It’s adventure time. And whether you’re going to be battling your way through the Australian Outback, rambling through rural China or ascending the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil, there’s one item that you can’t forget to add to your kit, and that’s a travel towel.
It’s quite an unassuming item, but a necessary piece of equipment that you’ll be thankful for on the rare occasion where you can grab a shower or rinse yourself off in a waterfall (perfectly possible).
First-timers may be asking why you can’t just stuff a towel from the airing cupboard into your backpack, carry-on luggage or suitcase. One of today's best bath towels is not a good choice for travel. Regular towels aren’t designed to be used and then crammed immediately into a rucksack. They don’t dry quickly enough for starters, which means they’ll go smelly and mouldy after a while. They’re also big and chunky, so they’ll take up far too much room and weigh you down more than necessary.
Travel towels, on the other hand, are lightweight, fast-drying, and smaller in size. They’re also highly absorbent, with the capacity to soak up water far quicker than a regular towel.
Many have antibacterial properties too, so your towel-drying experience will be damp-free, smell-free and as pleasant as showering in the middle of nowhere can be.
The texture of travel towels also takes a variety of forms. Hydrofibre is likely to be fleecy to the touch, but deceives you with its amazing ability to soak up water quickly then dry really fast afterwards.
Softfibre is very similar to hydrofibre in the way it feels, but it’s slightly heavier and can absorb more water. Microfibre is popular because it provides the closest texture to a towel out of all three options. It’s the thickest and heaviest and doesn’t have quite the same drying capacity as softfibre, but is still certainly one to consider.
Our list features a range of travel towels from well-known brands including Lifeventure, Trespass and Mountain Warehouse. You’ll also find some obscure names on there for travel towels that promise to do a just as good job as any you’ll find on the market, but for a lower cost (we know many people travel on a shoestring!). Whether you’re looking for large, small, soft or one that you can take to the beach, you’ll find your next backpack necessity right here in our list.
The best travel towels you can buy
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Hydrofibre is the latest advance in travel towel technology. As we mentioned in the intro, it’s similar in texture to a softfibre towel, but it’s much lighter, so you won’t be lugging around more weight than you need to.
It’s worth mentioning that this travel towel is treated with Polygiene, which prevents a build-up of odour producing bacteria – after all, a smelly towel won’t hang about when it comes to infusing it’s scent into the rest of your backpack contents. It comes with its own carry case, but reviewers say it’s small enough to squeeze into that last remaining space in your backpack if needs be. For its pure functionality, it’s claimed our first spot as best travel towel.
High-performance outdoor equipment manufacturer Matador's NanoDry Packable Towel (opens in new tab) (retailer link) is the perfect accessory for people who like to travel light. It weighs a mere 5.6oz (160g) and can absorb over twice its weight in water. Better still, the nanofibre material dries super quickly, which is a boon when you need to make a move in a speedy fashion after you finish skinny-dipping in the lake. No one likes carrying wet towels in their bags, after all.
If you get weirded out by the idea of drying yourself off with something that doesn’t remotely resemble the texture you’re familiar with, try this one. It’s made from a mix of bamboo and polyester, so it’s highly absorbent, and despite being much heavier than hydrofibre, it is still technically lightweight.
Microfibre towels can get smelly, but because this one’s made from bamboo, it’ll resist turning on you that much longer – it’ll still need washing occasionally to completely prevent it from becoming stinky. If you’re looking for a towel that you can take to that desert island inspired beach, this one is large enough to lie on, too.
Thanks to its microfibre composition, this travel towel should feel faintly towel-like. Microfibre creates a large surface area, which means it’s capable of high absorbency and it’s also much quicker at drying than regular towels, too.
The large towel is similar in sizing to our bamboo selection above, and it’s lighter in weight if you’re conscious that your backpack is starting to feel heavy. The only downside is it doesn’t have antibacterial properties.
If you know you’ll be passing through some hostels with washing facilities, that’s fine. But you may want to think about the smell-factor if you’re planning on going completely off-grid for a substantial amount of time.
If you’re conscious about covering yourself up in the all-sex showering unit (we don’t blame you), then this towel is pretty substantial in size. Despite being large, it can be compacted into a corner of your rucksack and the weight, too, is fairly light for a towel so hefty.
Made from microfibre, it’s towel-like in feel, highly absorbent and fast drying, but it doesn’t possess antibacterial properties like our first and second pick, which means it could become smelly after a while. With a variety of colours available, you can make sure yours is easy to spot when it’s on the line.
Check our Mountain Warehouse discount codes to save on your purchase.
If you can get passed the fact that this towel has a suede-like feel to it, you’ll love that it’s very absorbent and can apparently dry even in the dingiest of hostels. The extra large size is the largest on our list, and with dimensions of 180cmx90cm, should allow you to completely cover up in the shared shower unit.
It’s also good to know that it has antibacterial properties, so you can get away with not washing it for much longer than a regular softfibre or microfibre towel. It comes in a range of sizes, and can be squashed into your backpack last minute as you leave the hostel for your next destination.
Your list of items to purchase for your next trip is probably endless, so it’s good to know that there’s a cheap option when it comes to travel towels. With it’s fleece-like feel, it may be weird using it to begin with, but you’ll soon appreciate its fast drying and fast absorbing properties, thanks to its softfibre composition.
There’s a range of sizes available, with the substantial extra large size able to compact itself into the smallest corner of your rucksack. If you’re looking to purchase a towel for washing and a towel for beach, this is the perfect towel for sunbathing on icing-sugar sand.
Zoggs' Elite micro fibre towel may not be made by a travel brand, but has all the super absorbent and fast-drying benefits, being made from soft microfibre. You can trust a brand beloved by swimmers to make a good towel and this one promises to remain soft to the touch even after drying and is lightweight, compact and tear proof. It’s not the cheapest and its dimensions (80x 40cm) mean it’s very compact, but if you’re after a towel that small and hard-working, this might be the one for you.
If you’re planning on island hopping and hitting the beach, or trekking through the jungle, you’ll want a towel that’s super absorbent, with a cooling effect. Like its name suggests, Nike’s Cooling Towel does just this. Engineered to lower your temperature and keep you fresh during a workout, it’s brilliant for hotter holidays as the fabric cools when wet to help regulate body temperature, while its woven texture helps sustain the cooling effect for a chemical-free activation. At 91.3 x 45cm it’s a little bit of a sunny shape, but it is machine washable and you’ll be glad you have it if you’re dripping with sweat on your travels.
Whether you’re off on your gap year or are just a fan of camping and the great outdoors, this Gentlemen's Hardware Travel Towel is incredibly handy. Measuring 120 x 76cm, it’s a decent size, while being lightweight and small enough to roll into a tiny case and stuff into your bag nice and easily. The masculine colour and design may not be to everyone’s taste, but it looks distinctive, which is no bad thing if you’re staying somewhere with communal areas, and it would make a stylish gift for a friend with serious wanderlust.