Your backpack or carry-on isn’t complete until you find one of the best travel towels to take you from hostel or hotel to the beach.
Our roundup gathers the best towels on the market, ranks them according to their features including portability and durability, and helps you make this all-important packing decision.
What’s the Best Travel Towel?
Most newcomers to traveling probably don’t think about packing a towel, assuming fluffy hotel towels await at their destination. However, experienced backpackers know how essential a good travel towel is.
There are so many travel towels on the market promising to get the job done without taking up too much space in your pack, but which ones actually deliver? Here are our top travel towels for the year that will help you backpack in style and comfort.
Our Top 7 Picks for the Best Travel Towels:
- Best Overall: Youphoria Microfiber Travel Towel
- Best Budget Option: Rainleaf Microfiber Towel
- Best for Comfort: Sea to Summit Tek Towel
- Best for Outdoors: Packtowl Personal Towel
- Best for the Beach: Dock & Bay Beach Towel
- Best for Camping: Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Travel Towel
- Best Looking: Nomadix Towel
Travel towels come with many purposes, materials, and sizes. This guide can help you choose the right one for your next adventure.
Why You Need a Travel Towel
Sci-fi lovers are probably familiar with the quote from A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy saying, “a towel is the most important item a Hitchhiker can carry.” Fewer people know that the same rule applies when traveling in the real world.
A travel towel is useful if you are planning to go on many outdoor adventures. You can use it to dry off your gear if you get caught in the rain or dry off after swimming in a pond.
Even if the most adventurous thing you’re planning to do outdoors is laying on the beach, a travel towel gives you something to lay on that isn’t bare sand.
Depending on your accommodation, travel towels are more useful than you might think. Low-budget accommodation like hostels and AirBnBs usually don’t provide towels or charge a fee if you are renting one.
Bringing your own towel ensures that you are prepared (and know the quality and cleanliness of the thing you use to dry off after your shower).
A towel is certainly a useful thing to take on your trip, but why not take a regular bath towel instead of going out of your way to buy a special towel just for traveling? There are a few reasons why.
First, your regular bath towel is comfortable, but it’s probably pretty bulky. Second, regular towels take a long time to dry and retain odor and bacteria if you fold them up when they’re damp. For convenience and hygiene, picking out one of the best travel towels is the way to go.
Best Travel Towels: Our Top 7 Picks
If you’re packing for a trip, here are some of the best travel towels to invest in. While any of these products are a great choice, figuring out which one is best for you will depend on a few factors.
Think about how long your trip will be, whether you’ll have access to any laundry facilities, and what activities you’re planning on doing. The right towel for camping won’t be the same as the ideal towel for hostel-hopping.
Be sure to check out our guide and customer reviews to give you an idea of what you’re getting into before you buy anything.
1. Youphoria Travel Towel
The Youphoria Travel Towel routinely tops reviews of best travel towels and it earned our nod as best overall pick. It comes in several different sizes, so you can choose whichever one you want based on your needs, and is durable and quick drying, making it perfect for everything from hostel stays to camping.
This towel is made of microfiber, one of the most popular materials for travel towels thanks to its fast-drying properties. Its three sizes are Small (20 in x 40 in), Medium (28 in x 56 in), and Large (32 in x 72 in).
Each towel comes with a mesh carrying case that you can attach to your backpack or use to carry it to the beach. One of the things that sets the Youphoria towel apart from the competition is the soft, almost luxurious feel of its fabric.
Many travel towels are made of microfiber because it dries much faster than cotton or terrycloth, but microfiber feels slippery and almost plasticky on the skin.
The Youphoria towel feels soft and comfortable without compromising on the benefits of microfiber—it dries quickly and doesn’t retain odor. Another benefit is the range of sizes that the company offers.
Both the Medium and Large sizes are big enough to comfortably wrap around your body and you can even lay them out as beach towels.
Even though the towel is big enough to dry you off comfortably, it folds down into a very small roll that fits into even the most packed backpack (or just attach the case to the outside if you’re out of room).
With so many benefits, it’s worth taking a bit more care when washing the towel to ensure that it lasts.
