Is it time to throw in the towel on travel towels?
Even if you are staying in quality hotels with guaranteed clean towels, you still might want something with you to freshen up on overnight trains, buses, and flights. They're also helpful for drying your hand-washed laundry. So what's the best solution that balances comfort with practicality?
1.) Traditional cotton and cotton-blend towels.
Cons: They are big and fluffy and take a lot of room in your pack. A LOT. They also take a long time to dry and can smell musty if packed when still damp.
Lesson learned: I brought my favorite cream colored bath sheet with me for my required self-provided towel while living and working on a Malawi university campus . Clearly, only a fool would bring a white towel to an environment that was rich in red dust and poor on washing machines! It was a nightmare to handwash and never really looked clean.
Best for: Semesters abroad, car road trips where luggage space isn't at a premium, people who aren't changing rooms every night. I took a small, well-used hand towel with me for my first solo backpacking trip. I would stuff it on the outside of my wee pack to dry during the day and it was small enough to always get tossed in whenever I splurged on 'real' laundry.
2.) Travel Towel #1 - The Shammy Towel.
Cons: They feel like the shammy cloth used to wash cars! And while they might statistically absorb more water than a traditional towel, I never really feel 100% dry. It's like they absorb all the water drops but never absorb all the moisture. And despite the fact that they dry more quickly than a traditional towel, a soaking wet shammy towel still takes a long time to dry. It's not like you can just wring it out, wave it in the air for 5 minutes, and toss it in your pack.
Best for: Ultra light backpackers, people looking for something light to refresh themselves while travelling, helping to wring out hand-washed laundry.
3.) Travel Towel #2 - The "We feel like a real towel, honest!" towel.
Cons: While still very lightweight, they are heavier than shammy travel towels. They seem to cost a bit more than traditional travel towels, possibly because they are often marketed as a yoga towel containing environmentally friendly recycled fabric .
Best for: Everyone but campers! It has the best of both worlds. This is what I'd chose for the majority of my travels.
2.) Rentals: In most hostels and other properties, you usually have the option of renting towels if they aren't included - after all, it's a clever money maker for the property. In my experience, the towels are on the small side and are worn a bit thin but have always been clean. Note that most private hostel rooms include towels - and they are nicer than the rentals.
4.) The Lost and Found: (Tip from an anonymous blogger!) I have never been this desperate, but every hostel and alternative property has a lost and found. A vaguely worded inquiry will likely result in a towel. Not sure if I'd ever pursue this - but hey! it's a great way to get a free umbrella!
As always, I welcome and encourage your comments - what's the most valuable item in your pack?
If you enjoyed this article, you'll also like:
The Three Favourite Things in My Pack
Rucksack Roundup: All About Notebooks
Rucksack Roundup: Tilley Endurables' Waterproof Jacket