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There are many reasons to take a towel with you when you travel. Perhaps you’re planning a backpacker tour of Southeast Asia and don’t want to pay extra for hostel towels. Maybe you’re going camping in Canada and need to be totally self-sufficient; or maybe you’re germ-conscious and don’t like the idea of using hotel towels, no matter how smart they are. Travel towels need to be lightweight and compact so they don’t take up too much valuable space in your suitcase. They also need to be quick-drying and anti-microbial. Most travel towels are made from microfiber, but there are other options and in this article, we look at the best of them all.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Youphoria Outdoors Microfiber Travel Towel
The Youphoria Outdoors Microfiber Travel Towel stands out for its combination of functionality, style, and affordability. Made from absorbent microfiber, the towel can hold up to five times its own weight in water and dries up to 10 times faster than a normal terry cloth towel. The fabric is also anti-microbial and won’t succumb to mildew halfway through your trip.
There are three sizes: 20” x 40”, 28” x 56” or 32” x 72”. Whichever you choose, the towel rolls neatly into the provided mesh bag, keeping it compact throughout your trip. Use the quick-snap loop to hang it from your hotel shower rail, or to turn a branch into a makeshift washing line when camping. Best of all, this product also feels and looks great. Contrasting hems give it extra style points, with 11 color combos to choose from including mint/gray, blue/green and gray/pink. Your purchase is protected by a lifetime warranty.
Best Runner-Up: RainLeaf Microfiber Travel Towel
If you’re looking for different colors or sizes, consider the RainLeaf Microfiber Travel Towel. It’s a very similar product in terms of price and performance and is also made from fast-drying, absorbent microfiber. There are seven colors to suit all tastes (think army green, blue, rose red or orange) and no fewer than six sizes ranging from extra small (12” x 24”) to a vast extra, extra large (40” x 72”).
This soft towel is also anti-microbial and folds (rather than rolls) into a breathable waterproof carry bag that protects the rest of your clothes if you have to pack it while it’s still a little bit damp. When you get home from your travels, it works just as well as a beach or gym towel. Use the snap loop to hang it up to dry and the corner zip pocket to hide your cell phone or wallet from prying eyes on the beach.
Best Bamboo: Secret Sea Lightweight Bamboo Beach Towel
Designed and manufactured in Turkey, the Secret Sea Bamboo Beach Towel is a great choice for those that value organic products. It’s crafted from environmentally friendly bamboo and cotton fibers and printed with natural, chemical-free dyes. At 60” x 35”, this is a relatively large towel and yet its thin, gauzy quality makes it amazingly lightweight and compact. The fabric is also ideally suited for use as a travel towel as it’s quick to dry, naturally anti-microbial and 60 percent more absorbent than regular cotton.
With its knotted fringes and classic printed designs, this towel is also a thing of beauty. Choose artistic flamingo, cat, pineapple, owl, starfish or elephant patterns and make a fashion statement on the beach or by the hotel pool. The ink is part of the fabric and won’t crack or peel off, ensuring that the towel continues to look good even after frequent washes.
Best Turkish Cotton: Nature Is Gift Turkish Cotton Travel Towel
Nature Is Gift’s Turkish Cotton Travel Towel takes inspiration from the peshtemals or traditional towels used in Turkish hammams. It is made from 100 percent natural Turkish cotton — a premium fabric with extra long fibers that gets softer and more absorbent with every wash. It dries more quickly than terry cloth towels and is significantly more compact. When folded flat, this towel also takes up very little luggage space when traveling.
At 39” x 71”, this is a large towel that provides ample coverage whether you use it as a changing screen on the beach or as a cover-up when walking from your bedroom to the communal bathroom in a backpacker hostel. There is a range of colors to choose from, including grass, lilac, aqua, and rich gray. All colors have statement-making stripes and hand-knotted tassels along the shorter edges. When you’re not using it as a towel, this product also doubles as a scarf, sarong, picnic blanket or throw for your living room at home.
Best Recycled: Nomadix Yoga & Travel Towel
Environmentally conscious travelers will love the Nomadix Yoga & Travel Towel. It’s made from 100 percent recycled materials including fibers extracted from post-consumer plastic bottles. It is more expensive than the other towels on this list (a small price to pay for planet-saving karma). More than just a gimmick, the towel also works well. At one pound, it’s lightweight and compact, dries quickly and stays fresh thanks to its anti-microbial properties. It’s also slip-resistant, making it ideal for yoga camps and wellness retreats.
The towel’s multipurpose nature is in line with the brand’s “own less, do more” ethos whereby customers purchase one quality, long-lasting product that fulfills several functions. You can use your Nomadix towel for traveling, yoga, camping, beach trips, and gym workouts. Additionally, the two-sided towel comes in a variety of trendy, travel-inspired prints. The Yosemite towel is a favorite complete with a rendering of El Capitan.
Best Extra Large: Dock & Bay Microfiber Beach Towel for Travel
The Dock & Bay Microfiber Beach Towel is a travel towel made specifically with seaside vacations in mind. Its extra large size (78” x 35”) means that you can use it to change into your swimsuit without compromising your modesty; and you’ve got more room to sunbathe without getting sandy. In fact, the microfiber fabric repels sand so that you can shake it off quickly and easily before packing the towel back into your bag. It’s also quick-drying, super absorbent and has that uniquely smooth microfiber feel.
Despite is huge size, this towel is both compact and lightweight. It tips the scale at 1.1 pounds and packs down into a 10” x 6” roll. Use the included travel pouch to keep your towel clean and contained within your luggage. The loop sewn into one corner comes in handy when drying the towel after a day at the beach, while a range of bright, summery colors make it easy to find your spot upon returning from a dip in the sea. Patterns include Cabana Bondi Blue, Summer American Dream and Festival Tomatina.
Best Multipurpose: Snappy Towels Waffle Weave Microfiber Travel Towel
The Snappy Towels Waffle Weave Microfiber Travel Towel offers the same properties as the other microfiber towels on this list: it’s quick to dry, absorbent, compact and lightweight. None of the others are as versatile as this one, however, which has clever snaps along its edges. You can use them to fasten the towel around your waist as a sarong or changing cover. You can also fasten it around your shoulders as a shade-giving cape or poncho.
If you’re traveling with small children, the towel can double as a stroller cover and offers privacy to breastfeeding moms. You can even connect the snaps to transform the towel into a tote bag for carrying belongings to and from the beach; and at the end of the day, you can fasten it over a deck railing to dry. If you buy more than one towel, they can snap together to create a large beach blanket for your friends and family. Available in green or orange, the sand-free towel linked here measures 54” x 27” and there are other sizes offered online.
Best Budget: WGOOT Quick Dry Microfiber Travel Towel
Made of microfiber, the WGOOT Quick Dry Microfiber Travel Towel absorbs water effectively and dries quickly so that you have all the benefits and none of the drawbacks of traveling with a conventional terry cloth towel. A hanging loop expedites the drying process while the fabric’s anti-microbial qualities mean that you don’t have to worry about germs or funny odors.
The towel comes with a cleverly designed carry sack. It’s mesh on one side so that the towel can continue to dry if you have to pack it away while it’s still damp. The other side is waterproof so that it won’t transfer water onto the other items in your suitcase. The bag’s reflective drawcord makes it easy to locate your towel in the dark. There are four sizes to choose from, ranging from 31” x 14” to 72” x 32”. Opt for blue, gray, or purple to match your luggage color scheme.
Our writers spent 4 hours researching the most popular travel towels on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 20 different towels overall, screened options from 10 different brands and manufacturers and read over 30 user reviews (both positive and negative). All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.