The 8 Best Backpacking Towels

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The Rundown

Best Overall: Youphoria Quick Dry Travel Towel at Amazon

"This towel is a sensation for all the right reasons."

Best Budget: BOGI Microfiber Travel Sports Towel at Amazon

"It packs down really compactly, with the medium condensing down into about the size of a tennis ball. "

Best for the Beach: PackTowl Personal Microfiber Towel at Amazon

"Dries 70 percent faster than a regular beach towel."

Best Quick-Drying: Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Towel at Amazon

"Like the best backpacking towels, this one comes with a snap-closure loop, so you can hang it from wherever to let it dry."

Best for Looks: Nomadix National Parks All-Purpose Towel at rei.com

" It's made with GRS-certified post-consumer recycled plastic, which makes the towel durable and sand-resistant."

Best Towel Set: OlimpiaFit Three-Towel Set at Amazon

"They hold up to four times their weight in water but dry out 10 times faster than cotton or terrycloth."

Best Microfiber Alternative: Rumpl Shammy Towel at rei.com

"These polyester and spandex blend towels are softer than they might seem, and they’re super-lightweight."

Best for Packability: Matador NanoDry Towel at rei.com

"This towel is super-soft Nanofiber, making it even lighter weight than microfiber towels."

When you’re headed on a backpacking trip a proper towel is essential. While you might not be doing a lot of showering on a camping trip, backpacking towels come in clutch for drying off after it rains, or you sweat, or after taking an impromptu swim. They can also double as an extra blanket (maybe a sleeping bag liner, picnic blanket, or just something to lounge on). We’ve scoured the internet to round up backpacking towels, taking into account the size, material, and weight to bring you the best of the best for all your adventures.

Best Overall: Youphoria Quick Dry Travel Towel

Youphoria Quick Dry Travel Towel

Amazon

What We Like
  • Quick-drying

  • Anti-mildew

  • Compact

What We Don't Like
  • Not as absorbent

One of the most popular backpacking towels on the market, Youphoria’s Quick Dry Travel Towel is a sensation for all the right reasons. Made from a fine blend of microfiber, this executes the best features of a backpacking towel at a top level, so it’s sure to become a trusted companion on backpacking adventures. It comes in three sizes, 20 by 40 inches (this small size is great for sweaty hikes: the microfiber will almost immediately absorb any sweat on your skin), 28 by 56 inches, and a relatively massive 32 by 72 inches.

The material is designed to be anti-mildew and anti-odor, which is great after a few days of hiking, and it dries up to 10 times faster than terrycloth or cotton — you can air it out with the attached loop. People also say they’ve used this towel for sleeping bag liners and travel blankets, which we think is brilliant.

Material: Microfiber | Size: 20 x 40, 28 x 56, 32 x 72 in.

Best Budget: BOGI Microfiber Travel Sports Towel

What We Like
  • Fast-drying

  • Packable

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Hard to put back into bag

If it's your first venture into microfiber towels (which, honestly, aren't for everyone), this BOGI towel is a good place to start. The towels come in six gorgeous colors — bright blue, gray, pink, navy, orange, and purple — but most important, they’re beloved by backpackers for their low profile and absorbency.

Each comes with its own breathable carry case to let it breathe if it’s still a bit damp and you can use the carabiner to hook it to the outside of your pack. There's also a bungee loop to make it easier to hang up.

It packs down really compactly, with the medium condensing down into about the size of a tennis ball. The smallest size is 16 by 32 inches but there's a larger one that measures 72 by 32 inches.


Material:
Microfiber | Size: 16 x 32, 40 x 20, 60 x 30, 72 x 32 in.

Best for the Beach: PackTowl Personal Microfiber Towel

What We Like
  • Fun color options

  • Fast-drying

  • Odor-controlling

What We Don't Like
  • Not as durable

Any of PackTowl’s backpacking towels do a great job on the trail, but we love that they make a specific size for the beach. It’s 59 by 36 inches, so there’s quite a lot of room to spread out without all the bulk and heaviness of a standard beach towel, which tends to take approximately forever to dry. This one, on the other hand, dries 70 percent faster than a regular beach towel — and that’s after absorbing four times its weight in water (the thin material helps you ring it out easily, too).

If you’re at a lakeside beach in the backcountry, the hang loop makes airing this out easy. That being said, you don’t have to worry too much about musty smells with this towel, thanks to polygeine odor control that keeps odors from building up, even after a few trips to the lake.

It comes with its own storage pouch for easy, contained, and breathable transport, and doesn’t add too much weight to the pack at 9.7 ounces.


Material:
Microfiber | Weight: 9.7 oz. | Size: 36 x 59 in.

Best Quick-Drying: Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Towel

What We Like
  • Soft

  • Packable

  • Fast-drying

What We Don't Like
  • Not as durable

  • Not anti-microbrial treated

So soft that it feels like suede, Wise Owl Outfitters camping towels are beloved among the backcountry crowd for their high absorbency and quick-drying abilities — up to 10 times faster than a traditional towel (about 10 minutes in direct sunlight and about 30 minutes in the shade, more if it’s very humid out). Like the best backpacking towels, this one comes with a snap-closure loop, so you can hang it from wherever to let it dry it and air out before going back in the backpack — though it does come with its own carry bag if you need to head out before it’s fully dry.

We also love that you get a free washcloth with the large towel and a free hand towel with the extra-large size — so you’re all set for washing your face or cleaning up the occasional spill at the campsite.

They don’t dry in that hard, scratchy way that some towels do, either — it’s super soft and ready to go for the next time. The downside is it’s not antimicrobial treated, so be sure to hang it out so it doesn’t mildew.


