The 10 Best Camping Towels (2021): I Bought & Tested Them All

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For this review, I bought and tested these 10 best camping towels (in no particular order):

  1. PackTowl Personal;
  2. PackTowl Luxe;
  3. Sea to Summit DryLite Towel;
  4. Sea to Summit Tek Towel;
  5. REI Multi Towel Lite;
  6. REI Multi Towel;
  7. Matador NanoDry Shower Towel;
  8. Nomadix Original Full-Size Towel;
  9. Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Towel; and
  10. Rainleaf Microfiber Towel.
Me holding the 10 best camping towels: PackTowl Personal, PackTowl Luxe, Sea to Summit DryLite Towel, Sea to Summit Tek Towel, REI Multi Towel Lite, REI Multi Towel, Matador NanoDry Towel, Nomadix Original Full-Sized Towel, Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Towel, and Rainleaf Microfiber Towel.
Me holding the 10 best camping towels: PackTowl Personal, PackTowl Luxe, Sea to Summit DryLite Towel, Sea to Summit Tek Towel, REI Multi Towel Lite, REI Multi Towel, Matador NanoDry Towel, Nomadix Original Full-Sized Towel, Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Towel, and Rainleaf Microfiber Towel.

Summary

Here are all the camping towels that I bought, tested and recommend:

Towel Recommendation Score  Price
BEST OVERALL
PackTowl Personal
  • All-rounder
  • No flaws
8.1
8.1 / 10
BEST PORTABILITY
Matador NanoDry
  • Compact
  • Lightweight
  • Fastest drying
8.6
8.6 / 10
MOST COMFORTABLE
PackTowl Luxe
  • Fluffy and comfy
  • Very absorbent
7.9
7.9 / 10
BEST QUALITY
Nomadix Towel
  • Excellent quality
  • Very durable
7.4
7.4 / 10
BEST BUDGET PICK
Wise Owl Towel
  • Inexpensive
  • Value for money
7.4
7.4 / 10

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All the camping towels that I bought and tested:

Camping TowelRead Full ReviewCheck Price
PackTowl PersonalRead ReviewAmazon, REI
Matador NanoDryRead Review Amazon, REI
PackTowl LuxeRead Review Amazon
Nomadix TowelRead Review Amazon, REI
Wise Owl TowelRead Review Amazon
Rainleaf TowelRead Review Amazon
REI LiteRead ReviewREI
Sea to Summit DryliteRead ReviewAmazon
REI MultiRead ReviewDiscontinued
Sea to Summit TekRead ReviewAmazon
Here are all the camping towels that I bought and tested. View is from the top. (10 towels)
Here are all the camping towels that I bought and tested. View is from the top. (10 towels)
Towel Dimensions Towel Weight Pouch Weight Packed Size Blend Made in? Hanging loop? Storage pouch?
PackTowl Personal 53.75 x 25.25in 6.53oz 0.32oz 7.5 x 6 x 1.5in 85/15 Korea Yes Yes
Matador NanoDry 46 x 23.5in 2.4oz 2.6oz 5 x 3 x 2in 85/15 China Yes Yes
PackTowl Luxe 54 x 24 in 10.8oz 0.5oz 9.5 x 8 x 2in 80/20 Vietnam Yes Yes
Nomadix 71 x 30in 17.2oz N.A. 9.5 x 8.5 x 2in 85/15 China Yes No
Wise Owl 46 x 23.5in 5.3oz 0.5oz 7 x 5 x 1.5in 80/20 China Yes Yes
Rainleaf 46 x 23in 5.5oz 0.4oz 8.5 x 6 x 1in 85/15 China Yes Yes
REI Lite 53 x 24in 6.7oz 0.4oz 7 x 7 x 1.5in 100/0 Korea Yes Yes
Sea to Summit Drylite 46 x 23in 5.3oz 0.35oz 6.5 x 6 x 1.5in 70/30 China Yes Yes
REI Multi 57 x 23in 9.3oz 0.56oz 10 x 8 x 2in 85/15 Korea Yes Yes
Sea to Summit Tek 47.75 x 23in 9.2oz 2.05oz 8 x 5 x 3in 70/30 China Yes Yes

*These are my measured specifications, and may differ from the brand’s marketed specifications.

I spent over $200 buying, and 5 months testing and reviewing these 10 best camping towels.

Over 5 months, I used these towels every single day while camping, at the beach and at home. To test them, I dried them both indoors and outdoors, dipped them in seawater, and ran them over grass, dirt and sand, amongst other things.

After all that, here’s how I scored each of the 10 camping towels (10 is the best, 1 is the worst).

Camping TowelOverall Rating
Matador NanoDry8.6
PackTowl Personal8.1
PackTowl Luxe7.9
Nomadix Towel7.4
Wise Owl Towel7.4
Rainleaf Towel7.2
REI Towel Lite7.2
Sea to Summit DryLite7.0
REI Multi Towel6.1
Cotton (Control)5.8
Sea to Summit Tek5.4


Top Picks

My Top 5 Picks for best camping towels, from least compact to most compact.
My Top 5 Picks for best camping towels, from least compact to most compact.

Which camping towels are in my Top 5 Picks? Read on to find out!

Best Overall: PackTowl Personal

PackTowl Personal towel in storage pouch (left), and PackTowl Personal towel unfolded (right).
PackTowl Personal towel in storage pouch (left), and PackTowl Personal towel unfolded (right).
7.3
Absorbency
7.2
Wringing
9
Drying
10
Odor
9
Grass
8
Sand
7
Portability
6.5
Comfort
8.8
Quality
Overall Score 8.1 / 10

Scoring and Key Info

Overall Score: 8.1 (out of 10)
Absorbency: 3.3x
Drying: Dries 67% faster than cotton
Odor Resistance: Polygiene odor control
Weight: 6.5oz / 185g

Pros and Cons

Fast drying
Odor resistant
Dirt repellent
(No flaws)

Summary

Of all the camping towels that I tested, the PackTowl Personal is easily the most consistent towel, doing well in every single test that I threw at it. In particular, it was outstanding in the drying, odor resistance, and dirt repellence tests. It is one of the fastest drying camping towels, has absolutely no smell even when soaked in seawater and stored without drying, and shakes off grass, dirt and sand super easily.

Unlike all the other towels that I tested, the PackTowl Personal does not have obvious disadvantages. But if I were to be nit-picky, I would say that it does not feel like your regular cotton towel at home (although it is still more comfortable than many others), and it also bleeds for the first few washes. These small issues aside, I believe that the PackTowl Personal is a wonderful all-rounder towel with little to no flaws, perfect for not just the first timer, but also for the experienced camper.

Of all the camping towels that I tested, the PackTowl Personal is easily one of my favorites, and is the one that I use the most regularly.

Best Portability + Fastest Drying: Matador NanoDry

Matador NanoDry towel in storage pouch (left), and Matador NanoDRy towel unfolded (right).
Matador NanoDry towel in storage pouch (left), and Matador NanoDRy towel unfolded (right).
6
Absorbency
9.4
Wringing
10
Drying
10
Odor
10
Grass
9
Sand
10
Portability
4
Comfort
8.7
Quality
Overall Score 8.6 / 10

Scoring and Key Info

Overall Score: 8.6 (out of 10)
Absorbency: 2.2x
Drying: Dries 100% faster than cotton
Odor Resistance: Antimicrobial coating
Weight: 2.4oz / 68g

Pros and Cons

Lightweight and compact
Very fast drying
Very dirt repellent
Odor resistant
Thin material
Pouch is heavy (2.65oz)

Summary

The Matador NanoDry is a camping and backpacking towel marvel. It’s made of nanofiber, making it weigh 5x less than my regular cotton towel, and pack down 10x smaller. It also dries faster than any other towel that I have, never has a smell, and no grass, dirt or sand ever sticks to it.

The primary drawback is that it’s very thin, which doesn’t make it very comfortable. Also, the storage pouch really packs on the ounces, weighing slightly more than the towel itself. However, minus the storage pouch, the Matador NanoDry is an absolute steal for backpackers, hikers, or those who prioritize portability.

Most Comfortable: PackTowl Luxe

PackTowl Luxe towel in storage pouch (left), and PackTowl Luxe towel unfolded (right).
PackTowl Luxe towel in storage pouch (left), and PackTowl Luxe towel unfolded (right).
9.7
Absorbency
6
Wringing
7
Drying
10
Odor
8
Grass
8
Sand
4
Portability
9
Comfort
9.1
Quality
Overall Score 7.9 / 10

Scoring and Key Info

Overall Score: 7.9 (out of 10)
Absorbency: 4.3x
Drying: Dries 33% faster than cotton
Odor Resistance: Polygiene odor control
Weight: 10.8oz / 305g

Pros and Cons

Super plush and comfortable
Very absorbent
Odor resistant
Not the most lightweight

Summary

The PackTowl Luxe is the towel that gives you all the comforts of home. It is fluffy, plush, soft against the skin, has perfect sizing, does not stick to your skin at all, and is, by far, the towel that comes the closest to feeling like your home shower towel.

