Home Clothing & Accessories Best Travel Towels 2020: Lightweight, Quick Drying Towels for Travel

Best Travel Towels 2020: Lightweight, Quick Drying Towels for Travel

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We’ve scouted out the best packable travel towels for your next trip! Whether you’re backpacking, camping, or looking for a lightweight beach towel, there’s a perfect quick drying towel out there for everyone.

Quick Comparison Chart

The vast majority of our picks are microfiber, because it’s quick drying and less likely to grow mildew. But we’ve included some microfiber alternatives for those who aren’t crazy about the feel of microfiber.

TowelQuick DryingHanging LoopCarry BagMaterial
Quick DryingHanging LoopCarry BagMaterial

Wise Owl Outfitters
YesYes (with a snap!)YesMicrofiber

Shandali
YesYesNoMicrofiber

Dock & Bay
YesYesYesMicrofiber

Compressed Towels
YesYesYesRayon/ Cotton

Linen Towels
SomewhatNoNoLinen

Turkish Towels
SomewhatNoNoCotton/ Bamboo

1
Wise Owl Outfitters

Editor’s Choice

Wise Owl Outfitter’s microfiber travel towel is a great all around choice! 

Their towels are soft and quick drying, available in two sizes, and you’ll get a free washcloth or hand towel with your large or extra large towel purchase.

The snap closure hanging loop is also a nice feature, making it easy to hang your towel just about anywhere.

The XL size is 5 feet x 2 1/2 feet, large enough for most people to comfortably wrap around their body with room to spare.

WHAT WE LOVE: The sets include a “free” washcloth or hand towel with purchase, the snap closure hanging loop really does come in handy, along with the carrying case. And it’s nice to know they offer a money back guarantee.

WHAT WE DON’T: There’s no much to complain about here!

2
Shandali

Shandali’s microfiber towel is marketed as a yoga towel, but has all the features that make for a great travel towel.

These towels available in a small and medium size. There’s also a nice variety of colors to choose from (what’s with so many travel towel companies only offering towels in dirty gray and blue??), and a lifetime guarantee!

WHAT WE LOVE: With the attractive color choices, hanging loop, reasonable price and lifetime guarantee, it’s a solid choice.

WHAT WE DON’T: No carrying case

shandali yoga and travel towel

3
Dock & Bay

For the Style Conscious

We like Dock & Bay’s microfiber travel towels in part because they’re more attractive than the average travel towel.

Dock & Bay’s towels come in a wide variety of cheerful stripes and patterns, are soft and thin, and are extra large. They’re perfect for the beach, picnics, and those who just want an nice big towel.

I usually throw one of these towels in my suitcase when heading to beachy destinations. However, they may not be the best choice for the backpacker who has very limited space, or prefers a towel and washcloth set. Still these are awesome for the casual traveler or beach-goer.

WHAT WE LOVE: Large size is great for casual travelers, lots of attractive design and color choices, hanging loops, and they’re very soft.

WHAT WE DON’T: May be too large for backpackers

striped microfiber travel and beach towels

4
Compressed Towels

Ultra space-saving and disposable

Compressed towels take up the least space of any option, though they’re not suited for all uses.

A compressed towel is a small, disposable towel made of rayon or cotton. You briefly soak it in water to expand, and you’ve got a washcloth size towel that can be used for bathing or cleaning. Many budget travelers will bring these along on international trips where they know the hotels won’t have washcloths. They’re also awesome for cleaning up when camping.

In addition to the towels linked above, this all cotton option, and these extra small compressed towels are worth taking a look at.

WHAT WE LOVE: Take up very little space in your suitcase or backpack, and can be thrown away after use, so you don’t have to worry about packing up partially dried towels.

WHAT WE DON’T: The small size and need to saturate to expand the towel result in more limited uses than a traditional travel towel.

5
Natural Linen Towels for Travel

Excellent Microfiber Alternative

Linen makes a perfect alternative to microfiber travel towels because it’s lightweight and naturally anti-microbial. 

Compared to microfiber or cotton towels, they’re less likely to start smelling after regular use (but sorry, you do still have to wash and thoroughly dry ANY towel).

These linen bath towels come in a nice variety of colors, and they’re just the right size for travel, making them one of the best travel towels for those looking for a natural alternative.

Keep in mind that linen and other alternatives to microfiber will take a little longer to dry. They’re best for situations where you can hang the towel to dry outside or in a well ventilated area.

Linen can also take a little time to break in and soften, so we recommend washing your new linen towel regularly with other loads of laundry before you leave. Waffle weave linen will start out softer, and is a little more absorbent, but it’s also bulkier.

WHAT WE LOVE: Natural alternative to microfiber, naturally anti-microbial, absorbent and easily packable.

WHAT WE DON’T: Not as fast drying as microfiber.

TIP: Make sure to search for “100% linen” when looking for linen towels. This helps to to weed out cheap blends, and people using the word linen to generically refer to bedding or towels.

linen travel towel best microfiber alternative

6
Turkish Towels for Travel

Versatile & Good Microfiber Alternative

Turkish towels are another good alternative to microfiber.

They’re absorbent and lightweight, can double as a stylish cover up, and come in tons of colors and patterns.

There’s plenty of Turkish towel options to choose from, just pay attention to the size and material, to avoid cheap poly blends. These Turkish towels made of bamboo are an interesting option.

The potential downside is that Turkish towels –as with linen–aren’t quite as compact as microfiber, and won’t dry as quickly–but the tradeoff may be worth it for you.

