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Best Camping Towels For Backpacking And Travel in 2021

spiral of camp towels
 

Surely a camp towel is a camp towel, right? In the days before the existence of technical fabrics – which compress into unimaginably tiny little packages – yes, camping towels were pretty standard. Car campers used a regular household or beach towel and backpackers/hikers used either a small cotton cloth or, well, nothing!

Thankfully, fabrics have come on leaps and bounds in recent years. As a result, the development of lightweight camping towels means that personal hygiene on the trail or at camp can be maintained at very little extra cost in terms of space or weight.

In this article, you’ll learn about the different types of camping towels available, what to look for when choosing one, and a comparison of 10 camp towels that we’ve been using this year.

the best camping towels

Summary of the best camping towels

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ProductSizePacked sizeWeightBest for
Sea to Summit Airlite Towel L42 x 18in (108 x 45cm)
3.4 x 2.4in (8.5 x 6cm)1.7oz (48g)$
Anaskela Not Another Stripe Towe63 x 35in (160 x 90cm)9 x 7in (22 x 17cm)13oz (370g)$$$
Pangea Bamboo Outdoor Pocket Towel24 x 16in (60 x 40cm)5 x 3in (12 x 8cm)2.7oz (77g)$
Lava Classic Travel Towel45 x 27in (114 x 69cm)11 x 7.4in (28 x 19cm)17oz (482g)
$$$$
Lifeventure Soft Fiber Travel Towel51 x 30in (130 x 75cm)7 x 4in (17 x 10cm)
8.11oz (230g)$
PackTowl Original XL54 x 25in (137 x 64cm)10 x 8in (26 x 20cm)4.4oz (130g)$
Matador UL Travel Towel
47 x 24in (120 x 60cm)

4.3 x 2.2in (11 x 5.6cm2.9oz (81g)$$
Robens Fjell Trekking Towel47 x 24in (120 x 60cm)6 x 2in (16 x 5cm)5oz (140g)$

The best camping towels in 2021

Sea to Summit Airlite Towel
Sea to Summit camp towel details

Sea to Summit Airlite Towel

Best for: Backpacking, camp cooking

If you’re after an ultralight backpacking towel then you’ll struggle to find one that weighs less and packs down smaller than the Sea to Summit Airlite Towel. Closely followed by Matador and Pangea towels, this is one of the best camping towels for backpacking if weight and size are you primary concerns. It also dries very quickly and comes in a drawstring stuff sack that can be attached to the towel via a popper button to prevent you from misplacing it.

From a usability point of view, however, this tiny backpacking towel gets saturated very quickly if you are trying to dry your whole body. And don’t expect to protect your modesty when attempting to wear it as a skirt sarong; it only just about goes around my waist with a tuck.

With all that in mind, it’s a great choice for pat drying after face and pit washes on the trail. It’s also a great addition to a camp kitchen for drying dishes, on or off the trail.

Pros

  • Ultra lightweight
  • Tiny pack size
  • Dries quickly

Cons

  • Pretty small to use a body towel
  • Gets saturated easily

Find the latest price at:
Sea to Summit USA | Alpine Trek


Anaskela Towel
Anaskela towel details

Anaskela Not Another Stripe Towel

Best for: Beach, car camping, day hikes, travel

Eco-conscious: Made from recycled PET bottles

Despite it being one of the heaviest and least packable camp towels on the list, the Anaskela Not Another Stripe Towel is actually one of my favourites for adventures when weight doesn’t matter. It features heavily on car camping and glamping trips, lunchtime sea swims and days at the beach.

Firstly, it’s by far the most aesthetic towel, oozing summery vibes, no matter how chilly the water is. Secondly, it’s the largest towel on the list providing plenty of fabric to wrap right around the whole body like a cosy hug after sea dips in the cooler seasons. And finally, the quick drying fabric includes 85% polyester made from recycled PET bottles.

Pros

  • Pretty!
  • Comes in a cotton drawstring bag
  • Large
  • Eco-conscious

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Too heavy for backpacking

Find the latest price at:
Aneskela


Pangea Bamboo Outdoor Towel
Pangea camp towel details

Pangea Bamboo Outdoor Towel

Best for: Backpacking, camp cooking

Eco-conscious: Made from 100% bamboo that is biodegradable

Made from biodegradable bamboo, the Pangea Bamboo Outdoor Towel is another excellent option if you’re looking for an eco-conscious camp towel. Pangea also collects 2 lbs of trash for each towel sold.