The extra fluffiness and comfort does come at the expense of portability though – the PackTowl Luxe isn’t the most lightweight and packs down a bit bigger than most other camping towels. However, this is a small price to pay if you’re car camping, glamping, or when portability isn’t much of a concern.

Question: When do you pick the PackTowl Luxe over a cotton towel? Answer: All the time. The PackTowl Luxe trumps a regular cotton towel in every aspect you can think of – absorbency, wringing, drying, odor resistance, dirt repellence, and even portability – all the key ingredients for an awesome camping shower experience.

Best Quality and Durability: The Original Nomadix Towel

Nomadix towel folded (left), and Nomadix towel unfolded (right).
Nomadix towel folded (left), and Nomadix towel unfolded (right).
8
Absorbency
4
Wringing
8
Drying
9.3
Odor
9
Grass
8
Sand
2
Portability
8
Comfort
10
Quality
Overall Score 7.4 / 10

Scoring and Key Info

Overall Score: 7.4 (out of 10)
Absorbency: 2.4x
Drying: Dries 54% faster than cotton
Odor Resistance: Antimicrobial treatment
Weight: 17.2oz / 488g
Made With: Post-consumer recycled plastic bottles

Pros and Cons

Excellent quality
Durable
Fast drying
Dirt repellent
Expensive
Big sizing (71 x 30 inches)

Summary

The Original Nomadix Towel is the durable, trusty companion that will serve you well for many years to come. The quality is mind-blowing; even after months of abuse (including vigorous scrubbing and forceful wringing), there were no signs of loose threads of the material, no fraying of the robust stitching, and the design and colors are still as vibrant as ever. Also, it doesn’t bleed at all, even on the first wash.

In addition, the Nomadix towel has all the key characteristics of an excellent camping towel – it’s fast drying, shakes dirt off easily, has antimicrobial treatment, and is compact for its size.

Of course, the incredible quality comes at a price, and the Nomadix towel is the most expensive towel that I bought. However, for the added durability and quality, it’s a steal for those who prioritize long-lasting gear.

Best Budget Pick: Wise Owl Outfitters Towel

Wise Owl towel in storage pouch (left), and Wise Owl towel unfolded (right).
Wise Owl towel in storage pouch (left), and Wise Owl towel unfolded (right).
6.3
Absorbency
8
Wringing
7
Drying
7
Odor
9
Grass
8
Sand
8
Portability
4.5
Comfort
8.4
Quality
Overall Score 7.4 / 10

Scoring and Key Info

Overall Score: 7.4 (out of 10)
Absorbency: 3.0x
Drying: Dries 38% faster than cotton
Odor Resistance: (Not treated)
Weight: 5.3oz / 149g

Pros and Cons

Very inexpensive
Dirt repellent
Decent overall performance
Not very odor resistant
Not the most comfortable

Summary

The Wise Owl Towel is a pleasant surprise, given how little you pay for it. It’s dirt, grass and sand repellent, the quality is pretty good, it weighs less than half the weight of my cotton towel, and packs down 4x smaller. Overall, it has a better than average towel performance.

On the downside, it does pick up slight odors after extended periods of use (although it is still better than a cotton towel in terms of odor resistance), and does stick to your skin quite a bit.

However, at just a fraction of the price of other camping towels, it’s a wonderful pick for someone on a tight budget or the beginner or occasional camper. And here’s the best part – if you need to get more than 1 towel, the Wise Owl towel comes in a pack of 2 (without the storage pouch) with even steeper discounts, which I think is incredible value for money.

More info on the Wise Owl Towel:

Read the full review

Check price on Amazon

The Other Towels I Tested

Rainleaf Microfiber Towel

Rainleaf towel in storage pouch (left), and Rainleaf towel unfolded (right).
Rainleaf towel in storage pouch (left), and Rainleaf towel unfolded (right).
6.3
Absorbency
8
Wringing
8
Drying
9
Odor
9
Grass
4
Sand
8
Portability
5
Comfort
7.4
Quality
Overall Score 7.2 / 10

Scoring and Key Info

Overall Score: 7.2 (out of 10)
Absorbency: 2.6x
Drying: Dries 43% faster than cotton
Odor Resistance: Anti-bacterial treatment
Weight: 5.5oz / 156g

Pros and Cons

Very inexpensive
Odor resistant
Dirt repellent
Minor seam fraying
Not sand repellent

Summary

The Rainleaf towel is known to be one of the most inexpensive microfiber towels on the market, and was almost neck to neck with the Wise Owl Towel (my Best Budget Pick). Unlike the Wise Owl Towel, the Rainleaf towel has anti-bacterial treatment (and thus stronger odor resistance), which is not common in budget towels.

However, the Rainleaf towel’s flaw is that after 4 months of usage, the seams of one of the corners started fraying. While the rest of the towel is still intact, this indicates lower durability and therefore less bang for your buck. The quality of the Rainleaf towel is inferior to the Wise Owl towel’s, despite both of them costing almost the same price. (In fact, if you buy the Wise Owl Towel in a bundle of 2, it costs less than the Rainleaf towel!)

That being said, the Rainleaf towel is still an incredible budget towel, and is worth a shot if the Wise Owl towel isn’t in stock, or if you prioritize odor resistance and anti-bacterial treatment.

More info on the Rainleaf Towel:

Read the full review

Check price on Amazon

REI Co-Op Multi Towel Lite

REI Multi Towel Lite in storage pouch (left), and REI Multi Towel Lite unfolded (right).
6.3
Absorbency
6.8
Wringing
7
Drying
9
Odor
5
Grass
8
Sand
7
Portability
6.5
Comfort
8.9
Quality
Overall Score 7.2 / 10

Scoring and Key Info

Overall Score: 7.2 (out of 10)
Absorbency: 2.4x
Drying: Dries 38% faster than cotton
Odor Resistance: (Not treated)
Weight: 6.7oz / 189g

Pros and Cons

Odor resistant
Soft and smooth
Not grass and dirt repellent
Does not wring out well

Summary

The REI Multi Towel Lite reminds me a lot of the Packtowl Personal (which is my “Best Overall Top Pick”), because both towels are almost identical in comfort, quality, packed size, and weight (with just a 0.2-ounce difference).

However, apart from comfort, quality and portability, the REI Multi Towel Lite is inferior to the Packtowl Personal in all other aspects – it’s less absorbent, it does not wring out well, it dries slower, is less odor resistant, and is not grass repellent.

The only real advantage the REI Multi Towel Lite has over the Packtowl Personal is that it has pretty good odor resistance, without being chemically treated, which is important to some people.

In fact, it’s the only towel without an antibacterial treatment that did well in the odor resistance test. But if isn’t important to you, I’d go for the Packtowl Personal any day.

More info on the REI Multi Towel Lite:

Read the full review

Check price on REI Co-Op

Sea to Summit DryLite Towel

Sea to Summit DryLite towel in storage pouch (left), and Sea to Summit DryLite towel unfolded (right).
Sea to Summit DryLite towel in storage pouch (left), and Sea to Summit DryLite towel unfolded (right).
6.3
Absorbency
8.2
Wringing
7
Drying
7.7
Odor
9
Grass
8
Sand
8
Portability
4.5
Comfort
4.7
Quality
Overall Score 7 / 10

Scoring and Key Info

Overall Score: 7.0 (out of 10)
Absorbency: 3.0x
Drying: Dries 38% faster than cotton
Odor Resistance: (Not treated)
Weight: 5.3oz / 151g

Pros and Cons

Wrings easily
Dirt repellent
Loses material
Bleeds and stains
Poor quality pouch
Thin, sticks to skin

Summary

The Sea to Summit Drylite towel has a few key characteristics of a good camping towel – it wrings out easily, dries 38% faster than cotton, is very dirt repellent, and weighs less than half the weight of a regular cotton towel.  

However, it’s severely lacking in quality; my Drylite towel has lost material, fraying seams, and bleeding issues. I even ripped a hole in the storage pouch on the first opening. On top of that, the material is very sticky against my skin.

Particularly because of the quality issues (not to mention that it’s not comfortable), I find it extremely difficult to recommend the Sea to Summit Drylite towel.