WHAT WE LOVE: Natural alternative to microfiber, doubles as a beach cover up, absorbent and easily packable, along with a variety of color and pattern options.

WHAT WE DON’T: Not as fast to dry, No carrying bags or hanging loops


“Any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still know where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with”

– Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy


Everything You Need to Know About Travel Towels

What’s a Travel Towel & Why Do I Need One?

A travel towel is a lightweight, quick drying towel that’s thin and easy to pack. Most are made of microfiber, which can dry in an hour in direct sunlight.

Having a towel is essential for backpacking and camping. Many hostels and bargain accommodations don’t provide towels, and of course camping is strictly BYO towel.

dock and bay best microfiber beach towel
But you might not realize that many adventure travel trips and excursions recommend you bring along a towel. Rather than dragging along a hotel towel, or packing a big fluffy towel from home, think about packing light.
Once you’ve got a couple travel towels, you may be surprised how often you reach for them in daily life; for hiking, yoga, the gym, just to name a few. They really come in handy!

Do I really need a travel towel?

It depends on how and where you’ll be traveling.

Do research before you leave; do the hostels you plan to stay at have a website where you can look up towel availability or towel rental prices?

Some hostels charge extra for towels, but if you don’t mind paying, you could forgo the travel towel and pack extra light. However, a travel towel might still come in handy for impromptu swims or sweaty hikes.

Similarly, if you’ve booked a tour, check the details or suggested packing list if they have one.

If you’re taking a cruise, however, it’s very unlikely that you’ll need to bring a towel. Your cabin will have bath towels, and most cruise lines provide beach towels you can borrow when going ashore.

My hotel/ hostel/ airbnb provides bath towels. Is there any other reason to bring a travel towel? 

If you’re going to be hiking, swimming (outside of your hotel property), picnicking, boating, or really any other physical activity, you may still want to bring along a towel that’s easy to toss in your day bag without taking up much space.

And while hotels generally provide towels for the pool, neither a hotel or Airbnb is going to be amused if you ruin their towels on an adventure!

What’s wrong with bringing my regular bath towel from home?

It will take up so much space that it’s not practical for backpackers, and can quickly eat up space in a suitcase as well.

Regular bath towels are also much slower to dry than travel towels, so you’ll need a clothes dryer, or the perfect warm, sunny, non-humid weather to hang it to dry.

How do I choose a travel towel size?

There are bunch of different travel towels sizes, and not much standardization. You might find it helpful to compare the measurements against your bath towels at home.

backpacker walking towards a mountain with wise owl travel towel
If you’re just looking for a towel for hiking and other physical activity, stick with a small size, like a hand towel.

For those who will be backpacking and staying in hostels, consider getting an extra large travel bath towel that you can easily wrap around your body. You’ll dry off faster, and the coverage can be nice at a crowded hostel.

Why are so many travel towels made of microfiber?

Microfiber is lightweight, quick drying, and non-bulky. These qualities make for the best travel towels, allowing for compact packing (and re-packing without stinking up your suitcase).

Microfiber can also be surprisingly soft. If you think you don’t like microfiber because you’ve only been exposed to cheap microfiber cleaning cloths, give a quality microfiber travel towel a chance first.

We also talk about some alternatives to microfiber in the list above. If you hate the grabby feel of microfiber, then linen, as well as thinner cotton weaves are good options. Just keep in mind that they won’t dry quite as quickly.

Quick Drying Travel Towels

What is microfiber, anyway?

Microfiber is a synthetic fiber, usually made out of polyesters, polyamides, or blends.

The grabby texture of microfiber is generally because the towel is made of higher quality split microfiber, which is excellent for picking up particles when cleaning, and also makes the towel more absorbent.

How do I wash and care for my microfiber travel towel?

When you first get your towel, wash it once before use by itself to reduce the chance of color bleed in the laundry, and eliminate any residual chemical odor.

While microfiber towels dry quickly, you’ll still need to wash your towel regularly– sorry, no towels are exempt from this!– to keep it smelling fresh.

You might also want to read our post on doing laundry while traveling for options to keep your clothes and towels clean. Clever accessories like the Scubba wash bag shown below can make laundry a breeze!


Avoid washing your microfiber towels with regular laundry, because the towels will attract lint from your clothing.

You can wash with regular detergent in hot water without damage, but don’t use fabric softener; it will just clog the pores of the fiber.

When drying, hang to dry in a well ventilated area, or tumble dry on the low heat setting— it is possible to melt your microfiber towels! Because microfiber attracts lint and dust, it’s best to store your towel in separate pouch within your bag to keep it clean.

What’s the best travel towel for backpacking? How about camping? Or hiking?

Microfiber is generally your best option for any activity where packing space–and drying time– are limited.

Beyond a minimum quality level, there’s not a huge difference between different microfiber travel towels. Look closely at the details, so you get a towel with a hanging loop if you need it, and make sure you choose the right size towel for your uses. Some towel sets, come with washcloths, which I think are a must-have.

One thing to consider for campers and outdoorsy types: microfiber is great at picking up leaf fragments and all kinds of dirt when dropped on the ground. Linen, or even regular bath towels may work better for short trips.

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Sources
  1. Carnival Cruise Lines: Beach Towels & Bathrobes
  2. Wikipedia: Microfiber
turkish towel microfiber alternative travel towel
Holly
Freelancer, digital nomad and passionate traveler who's dedicated to sharing my experiences and expertise to help you travel better.