Material:
Microfiber | Weight: 6 oz. | Size: 20 x 40 in.

Best for Looks: Nomadix National Parks All-Purpose Towel

Nomadix National Parks All-Purpose Towel
What We Like
  • Antimicrobial

  • Durable

What We Don't Like
  • No hanging loop

  • On the larger side

If all the choices so far have seemed a little utilitarian, well, we don’t blame you: Outdoor gear is often on the rugged side, both practically and aesthetically speaking, and form often takes a far, far backseat to function. But for those of us who love a little color in our lives, there’s Nomadix.

The brand has a line of bright, National Park styled travel towels that change the meaning of being one with nature. The four designs depict scenes from Grand Canyon, Smokey Mountains, Yellowstone, and Joshua Tree. They come in a comparatively extra-large size (72 x 30 inches), so it might be too big for those who are really eyeing every square inch. It's made with GRS-certified post-consumer recycled plastic, which makes the towel durable and sand-resistant.


Material:
Recycled plastic polyester/nylon | Weight: 1 lb. 3 oz. | Size: 72 x 30 in.

Best Towel Set: OlimpiaFit Three-Towel Set

What We Like
  • Versatile

  • Fast-drying

  • Soft

What We Don't Like
  • Only one carrying bag

If you’re not quite sure what your needs are going to be when you’re on the trail, a towel set is a great way to be sure you’re prepared for everything. The small towel measures 15 by 15 inches; the medium measures 15 inches by 30 inches, and the large clocks in at 30 inches by 50 inches. Each has snap-close hooks for hanging and airing — they hold up to four times their weight in water but dry out 10 times faster than cotton or terrycloth.

We love the large and small ones for washing and drying off on the trail, and then heading to the gym with the medium-size one — after all, the antimicrobial properties are great for guarding across gym-equipment germs, too.

The only downside is that there's not an individual carry bag for each, but it’s hardly a dealbreaker with this set. Just remember to wash them before your first use! 


Material:
Microfiber | Size: 51 x 31, 30 x 15, 15 x 15 in.


Best Microfiber Alternative: Rumpl Shammy Towel

Rumpl Shammy Towel

If you’re looking to avoid synthetic microfibers — the default when it comes to backpacking towels — but you still want material that will dry quickly, absorb a ton of water, and not weigh too much in the pack, Rumpl's Shammy Towels are fantastic. Measuring 29.5 by 72 inches, these polyester and spandex blend towels are softer than they might seem, and they’re super-lightweight.

They’re also great as a beach towel​ since sand won’t stick to these towels like they would the hook-and-loop weave of a standard towel — plus, the material is stain-resistant and odor-resistant, so you won’t see mildew build up on these.

Although these aren’t meant specifically for backpacking, they tick the boxes you need for a backcountry trip — all that’s missing is a breathable carry case, but we recommend you grab a cheap lingerie bag to clip on to your backpack’s exterior. At the end of the trip, feel free to toss it in the washer and dryer.


Material:
95% polyester/5% spandex | Weight: 12.8 oz. | Size: 72 x 29.5 in.

Best for Packability: Matador NanoDry Towel

Matador NanoDry Towel

Matador's NanoDry towel is a favorite with backpackers — after all, the brand’s inspired a legion of devotees, thanks to high-quality products that can take a bit of a beating on the trail but stay durable. This towel is super-soft Nanofiber (85% polyester, 15% polyamide), making it even lighter weight than microfiber towels. It comes in its own silicone travel case with a carabiner for added convenience and portability—you can hook it to your bag wherever you're going. It absorbs 2.3 times its own weight in water, weights just 5 ounces. and measures 47 by 24 inches.


Material:
Nanofiber | Weight: 5 oz. | Size: 47 x 24 in.

Final Verdict

There's a reason Youphoria's Quick Dry Travel Towel gets such high marks from backpackers: It's really high quality. You'll appreciate having a towel that is anti-mildew and anti-odor, particularly if you're out on a long trip and have infrequent access to washing. We also love that it comes in a variety of sizes and dries 10 times faster than cotton, so it'll be ready to use again in no time.

What to Look For in a Backpacking Towel

Weight

It should go without saying that if you're going backpacking you'll be carrying your own gear. For that reason, it's important to opt for a travel towel that is lightweight. A few ounces might not seem like much, but if you're out on a particularly long hike, you'll feel it.

Material

Usually, the kind of towels you use in your own home are made of cotton. While that material is lovely and cozy, it's not ideal for backpacking, as it stays wet longer and is fairly bulky. Look for something made with microfiber, nanofiber, or even bamboo. Those materials are much more light-weight, quick-drying, and compact.

Size

Many of the travel towels in this list come in a variety of sizes. Determine what you plan to use the towel for and choose an appropriately sized towel to match. You're going to have more work to do if you get a hand towel to dry off with after swimming.

FAQs

Why shouldn't I get a cotton travel towel?

One of the biggest complaints about microfiber travel towels is that they're not as plush and comforting as a cotton towel. While that may be true, the dense cotton loops that make up your bath towel take forever to dry, which isn't conducive to backpacking. Microfiber is the go to for backpackers because it dries in a fraction of the time, meaning you can use it again faster (or pack it in your bag without worrying that'll get everything else damp). Having something that is quick drying also means it's much less likely to get stinky or mold.

What does it mean when a towel has antimicrobial treatments?

Antimicrobial means that the fabric is embedded with germ-fighting and odor-killing properties. It helps prevent mold, mildew, and funky smells from developing in the towel.

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