REI Co-Op Multi Towel

REI Multi towel in storage pouch (left), and REI Multi towel unfolded (right).
REI Multi towel in storage pouch (left), and REI Multi towel unfolded (right).
9.7
Absorbency
5.2
Wringing
5
Drying
5
Odor
2
Grass
8
Sand
5
Portability
8
Comfort
6.8
Quality
Overall Score 6.1 / 10

Scoring and Key Info

Overall Score: 6.1 (out of 10)
Absorbency: 4.8x
Drying: Dries 14% faster than cotton
Odor Resistance: (Not treated)
Weight: 9.3oz / 263g

Pros and Cons

Very absorbent
Decently comfortable
Not odor resistant
Not dirt repellent
Loses material

Summary

The REI Multi Towel is super absorbent, dries you off well, and is pretty comfortable. And that’s about it for its advantages.

As for its disadvantages, it’s one of my slower drying camping towels, it’s just as bad as a cotton towel for odor resistance, it’s not dirt repellent at all, and its threads started to get loose after I used it for only 4 months. (Phew, that was a mouthful.)

While the REI Multi Towel is still marginally better than a cotton towel in terms of overall performance, it pales in comparison to the Packtowl Luxe in every test that I threw at the camping towels. There isn’t a scenario where I would ever recommend the REI Multi Towel over the Packtowl Luxe.

Bottom line: If you’re looking for a fluffy, comfortable towel, I recommend the Packtowl Luxe, not the REI Multi Towel.

More info on the REI Multi Towel:

Read the full review

Sea to Summit Tek Towel

 Sea to Summit Tek towel in storage pouch (left), and Sea to Summit Tek towel unfolded (right).
Sea to Summit Tek towel in storage pouch (left), and Sea to Summit Tek towel unfolded (right).
9
Absorbency
5.2
Wringing
2
Drying
6.7
Odor
3
Grass
4
Sand
5
Portability
8
Comfort
5.9
Quality
Overall Score 5.4 / 10

Scoring and Key Info

Overall Score: 5.4 (out of 10)
Absorbency: 4.2x
Drying: Dries 12% slower than cotton
Odor Resistance: (Not treated)
Weight: 9.2oz / 260g

Pros and Cons

Absorbent
Dries very slowly
Not dirt repellent
Picks up odors
Material sheds
Seams fraying

Summary

The Sea to Summit Tek towel is the towel that I wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole. It performed more poorly than my cotton towel, and the cons completely outweigh the pros.

For cons, the Tek towel dries 12% slower than my cotton towel, picked up a lot of dirt, and doesn’t have much odor resistance. On top of that, the Tek towel’s material kept shedding, and the seams are not only loose, but fraying as well.

And the pros? It’s absorbent. That’s all.


Recommendation Summary

Here’s a summary of all the camping towels that I bought and tested:

Top Picks:

The Others:

  • Rainleaf Towel: Budget Pick Runner-Up
  • REI Lite: Very similar to the Packtowl Personal, yet inferior in every way.
  • Sea to Summit Drylite: Poor quality control, not recommended.
  • REI Multi Towel (Discontinued): Only marginally better than cotton, not recommended.
  • Sea to Summit Tek: Performs worse than cotton, not recommended.

If you’d like to compare how each of the 10 camping towels performed in each test, here’s a cool graphic where you can do so:

All the scores of all 10 best camping towels - absorbency to quality.
All the scores of all 10 best camping towels – absorbency to quality.

For more information on how I tested each towel and came up with these scores, I’ll explain all of it in detail in the next section. Just keep scrolling.


Performance and Test Results

I put each camping towel through these 9 different tests:

  1. Absorbency
  2. Wringing
  3. Drying
  4. Odor Resistance
  5. Grass/Dirt Repellence
  6. Sand Repellence
  7. Portability
  8. Comfort
  9. Quality

At the end of all the tests, I compiled all the data and came to a decision in the Overall Performance section.

Absorbency

For absorbency, I measured and tested these 3 different things:

  1. The total amount of water the camping towel can absorb;
  2. The towel’s absorbency ratio; and
  3. How well each towel dries you off after a shower.

Based on these 3 absorbency tests, here are the absorbency ratings:

Fluffier towels, like the PackTowl Luxe, REI Multi Towel and the Sea to Summit Tek towel, tend to have a much higher absorbency than thinner towels. But even the thinnest towel on this list, the Matador NanoDry, had an okay absorbency rating. It still dried me off pretty well and I could use it to absorb decent amounts of water during clean-ups.

The Matador NanoDry towel (left) is much thinner than the PackTowl Luxe (right).
The Matador NanoDry towel (left) is much thinner than the fluffy PackTowl Luxe (right).

Total Amount of Water Absorbed

For the total amount of water each towel can absorb (the first point), I poured a measured amount of water into a bucket, soaked each towel, lifted the towel above the water and waited until water stopped dripping, put the towel aside, and then measured whatever water was left in the bucket. The water that was originally in the bucket minus the water left will give you the total amount of water absorbed:

TowelTotal (mL)Total (fl oz)
PackTowl Luxe1,30044.0
REI Multi1,25042.3
Nomadix1,15038.9
Cotton1,10037.2
Sea to Summit Tek1,09036.9
PackTowl Personal61020.6
Wise Owl45015.2
Sea to Summit DryLite45015.2
REI Lite45015.2
Rainleaf40013.5
Matador NanoDry1505.1
Soaking the PackTowl Personal in a bucket of water
I soaked the PackTowl Personal in a bucket of water to test its absorbency.

A high total absorbency is important in cases where you need to clean up spillage or water leakage in your tent. What kind of absorbency do you need after a shower? That depends on your body size and hair length. As a 5’3” (160cm) person with slightly longer than shoulder-length hair, my towels typically absorb around 50 to 75 milliliters (or 1.7 to 2.5 fluid ounces) of water.

Absorbency Ratio

For the second point, the absorbency ratio, a little calculation is needed. You can get the ratio by dividing the total amount of water absorbed (in mL) with the weight of the camping towel (in grams).

To calculate the absorbency ratio simply divide the amount of water absorbed (in mL) with the weight of the camping towel (grams).
To calculate the absorbency ratio simply divide the amount of water absorbed (in mL) with the weight of the camping towel (grams).
TowelAbsorbency Ratio
REI Multi4.8x
PackTowl Luxe4.3x
Sea to Summit Tek4.2x
PackTowl Personal3.3x
Cotton3.26x
Wise Owl3.0x
Sea to Summit DryLite3.0x
Rainleaf2.6x
Nomadix2.4x
REI Lite2.4x
Matador NanoDry2.2x

This absorbency ratio is usually marketed by the towel companies, and gives you a good indication of the absorbency of each towel’s material.

After Shower Absorbency

Lastly, for the third point on how well each towel dries you off after a shower, here’s a disclaimer right at the outset – this is based on my personal opinion and is quite subjective.

Some towels tend to leave a thin layer of moisture on your skin, and you don’t feel completely dry, which can be unpleasant for some people.

TowelAfter Shower Absorbency
CottonExcellent
PackTowl LuxeAlmost Excellent
NomadixAlmost Excellent
REI MultiVery Good
Sea to Summit TekVery Good
PackTowl PersonalGood
REI LiteGood
Matador NanoDryGood
RainleafFair
Sea to Summit DryLiteFair
Wise OwlFair

The PackTowl Luxe and the Nomadix towel were wonderful when it came to after shower absorbency. I could towel off easily, and feel completely dry after. Most of the towels were pretty good at this too, although I needed to spend more time and energy toweling off.

Towelling off with the Nomadix Original towel
Towelling off with the Nomadix towel. It dried me off really easily.

The 3 towels that left me feeling a bit damp were the Rainleaf, Sea to Summit Drylite and the Wise Owl towels. I was probably about 90% dry, and I’m personally not too bothered by this very thin layer of moisture, but it’s just something to keep in mind if it’s important to you.

Wringing

I performed the wringing test and subsequent drying-after-wringing test to simulate a situation where you have to wash your towel and let it dry after. This is important to you if you plan to wash your towel often, and you don’t have a lot of time to dry it.  

Lightweight towels, especially the Matador NanoDry, wring out well and dry super quickly after. On the other hand, I found that bigger towels like the Nomadix towel (this is a beach towel) were difficult to wring out and subsequently took a lot of time to dry.

Water Left after Wringing

As for the wringing test, I soaked each camping towel in water and spent 5-10 minutes wringing out as much water as possible. I didn’t set a time limit on this, I just wringed each towel until no more water could be wringed out. After, I weighed each towel and calculated how much water was left after wringing, in percentage.

