No sports bag faces as much of a beating as a swim bag, which must be robust and water-resistant enough inside and out to carry soggy gear and handle being dropped on a changing room floor.

This roundup is aimed mainly at amateur swimmers and enthusiasts looking for a bag to take to the pool that will separate dry and wet clothes, offer enough space for a bulky towel, hat and goggles and be easy and comfortable to carry.

Some will be practical enough for more serious aquatic athletes and trainers, who will demand a bag big enough to hold swimming aids like fins, buoys and kickboards. Though not selected with triathletes in mind, the bigger bags could also hold wetsuits and trainers.

Many will also be suitable for general sports use, as the compartments can be used to separate dirty and clean clothes post-match or gym session and some have a bottom section for shoes.

Others are stylish enough to double up as weekend bags, so there’s something for every shopper. Though some are marketed for men or women, all our listed designs could all be unisex, and most come in a range of colourways.

The best of our chosen bags have mesh sections to maximise airflow, should you need to leave damp swim stuff in there for hours.

Water bottle holders for rehydrating after your swim are always useful, and there should be a zip pocket or two for storing your phone and keys while you hit the water. Easy access pouches for goggles and hats keep them getting lost in the bottom of your bag.

Unsurprisingly, the better made, smarter designed, bigger bags – some recommended by a competitive swimmer friend – are pricier, but if possible it’s worth paying a bit more for quality that will resist the rotting effects of chlorine for longer. Look after yours by drying it out thoroughly after use.

That said, there are a number of affordable buys on our list that proved good value for money during testing at our local lido, including two colourful mesh bags that pros often use in conjunction with a main bag for better organisation and ventilation of wet gear.

TYR Alliance 30l Backpack: £46.50, TYR

Look around the pool and you’re sure to spot many a TYR swim bag and this medium sized but brilliantly formed backpack makes it easy to see why.

Made from tough water resistant fabric that won’t start disintegrating after only a few months, it wins brownie points for its smart space-saving design that maximises storage and organisation without being too bulky to lug around all day.

Holding 30 litres, it will fit in everything most swimmers will need, including kickboards and fins. The side pouches are ideal for separating smaller items of kit so you know where to find them and there’s an expandable mesh front pocket for keeping good airflow around damp gear. There’s a water bottle holder and spring clips for wetsuits, too.

Unlike most other swim bags on the market, there’s also a large sleeve inside for storing larger electronics like laptops and tablets, so you can travel directly between pool and office.

The strong, ventilated back panel has ergonomic padding for comfort when carrying it, including extra moulded support for the lower back and adjustable straps. Chest and waist straps help secure it when heavy – particularly helpful for smaller frames – and there’s even a whistle included for trainers. There are plenty of colourways to choose from too. 

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Speedo Team Rucksack III+: £58, Speedo

Speedo has long reigned as the king of swimwear, so it’s no surprise that two of the Aussie brand’s swim bags feature on our list.

This rucksack has separate wet/dry compartments and can hold up to 45 litres in total – big enough for all the gear a pro swimmer could need or a family’s basic swim stuff.

However, our favourite design feature is the clever roll-down top, which means this huge bag can be made much more compact if you aren’t carrying as much. It fastens securely with a front clip. The back opens out fully for quick packing and easy access mid-session. 

Padded back cushions and thick, adjustable straps that clip together around your waist make it comfortable to carry whatever your size. There is a small handle at the top for carrying it by hand and hanging it up in the changing room.

There is a zip pocket at the front and two side pockets, one mesh for ventilation. This carrier’s lightweight fabric is robust enough to handle inevitable rough treatment, but try and remember to put it down upright as only the base is water resistant.

Streamlined and stylish, it comes in grey/blue/orange (seen here), black/yellow and black/orange.

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Dakine Cyclone Tote Pack 27l: £100, Dakine

The fabric of this 27-litre bag is described by outdoors brand Dakine as “practically bombproof” with good reason. Built to last, it resists rips and scuffs without being cumbersome.

It is completely waterproof inside and out thanks to welded seams and a highly water-resistant seal zipper that slides open satisfyingly smoothly. Wild swimmers will find the main compartment roomy enough for stowing a wetsuit in and a front stash pocket will hold valuables and dry underwear, but not much more. 

Though designed as a side-carry tote with a padded carry handle, this bag can be converted into a backpack thanks to padded air mesh shoulder straps. There are adjustable straps for holding extra bits and pieces in place, such as towels or boards.

