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How Big Of A Towel To Get For Backpacking


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Liv Boulware



When it comes to backpacking, every ounce of weight matters. Choosing the right gear can make all the difference in your overall comfort and enjoyment during your outdoor adventures. While many backpackers focus on essentials like tents, sleeping bags, and cooking equipment, one item that is often overlooked but essential is a backpacking towel.


A good backpacking towel serves multiple purposes. It can be used to dry off after a swim in a lake, wipe off sweat during a strenuous hike, or even serve as an impromptu picnic blanket. However, with limited space in your backpack, it’s crucial to find a towel that strikes the perfect balance between functionality, size, and weight.


In this article, we will explore the factors to consider when choosing a towel for backpacking. We will discuss the different sizing options available, the importance of compactness and weight, the absorbency and drying time of towels, as well as the various material choices. Additionally, we will provide tips on how to maintain and clean your backpacking towel so that it can accompany you on many adventures to come.


Factors to Consider when Choosing a Towel for Backpacking

Choosing the right towel for backpacking requires careful consideration of several key factors. By taking these factors into account, you can ensure that you select a towel that meets your needs while minimizing the impact on the weight and space in your backpack.


Size: The size of the towel is an important consideration. You want a towel that is large enough to effectively dry off but not so large that it becomes cumbersome to carry. Look for towels that are compact when folded but can still provide enough coverage for your body.


Weight: Pay attention to the weight of the towel. Backpacking involves carrying all your gear on your back, so every ounce counts. Look for lightweight towels that are specifically designed for backpacking. These towels are made with lightweight materials that sacrifice bulk but not absorbency.


Absorbency: The primary function of a towel is to absorb moisture. Look for towels with high absorbency that can quickly and effectively dry you off. Microfiber towels are known for their excellent absorbency and are a popular choice for backpackers.


Drying Time: Consider how quickly the towel dries. After use, you’ll want a towel that dries quickly so that it’s ready for the next use or can be packed away without leaving your backpack damp and musty. Quick-drying towels are usually made from materials like microfiber or lightweight, moisture-wicking fabrics.


Durability: Your backpacking towel needs to be able to withstand the rigors of outdoor use. Look for towels that are made from durable materials and are not prone to fraying or tearing. Reinforced edges and strong stitching are indicators of a towel’s durability.


Packability: Consider how easily the towel can be packed away when not in use. Look for towels that can be folded or rolled up to a compact size. Some towels come with carrying pouches or loops that allow them to be attached to the outside of your backpack for easy access.


Antimicrobial Treatment: Backpacking often involves exposure to various environments and limited opportunities to wash your gear. An antimicrobial treatment on your towel can help prevent odors and inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi. This feature can be particularly useful for longer backpacking trips.


By considering these factors, you can make an informed decision when choosing a towel for backpacking. Remember to prioritize your personal preferences and needs to find the perfect combination of size, weight, absorbency, and durability in a backpacking towel.


Sizing Options for Backpacking Towels

When it comes to sizing options for backpacking towels, there are a few factors to consider. The right size towel will depend on your personal preferences, the intended use, and the available space in your backpack.


One of the main considerations is the overall dimensions of the towel. Backpacking towels come in a range of sizes, from small hand towels to large beach towel equivalents. A compact-sized towel may be sufficient if you are primarily using it for face and hand drying, while a larger size may be more suitable if you plan to use it for full-body drying.


Another factor to consider is the thickness of the towel. Thicker towels generally provide better absorbency but can also be bulkier and take up more space in your backpack. Thinner towels, on the other hand, may be more lightweight and compact but may offer slightly less absorbency. Consider your personal preference and the importance of packability when deciding on the towel’s thickness.


Some backpacking towels also come with snap loops or hanging loops that allow you to attach them to a backpack or hang them to dry. These loops can be convenient and allow for easy access to your towel while also ensuring that it dries quickly. However, keep in mind that the presence of loops may add a bit of extra weight to the towel.


It’s worth noting that some backpackers prefer to bring multiple towels of different sizes. This allows for more versatility in use and ensures that you have a towel suitable for any situation. For example, you could bring a small hand towel for quick drying and a larger towel for full-body drying or use as a picnic blanket.


In summary, the sizing options for backpacking towels vary, and the right size for you depends on your specific needs and preferences. Consider the overall dimensions, thickness, presence of loops, and the possibility of bringing multiple towels to have the flexibility to meet various drying and comfort needs during your backpacking adventures.


Compactness and Weight of Towels for Backpacking

When it comes to backpacking, minimizing weight and maximizing space are essential considerations. Therefore, the compactness and weight of your backpacking towel are crucial factors to take into account.