Towel% of Water Left
Sea to Summit Tek28%
REI Multi29%
PackTowl Luxe30%
Sea to Summit Drylite32%
Wise Owl36%
PackTowl Personal37%
Rainleaf39%
Matador NanoDry43%
Cotton46%
REI Lite48%
Nomadix57%
Wringing out the Sea to Summit Tek towel
Wringing out the Sea to Summit Tek towel to see how much water is left

Note that although the fluffier towels tend to have a lower percentage of water left after wringing, they still had the largest volumes of water left. For example, the Sea to Summit Tek towel had 28% of water left, which is 308 milliliters or 10.4 fluid ounces. On the other hand, although the Matador Nanodry towel had 43% of water left, this was only 65 milliliters or 2.2 fluid ounces.

Drying after Wringing

After wringing out each towel, I let all of them dry both outdoors and indoors to see how long they would take to dry. At specific time intervals, I would take the towels down to weigh them (while stopping the timer, of course), and put them back up after weighing.

TowelOutdoorsIndoors
Matador NanoDry14 mins1 hour 45 mins
Sea to Summit Drylite40 mins6 hours
Rainleaf43 mins6 hours
Wise Owl45 mins6 hours 30 mins
PackTowl Personal50 mins7 hours
REI Lite55 mins7 hours 15 mins
PackTowl Luxe1 hour 30 mins14 hours
REI Multi1 hour 35 mins14 hours
Nomadix1 hour 45 mins16 hours
Sea to Summit Tek1 hour 40 mins18 hours 30 mins
Cotton2 hours 15 mins27 hours
Drying the Matador NanoDry towel outdoors and indoors to see how long it'll take to dry after wringing
Left column, top image: Cotton outdoors
Left column, bottom image: Cotton indoors
Right column, top image: Matador NanoDry outdoors
Right column, bottom image: Matador NanoDry indoors

Conditions for my outdoor drying tests:

  • Humidity: 60-80%
  • Temperature: 28-31°C (82-88°F)
  • Wind: Not much

Conditions for my indoor drying tests:

  • Humidity: 60-80%
  • Temperature: 28-31°C (82-88°F)
  • Ventilation: Small window

I couldn’t dry all the towels together because of the lack of space, but I tried to make things fair by checking conditions and drying at the same time every day. There’s probably a small margin of error, but overall, I think I’m pretty satisfied with the results.

Drying

For this drying test, I measured out 100 milliliters (or 3.4 fluid ounces) of water to absorb with each towel, and let all of them dry both outdoors and indoors. At specific time intervals, I would take the towels down to weigh them, and put them back up after weighing. This is to simulate drying your body and hair after taking a shower. This is arguably one of the most important towel tests, because you will probably be showering every day.

Stepping out of a shower tent while camping.
Stepping out of a shower tent while camping.

Above, I mentioned that how much water your camping towel absorbs after a shower depends on your body size and hair length. My towels typically absorb around 50 to 75 milliliters (or 1.7 to 2.5 fluid ounces) of water (as a 5’3” (160cm) person with slightly longer than shoulder-length hair). Yours could be more or less, and could range from less than 50 milliliters (1.7 fluid ounces) to more than 200 milliliters (6.8 fluid ounces) of water. I chose 100 milliliters (or 3.4 fluid ounces) as an average gauge.

I used a Lifestraw Go bottle to measure out 100mL (3.4 fluid ounces) of water to absorb with each camping towel.
I used a Lifestraw Go bottle to measure out 100mL (3.4 fluid ounces) of water to absorb with each camping towel.

And here are the results of the 100 milliliters (3.4 fluid ounces) drying test:

The higher the score, the faster the towel dried. The best towel, by far, was the Matador NanoDry, because its ultrathin nanofiber gives it incredible drying abilities. The PackTowl Personal also did pretty well, but took slightly longer because it’s less thin and made of microfiber. My most shocking discovery in this test was how slowly the Sea to Summit Tek towel took to dry; it took even longer to dry than my cotton towel.

The general trend here is that the fluffier the towel is, the longer it’ll take to dry. So, if you want very fast drying abilities, you might need to sacrifice a little on comfort.

Drying the Matador NanoDry towel and the cotton towel outdoors after absorbing 100mL (3.4 fluid ounces) of water.
Drying the Matador NanoDry towel and the cotton towel outdoors after absorbing 100mL (3.4 fluid ounces) of water.
Left column, top image: Cotton outdoors
Left column, bottom image: Cotton indoors
Right column, top image: Matador NanoDry outdoors
Right column, bottom image: Matador NanoDry indoors

Following these same conditions from the previous drying test, here’s how long each towel actually took to dry.

  • Humidity: 60-80%
  • Temperature: 28-31°C (82-88°F)
  • Wind (Outdoors): Not much
  • Ventilation (Indoors): Small window
TowelOutdoorsIndoors
Matador NanoDry20 mins2 hours 30 mins
PackTowl Personal24 mins3 hours
Nomadix26 mins3 hours
Rainleaf28 mins4 hours
Wise Owl29 mins4 hours
REI Lite29 mins4 hours
Sea to Summit DryLite29 mins4 hours 15 mins
PackTowl Luxe30 mins4 hours
REI Multi35 mins5 hours
Cotton40 mins7 hours
Sea to Summit Tek45 mins7 hours 30 mins

And since the conditions that you’ll be drying your camping towel is likely to differ from mine, I decided to come up with this chart that compared each towel against my control cotton towel (based only on outdoor drying times):

TowelDrying (vs. Cotton) Outdoors
Matador NanoDry100% Faster than Cotton
PackTowl Personal67% Faster than Cotton
Nomadix54% Faster than Cotton
Rainleaf43% Faster than Cotton
Wise Owl38% Faster than Cotton
REI Lite38% Faster than Cotton
Sea to Summit DryLite38% Faster than Cotton
PackTowl Luxe33% Faster than Cotton
REI Multi14% Faster than Cotton
Sea to Summit Tek(12%) Slower than Cotton

Odor Resistance

For odor resistance, I conducted these 3 different tests on each towel:

  1. Seawater test (4 days);
  2. Shower test (4 days); and
  3. Continuous use test (7 days).

Based on these 3 odor resistance tests, here are the odor resistance ratings. A score of 10 means perfect odor resistance with no smells, while lower scores indicating more foul, unpleasant smells.

The 3 best towels were the PackTowl Luxe, the PackTowl Personal, and the Matador NanoDry. They had no smell at all through all 3 tests, and continued smelling fresh. In contrast, some of the other towels didn’t fare so well.

Testing the odor resistance of all the camping towels after dipping it in seawater and sealing them in separate plastic bags.
Testing the odor resistance of all the camping towels after dipping it in seawater and sealing them in separate plastic bags.

The main factor that affects odor resistance is the antimicrobial treatment of each towel; some towels are treated, while others aren’t. The PackTowl Luxe and PackTowl Personal towels are lined with Polygiene odor control. The Matador NanoDry, Nomadix, and Rainleaf towels have some form of antimicrobial or antibacterial treatment. And the REI Multi Towel Lite, REI Multi Towel, Sea to Summit Drylite, Sea to Summit Tek and Wise Owl towels don’t seem to have any such treatment.

As you can see, those with treatment tend to do a lot better than those without; in fact, the REI Multi towel was almost as bad as a regular cotton towel. Also, some treatments are superior to others (hint: PackTowl treated with Polygiene = no smell at all).

Side packaging of the Matador NanoDry towel
Brands will usually market antimicrobial treatments, like you can see in the packaging of the Matador NanoDry towel, with antimicrobial coating.

Seawater Odor Test

For my first odor resistance test, I soaked each camping towel in seawater, wringed it out as best as I could and sealed it in a plastic bag for 4 full days (or 96 hours). After 4 days, here’s what each towel smelled like, starting from the best:

TowelSeawater Odor Test
PackTowl LuxeNo Smell
PackTowl PersonalNo Smell
Matador NanoDryNo Smell
NomadixDamp Sea Smell
RainleafDamp Sea Smell
REI LiteDamp Sea Smell
Sea to Summit DryLiteMusky Smell
Wise OwlSour Smell
Sea to Summit TekSour Smell
REI MultiStrong Sour/Bad Food
CottonStrong Sour/Bad Food

Some smells were more unpleasant (sour smells or the smell of food going bad = yuck) than others (sea smell or musky smell = not the worst). A little subjective, I know.

Also, this seawater test was the toughest odor resistance test (the seawater was pretty dirty). If the camping towel could come out of this test with no smell (PackTowl Luxe, PackTowl Personal, Matador NanoDry), it could pretty much handle most, if not all, odors.

Shower Odor Test

Me drying off with the Sea to Summit Tek towel.
Me drying off with the Sea to Summit Tek towel after a shower.

