), as well as the main compartment (which also features a zippered pocket and two drop-in compartments).

Just when I thought that was it I found a half hidden medium-sized zip pocket at the very top behind the rugged knurled handle. Unsurprisingly, in use I never found myself needing more pockets. My usual problem was remembering which pocket I’d put smaller items such as protein bars, resistance bands, chargers or keys in.

I appreciated the ventilated space for shoe storage. It’s just what you need to conceal a humming pair of the best gym shoes after a hard cardio session. There’s loads of volume in here, too, so even your hefty size 12 lifting shoes will fit with space to spare. You’d also have room in the main compartment for another pair of gym shoes. 

Built For Athletes Pro Series Backpack details

Aside from the wealth of storage options, there are plenty of smaller details that come into their own the more you use the Pro Series gym bag. The 270-degree opening on the main compartment makes packing simple and access instantaneous. All zips are reinforced and during two months of solid use showed no sign of becoming dislodged. There are spare zip tabs in the bag too.

The water bottle holders on either side are adjustable and are big enough for larger blender bottles or protein shake tubs. External straps keep these firmly in place however much you toss the bag around.

As someone who suffers from back pain I really appreciated the Pro Series’ load-spreading design specifically made to counter this. However stuffed the bag got, it never felt like it was pulling down on my shoulders or digging in to my lower back.

I felt no pinching or pressure points either. Wide adjustable shoulder and sternum straps really help ensure a comfortable fit. Built For Athletes’ infinity compression straps are a nice touch as well, ensuring you get no loose straps flapping around. 

The separate waterproof dry bag is a handy extra, especially when carting soggy kit back home. Solid waterproofing and cushioning throughout means you could take this gym bag on military manouevres and know your expensive kit will stay well protected. 

Its squat shape and compact dimensions means it should also be small enough to be accepted as cabin luggage by most carriers. 

Close-up of dedicated shoe pocket in a gym bag
A ventilated compartment underneath keeps your shoes separate

Should you buy the Built For Athletes Pro Series Backpack?

If you’re a serious gym-goer maintaining multiple sessions per week, the Pro Series Backpack is well worth considering. It’ll swallow everything from lifting shoes to massage guns with plenty of room for tech, fuel and multiple clothing options. I’ve not come across such a substantial, well designed gym bag before. Yes it’s quite an investment but this backpack will last for decades.

If you’re a more occasional gym visitor, it’s probably just too much bag for you. There are plenty of other options (including BFA’s own Gym Hero 2.0) that have a similar capacity and should meet your needs for half the price. That said, if you find yourself destroying gym bags every couple of years, give the Pro Series a go. It could be the last backpack you ever buy. My only problem now is trying to decide what to wear to the gym.

If you’re wondering what else you can use the Built For Athletes Pro Series Backpack for, F45 Tooting trainer and co-founder of the Plant Based Games Connor McDonald uses it for his backpack workout.

Features:Waterproof compartments, 2-year warranty, anti-microbial lining,
vented shoe compartment, shock absorbent laptop compartment
Capacity:11.9gal / 45L
Dimensions:12.2 x 18.9 x 8.7in / 31 x 48 x 22cm