If you’re planning to spend time traveling, camping, at the beach, doing watersports or backpacking, then a quick-dry, packable towel is your new best friend. Having a microfiber towel to take in your pack on your travels, sports and adventures provides you with the means to dry yourself and your gear while you’re away from home, without being left with a heavy, wet, and stinky cotton towel. Oh, and most of these towels are also sand and pet hair-resistant, making them extra great if you’re traveling with pets or going to be using your towel for the beach.
In this post we’ve picked out the best fast drying towels for camping, travel, backpacking and other adventures – anything that involves you getting wet while out on your adventures, whether that’s washing in your campsite or camper van, or drying off after being out in the rain, at the beach or doing watersports such as paddle boarding.
Click the links to jump to the towels:
- The Best Quick Dry Microfiber Towels For Camping, road trips, and Van Life ↓
- The Best Ultralight, Ultra-Packable Travel and Backpacking Towels ↓
- Quick Dry Pack Towels Buyer’s Guide ↓
The Best Quick Dry Microfiber Towels For Camping, Road Trips, and Van Life
1. Slowtide Quick Dry Towels [Editor’s Choice]
- Cost: $39.95 at slowtide.com
These award-winning Slowtide Towels are made from 100% post-consumer waste (primarily plastic water bottles), feature a range of fun double-sided prints, are highly absorbent, sand-resistant and, of course, quick-drying, making them our top pick when it comes to the best towels for camping and van life.
The featured towel measures 30 x 60 inches, which is a good size for a beach towel. If you’re looking for a thinner, lighter-weight towel for backpacking and ultralight travel, jump down to the backpacking category below for our top picks.
2. Sea to Summit Drylite Towel
This quick-dry pack towel has a suede-like feel and is ideal for when you want a soft, compact travel towel, for example to take traveling, boating, to the gym or camping (whether that’s tent camping or in a camper van). It comes in a range of sizes – the Large is a good body towel measuring 24 x 48 inches, which weighs 5.1oz.
3. Nomadix All-Purpose Towel
Cost: $39.95 at Amazon
These Nomadix towels feature a double-sided print and are super versatile for everything from the beach and pool to watersports, camping and van life. They’re also sand and pet-hair resistant, absorbent, quick-drying and pack down small.
Similar to the Slowtide towels above, Nomadix makes their microfiber travel and camping towels with post-consumer recycled plastic bottles, and the company has a strong focus on sustainability. This particular style of beach towel weighs 17oz, measures 30 x 72.5 inches and packs down to 3.5 x 7 inches.
4. Packtowl Personal Towel
Packtowl towels come in three different styles – Ultralite, Personal and Luxe. The Luxe is their most absorbent microfiber towel option, although it is the heaviest – and the Ultralite is – well – ultra light, and included in the ultralight travel towels category below.
The Packtowl Personal Towel strikes a happy balance between weight, size and absorbency and this makes it a good choice for camping. It’s available in four sizes, including a 36 x 59 inch beach towel size which weighs 9.7oz and folds into its own pouch for storage – plus it’s treated with Polygiene for odor control.
5. Rumpl Shammy Towel
Rumpl’s Shammy towel is made from a super-soft polyester microsuede material, which is infused with anti-microbial treatment to help minimize that wet towel smell. Being polyester it dries quickly and is designed to repel sand, pet hair, odor, and stains.
With a size of 29.5 x 72 and weighing 12.8oz, this is a luxe towel option when it comes to beach, van life or camping, and takes up much less space in your pack than your regular old cotton towel.
Best Ultralight Travel and Backpacking Towels
As ensuring your backpacking towel is sufficiently lightweight is such an important factor when choosing which is the best for your needs, as well as the ability to pack it down small, we’ve included the weights and dimensions for each pack towel below.
6. Sea to Summit Airlite Towels
These Sea to Summit towels are some of the most compact, lightest, quick-drying travel towels out there – perfect for backpacking and traveling when your pack towel needs to be as minimal (yet effective) as possible.
They come in four sizes, S, M, L and XL. The Large is our pick for use as a body towel, smaller towel sizes are better for hair and gear, and if you need a larger one, go for the XL (which still only weighs 2.5oz). ‘Large’ towel weight and sizes:
- Size: 18 x 42 inches (packs down to 3.4 x 2.4)
- Weight: 1.7oz
7. Packtowl Ultralite Towel
These absorbent microfiber travel towels are soft, lightweight and quick to dry – perfect for when they need to pack down small to fit in a duffel or backpack. Like the other PackTowls above, the Ultralite towel comes in more than one size, with the ‘Body’ size (the second largest) being the most versatile – and notably larger than the Sea to Summit towel above.