For my second odor resistance test, I took a shower and dried off with each camping towel once (the towels were freshly laundered for this test). After, I sealed it into a plastic bag immediately, also for 4 days (or 96 hours). After 4 days, here’s what each towel smelled like, starting from the best:

TowelShower Odor Test
PackTowl LuxeNo Smell
PackTowl PersonalNo Smell
Matador NanoDryNo Smell
NomadixNo Smell
RainleafVery Faint Smell
REI LiteVery Faint Smell
Sea to Summit DryLiteFaint Musky Smell
Wise OwlFaint Musky Smell
Sea to Summit TekFaint Musky Smell
REI Multi(Heavier) Musky Smell
Cotton(Heavier) Musky Smell

Continuous Use Odor Test

For the third and last odor resistance test, I used each camping towel every single day for 7 days without washing it. In between each use, I would hang the towel up on a rack indoors. Each towel was never fully dry because I actually shower multiple times a day, and used the towel even after just washing my hands (which is pretty frequent). After 10 weeks of using the 10 camping towels (one towel for 7 days/1 week), here’s what each towel smelled like:

TowelContinuous Use Odor Test
PackTowl LuxeNo Smell
PackTowl PersonalNo Smell
Matador NanoDryNo Smell
NomadixNo Smell
RainleafNo Smell
REI LiteNo Smell
Sea to Summit DryLiteNo Smell
Wise OwlNo Smell
Sea to Summit TekVery Faint Smell
REI MultiFaint Musky Smell
CottonMusky Smell

I stopped this test after 7 days because well, no need to be unhygienic. But I do believe that most towels could go for longer than 7 days without any smells.

Grass and Dirt Repellence

For this grass and dirt test, I dragged each camping towel along a stretch of grass and stepped on them. Then, I checked to see how much each towel picked up. If there was any grass, leaves or dirt picked up, I shook the towel to see how easily the grass or dirt will shake off.

PackTowl Luxe picks up some stray leaves and dirt
The PackTowl Luxe picks up stray leaves and a little bit of dirt.
Shaking the PackTowl Luxe and the grass and dirt shake off easily.
Shaking the PackTowl Luxe and the grass and dirt shake off easily.

Here are the ratings, with higher scores going to towels with better grass and dirt repellence:

The trend here is that fluffier towels tend to pick up more dirt and grass than thinner towels. The ultrathin Matador NanoDry picked up nothing at all (except for a little moisture). The Sea to Summit Drylite picked up 1 speck of dirt, the PackTowl Personal picked up 2 specks of dirt, the Wise Owl, Rainleaf and Nomadix towels picked up a few specks of dirt, but all these towels were clean after shaking.

For the grass and dirt repellence test, the Matador NanoDry picked up nothing at all (except moisture).
For the grass and dirt repellence test, the Matador NanoDry picked up nothing at all (except moisture).

The most surprising towel here was the PackTowl Luxe. It’s a super plush, fluffy and comfortable towel, but it picked up only a moderate amount of dirt, which shook off super easily (pictured above).

In contrast, those scoring 5 and below had grass, leaves or dirt that could not be shaken off. These towels are the REI Multi Towel Lite (a few specks of dirt), the Sea to Summit Tek towel (large amount of dirt) and the REI Multi towel (crazy large amount of dirt). So, preferably avoid those towels if dirt repellence is important to you, and you plan to set your towel down on the ground often.

For the grass and dirt repellence test, the REI Multi Towel performed the worst, picking up a large amount of grass and dirt.
For the grass and dirt repellence test, the REI Multi Towel performed the worst, picking up a large amount of grass and dirt.

Here are the results from the best to the worst, and the amount of grass, leaves and dirt picked up by each towel, before and after shaking:

TowelBefore ShakingAfter Shaking
Matador NanoDryNothingNothing
Sea to Summit DryLiteMinimalNothing
PackTowl PersonalMinimal Nothing
Wise OwlMinimal Nothing
RainleafMinimal Nothing
NomadixMinimal Nothing
PackTowl LuxeModerateNothing
REI LiteMinimal Minimal
CottonMinimal Minimal
Sea to Summit TekHeavyModerate
REI MultiVery HeavyHeavy

Sand Repellence

For the sand test, I covered each camping towel with sand and then picked it up to see how much sand would stick to it. If there was sand stuck to it, I shook each towel to see whether it could be shaken off easily.

Here are the ratings, with higher scores going to camping towels with better sand repellence:

Most of the camping towels actually did pretty well in the sand test, and it was really easy to shake the sand off most of these towels. Again, the Matador NanoDry was the clear winner, because the least amount of sand stuck to it.

I could hardly see any sand stuck to the Matador NanoDry while I was at the beach with it.
I could hardly see any sand stuck to the Matador NanoDry while I was at the beach with it.

Most of the towels picked up a moderate amount of sand, which also could be shaken off easily. These are the PackTowl Luxe, the PackTowl Personal, the Nomadix towel, the Sea to Summit DryLite towel, the Wise Owl towel, the REI Multi towel, the REI Multi Towel Lite, and the cotton bath towel.

You can see the sand grains stuck to the Wise Owl Towel while I was at the beach.
You can see the sand grains stuck to the Wise Owl Towel while I was at the beach.

On the other extreme, the Rainleaf and Sea to Summit Tek towels had a bit of sand stuck to it even after shaking. So, if you need beach towels, preferably avoid these.

Here are the results from the best to the worst, the amount of sand picked up by each camping towel, before and after shaking:

TowelBefore ShakingAfter Shaking
Matador NanoDryMinimalNothing
PackTowl LuxeModerateNothing
PackTowl PersonalModerate Nothing
NomadixModerate Nothing
Sea to Summit DryLiteModerate Nothing
Wise OwlModerate Nothing
REI MultiModerate Nothing
REI LiteModerate Nothing
CottonModerate Nothing
RainleafModerate Minimal
Sea to Summit TekModerate Minimal

Portability

For portability, I looked at the weight and the packed size of each camping towel, without the storage pouch. Towels with higher portability (more lightweight and more compact) received higher scores, and vice versa.

Weight

Here’s the weight of each camping towel starting from the lightest, in both ounces and grams.

TowelWeight (Ounces)Weight (Grams)
Matador NanoDry2.4oz68g
Wise Owl5.3oz149g
Sea to Summit DryLite5.3oz151g
Rainleaf5.5oz156g
PackTowl Personal6.5oz185g
REI Lite6.7oz189g
Sea to Summit Tek9.2oz260g
REI Multi9.3oz263g
PackTowl Luxe10.8oz305g
Cotton 11.9oz337g
Nomadix17.2oz488g

For some activities (like backpacking and hiking), you will be constrained by weight. If weight and packed size is a priority, the Matador NanoDry is the obvious choice. It’s made of nanofiber, which makes it thinner and much lighter than the other camping towels, which are made of microfiber.

Weighing the Matador NanoDry towel in ounces - 2.43 ounces.
Weighing the Matador NanoDry towel in ounces – 2.43 ounces.

However, you could also take slightly heavier microfiber towels backpacking, if you prioritise comfort and absorbency. I know of people who would choose the PackTowl Personal over the Matador NanoDry, even for backpacking.

 Weighing the PackTowl Personal towel in ounces - 6.53 ounces.
Weighing the PackTowl Personal towel in ounces – 6.53 ounces.

You might want to avoid fluffy or larger towels when portability is a priority though, like the Sea to Summit Tek towel, the REI Multi towel, the PackTowl Luxe and the Nomadix towels. These are significantly heavier and will take up far more ounces. They are great picks for car camping, glamping, or when weight and space isn’t a concern.

Packed Size

Here’s the packed size of each towel from the side, and also from the top. The weight of the camping towels (in the table above) is quite proportional to the packed size (in the pictures below).

Packed size of each camping towel from the side - Nomadix (top left), PackTowl Luxe (middle left), REI Multi towel (bottom left), Sea to Summit Tek towel (top middle), PackTowl Personal (middle middle), REI Multi Towel Lite (bottom middle), Wise Owl Towel (top right), Rainleaf towel (second from the top right), Sea to Summit DryLite (second from the bottom right), Matador NanoDry (bottom right).
Packed size of each camping towel from the side – Nomadix (top left), PackTowl Luxe (middle left), REI Multi towel (bottom left), Sea to Summit Tek towel (top middle), PackTowl Personal (middle middle), REI Multi Towel Lite (bottom middle), Wise Owl Towel (top right), Rainleaf towel (second from the top right), Sea to Summit DryLite (second from the bottom right), Matador NanoDry (bottom right).
Packed size of each camping towel from the top - Nomadix (top, first column), PackTowl Luxe (bottom, first column), Sea to Summit Tek towel (top, second column), REI Multi towel (bottom, second column), Rainleaf (top, third column), REI Lite (middle, third column), PackTowl Personal (bottom, third column), Matador NanoDry (top, fourth column), Wise Owl towel (middle, fourth column), Sea to Summit DryLite (bottom, fourth column). Naming of camping towel is from the left to right, top to bottom.
Packed size of each camping towel from the top – Nomadix (top, first column), PackTowl Luxe (bottom, first column), Sea to Summit Tek towel (top, second column), REI Multi towel (bottom, second column), Rainleaf (top, third column), REI Lite (middle, third column), PackTowl Personal (bottom, third column), Matador NanoDry (top, fourth column), Wise Owl towel (middle, fourth column), Sea to Summit DryLite (bottom, fourth column). Naming of camping towel is from the left to right, top to bottom.