2. Rainleaf Microfiber Towel
- Six different sizing options
- Made out of antibacterial, quick-drying microfiber fabric
- Affordable compared to towels of similar quality
- Bulkier when packed down than the Youphoria
- Does not have the soft towel feel
If you’re new to the world of travel towels and don’t want to spend a fortune on a product you’re still not sure that you need, then the Rainleaf Microfiber Towel is your best option.
This versatile towel is durable and high-quality but much more affordable than many of its competitors. The Rainleaf towel is made out of absorbent, fast-drying microfiber fabric that also has antibacterial properties.
You have six sizing options when purchasing this towel: X-Small, Small, Medium, Large, X-Large, and XX-Large. The towel comes with a mesh carry bag that has a zippered pocket you can use to store your valuables when you’re on the beach.
Besides its budget-friendly nature, the Rainleaf stands out due to its versatility. Even the mid-range sizes are large enough to comfortably dry your body off after a shower (the largest sizes are almost too bulky according to some reviewers).
The towel dries very quickly, making it ideal for when you’re moving around often and don’t have time to wait for your towel to dry. The fabric has special DOW antibacterial technology, preventing mildew and bacteria from forming.
When you’re bouncing around and don’t have time to regularly wash your towels, that’s very important indeed! However, it lacks some of the softness of other towels on this list and feels like a car rag instead of a comfy towel, according to some reviewers.
3. Sea to Summit Tek Towel
- Plush, terrycloth-like fabric
- Quick-drying fabric
- Packs down very small and light
- No anti-bacterial properties
- More expensive than other travel towels
If you hate the feeling of regular travel towels, then the Sea to Summit Tek Towel is the one for you. This travel towel has a terrycloth-like feeling that feels soft and plush, while retaining the quick-drying, compact benefits of travel towels.
Sea to Summit’s towel is made of 70% polyester and 30% nylon microfiber fabric. It comes in five different sizes: X-Small, Small, Medium, Large, and X-Large. All towels come with an EVA storage case, a loop for easy hanging, and a company guarantee of satisfaction.
The fabric is definitely what makes the Sea to Summit towel stand out. Instead of ordinary microfiber, it’s made of a combination of microfiber and polyester, which gives the towel a soft feeling more like a regular bath towel than other slippery travel towels. It still dries quickly.
The only drawback is that the Sea to Summit doesn’t have any antimicrobial properties, one of the trade-offs for having a soft cloth. That means it might start smelling if you go more than a few days without washing it.
4. Packtowl Personal Towel
- Extremely durable against outdoor conditions
- Antimicrobial, odor-preventing treatment
- Extremely absorbent
- Relatively expensive
- Strange feeling on the skin
If you’re planning on spending a lot of time outdoors, then Packtowl’s Personal Towel is one of the best products that you can get. The product’s extreme versatility means you can use it as a beach towel, drying towel, pillow cover, and even dampen it for backcountry showers.
The Packtowl Personal Towel is made of absorbent microfiber fabric. The manufacturer uses Polygiene technology to prevent odor, making it a great choice for long periods outdoors without access to laundry.
It comes in four sizes: Face, Hand, Body, and Beach. According to reviewers, the Packtowl doesn’t fray or absorb odor after most wear and tear.
It repels dirt and sand particles, meaning that you can use it to lay on the beach and still dry off afterwards without feeling gritty. The price is a lot higher than that of similar towels, but for serious outdoorsy travelers, it’s worth it.
5. Dock & Bay Beach Towel
- Eye-catching bright colors
- Large sizes perfect for camping, beach visits, and picnics
- Sand-repelling properties
- Heavy and bulky when packed up
- Limited choices
If you’re planning a beach vacation, you must take the Dock & Bay Beach Towel with you! This bright beach towel is as comfy as any regular towel but dries quickly.
The revolutionary Dock & Bay towel is made out of 100% recycled polyester-polyamide blends. The eco-friendly fabric is not just good for the environment, but also good for your travel plans because it dries quickly, and easily shakes off sand and dirt. Choose from two sizes (Large and Extra-Large) and several striped patterns.
Reviewers love how durable this towel is without compromising on style. It folds down into a small package that is bulkier than some of the other towels on this list, but still more compact than your average beach towel.
6. Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Towel
- Quick-drying, durable microfiber fabric
- Comes with a packing case and extra towel
- Loop for easy hanging
- Some users note a strong chemical smell
- Scratchy label that ruins the feeling of the towel
If you’re looking for a trusty travel towel for your next camping trip, you can’t go wrong with this towel made just for outdoor adventures from the trusted camping retailer Wise Owl.