Backpacking towels are specifically designed to be lightweight and compact to accommodate the needs of outdoor enthusiasts. They are often made from materials like microfiber, which are known for their high absorbency and quick-drying capabilities while remaining lightweight.


The material of the towel plays a significant role in determining its weight and compactness. Microfiber towels, for example, are incredibly lightweight and can be easily folded down to a compact size, making them ideal for backpacking. Other materials such as lightweight, moisture-wicking fabrics also offer excellent packability.


In addition to the material, the size of the towel also affects its compactness. Smaller towels naturally take up less space in your backpack, allowing you to allocate room for other essential gear. However, keep in mind that a larger towel might be necessary if you require more coverage or have specific drying needs.


Many backpacking towels come with their own mesh stuff sacks or compact carry pouches. These pouches are designed to compress the towel down even further, making it easier to pack and reducing its overall size. Additionally, some towels have integrated strap systems that allow you to attach them to the outside of your backpack for quick and easy access.


It’s important to strike a balance between weight and functionality when choosing a backpacking towel. While it’s tempting to opt for the lightest towel possible, you also want to ensure that it can effectively dry you off and withstand regular use.


Remember, the weight and compactness of your backpacking towel will vary depending on the size and material you choose. Consider your backpack’s capacity, the duration of your trip, and your personal preferences to make an informed decision that optimizes both weight and functionality.


By prioritizing lightweight materials and compact designs, you can ensure that your backpacking towel takes up minimal space in your backpack while still providing the necessary comfort and convenience during your outdoor adventures.


Absorbency and Drying Time of Towels for Backpacking

When selecting a backpacking towel, absorbency and drying time are essential factors to consider. The ability of a towel to effectively absorb moisture and dry quickly allows for optimal comfort and convenience during your backpacking trips.


Absorbency: The primary purpose of a towel is to absorb moisture, whether it’s from water or sweat. Backpacking towels are typically made from materials known for their exceptional absorbency, such as microfiber. Microfiber towels have densely woven fibers that efficiently soak up water and leave you feeling dry and refreshed. The high absorbency of these towels ensures that you can effectively dry off after swimming, bathing, or engaging in outdoor activities.


It’s important to note that the absorbency of a towel can be influenced by both the material and the thickness of the fabric. Thicker towels generally offer higher absorbency, but they may also take longer to dry. Consider your priorities and the specific needs of your backpacking adventures when choosing the level of absorbency that is right for you.


Drying Time: Backpacking towels that dry quickly are highly desirable, as they allow for more efficient use and minimize the risk of carrying around a damp towel. Lightweight and moisture-wicking fabrics, such as microfiber or quick-dry polyester, are commonly used in backpacking towels to facilitate faster drying. These materials have the advantage of wicking moisture away from the surface, promoting quick evaporation and reducing overall drying time.


Additionally, some backpacking towels are treated with specialized coatings or finishes that enhance their drying capabilities. These treatments help to repel water and speed up the drying process, ensuring that your towel is ready for use in no time. Look for towels with features like quick-dry or fast-drying properties for the most efficient drying experience.


It’s worth noting that while quick-drying towels are ideal for backpacking, they may not provide the same level of plushness or softness as thicker, slower-drying towels. Consider your personal preferences and balance them with the practicality of a quick-drying towel.


In summary, ensuring that your backpacking towel has excellent absorbency and quick-drying capabilities will provide you with a more comfortable and convenient experience during your outdoor adventures. Look for towels made from absorbent materials like microfiber and lightweight fabrics, and those with quick-dry properties to optimize your towel’s performance in terms of absorbing moisture and drying efficiently.


Material Choices for Backpacking Towels

When it comes to backpacking towels, the choice of material is crucial. The material not only determines the towel’s absorbency and drying time but also affects its weight, compactness, and overall durability. Here are some common material choices for backpacking towels:


Microfiber: Microfiber is a popular choice for backpacking towels due to its excellent absorbency and quick-drying capabilities. These towels are made of ultra-fine synthetic fibers that are highly efficient at soaking up moisture. Microfiber towels are lightweight, compact, and often come with antimicrobial properties to prevent odor-causing bacteria from building up.


Quick-Dry Polyester: Quick-dry polyester towels are another common option for backpackers. These towels are made from a synthetic fabric that wicks away moisture and dries rapidly. While not as soft as microfiber, quick-dry polyester towels are lightweight, compact, and durable, making them ideal for outdoor adventures.


Bamboo: Some backpacking towels are made from bamboo-derived fibers. Bamboo towels are highly absorbent and have antimicrobial properties, making them resistant to odors. They are also soft to the touch, making them a comfortable option for drying off after a swim or shower.


