Keeping Clean: The 6 Best Backpacking Towels [2023 Update]

Overall Best Backpacking Towel – REI MultiTowel Lite

REI Multi Towel Lite

While all six of these are great options for outdoor lovers of all kinds, and each has its own great uses, we believe the most versatile option on this list to be the REI MultiTowel Lite. Its lightweight material and great absorbency make it the perfect choice for both quick daily trips and longer month-or-more excursions.

The company keeps the user in mind with all of its gear and its backpacking towels are no exception. Users love its versatility and how it can take up such a small amount of space yet still get a large job done quickly. In addition, its ability to wring out almost completely dry offers users extra time to get their day started without having to wait for their towel to be ready to be packed away.

The Best Backpacking Towels Reviewed

For those that are avid hikers, having a towel meant for backpacking can be a lifesaver. Regular towels are bulky, heavy, and the cotton material takes a long time to dry, causing them to need to be packed away in your backpack wet or moist. This could cause bacteria to grow and thrive, possibly spreading to the other items within the backpack.

Meanwhile, towels specifically meant for backpacking are made from a mixture of polyester and nylon microfibers which are able to dry more quickly, in addition to being lighter in weight and the ability to fit in tight spaces. We’ve reviewed some of the top towels on the market to help you choose the right one.

Can I Just Use My Regular Bath Towel?

While it will save you some cash not purchasing a separate camping towel, your normal bath towel is not a practical option for traveling. These towels not only take up a large amount of real estate in your backpack, they also take a longer time to dry causing you to either need a dryer or a large, very sunny rock to lay your towel on.

What Should You Look For While Shopping For A Backpacking Towel?


The material a towel is made of is of great importance, as it has a direct influence over whether your looking at quick dry camping towels or a soggy cotton mess, in addition to the weight and amount of space the towel takes up when packed.

backpacking towels and tent
Cotton may be ok if you are camping in the one place, but terrible if you are backpacking.

The microfiber and polyester material of backpacking towels are specifically chosen for their ability to easily compress, be lightweight, and dry quickly. While polyester or nylon fibers alone are not able to absorb very much moisture, when used together these towels are capable of trapping any water poured on the item in little pockets. As such, the towels are able to be wrung out quite quickly and the towels dry very fast.

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Towel Weight

Towels that are lighter in weight are easier to carry when traveling on foot through the woods. In addition, lightweight materials will allow the carrier to move more quickly as they are not weighted down with baggage. The average towel meant for backpacking will weigh approximately four ounces.

Towel Dimensions

While outdoors travel towels are available in a variety of sizes, choosing which size is right for you all comes down to personal preference. However, it is important to keep in mind that a larger towel will be heavier as well as bulkier for packing purposes. Larger towels will also take a longer amount of time to fully dry.

A smaller towel is highly suggested for backpacking trips as they will dry more quickly and be lighter for easy travel. Because of the lack of ability to shower while hiking, there is not much need for a towel larger than 18 by 36 inches.

backpacking towels and tent

Antimicrobial Treatments

A variety of antimicrobial treatments, such as Polygiene, are sometimes used on hiking towels. Such treatments discourage the creation of bacteria through the use of silver salt, helping the towel to stay fresh for a longer period of time. It is important to remember that these treatments will not last forever, but will begin to fade after a number of trips through the washing machine.

How Should I Care For My Backpacking Towel?

The towel should be washed prior to your first time using it in order to reduce any color bleed in future washes. This will also reduce the amount of chemical odor the towel will hold.

Although towels will dry quickly, you will still need to wash it in the regular manner in order to maintain the freshness. However, while it will need to be laundered, it is important to note that you should not wash the towel with your regular laundry, as it could collect lint.

Your regular laundry detergent will be fine for use with these towels. However, fabric softener should be avoided as it will cause the pores within the fabric to clog.

hiking towel drying on backpack in the mountains

The towels should either be hung to dry or placed in a dryer on low heat as using a higher setting could cause the fabric to melt.

In addition, it is suggested to keep your towel in its own separate bag, as microfiber camping towels have a tendency to attract lint and dirt.

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Reviews Of The Best Backpacking Towels

The Packtowl Ultralite

PackTowl UltraLite Quick Dry Microfiber Towel for Backpacking

Available in four different sizes and three colors, the lightweight material that makes up this towel makes it a great choice for those who are looking to hike or backpack and do not want to be encumbered by a heavy towel weighting them down. It weighs in at a third less than its closest competitor, with the lightest weight option being the hand towel at 0.5 ounces while the beach towel only weighs 5.1 ounces.