It’s lightweight, packs down very small and is very good at absorbing water from a drenched body, thanks to the waffle-like structure of the fabric. It also easily folds into the integrated zippered mesh pocket, and clips onto the outside of a pack for easy storage and carrying. The size small of the Pangea towel range is also less expensive than the Matador and Sea to Summit towels, which are comparable in terms of weight and packability.

Where it falls short, however, is its tiny size when open. The 60 x 40cm camp towel is no good if you need any sort of body coverage! But its effective absorption makes it suitable for face and pit washes, as well as dish drying. If you’re after a larger version for the body then opt for the standard size which is a little larger than the Matador and Robens towels.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Highly absorbent
  • Packable
  • Eco-conscious
  • Integrated case and carabiner

Cons

  • Tiny when folded out!
  • No good for body coverage

Find the latest price at:
Pangea | REI


lava-mini-towel-green
Lava towel details

Lava Classic Travel Towel

Best for: Beach, car camping, glamping

Eco-conscious: Made by hand with responsibly sourced natural fiber materials that are biodegradable

The Lava Classic Travel Towel is a high end camp towel that is best suited to camping and glamping. Made from biodegradable linen, this sustainably made towel is the most expensive on our list. It’s also the heaviest and less compact when folded up, making it unsuitable for backpacking and lightweight adventures.

However, if you’re after something that will add a delightful touch of class to your glamping trip, day at the beach or riverside picnic then this handmade towel is the one for you. It doesn’t come with a carry case, but instead boasts an organic hemp loop for hanging up to dry. It’s also just big enough to wrap around my torso as a dress sarong.

Pros

  • Very classy
  • Eco-conscious
  • Absorbent
  • Naturally antimicrobial

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Pricey
  • Dries slowly

Find the latest price at:
Lava Linens


Lifeventure Soft Fiber Travel Towel
Lifeventure camp towel details

Lifeventure Soft Fiber Travel Towel

Best for: Backpacking, car camping, travel, day hikes

If you’re on a tighter budget and are not bothered about aesthetics , then the Lifeventure Soft Fiber Travel Towel is an excellent alternative to the Anaskela towel. It provides a little less coverage than the Anaskela but is overall the 2nd largest towel on our list. It also packs down a little smaller, has a similar feel and absorbency and is a little lighter to carry. It’s also a fair bit cheaper! Additionally, this newest version is treated with Polygiene which inhibits the growth of odour-causing bacteria and fungi.

I’ve had this Lifeventure camping towel for years and it just seems to go on and on. And though it’s not the smallest and lightest option on the list, it’s still one of my favourites camp towels (along with the PackTowl) offering versatility for car camping to backpacking and everything in between.

Pros

  • Highly absorbent
  • Odour resistant
  • Comes in a carry case
  • Good size
  • Good value

Cons

  • Not eco-conscious material
  • Not especially lightweight for backpacking (though not heavy, either!)

Find the latest price at:
Lifeventure | Alpine Trek


PackTowl Original
Packtowl details

PackTowl Original XL

Best for:Backpacking, car camping, travel, day hikes

Eco-conscious: The fiber-based rayon fabric is compostable

The XL version of the PackTowl Original compares closely to the Lifeventure towel in terms of size when open and price. However, the super absorbent fabric is half as heavy (similar to the Robens Fjell Trekking Towel) making it much more suited to backpacking. It doesn’t pack down especially small for its weight but its versatility and absorbency certainly makes up for it.

There’s a lot to love about this camp towel. Sure, it’s not the most aesthetic option out there. But the fabric is like none of the others on the list and feels rather luxurious in comparison. It’s a lot more soft and fluffy on the skin than the classic camping microfiber camping towels. And it feels much more like it’s soaking up water rather than just moving it around on your body! I also really love that it’s compostable at the end of its life.

