This convertible tote is a near-perfect gym bag — it’s machine washable and compact yet deceptively spacious

Caraa Sport, Athena Tote Medium ($195).

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Caraa Sport, Athena Tote Medium ($195).
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Caraa Sport

  • Caraa Sport makes some of our favorite backpacks, totes, weekenders, and now gym bags.
  • The label blends style with functionality and versatility well, and its Athena Tote is a great example.
  • The Athena Tote Medium ($195) is machine-washable, converts from a tote to a messenger bag, and keeps its bulk to a rectangular shape.

Caraa Sport is the startup best known for their pricey but revered Studio bags. The brand has a recognizably modern, monochromatic style, but its customers most often rave about organization and performance – including us when we reviewed their Stratus Backpack ($200) and Cloud Cumulus Medium Tote ($195). One editor even said that, while there are other great options for much less, the $450 Studio Bag is pretty great for a weekender.

Caraa Sport has a knack for balancing style with functionality and for solving issues that had inexplicably not been addressed sooner – like the weight and machine-washability of a gym bag.

Recently, the company sent me their Athena Tote Medium ($195) to consider for a review. It’s a rectangular gym bag made from a sweatshirt material that’s structured with branded bands along the body, and it works as either a tote or as a converted messenger bag. It also comes in a short, wide “small” version.

It's machine-washable, lightweight, and has detachable straps to convert it into a messenger bag.

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It’s machine-washable, lightweight, and has detachable straps to convert it into a messenger bag.
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Caraa Sport/Business Insider

The Athena Tote Medium ($195) is another good example of why people come back to Caraa Sport. It’s designed well for both aesthetics and your life. I used it over the course of a few weeks to run to workout classes and the office, and I was impressed by its versatility, ease, and thoughtful design.

The shape works well. The body is soft enough to concave and save space on the subway when half full of gear, or to expand around a pile of bulky things. Its rectangular silhouette is unique, and it keeps the volume of the bag contained to the natural lines of your body – no wide, stuffed duffel bag that threatens to take out a few people every time you turn around, a complaint I’ve lodged against some of my other favorite workout bags.

It’s also got a drawstring opening on the top which is easy to get into, and which can expand to accommodate lots of stuff. The only downside to this is that you can’t easily undo it with one hand.

And while it’s certainly no weekender duffel doubling as a gym bag, it’s deceptively spacious without being bulky.

Inside, there are pockets for both work and gym.

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Inside, there are pockets for both work and gym.
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Caraa Sport

The design accounts for different legs of your day, like the gym and the office. Its internal organization has a pocket that can fit a 17-inch laptop, another for workout gear, a water bottle pocket, a slip pocket for an energy bar, and a separate pouch for shoes and wet, sweaty gear post-class. The outside has a slip pocket for your phone or wallet. Plus, like our other favorite bags from the brand, it’s light enough to cart from one destination to the next. And there are removable messenger bag straps and a removable shoulder pad for long days.

But perhaps the best feature is that the entire thing is machine-washable, so you can remove the dreaded stench of sweaty gym clothes just as easily as grime from the subway floor. (Mine fared a simple machine-wash without any noticeable changes).

All in all, it’s a near-perfect iteration of a good gym bag: It looks good, works well, and is easy to carry.

You can find similar options for less on Adidas, but across retailers, many offerings are comparable in price, even with typically more affordable options like Athleta. I don’t think it’s worth the extra money if it’s an uncomfortable leap. But if it’s a comfortable expense and you want the best, you’ll probably be happy with the investment. And if not you can return it within 21 days of when it’s shipped to you.

Caraa Sport Athena Medium Tote, $195

Caraa Sport Athena Athena Small Tote, in white or black, $185