The towel is quite water absorbent as well, able to soak up four times its weight in moisture, while still being able to dry incredibly quickly, as much as 80% faster than a normal cotton towel. This can save a lot of time for those on backpacking trips who would like to begin their day or keep moving.

The thin fabric used to create the towel allow it to not take up very much space when packed. In addition, a small bag with a loop is included with the purchase. The loop allows users to attach the towel to the outside of a backpack in case there is not enough space inside your bag or the towel needs a little extra time to dry.


  • Lightweight
  • Can be packed into a compact space
  • Dries quickly


  • Some users complain about the feel of the fabric

Sea to Summit Pocket Towel

This towel may be slightly weightier than the previously mentioned option as the small weighs 1.5 ounces, but it is able to absorb a great deal of water, making it a great option for those looking to backpack or hike. Made of 70% polyester and 30% nylon microfiber, the material is incredibly soft and comfortable to touch.

Available in six colors (cobalt, eucalyptus, lime, berry, grey, and orange) and four different sizes from small to extra large, the towel also features a separate zippered case for storage purposes. The towel is meant for longer backpacking trips where quick drying time and lightweight towels can be a lifesaver for your back.


  • Material is soft to the touch
  • Absorbs water quickly


  • Meant for longer backpacking trips, this may not be the choice for those looking to go on a shorter excursion

Packtowl Personal

PackTowl Personal Quick Dry Microfiber Towel for Camping, Yoga, and Sports

The fabric used to create the Packtowl Personal is not only soft to the touch and able to absorb four times its weight in moisture but has also been treated with Polygiene, ensuring that odor-causing bacteria will keep away in a way that is safe for both the user and the environment.

The towel is offered in a larger 59 by 36 inch size, making it a great option for those looking for a quick drying towel for beach trips. The thin material means you no longer need to worry about the bulky, heavy beach towels of the past.

Available in four sizes and five different colors, the towel comes with a separate zippered pouch with a loop for easy storage outside your normal pack. This allows the towel to be packed away while still wet without ruining the rest of your belongings.


  • Made with Polygiene
  • Great for the beach


  • Large size

Best Camp Towel: Sea to Summit Tek Towel

Sea to Summit Tek Towel

A great option for those looking for the comfort of a normal cotton towel but wanting a faster drying time, the Tek Towel offers the best of both worlds. It is both water absorbent and comfortable to use, although its weight makes it the heaviest option we have reviewed here today. In addition, the thicker fabric causes the towel to not be able to be packed into as tight a space as other towels available.

The towel is available in five sizes and seven different colors and includes a separate zippered mesh bag. Because of its heavier weight, the towel may be better for those looking for a quicker trip such as a short hike.


  • Incredibly water absorbent
  • Comfortable material


  • Heavy

PackTowl Nano

PackTowl Nano Towel, Blue Mountain, 19' x 19'

The PackTowl Nano is a great option for those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and get reacquainted with nature. Available in only one size, the towel is quite small at 19 by 19 inches and very light, weighing just 0.9 ounces, meaning it will take up a small amount of real estate in your backpack but will still be available for use when you need it.

Soft to touch, the towel is capable of absorbing twice its weight in moisture and is perfect for those looking to wear a headband to keep the sweat out of their eyes.

It comes with both a mesh pouch and a carabiner clip so users can easily secure the towel to the outside of their backpack for easy transport.



  • LIghtweight
  • Able to be used as a headband
  • Comes with a carabiner clip


  • Small size
  • Not incredibly water absorbent

REI MultiTowel Lite

REI Multi Towel Lite

The microfiber towel created by REI is able to absorb up to eight times its weight in water, yet will still wring out almost completely dry. The material is soft to the touch and comfortable to use but can be packed tightly to take up very little space in your backpack.

The towel is offered in both a small and medium size. Because of the amount of water it can absorb, the medium is more than large enough to dry off with after a shower, making the small a great option to have for drying off dishes or other gear while on the move.

It comes with a breathable carry case so the user can pack it away without ruining the rest of the gear inside the pack, but still allowing the towel to breathe and continue to dry. The case features a snap-closure loop that allows the bag to be hung from the outside of your pack or even a nearby tree branch.

The MultTowel Lite is a great option for hiking, backpacking, beach trips, or even a quick stop at the yoga studio or the gym.


  • Soft material
  • Compactable
  • Extremely water-absorbent
  • Comes with a breathable pouch


  • Does not have Polygiene

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Last update on 2023-01-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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