Features

There are also a few other factors that you might be important to portability, such as:

  1. Does the camping towel come with a hanging loop?
  2. Does the camping towel come with a storage pouch?
  3. Does the storage pouch have a hanging loop?

In short, all of the 10 chosen camping towels have hanging loops. Only the Nomadix doesn’t come with a storage pouch. And lastly, all the storage pouches, except for the Sea to Summit Drylite’s, come with hanging loops.

This is the Sea to Summit DryLite towel's storage pouch; it doesn't have a hanging loop.
This is the Sea to Summit DryLite towel’s storage pouch; it doesn’t have a hanging loop.

If you need more information on how each towel hanging loop works, how the storage pouch hanging loop works, how heavy the storage pouch is, or more, I have all this information in my individual products reviews, that I will link to right here:

Comfort

To test for comfort, I looked at two main areas – the first was general comfort, involving softness, smoothness, fluffiness, thickness or thin-ness, and sizing. The second was how sticky each camping towel was against the skin. For me, the closer it came to feeling like a regular cotton bath towel, the higher it was rated, and here are the ratings with higher scores going to more comfortable towels:

To be completely transparent, none of the camping towels felt exactly like a cotton towel, though the PackTowl Luxe came pretty close, and beat all the other camping towels by a good margin, including other fluffy towels like the REI Multi towel and the Sea to Summit Tek towel.

For the non-fluffy towels, the Nomadix towel and the PackTowl Personal led the pack, and the Matador NanoDry (the thinnest towel on this list) came in last. As a general trend, fluffier towels usually feel more comfortable than non-fluffy towels.

General Comfort

TowelSoft or Smooth?Fluffy?Good Sizing?
CottonYesYes Yes
PackTowl LuxeYesYes Yes
REI MultiX (Staticky)Yes Yes
Sea to Summit TekYesYes X (Small)
NomadixYesX (Thin)Yes
PackTowl PErsonalYesX (Thin) Yes
REI LiteYes X (Thin) Yes
RainleafYes X (Thin) X (Small)
Sea to Summit DryLiteYes X (Thin) X (Small)
Wise OwlYes X (Thin) X (Small)
Matador NanoDryYes X (Very thin)X (Small)

The above table shows the factors that I looked at for general comfort. Only the PackTowl Luxe had all the features of a comfortable and luxurious camping towel.

The PackTowl Luxe (left) comes the closest to feeling like a regular cotton towel (right) - Soft, fluffy, good sizing, super comfortable.
The PackTowl Luxe (left) comes the closest to feeling like a regular cotton towel (right) – Soft, fluffy, good sizing, super comfortable.

The rest of the camping towels, however, have flaws.

  • The REI Multi Towel feels a bit staticky.
  • The Sea to Summit Tek towel is smaller than a regular shower towel.
  • The Nomadix towel, the PackTowl Personal and the REI Lite are quite a bit thinner than a cotton towel.
  • The Rainleaf, Sea to Summit DryLite and the Wise Owl towels are even thinner, and also have smaller sizing.
  • The Matador NanoDry is the thinnest of them all, and also has a smaller size. Based on all the above factors, this was the least comfortable, and might take some getting used to.
The Matador NanoDry towel is very thin, feels nothing like a cotton towel, and might take some getting used to.
The Matador NanoDry towel is very thin, feels nothing like a cotton towel, and might take some getting used to.

Towel Stickiness

The second area I looked at is the “stickiness” of each camping towel against the skin, and here’s my personal opinion from the least to the most sticky towels:

TowelStickiness
CottonThe least sticky
NomadixNot sticky
PackTowl LuxeNot sticky
REI MultiNot that sticky
Sea to Summit TekNot that sticky
PackTowl PersonalA bit sticky
REI LiteA bit sticky
Matador NanoDryQuite sticky
RainleafQuite sticky
Sea to Summit DryLiteVery sticky
Wise OwlThe stickiest

The cotton towel is the least sticky and nothing beats it, though the Nomadix towel and the PackTowl Luxe come quite close. And in last place, we have the stickiest towel, which is the Wise Owl Towel.

The Wise Owl Towel is the stickiest towel against my skin, based on my opinion.
The Wise Owl Towel is the stickiest towel against my skin, based on my opinion.

Quality

For quality, I paid attention to the stitching around the towel, the overall material, and the weight of the towel after 4 months of usage. I also took note of bleeding issues, the quality of the hanging loop and the quality of the storage pouch.

Based on all the factors above, here are my ratings for quality, with the highest score going to the highest quality camping towel:

The Nomadix towel comes in first place, with excellent quality stitching, super durable material, and a brilliant design that doesn’t fade or bleed. Of all my camping towels, I believe the Nomadix towel has the highest quality and durability, will last the longest.

In last place, we have the Sea to Summit DryLite towel, which has fraying stitching, a 1.3% loss of weight after 4 months of light usage, pretty severe bleeding issues, and a defective storage pouch out of the box.

Let’s go through all the above factors in detail right now.

Stitching, Material, Material Loss

After 4 months, for stitching, material and weight change, here’s my list of camping towels starting from the highest quality:

TowelStitchingMaterialWeight
NomadixExcellentExcellentNo Change
PackTowl LuxeGoodGoodNo Change
PackTowl PersonalGood GoodNo Change
Matador NanoDryGoodGoodNo Change
REI LiteGoodGoodNo Change
Wise OwlGoodGoodNo Change
RainleafFrayingGoodNo Change
REI MultiGoodLoose Threads0.8% Loss
Sea to Summit TekFraying, LooseSheds0.8% Loss
Sea to Summit DryLiteFrayingThinning1.3% Loss

My highest quality towel is the Nomadix towel, because of its incredibly solid stitching. The material is also very durable and entirely intact, with no loss in weight after 4 months of usage.

The Nomadix towel has flawless stitching and material, and is super durable.
The Nomadix towel has flawless stitching and material, and is super durable.

Next, we have the PackTowl Luxe, PackTowl Personal, Matador NanoDry, REI Lite and Wise Owl towels. They all have good stitching and material, with also no loss in weight. However, I felt that the stitching was not as solid as the Nomadix towel’s.

After, we have the Rainleaf towel, which has lower quality stitching, and one of the corners started fraying a bit. The material and weight was fine though.

The Rainleaf towel started experiencing minor fraying in one of its corners after 4 months of usage.
The Rainleaf towel started experiencing minor fraying in one of its corners after 4 months of usage.

The 3 lowest quality towels that I have are the REI Multi Towel, the Sea to Summit Tek towel and the Sea to Summit DryLite towel.

The REI Multi Towel has loose threads and a 0.8% loss in weight.

Loose threads started appearing on my REI Multi Towel after 4 months of usage.
Loose threads started appearing on my REI Multi Towel after 4 months of usage.

The Sea to Summit Tek towel has fraying and loose stitching, material that sheds, and also a 0.8% loss in weight.

My Sea to Summit Tek towel kept shedding material throughout the 4 months that I was using it.
My Sea to Summit Tek towel kept shedding material throughout the 4 months that I was using it.

And lastly, the Sea to Summit Drylite towel has fraying stitching and a 1.3% loss in weight.

My Sea to Summit DryLite towel lost 2 grams of material over just 4 months of light usage.
My Sea to Summit DryLite towel lost 2 grams of material over just 4 months of light usage.

Bleeding

As for bleeding of colors, here’s the list of camping towels from the least to the most severe bleeding:

TowelBleeding
NomadixNone
REI LiteNone
REI MultiSlight (1 wash)
Sea to Summit TekSlight (1 wash)
PackTowl LuxeYes (1 wash)
RainleafYes (1 wash)
PackTowl PersonalYes (3 washes)
Wise OwlYes (4 washes)
Matador NanoDryYes (5 washes)
Sea to Summit DryLiteYes (>5 washes)

The Nomadix towel and the REI Lite had no bleeding at all, even on the first wash.

The REI Multi Towel and the Sea to Summit Tek towel had a bit of bleeding on the first wash, and none after. The PackTowl Luxe and Rainleaf towel bled quite a bit on the first wash, but none after.