Reflective detailing around the logo helps keep you safe if walking or cycling home from the pool at night. Though pricey at £100, it is easy to wipe clean and its simple, robust design should serve you well for years. Choose from black or camo.

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Speedo Deluxe Ventilator Mesh Bag: £15, Speedo

Mesh swim bags may be basic, but they’re budget friendly and often all you need. This drawstring bag is big enough to hold all your poolside kit, with a spacious front zip pocket for quickly finding smaller items like ear plugs and goggles and a netted pocket for your water bottle or shower gel. 

The simple back straps aren’t padded but are adjustable it’s great to be able to swing it onto your back for pain free carrying. There’s a plastic holder beneath the locker loop for a gym membership card or name tag, should you happen to have the same bag as a teammate. 

Crucially, big weave mesh panels at the sides offer enough ventilation and drainage to help wet gear dry out faster, preventing musty odours – great if it’ll be hanging around at school or in the office all day post-swim. Once dried out, it folds up compactly for storage.

There’s a huge range of colours and patterns to choose from but the jazzy turquoise tie-dye is our favourite as it reminds us of being by the sea.

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Arena Fastpack 2.1 Swim Bag: £45.99, Arena

This swim bag from Arena is designed to be hung up and used like a cupboard, making for a hassle-free changing room experience. The spacious lower front pocket has two levels and the flap conceals two zippered mesh pockets.

There’s a further, smaller top pocket made with softer fabric for protecting fragile items and the back compartment is big enough for a kickboard or laptop. 

Two zippered mesh pouches on either side are perfect for storing hats, goggles or a water bottle. The waterproof bottom compartment has been reinforced for extra strength to handle both wet stuff, flipflops and trainers if using it for the gym too. 

The thin zips throughout look weak but prove sturdy enough, the back panel has been mesh padded for ventilation and comfort and there are harness straps for support. Reflective strips on the durable nylon/polyester fabric keep you safe in the dark.

At 45 litres, this well organised bag will be more than adequate for most swimmers’ needs. Triathletes should consider it too – it comes with a front buckle for securing a helmet and a webbing loop for hanging carabiners and other gadgets. It comes in pink, green and yellow.

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Big Mesh Mummy Backpack: £20.95, TYR

If you find it a struggle to fit everything into a mesh bag or want to carry more than one person’s gear, this well made backpack offers tons of room. The main drawstring compartment is large enough for an adult-size kickboard and many other training aids and will fit, a wetsuit and towel if you prefer swimming outdoors. 

The external mesh front pocket is zippered to stop things falling out on the move and there’s a drawstring water bottle holder here too. The non-mesh part is made from waterproof-coated nylon, so you can throw it around poolside without worrying about the water destroying it. It could do with a waterproof pocket for valuables but otherwise gets the thumbs up for both practicality and style. 

Don’t let the fact it’s marketed as a "mummy" bag put you off – you’ll see serious swimmers using this. Carry it over the shoulder or on the back thanks to adjustable straps. It is available in blue/yellow, pink, red/navy, purple/blue and the US flag (TYR is a US brand).

Bear in mind that this bag is bigger than it looks in the picture, so if you only need to pack a towel, swimsuit and goggles, opt for the smaller Speedo one above.

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Gonex Dry Wet Separation Bag: from £13.99, Amazon

This tote bag is split down the middle into wet and dry compartments, with an additional zippered front pocket for keeping your phone, wallet and keys in easy reach. The lining of the wet compartment is made from waterproof PVC that successfully kept our damp towel and swimsuit away from dry clothes without any moisture transference. 

The zips on this durable nylon bag are thick and sturdy to avoid bursting. It comes with adjustable straps for wearing it cross-body or on your shoulder, but these can be removed if you’d prefer to use the carry handles. It’s lacking the option to carry it as a backpack, but there’s a padding cushion to stop it from rubbing on your shoulder. 

Choose from two sizes – the smaller 15-litre for the bare essentials or the large 25-litre if you’ve got more kit to lug around. The blue and orange will bring a fun pop of colour to your day but there’s a black and grey option too if you need something more professional looking.

There aren't as many pockets as others listed here, but the price tag is friendlier if you're tightening your purse strings.

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The Verdict: Best swim bags

How much swimming you do – and how serious you are about it – will affect your choice of bag, but TYR’s Alliance backpack is sure to impress no matter your ability.

Its variety of compartments, wet pocket that swells according to how much damp gear you cram in, excellent back support and sleek good looks justifiably earned it the top spot on our roundup. That said, we’re a convert to mesh bags and thoroughly recommend the two on our list if you can’t hang your wet stuff up to dry until the evening. 

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.