Pros

  • Eco-friendly
  • Super absorbent fabric
  • Lightweight
  • Comes with mesh storage pouch
  • Has popper button hang loop

Cons

  • It doesn’t dry as quickly as other options
  • It doesn’t pack down very small for its weight

Find the latest price at:
PackTowl | Alpine Trek


Matador NanoDry Packable Shower Towel
Matador camp towel details

Matador UL Travel Towel

Best for:  Backpacking, camp cooking, day hikes

This super packable and lightweight travel towel provides the greatest coverage of the packable camp towels on our list (which includes the Pangea and Sea to Summit). It just about fits around my torso as a dress sarong and easily covers my lower half only. Impressively, it compares to the Robens towel when open, despite it being around 60g lighter and smaller when packed. It dries quickly and also does a decent job at absorbing water for its size, though not as good as other options.

A few nice features of the Matador UL Travel Towel include a stretchy mesh drawstring storage bag, complete with an external loop for attaching a carabiner, and an internal loop to attach the towel to via a mini buckle on the towel.

Despite its higher price tag, this is the best backpacking towel on our list.

Pros

  • Tiny pack size
  • Lightweight
  • Dries quickly
  • Large coverage for its pack size and weight

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Not eco-conscious fabric

Find the latest price at:
Matador


Robens Fjell Trekking Towel
Robens camp towel details

Robens Fjell Trekking Towel

Best for: Backpacking, car camping, travel, day hikes

Offering a good mix of coverage, (the same as the Matador) low weight and packability, the Robens Fjell Trekking Towel is one of the best travel towels on our list if you’re looking for good value. The 100% polyester fabric performs decently well in terms of absorbency and quick drying capabilities and has a silky feel (and look) about it.

Unusually, the zippered case is a hard shell that is excellent at protecting the towel when clipped onto the outside of a pack. It does add a bit of weight to the overall package, but not much. The case also has a couple of holes for venting, as well as a loop to attach to stuff.

It’s an overall versatile and useful little camp towel with a long popper buttoned hang loop. I mostly use it for backpacking or day hikes as a ‘just in case I fancy a swim’ towel.

Pros

  • Comes in a handy hard case
  • Silky feel
  • Packable
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Not eco-friendly fabrics

Find the latest price at:
Robens


What to consider when choosing a camping and backpacking towel

Use: when and where you’ll need your camp towel

The first thing to think about when choosing a camping towel is in what scenarios you’ll mostly be using it. Camping means very different things for different folk. As such, you’ll need to choose a suitable type of camping towel for you.

Backpacking, bike touring and canoe camping

When it comes to carrying all your gear on your person or on your bike, the lighter and smaller your towel, the better. Ultra lightweight backpacking towels, like the Sea to Summit Airlite Towel, are ideal for this. They weigh next to nothing and pack down into a tiny package. Small towels can be hung on the back of your pack to air dry as you hike. But quick drying fabric is still important if you need to shove it back into your pack / dry bag soon after use.

Travelling

A lightweight travel towel is a good choice for minimalist travel when you won’t spend all day everyday with your pack on your back. This means you can afford to carry a little extra weight than when hiking, letting you enjoy that added extra foot of quick-drying luxury! Packability is still important though, as is the towel’s ability to dry quickly before stuffing it into your pack with all your other stuff.

If you’re not too bothered about super low weight and packability (suitcase-style travelling), then you’ve got more options and can opt for larger, full-sized towels.

Car camping and glamping

Depending on how much extra space you have in your car, taking a regular bath or beach towel is a perfectly good solution to your drying needs. However, if you want to keep your packing as compact as possible then one of the larger, midweight camping towels work well.

Glampers might also want to consider the aesthetics of your camping towel! The oh-so-classy Lava Linen towel fits the bill rather well in terms of feel and looks. As does the Anaskela.

Beach

Though it is delightful wrapping yourself up in a good old-fashioned, colourful and fluffy beach towel, they’re not always the best option. Firstly, they take ages to dry compared with quick-drying camping towels. Secondly, sand sticks to them far too enthusiastically. And finally, they’re relatively big and heavy to carry, which is a big downside when you’re carrying towels for your whole family, as well as a picnic, beach games, sunshade, buckets and spades, wetsuits etc etc!

man washing hands with camp towel

Use: what you’ll use your camp towel for

Mostly, camping towels are used to dry oneself. However, there are other things that need to be dried at camp, too!