The PackTowl Personal bled for about 3 washes, the Wise Owl Towel for 4 washes, the Matador NanoDry for 5 washes, and the Sea to Summit DryLite towel is still bleeding after 5 washes.

Bleeding of the Sea to Summit DryLite colors - Gray (left), Cobalt Blue (middle), and Berry (right).
Bleeding of the Sea to Summit DryLite colors – Gray (left), Cobalt Blue (middle), and Berry (right).

Most of my camping towels did not have any staining issues, but my Matador NanoDry’s Rust color stained a little bit, while the Sea to Summit DryLite’s Berry color had some heavy staining on the first wash.

TowelStaining
NomadixNone
REI LiteNone
REI MultiNone
Sea to Summit TekNone
PackTowl LuxeNone
RainleafNone
PackTowl PersonalNone
Wise OwlNone
Matador NanoDryLight
Sea to Summit DryLiteHeavy
My Sea to Summit DryLite's Berry towel stained the storage pouch pretty badly. I put the towel back into the pouch when slightly wet, and that's what happened.
My Sea to Summit DryLite’s Berry towel stained the storage pouch pretty badly. I put the towel back into the pouch when slightly wet, and that’s what happened.

Quality of Hanging Loop

All the camping towels have good quality loops that are still functional after 4 months, but with small differences in quality.

I feel that the hanging loop on the Nomadix towel is the best stitched and the most secure.

The hanging loop of the Nomadix Original Towel. It's super well stitched and very secure.
The hanging loop of the Nomadix Original Towel. It’s super well stitched and very secure.

The PackTowl Luxe, PackTowl Personal, the Sea to Summit Tek and the Sea to Summit Drylite towels have good quality hanging loops. The Matador NanoDry’s hanging loop feels slightly less secure, while the Wise Owl Towel’s hanging loop feels slightly lower quality.

The hanging loops of the REI Multi Towel and the REI Lite feel a bit stiff, and the Rainleaf Towel’s hanging loop feels stiff and a bit cheap, but still not too bad overall. 

Hanging loop of the Rainleaf towel. It feels a bit stiff and a bit cheap to me, but still functional so not too bad.
Hanging loop of the Rainleaf towel. It feels a bit stiff and a bit cheap to me, but still functional so not too bad.

Quality of Storage Pouch

And lastly, for the quality of the storage pouches, the Matador NanoDry comes in first with a high quality and cool-looking silicone storage pouch, followed by the Sea to Summit Tek towel with an EVA storage pouch.

Here's what the storage pouches of 9 of the best camping towels look like. I'm missing the REI Lite's storage pouch from this shot because I forgot about it (oops). Top row from the left: REI Multi, PackTowl Luxe, Nomadix (Nomadix does not come with a storage pouch). Second row from the left: Sea to Summit Tek towel, PackTowl Personal, Rainleaf towel, Sea to Summit DryLite towel, Wise Owl Towel. The last red storage pouch belongs to the Matador NanoDry.
Here’s what the storage pouches of 9 of the best camping towels look like. I’m missing the REI Lite’s storage pouch from this shot because I forgot about it (oops). Top row from the left: REI Multi, PackTowl Luxe, Nomadix (Nomadix does not come with a storage pouch). Second row from the left: Sea to Summit Tek towel, PackTowl Personal, Rainleaf towel, Sea to Summit DryLite towel, Wise Owl Towel. The last red storage pouch belongs to the Matador NanoDry.

The PackTowl Personal, Wise Owl, REI Multi and REI Lite towels all have good quality and lightweight storage pouches, though there’s a slight difference in quality between the openings. The PackTowl Personal and Wise Owl Towel have zippered openings, which I prefer. The PackTowl Personal’s zippers feel smoother than the Wise Owl Towel’s zippers. As for the REI Multi and the REI Lite storage pouches, they have Velcro openings, which I don’t prefer (but still pretty good quality).

The pouch of the PackTowl Luxe has a bit of fraying and loose threads.

There's some minor fraying on the storage pouch of the PackTowl Luxe, though it doesn't affect the functionality of the storage pouch.
There’s some minor fraying on the storage pouch of the PackTowl Luxe, though it doesn’t affect the functionality of the storage pouch.

The Rainleaf Towel’s storage pouch also has fraying and loose threads, and it does not have a zippered or Velcro opening, and I don’t like that my towel sticks out a little when I stuff it into the pouch without folding.

There's also some minor fraying on the storage pouch of the Rainleaf towel, but it doesn't affect functionality.
There’s also some minor fraying on the storage pouch of the Rainleaf towel, but it doesn’t affect functionality.

The Sea to Summit DryLite Towel’s storage pouch comes in dead last with a massive hole in the pouch and Velcro hooks that drop off.

I found a massive hole in the storage pouch of the Sea to Summit DryLite Towel right out of the box.
I found a massive hole in the storage pouch of the Sea to Summit DryLite Towel right out of the box.
The Velcro hooks of the Sea to Summit DryLite's storage pouch kept dropping off.
The Velcro hooks of the Sea to Summit DryLite’s storage pouch kept dropping off.

Overall Performance

Based on all 9 tests above (absorbency, wringing, drying, odor resistance, grass and dirt repellence, sand repellence, portability, comfort and quality) and the scoring in the bar charts provided, here’s all the scores side by side for easier comparison:

All the performance scores of all 10 camping towels as well as the cotton (control) towel.
All the performance scores of all 10 camping towels as well as the cotton (control) towel.

The overall performance scores are in the last column. I got to these scores by weighing each test equally (equal weightage).

Here’s a cleaner graphic showing only the overall performance scores (without the individual test scores from absorbency to quality):

Overall performance scores of the 10 best camping towels as well as the cotton (control) towel, from the best to the worst.
Overall performance scores of the 10 best camping towels as well as the cotton (control) towel, from the best to the worst.

And in case you want to see it in the form of bar charts, here you go:

How to Choose the Best Camping Towel for Yourself

In the Performance and Test Results section above, we talked about all the key characteristics of a good camping towel – absorbency, wringing, drying, odor resistance, grass and dirt repellence, sand repellence, portability, comfort and quality.

But apart from these important features, what else could you consider before buying a camping towel for yourself?

Size

What will you be using the towel for?

If you’re buying a towel for wiping sweat off while hiking, you can go for a small face towel.

For showering, a towel with dimensions of around 54 by 25 inches would be good, like those from PackTowl. Some brands do run a bit smaller (around 46 by 23 inches), so do take note of the dimensions before buying.

For beach use or for those that like extra-large shower towels, some brands like Nomadix have towels that come in 71 by 30 inches.

I personally prefer towels with dimensions of around 54 by 25 inches; anything smaller wouldn’t be able to cover me up, while anything larger packs on unnecessary ounces.

The different sizes of the Wise Owl Towel - This picture shows a Wise Owl shower towel (46 x 23.5 inches) and a smaller face towel that you can use for wiping sweat off when hiking.
The different sizes of the Wise Owl Towel – This picture shows a Wise Owl shower towel (46 x 23.5 inches) and a smaller face towel that you can use for wiping sweat off when hiking.

Color

Having different colored towels can be important when you need multiple towels for multiple purposes. For example, you may have different towels for showering, for lounging at the beach, for drying your pets off, etc.

Some brands also tend to have colors that bleed more than others.

If color is important to you, I highly recommend towels from Nomadix. My Nomadix Original Towel is beautifully designed with vibrant colors. When I washed it for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was no bleeding, at all. And after months of using and washing it, the color never faded.

Having different colored towels can be important when you need multiple towels for multiple purposes. For example, you may have different towels for showering, for lounging at the beach, for drying your pets off, etc. 
Some brands also tend to have colors that bleed more than others.
If color is important to you, I highly recommend towels from Nomadix. My Nomadix Original Towel is beautifully designed with vibrant colors. When I washed it for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was no bleeding, at all. And after months of using and washing it, the color never faded.
The PackTowl Personal (left) is a charcoal color, while the Nomadix Towel (right) has more vibrant colors.

The above picture also shows the difference between a shower size of 54 by 25 inches (left) and a beach size of 71 by 30 inches (right).

Features

There are 3 main features of a typical camping towel:

  1. The towel hanging loop;
  2. The towel storage pouch; and
  3. The storage pouch hanging loop.

Having a hanging loop on the towel itself is important if you need to dry your towel on the go. You can simply clip the towel to your pack while you’re hiking, etc.

I clipped the Matador NanoDry towel to my pack so that it can dry on the go.
I clipped the Matador NanoDry towel to my pack so that it can dry on the go.

The towel storage pouch is important for keeping your towel separate from the rest of your pack. Alternatively, if your storage pouch comes with a hanging loop, you can clip the pouch outside of your pack to save space.