Cotton: While cotton towels are not as popular for backpacking due to their heavier weight and slower drying time, they are still an option for those who prioritize comfort and softness. Cotton towels are known for their plushness and gentle feel on the skin. However, they are bulkier and take longer to dry, which may not be ideal for backpackers with limited space and a need for quick-drying gear.


Hybrid Materials: Some backpacking towels combine different materials to leverage the benefits of each. For example, a hybrid towel may have a microfiber side for optimal absorbency and moisture-wicking capabilities, while the other side may be made of cotton for added comfort. These hybrid towels offer a balance between performance and comfort.


Ultimately, the choice of material for your backpacking towel depends on your priorities and preferences. Consider factors such as absorbency, drying time, weight, compactness, and softness to find the towel that best suits your backpacking needs. Remember to prioritize lightweight and quick-drying materials for optimal performance during your outdoor adventures.


Tips for Maintaining and Cleaning Backpacking Towels

Proper maintenance and cleaning of your backpacking towel is essential to keep it fresh, odor-free, and in good condition. Here are some tips to help you effectively maintain and clean your towel:


1. Follow the Care Instructions: Each backpacking towel may have specific care instructions provided by the manufacturer. Read and follow these instructions carefully to ensure you’re cleaning your towel in the recommended way. This may include specific temperature settings, washing techniques, or the use of certain detergents.


2. Rinse Immediately: After each use, rinse your towel thoroughly to remove any dirt, sand, or debris. This is especially important if you’ve used the towel at the beach or in a muddy environment. Rinsing prevents these particles from getting trapped in the fibers and causing unpleasant odors over time.


3. Machine Wash with Mild Detergent: When it’s time to clean your backpacking towel, machine wash it using a mild detergent. Avoid using fabric softeners as they can reduce the towel’s absorbency. Opt for a gentle or delicate cycle to prevent excessive wear and tear on the fabric.


4. Avoid Harsh Chemicals: Harsh chemicals, such as bleach or strong detergents, can damage the fibers of the towel and reduce its performance. Stick to mild detergents specifically formulated for delicate fabrics and avoid using any additives that could deteriorate the towel’s quality.


5. Air Dry or Tumble Dry on Low: To preserve the integrity of your backpacking towel, it’s best to air dry it whenever possible. Hang it up in a well-ventilated area or drape it over a clothesline. If using a dryer, set it to low heat or the delicate setting to avoid excessive heat that could damage the fabric.


6. Avoid Excessive Sun Exposure: While the sun can help dry your towel faster, excessive exposure to direct sunlight for extended periods can cause fading or weaken the fibers. If you’re drying your towel outdoors, find a shaded area to protect it from intense sunlight.


7. Store in a Dry Environment: After your towel is completely dry, store it in a dry environment to prevent the growth of mold or mildew. Avoid storing it in sealed bags or compartments that may trap moisture. If possible, use a breathable storage bag or keep it in a well-ventilated area.


8. Wash Regularly: Regular washing helps to maintain the cleanliness and effectiveness of your backpacking towel. The frequency of washing depends on the frequency of use and the conditions you encounter during your trips. As a general guideline, aim to clean your towel after 2-3 uses or as soon as you notice a decline in its absorbency.


By following these tips, you can extend the lifespan of your backpacking towel and ensure that it remains fresh, hygienic, and ready for your next outdoor adventure. Proper maintenance and cleaning not only keep the towel in good condition but also enhance its performance, allowing you to make the most of its absorbency and quick-drying capabilities.



Choosing the right towel for backpacking is a decision that can greatly impact your outdoor experience. By considering factors such as size, weight, absorbency, drying time, and material choices, you can select a towel that meets your specific needs while minimizing its impact on your backpack’s weight and space.


A backpacking towel should be compact, lightweight, and quick-drying to ensure optimal comfort and convenience during your adventures. Materials like microfiber and quick-dry polyester offer excellent absorbency and the ability to dry rapidly, making them popular choices among backpackers.


When maintaining and cleaning your backpacking towel, it’s important to follow the care instructions provided by the manufacturer. Rinse the towel after each use, machine wash with a mild detergent, and air dry or tumble dry on low heat. Avoid harsh chemicals and excessive sun exposure to preserve the towel’s quality and performance.


Remember, your backpacking towel is a versatile companion that serves multiple purposes. It can be used for drying off after a swim, wiping away sweat, or even as a makeshift picnic blanket. With proper care, your towel can continue to accompany you on many exciting outdoor adventures for years to come.


So next time you embark on a backpacking trip, don’t forget to choose a towel that combines functionality, compactness, and durability. Happy adventuring!