Drying bodies

As mentioned, it’s most likely that you’re after a camp towel to dry your body after a cleaning, bathing or swimming. If this is the case, then the bigger the towel, the better so that it can wrap around you fully. That said, if space and weight are super important, a tiny towel (that is more like tea-towel or dish cloth) is just about acceptable. But that’s up to you!

Drying dished

The other main thing you may need a camp towel for is drying dishes. This might be at camp after your main meal if you don’t have an area for things to drip-dry. But it’s also really useful on the trail if you need to wash pots or cutlery and then pack them straight into your backpack. In both of these scenarios, a tiny, packable towel does the job perfectly.

Camp towels packed up

Weight and size

The weight of the camping towels on our list range from xx for the xx to xx for the xx. Their sizes mostly correlate to their weight. However, if you’re after the biggest towel with the lowest weight then the xx is for you.

As mentioned, the weight of the towel relates to its intended use. Opt for an ultra lightweight backpacking towel if you’re carrying it on multi-day hiking or biking trips. Slightly heavier and larger options work for travelling and time at the beach, and the weight of the towel you choose for car camping and glamping isn’t really significant.

The size of the towel is related to its weight but also to your preference. If you’re happy with a tiny towel at the beach, then there are options for that. Likewise, if you’d prefer a full sized towel to wrap around you after a wild swim in the backcountry, then carrying that extra weight will be well worth it.

Packability

Like the weight of a camping towel, how packable it is comes down to its intended use. The most lightweight towels are usually the ones that pack down into the smallest package. If space saving in your backpack or pannier bags is crucial, then choose a synthetic camping towel that is ultra packable.

Quick drying

One of the best things about modern camping towels is that they are made from fabrics that dry quickly. These are nearly always synthetic fibers. The main benefit of a quick drying camp towel, other than it being usable again, is that it lowers the chances of you having to pack it away when it’s still wet or damp. The knock-on effect of this is a stinky towel that then transfers onto you then next time you use it. Grim.

Absorbent

The best camping towels are highly absorbent, meaning that they mop water up with efficiency and take the moisture into the towel, instead of just moving the water around on a surface. Highly absorbent fabrics include linen, cotton, wool, fleece and some synthetic fabrics. These all rely upon a high cellulose content (or compounds that mimic cellulose) in the chemical makeup of the fibers, and a high density of fibers to take up more moisture.

Material

The camping towels that we’ve been using this year are made of one of the following fabrics:

Linen

  • Highly absorbent
  • Naturally antimicrobial
  • Sustainably made
  • Biodegradable
  • Heavy
  • Slow to dry
  • Not especially packable

Polyester

  • Lightweight
  • Fast drying
  • Highly packable
  • Not the best at absorbing moisture
  • Made of plastic

Recycled polyester

  • Lightweight
  • Fast drying
  • Highly packable
  • More sustainable than regular polyester
  • Not the best at absorbing moisture

Bamboo

  • Highly absorbent
  • Fast drying
  • Renewable
  • Biodegradable
  • Doesn’t pack down very small

Rayon

  • Highly absorbent
  • Fast drying
  • Made from purified cellulose fibers which are usually created from wood pulp
  • Compostable
  • Not super packable

Design features of the best camp towels

Carry case

Probably the most important design feature of camping towels is how they pack away. Some come in a separate case whilst others have an integrated pocket in which the towel can be shoved into and zipped up. Integrated pockets are useful to prevent you from misplacing the carry case.

Hang loops

Most camp towels have a loop or some sort which enables you to hang them up to dry. These vary from towel to towel and include simple, sewn-in loops of fabric, mini carabiners attached to a small loop, and fabric tabs that close into a loop via a popper button.

Pattern

The least important design feature of towels for camping and backpacking, in terms of practicality, is their pattern and colour. That said, a highly aesthetic design is sure to make you smile more, and that should never be dismissed! Distinctive looks will also make it more difficult to lose or get confused with someone else’s towel.

About the author

author-joey

Joey is based in Cornwall, UK, and runs Cool of the Wild. She can’t get enough of being outdoors – whether that’s lounging around the campfire cooking up a feast, hitting the trail in her running shoes, or attempting to conquer the waves on her surfboard – she lives for it. Camping is what she loves to do the most, but has also spent many hours clinging to the side of a rock face, cycling about the place, cruising the ski-slopes on her snowboard, and hiking small mountains and big hills.

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