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|Top Pick: PackTowl Personal|
|Best Value: REI Multi Towel Lite|
|Budget Pick: Rainleaf Microfiber Towel|
|Best Backpacking Towel: PackTowl UltraLite|
|Best Large Camping Towel: Dock & Bay Microfiber Beach Towel|
Your turn to wash the camp dishes? Need to dry off after a refreshing dip? Attempting to clean off Fido before he climbs into your tent for the night?
Camping can be dirty business, and choosing the right gear to bring along can allow you to focus on the fun instead of the mess. Many common camping tasks can be made easier with the use of a camping towel. It may seem like a simple buy, but like most camping gear, there are a wide variety of choices on the market.
We’ve done the research for you, and narrowed the options down to the best camping towels in five different categories. If one of these doesn’t meet your needs, we’ve also included a buying advice section to help you identify the most important criteria when choosing a camp towel.
- Top Pick: PackTowl Personal
- Best Value: REI Multi Towel Lite
- Budget Pick: Rainleaf Microfiber Towel
- Best Backpacking Towel: PackTowl UltraLite
- Best Large Camping Towel: Dock & Bay Microfiber Beach Towel
- How to Choose the Best Camping Towel for Your Needs
Top Pick: PackTowl Personal
The PackTowl Personal is our favorite of the camping towels that we researched. Made from a soft, polyester blend (85% polyester/15% nylon), the PackTowl can absorb up to four times its weight in liquid. This towel is quick drying, lightweight, and compact — ideal for camping.
The PackTowl has been treated with polygene odor control which keeps the towel smelling fresh and clean, even during extended use. Still, you’ll want to let it dry completely — or as much as possible — before storing it in your pack.
The Personal comes in plenty of sizes for a variety of activities. You can get the typical “Body” size, or go for one designed for hand, face, or beach use. We think the body size is a great size for camping.
Better yet, the PackTowl is machine washable. We recommend you wash it separately for the first wash, but after that feel free to throw it in with all your other towels and linens.
Best Value: REI Multi Towel Lite
Our Best Value pick is the REI Multi Towel Lite. Made from a polyester blend (85% polyester/15% nylon microfiber), this towel can absorb up to eight times its weight in liquid. It is also lightweight, compact, and quick drying.
We chose it as our Best Value pick because it performs well (most other camping towels can’t hold up to eight times their weight in liquid) while retailing for a few bucks less than lots of the other popular options.
The Multi Towel Lite is available in many different colors and a wide variety of sizes. It also has a snap loop attached to one corner for easy hanging. It comes with a carry bag that is solid nylon on one side and mesh on the other, and has a fixed loop for easy attachment.
Note: REI also sells the REI Multi Towel Deluxe and REI Multi Towel Mini. We recommend the regular version to car campers and the Lite version to backpackers or anyone focused on reducing their pack weight.
Budget Pick: Rainleaf Microfiber Towel
We like the Rainleaf towel for any camper looking for a good, cheap microfiber towel. As of this writing it retails for less than the above options and sports similar specs.
It can absorb up to 5 times its weight, and it’s treated with SILVADUR, an anti-microbial technology. The stuff sounds like science fiction:
According to DuPont, the manufacturer, SILVADUR “delivers silver ions when organisms land or form on a treated fabric. These ions continually release to safely kill microbes that cause odor and material degradation.”
Like I said, science fiction.
Beyond that, the Rainleaf towel has all the features you’d expect: a loop for hanging, an included carrying case, and plenty of sizes and color choices.
For someone who doesn’t go camping too often and just needs a towel for the occasional trip, this is the towel we recommend.
Best Backpacking Towel: PackTowl UltraLite
Ultralight backpackers, thru-hikers, or anyone looking to minimize pack weight will often sacrifice some performance in lieu of lightness. So we scoured around for the lightest camp towel that still works well and turned up the PackTowl UltraLite.
The body size of the PackTowl UltraLite (25″ x 54″) weighs a mere 3.4 oz. Or, for the masochists who want to dry off with the tiniest towel possible, you could carry around the hand size (16.5″ x 36″) which will only weigh you down by 1.5 oz.
Though lightness is this towel’s forte, it is still capable of absorbing four times its weight in water and drying quickly after it’s been wrung.
We recommend the PackTowl UltraLite only to those whose primary criterion for choosing their towel is weight. Any camper, backpacker, or traveler who can afford the extra ounces will be better off with our above options.
Best Large Camping Towel: Dock & Bay Microfiber Beach Towel
If large coverage is what you’re looking for, then we’ve found the towel for you! Although this towel isn’t marketed as a camping towel, it is — in the spirit of a camping towel — relatively lightweight and compact.
The Dock & Bay Microfiber Beach Towel is made of a super soft polyester blend microfiber (80% polyester/20% polyamide), so it is amazingly lightweight and compact compared to a traditional cotton terry towel of the same size.
This towel is available in three sizes, including a unique round design:
- Large — 31” x 63”, packing to 5” x 8” and 13.0 ounces
- X-Large — 35” x 78”, packing to 6” x 10” and 18.0 ounces
- Round — 75” x 75”, packing to 6” x 12” and 28.0 ounces
The microfiber material is highly absorbent and smooth to the touch. This towel comes with a fixed elastic loop located in the middle of one of the edges, as opposed to stitched on the corner, and a cotton and mesh carrying bag.
You can find this towel in a variety of bold, solid colors, as well as bright stripes. The round towel has a geometric design.
How to Choose the Best Camping Towel for Your Needs
There are several features to think about when choosing the ideal camping towel for your next adventure. We’ve identified some for you to consider.
One thing to consider when purchasing a camping towel is the material. The majority of camping towels are made of a blend of polyester and nylon microfiber due to its low weight, incredible absorbency and quick drying ability. This is the material we recommend you pick.
However, if you don’t want a synthetic fabric, then linen is your next best choice.
Camping towels can get heavy use without the luxury of frequent washings. Some towels are treated with a microbial treatment that will wash out over time, some have silver ions embedded in the fabric, some rely on their quick dry ability, and still others depend on the natural properties of the fabric to inhibit bacterial growth.
Germ and foul odor control are important to consider when purchasing a camping towel, so make sure the one you go with minimizes them.
Weight & Packing Space
Depending on how you are traveling (e.g. car camping vs. backpacking) weight and space are important to consider.
Is it important to you to minimize weight and pack space? Synthetic materials will weigh less and pack smaller than traditional cotton towels of the same size.
Or, can you spare the extra space and ounces? In that case, you might not even need a camping towel and could instead bring your normal towel from home.
In order to choose the correct size, you must think about the task at hand. Are you purchasing a towel to clip to your pack and use as a sweat towel while hiking? One to dry camp dishes? A large towel to lay on while lounging on the beach?
Determine the intended use of the towel, and then you can decide what dimensions best serve the purpose.
We know it sounds silly to have color as a deciding factor in your search for a camping towel, however, color has a purpose other than just being pretty.
For example, some campers prefer to purchase a camping towel that is available in multiple colors. That way they can buy more than one and assign each color a designated purpose. Then the blue towel for dogs doesn’t accidentally get confused with the yellow towel that is specifically for drying dishes.
Some towels come with a fixed hanging loop, some have a snap loop and others don’t have a loop at all. Depending on how you intend to use your towel, a loop can be a nice perk or an essential feature.
The storage pouches that come with camping towels can have several different features, too. Some pouches are heavier-duty cotton, adding weight and bulk, but also potentially serving a dual purpose in camp. Others are constructed of lightweight and compact mesh to allow increased air flow.
Some towels don’t come with a storage pouch at all, so — if you need or want one — make sure to check for that before purchasing.