I don’t leave home without these items when I head to the gym. The best way not to forget them is to keep them stashed in my gym bag — permanently. Given how often I’m at the gym and that I go to various locations, I must remain equipped and my gym bag must be as compact and light as possible.

If you frequent just one gym location, you can save yourself the hassle by renting a locker to stash your gym essentials.

Pack this, not that to save space and keep your back light:

1. A super-absorbent, quick-drying sports towel instead of a regular towel. These towels come in several sizes but tend to be thin and small.  They absorb a lot of water fast and dry quickly, too. Great for swimming, sweating and even showering.
Try: SilverSport Towels, $21

2. A foldable or small water bottle instead of a large one. The convenience of a reusable bottle is that you can refill as often as you need and when you’re travelling to and from the gym you can store it in your bag, empty. Why carry the extra water weight?
Try: Platypus Plusbottle, $14

3. Shorts or capris over full-length pants. It may sound trivial but the difference in material will free up some space in your bag. It could also be the difference between zipping your bag shut and leaving it open.
Try: Lululemon Gather and Crow Crop, $86

4. Travel-size deodorant instead of full size. No matter what size, keep one in your gym bag at all times instead of packing and unpacking one from home. You don’t want to get stuck without deodorant after your workout!
Try: The Healthy Mini Deoderant Vanilla Lavender, $10

5. A large wide-tooth comb instead of a bulky hair brush. The comb will untangle wet hair, and although it won’t style hair as nicely, it will still help tame it when blow drying.
Try: Goody QuikStyle Comb, $5

6. Shampoo, conditioner and moisturizer bars instead of bottles. These bars resemble bars of soap, they can’t leak or spill and they last long. As a bonus, you can use them for air travel in a carry-on, no questions asked!
Try: Dr. Peppermint Shampoo, $12

7. Foldable yoga mat instead of a thick one. These tend to be a lot thinner, but you can simply place it over a mat from the gym. Some of these are also machine washable.
Try: Folding Yoga Mat, $22

More useful things to keep handy:

  • Dryer sheets keep your gym bag and shoes smelling fresh
  • Fitness gloves take up little space but can keep your hands comfortable and prevent calluses when using weights, especially the metal weights, handles and bars with crosshatch patterns that hurt your hands and skin.
  • Sports drink with electrolytes to refuel.
  • Easy-to-carry pre- or post-workout snacks
  • A combination lock (the ones where you align a series of numbers, as opposed to the rotary ones). They’re much less of a pain to open, especially after a tough workout that leaves you with shaky arms. A key lock works well too, so long as you don’t lose the key. Pin it to your shoelaces or clothes
  • Clear plastic bags (like the one in the produce isle at the grocery store). Use a bag for sweaty gym clothes, a wet bathing suit or running shoes.

With the above suggestions and tips, you are fully equipped for your workout session — and your body will thank you for not overloading it. Your hair, skin and the people around you will thank you for staying fresh.  Best of all, you won’t have any excuse to miss a workout!

Tell us which essential you can’t hit the gym without in the comments below — or join the conversation on Twitter @slice_tv.

Katya MohsenKatya Mohsen is a personal trainer with more than 10 years of experience in fitness and sports training. Catch her practical fitness advice Thursdays on Slice.ca.