I clipped the PackTowl Personal towel inside the storage pouch to my daypack.
I clipped the PackTowl Personal towel inside the storage pouch to my daypack.

For more information on these features, I have a full guide to picking the best camping towel for yourself right here.

Price

It’s also important to buy a camping towel that fits within your budget. The price of each camping towel can vary quite a bit. I paid as little as US$10 for a camping towel, while my most expensive towel cost US$40.

All the camping towels that I have; they vary pretty drastically in terms of budget.
All the camping towels that I have; they vary pretty drastically in terms of budget.

If you don’t plan to camp or use the towel often, I’d recommend going for something more affordable. My Best Budget Pick is the Wise Owl Outfitters Towel.

If you plan to use the towel more often (whether camping or at home), I’d spend a little more to get a camping towel with better performance, like the PackTowl Personal, which is my Best Overall Camping Towel.

Full Guide

The above is just a short guide on what to look out for when buying a camping towel for yourself. If you’re interested in every single factor to consider when buying a camping towel, complete with:

  • A YouTube video, so you can watch instead of reading; and
  • More information, like the different types of hanging loops and storage pouches, along with other factors to consider,

check out my “Full Guide to Choosing the Best Camping Towel for Yourself” on this page right here.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is a camping towel?

A camping towel is usually made of specialized synthetic materials, such as microfiber. Microfiber is a blend of polyester and polyamide (polyamide = nylon). They have fast-drying abilities, pack down small, and are lightweight.

The Nomadix Original Towel product tag showing that it's made of 85% polyester and 15% nylon.
The Nomadix Original Towel product tag showing that it’s made of 85% polyester and 15% nylon.

Why do you need a camping towel?

Microfiber camping towels are far superior to your regular cotton towel at home in terms of drying time, odor resistance, dirt repellence and portability.

When camping, you may not always have the luxury of time to dry your towel, much less wash it. Also, when you’re outdoors, your towel is more susceptible to picking up dirt. In addition, you may need something incredibly lightweight when hiking or doing other activities. That’s why your camping microfiber towel needs to have certain characteristics that your regular cotton towel would not have.

The Rainleaf Towel (right) and the cotton towel (left) in a packed size comparison - The Rainleaf towel packs down many times smaller than a regular cotton towel.
The Rainleaf Towel (right) and the cotton towel (left) in a packed size comparison – The Rainleaf towel packs down many times smaller than a regular cotton towel.

Are there different types of camping towels?

After I bought and tested all the 10 towels featured in this post, I realized that there were 3 main types of camping towels – the fluffy ones, the non-fluffy ones, and the ultra-lightweight ones. This may be an artificial distinction, but can be useful for those who know exactly what they want in a camping towel.

The PackTowl Luxe (left) is a fluffy towel, the PackTowl Personal (middle) is not as fluffy a camping towel, and the Matador NanoDry (right) is the ultra-lightweight type of towel.
The PackTowl Luxe (left) is a fluffy towel, the PackTowl Personal (middle) is not as fluffy a camping towel, and the Matador NanoDry (right) is the ultra-lightweight type of towel.

The fluffy camping towels are the most absorbent and most comfortable of the lot. However, they tend to dry much more slowly, are less dirt repellent, and aren’t as portable.

The non-fluffy camping towels are thinner and less comfortable than your regular bath towel at home, but dry much faster, are more dirt repellent, and pack down at least 4x smaller.

The ultra-lightweight camping towels are those that you use for backpacking or hiking. They are super thin, and can feel super strange to those who are using it for the first time. However, they’re the fastest drying, most dirt repellent, and most portable.

What are the benefits of using a camping towel?

Camping towels are superior to regular cotton towels in several ways. They:

  • Dry more quickly;
  • Are more odor resistant;
  • Are more dirt repellent;
  • Don’t need to be washed as often;
  • Are lighter;
  • Are more compact;
  • Wring out more easily; and
  • Are sometimes more absorbent.

How do I maintain and care for my camping towel?

Camping towels have natural anti-bacterial properties, and some are even treated with antimicrobial coatings for additional protection. As such, there’s no need for frequent washing. In fact, some camping towel brands recommend washing only when dirty, to preserve the material as much as possible.

A good tip here is to follow the instructions on the towel tag.

The care instructions on my Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Towel.
The care instructions on my Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Towel.

I had no problems machine washing all my camping towels, and I also had no problems with tumbling them dry. However, some towels are more susceptible to heat and can melt or break down when exposed to high heat. As such, if you can do so, air drying your towels will definitely be better for them in the long run. They are pretty fast drying, after all.

I managed to machine wash all of my camping towels with no issues.
I managed to machine wash all of my camping towels with no issues.

What are the best towels for camping?

What are the best towels for camping?

After buying and testing 10 of the best and most reputable camping towels on the market, here are my top picks:

  • PackTowl Personal (Best Overall)
  • Matador NanoDry (Best Portability and Fastest Drying)
  • PackTowl Luxe (Most Comfortable)
  • Nomadix Towel (Highest Quality and Best Durability)
  • Wise Owl Towel (Best Budget Pick)
My best camping towels from the left: Nomadix Towel, PackTowl Luxe, PackTowl Personal, Wise Owl Outfitters Towel, and the Matador Nanodry towel.
My best camping towels from the left: Nomadix Towel, PackTowl Luxe, PackTowl Personal, Wise Owl Outfitters Towel, and the Matador Nanodry towel.

What are the best brands for camping towels?

PackTowl, Matador and Nomadix are 3 of the best brands in the market for camping towels. They are known for their superb quality and materials, and are of course, slightly more expensive than others.

The PackTowl Personal's original packaging (front packaging).
The PackTowl Personal’s original packaging (front packaging).

For budget picks, Wise Owl and Rainleaf make awesome and affordable camping towels.

As for brands that I was a little disappointed with, these are Sea to Summit and REI Co-Op. Their camping towels just weren’t up to par, and I wouldn’t pay for their towels.

What are the highest quality camping towels?

Towels from PackTowl, Matador and Nomadix are known for their quality. Of the 3, I find that my Nomadix towel has the highest quality, with excellent stitching, durable material, ever-vibrant design and doesn’t bleed at all.

My Nomadix Original Towel's original packaging from the front.
My Nomadix Original Towel’s original packaging from the front.

Which towels dry the fastest?

The Matador NanoDry is by far the fastest drying camping towel that I have, and the PackTowl Personal and Nomadix Towel aren’t too shabby either.

How do you dry towels when camping?

All the camping towels that I bought come with hanging loops so you can hang your towel easily while drying. This can be on a clothesline, on a hook, or even on your pack while you’re hiking.

Hanging my Sea to Summit DryLite towel from my daypack so that it can dry on the go.
Hanging my Sea to Summit DryLite towel from my daypack so that it can dry on the go.

You can also just hang your towel without the loop for drying. The more surface area is exposed to the environment, the faster it’ll dry.

Alternatively, you could put your towel in your storage pouch to dry, especially if your storage pouch has ventilation (some of them do). However, if your camping towel doesn’t have strong enough odor resistance, it could smell musky or even sour, so I wouldn’t say that I would recommend this.

More questions?

If there’s anything I didn’t address in this blog post that you would like answered, shoot me an email at campingguidance@gmail.com.

Why You Should Trust Us

I spent over $200 buying, and hundreds of hours testing and reviewing 10 of the best camping towels on the market. I don’t accept free products from manufacturers, and don’t sponsored posts or YouTube videos. Each and every product is bought by me with my savings, and all opinions are my own, from months of real-world testing and usage.

My receipt from REI Co-Op; in this receipt, I bought the PackTowl Luxe (highlighted in red), the REI Multi Towel and the REI Multi Towel Lite.
My receipt from REI Co-Op; in this receipt, I bought the PackTowl Luxe (highlighted in red), the REI Multi Towel and the REI Multi Towel Lite.

Over 5 months, I used these towels every single day while camping, at the beach and at home. To test them, I dried them both indoors and outdoors, dipped them in seawater, and ran them over grass, dirt and sand, amongst other things.

I looked at and examined every important aspect of each camping towel, including but not limited to absorbency, drying, odor resistance, dirt repellence, portability, comfort and quality. I also cover all features, specifications and even unboxings. Hopefully this comprehensive review has helped you to find the best camping towel that suits your needs.

I bought the Matador NanoDry and Nomadix Original towels and unboxed them for your viewing pleasure.
I bought the Matador NanoDry and Nomadix Original towels and unboxed them for your viewing pleasure.

Conclusion

Ultimately, of all the 10 best camping towels that I bought and tested, I think there’s one that will best suit your needs, and here’s quick summary of all of them:

Top Picks:

The Others: