Built For Athletes Pro Series Backpack review: If you’re serious about your training, writes MF online writer Laurence McJannet, the Pro Series gym bag won’t let you down…
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Built For Athletes Pro Series Backpack
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$285 / £199, builtforathletes.com
- 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
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.
I was a little sceptical about this new model primarily due to the price. At £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. 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.
See how the Pro Series measures up against the rest of the best gym bags
Having had a few unwanted laptop-liquid incidents 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.
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 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.
Want to know what to wear to the gym? Check out our guide
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.
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.