- Size: 25 x 54 inches
- Weight: 3.4oz
8. Matador NanoDry Towel
This Matador pack towel comes with its own silicone travel case with a carabiner for convenience and portability so you can pack it down small, clip it to the outside of your backpack or stash it into any bag for taking to the beach, trail or gym.
When packed, this travel towel’s case fits into the palm of your hand. It’s available in black, red and green.
- Size: 24 x 47 inches
- Weight: 5oz
9. Nomadix Ultralight Towels
Cost: $29.95 at Nomadix
If you want a larger lightweight towel for camping, backpacking or traveling where weight is not your primary concern but you want to be able to pack your towel down small, these ultralight Nomadix towels are a great choice and available in a range of nice designs.
Unlike the Nomadix All-Purpose towels above, however, the print is single-sided.
- Size: 30 x 54 inches (packs down to 2 x 5 x 5)
- Weight: 8oz
Quick Dry Towels Buyer’s Guide
Towels aren’t that complicated… or so you may think! For one to make this list of the best quick dry towels, it has to actually be pretty technical and have the following features:
- Be made of absorbent, yet quick-drying material
- Be made from durable, quality materials in a way that ensures it will last a long time and many uses before needing replacement
- Be soft for use against the skin
- Be lightweight
- Pack down small to fit in a duffel or backpack easily for storage and travel.
Quick Dry Microfiber Towel Materials
To offer all of the properties described above, the best quick dry towels that pack down small and are lightweight are made of microfiber fabric. The best of the best also have anti-microbial properties to help minimize stink and bacteria that can be quick to grow in wet places, keeping your towel cleaner and stink-free for longer.
Microfiber towels are made of a blend of polyester and polyamide (nylon). The ‘micro’ fibers create a large surface area that makes them absorbent yet allows them to dry faster than cotton towels. The more absorbent microfiber towels have a larger percentage of polyamide, however, this does make them less soft. For a towel suitable for drying your body, a typical balance is typically 80-85% polyester and 15-20% nylon – the mix may be different for microfiber towels intended for cleaning uses such as washing your car.
Because these towels are made from plastic fibers, it is good to know that you don’t need to wash microfiber towels very often. In addition, more and more microfiber towels are being made using recycled plastics and saving waste plastic water bottles from landfill.
Why use microfiber travel towels
If you find a different towel that is made with cotton or linen, steer clear.
Cotton and linen towels are great in your home or a hotel where they can be washed regularly and dried out thoroughly, but for traveling, camping, watersports, or taking to the gym you need a towel that will not hold loads of water and will dry out quickly, so you can pack it away relatively quickly and it’s not stinking and harboring mold, bacteria and other nasties between getting wet and you being able to wash it properly.
The very best camping towels on this list like the Nomadix and Slowtide towels are made from recycled plastics using responsible manufacturing processes, resulting in durable, high-quality towels that are more sustainable as you shouldn’t need to replace them.
Finding the most lightweight, packable travel towel
The properties of the microfiber fabric used to make these pack towels means that they are lighter weight than towels made from cotton for example – even when dry, and the difference is even more noticeable when the towel is wet.
These towels can be made from very thin material yet still be very absorbent – and because the material is so thin, it allows you to fold it up and pack it down small to fit in a duffel or your backpack for storage and portability (when dry).
How to wash microfiber towels
One of the great things about these microfiber travel and camping towels is that they are fast drying, which means that the stink and mold that can grow in wet places doesn’t have much time to grow if you hang your towel out to dry after use. This means these towels don’t generally need washing as frequently as cotton towels.
Most microfiber towels are machine washable on a cold cycle, with detergent (don’t use fabric softener). They should be air-dried, not tumble-dried. The heat from a tumble dryer can melt the plastic fibers and compromise the towel’s function.
It’s also wise to wash the towels alone or with other polyester fabrics, not cotton or linens, as the fibers that tend to come off the natural materials can stick to the towels.
Always check the label of your towels in case there are different washing instructions and guidance for your particular choice of towel.
What soap to use camping
Don’t forget to make sure any soap you are using for washing, whether it’s yourself, your gear or your dishes, is biodegradable and can be washed away in an appropriate place, which is ideally in a toilet, dump station or.
If you are out in the wilderness and cannot transport the dirty water out, then carry water at least 200 feet away from streams or lakes, use only small amounts of biodegradable soap, and pour wastewater into a cat hole 6 to 8 inches deep.
Now you’ve read our guide to microfiber quick-dry towels, click here to jump back up to the list of the best towels for camping, van life, travel and backpacking.