The Wise Owl Camping Towel is made of absorbent, quick-drying microfiber fabric. The towel comes in two sizes, Large and X-Large, both of which pack down into a small, convenient carrying case.
When you buy from Wise Owl, you get two towels for the price of one because the company gives a washcloth with each towel purchase.
The Wise Owl loses a few points when it comes to comfort because it does feel like a microfiber travel towel. However, it more than makes up for it with durability, even if you are spending days in the backcountry.
7. Nomadix Towel
Just because you’re shopping for a travel towel doesn’t mean that you have to abandon your aesthetic sensibilities altogether!
Nomadix Towels, with their bright colors, patterns, and even a special collection inspired by US national parks, are gorgeous and functional.
Instead of microfiber, Nomadix makes their towels out of polyester and nylon that come from 100% recycled materials, including post-use plastic bottles. The towels come with a no-slip backing that makes them perfect for yoga, while the durable fabric repels dirt and dries quickly.
While the Nomadix towels fold up in compact containers, they only come in one large size, so not the best if you’re just looking for a face or hand towel.
Finding the Best Travel Towel for You
What sets a great travel towel apart from the rest? Here are a few considerations to think about when picking out your towel.
The material might be the most important factor that determines the quality of a travel towel. Your towel should be absorbent and comfortable while still packing down small enough to fit into a backpack.
The most common material for travel towels is microfiber thanks to its lightweight nature and absorbency. It is also much more effective at capturing bacteria. However, microfiber feels strange and slippery compared to other towel materials.
Other common materials are bamboo, linen, Turkish cotton, or even polyester. While these other towels may feel more comfortable, they usually take longer to dry.
When you’re on the road, you don’t have time to wash your towel every few days. This is especially true if you are going camping or hiking, when you may not even have an opportunity to shower!
You need a towel that will not smell or develop mildew if it goes a few days without washing or drying properly. Some of the best travel towels have antimicrobial, bacteria-killing properties that help the towel stay fresh even when you aren’t.
Depending on your travel plans, a different travel towel may be right for you. For example, if you’re spending most of your time in hostels, all you need is a towel to dry off after showering and that will dry in your dorm.
However, if you’re taking your towel outside for any reason, you should choose one that is resistant to dirt and grit. You don’t want to try to dry off after getting soaked in the rain while camping only to get streaked with dirt.
Along with deciding the purpose of your towel, you should decide how big it needs to be.
If you’re just using your towel for drying off after a shower, you probably don’t need the largest size. However, if you want to take it to the beach or use it as a cover when changing, a larger towel will provide more coverage.
You should also look at the size of the towel once you fold it up, so it doesn’t take up too much space in your pack.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some other questions people ask on Google when searching for the best travel towels that can help guide your shopping:
Do Travel Towels Have to Be Antimicrobial?
A travel towel that isn’t antimicrobial will still help you dry off after a shower. However, you will have to be more careful about washing it regularly and letting it dry fully before packing out, which is extra worry you don’t need while traveling.
Are Turkish Towels Better?
Turkish cotton is known for being high-quality and more absorbent than regular bath towels. Their soft material provides a great alternative to the sometimes-strange feeling of microfiber. However, Turkish towels are not as absorbent or quick drying as microfiber towels.
Are Quick-Dry Towels Good?
Yes, quick-dry towels are great and what you should be looking for when traveling. You may not have time to wait for your towel to dry before packing it up, so you want one that doesn’t retain moisture.
Are Microfiber Towels Bad for Your Body?
Microfiber towels shouldn’t be bad for your body. Even though they feel a little strange, they get the job done! However, initial research shows that these towels have microplastics so if you’re eco-conscious, try getting a travel towel made out of recyclable materials instead.
Are Bamboo Towels Better?
Bamboo is a popular alternative to microfiber for travel towels because it is softer and better for the environment while still being highly absorbent. However, bamboo towels usually don’t have antimicrobial properties and are more expensive.
So, What’s the Best Travel Towel?
The Youphoria travel towel is one of the best on the market thanks to its absorbency and versatility. However, there are plenty of other options for every budget, trip type, and even aesthetic. Just be sure to choose one that folds up lightly and dries quickly.