Best Travel Towels

We’ve assembled the best travel towels for your next trip, whether you’re backpacking, camping, or just going on an excursion on your next vacation.

Scroll down to see our picks, or learn more about why you need a travel towel below:

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.

Best Travel Towels: Lightweight, Quick Drying Towels for Travel
photo: syourself travel towels

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

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!

Best Travel Towels 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

Lewis N Clark
YesYesYesMicrofiber

The Friendly Swede
YesYesYesMicrofiber

Green Foster
SomewhatNoNoLinen

Turkish Towels
SomewhatNoNoCotton/ Bamboo

Best Travel Towels 2017

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

They’re 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 to comfortably wrap the towel around their body with room to spare.

These features, plus a reasonable price make it one of the best travel towels for your money.

TIP: Be sure to scroll down to “Special Offers” on the listing page to see Wise Owl’s current coupon codes for a discount when purchasing multiple items.
Pros Cons
Free washcloth or hand towel with purchaseNone!
Handy snap closure hanging loop
Carrying case included
Discounts on purchases of multiple items
Money Back Satisfaction Guarantee

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

Their travel towels are 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 making dirty gray and blue??), and a lifetime guarantee!

Pros Cons
Attractive color choicesNo carrying case
Hanging loop
Reasonably priced
Lifetime Guarantee

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

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

The large sizes are great for some, but may not be the best choice for the backpacker who has very limited space, or prefers a towel and washcloth set. These are, however, an one of the best travel towels for the casual traveler or beach-goer.

Pros Cons
Large size is great for casual travelersMay be too large for backpackers
Attractive design and color choices
Hanging loop
Very soft

Lewis N Clark’s Campack travel towel is super compact, and has a unique integrated pouch and carabineer clip. This makes it easy to clip on your pack, keeping the towel secure and clean until you need it.

It’s not a large towel (about hand towel size), and the microfiber fabric has less of a nap– like that used in optical cleaning cloths– so it’s not as absorbent. This is, however, one of the best travel towels if you’re looking for something compact and convenient to mop up sweat, or clean up small messes.

Pros Cons
Small and compactSmall size won't work for everyone
Integrated pouch and clipNot as absorbent as other cloths

The Friendly Swede’s travel towels are a great deal, with two towels and carrying bags in a set, and priced at under $20.

Made of microfiber, they’re quick drying, thin and compact. They offer 3 different towel sizes (but sorry guys, you’re stuck with pink and purple if you want the large 30″ x 60″ towels). All are covered by their lifetime warranty.

Pros Cons
Great priceLimited color options
Carrying bag
Hanging loop
Lifetime Warranty

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 travel towel).

Green Foster’s 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 travel towels 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.

TIP: Make sure to search for “100% linen” when looking for linen travel towels. This helps to to weed out cheap blends, and people using the word linen to generically refer to bedding or towels.
Pros Cons
Natural alternative to microfiberNot as fast to dry
Naturally anti-microbialNo carrying bags or hanging loops
Absorbent and easily packable
Variety of color options

Turkish towels are another good alternative to microfiber travel towels. 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 cotton and bamboo are an interesting option, and a bit cheaper as well.

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.

Pros Cons
Natural alternative to microfiberNot as fast to dry
Doubles as a cover upNo carrying bags or hanging loops
Absorbent and easily packable
Variety of color options

“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

Frequently Asked Questions:

Do I really need a travel towel?

It depends on how and where you’ll be traveling.do i need a travel towel?

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.

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.

If you’re just looking for a travel 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 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.

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?

how to care for microfiber travel towels
this wash bag is an awesome solution when camping

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 microfiber travel towel regularly (sorry, no towels are exempt from this!) to keep it smelling fresh.

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 towels, like Wise Owl travel towels 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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Related articles:
Sources
  1. Carnival Cruise Lines: Beach Towels & Bathrobes
  2. The Microfiber Manifesto
  3. Wikipedia: Microfiber

 

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