PackTowl UltraLite Review: I Bought & Tested it

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Rating and Summary

The PackTowl UltraLite is an extremely thirsty backpacking towel with an absorbency of a whopping 4.4 times, making it super easy to dry off with after a shower.

It’s also velvety soft, thicker, bigger, and less sticky than most other backpacking towels, and is such a pleasure to use.

At 3.2 ounces or 90 grams, the PackTowl UltraLite isn’t the lightest backpacking towel on the market, but I felt that the additional comfort and absorbency was worth the extra weight.

Holding the PackTowl UltraLite Towel
Me holding the PackTowl UltraLite
7.8
Absorbency
9.2
Wringing
9
Drying
9.7
Odor
9
Grass
8
Sand
9
Portability
6.5
Comfort
8.7
Quality
Overall Score 8.5 / 10
Pros: Super absorbent, very comfortable, high quality, good overall performance
Cons: No storage pouch, expensive
Price: I paid US$40 for this.

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Product Details

Here’s what we’re going to discuss here:

  • Price
  • Unboxing
  • In the Box
  • Specifications
  • Features

Price

I bought the PackTowl UltraLite from Moosejaw in a Body size, and paid $40 U.S. dollars for it (more specifically, $39.95). This was full price at the time.

You can check out the retail price here on Amazon or Moosejaw.

Unboxing

I bought the PackTowl UltraLite with a few other items, and they all came together in a small cardboard box with the typical Moosejaw sticker.

Here’s what the front and back of the unopened PackTowl UltraLite looks like:

The front packaging of the PackTowl UltraLite.
The back packaging of the PackTowl UltraLite.

For the unboxing or clearer images of the above, please watch the video embedded above instead; it’s much nicer there and definitely clearer too.

What’s in the Box?

So, what do you get when you buy a PackTowl UltraLite? It doesn’t come with a storage pouch, so you get only the towel.

Specifications

These are my personal measurements of the PackTowl UltraLite in a Body size. These may differ from the marketed dimensions given by PackTowl.

  • Length: 54 inches / 137 cm;
  • Width: 23.5 inches / 60 cm;
  • Weight of towel: 3.2 ounces / 90 grams;
  • Packed size: 7 x 2.5 x 2 inches / 18 x 6 x 5 cm;
  • Blend: 70% polyester and 30% nylon; and
  • Other Info: Assembled in the U.S., imported materials are made in France.

Features

The Packtowl UltraLite has a hanging loop, so you can hang it on a hook at home, on a clothesline in the outdoors, or even on your pack when you’re hiking.

The hanging loop of the PackTowl UltraLite

For additional convenience, it is machine washable, and can be tumbled dry.

Testing and Performance

And now, moving on to the meat of this blog post, here’s what we’re going to discuss next:

  • Absorbency
  • Wringing
  • Drying 1
  • Drying 2
  • Odor Resistance
  • Dirt Repellence
  • Sand Repellence
  • Portability
  • Quality and Comfort

Absorbency

To test absorbency, I measured the maximum amount of water the PackTowl UltraLite can absorb when soaked, which is about 400mL, or 13.5 fluid ounces, of water. As it weighs 90 grams, total absorbency is 400 divided by 90, which is about 4.4 times.

I soaked the PackTowl UltraLite in a bucket of water to test its absorbency.

I also performed the same test on a similar-sized cotton bath towel, which absorbed 1,100 mL of water and has a surprisingly lower absorbency of 3.26 times.

Although the cotton towel is a lot fluffier, the absorbency of the PackTowl UltraLite is a lot higher.

Wringing

After soaking the PackTowl UltraLite, I wringed out as much water as possible.

I wringed out the PackTowl UltraLite to see how much water could be wringed out.

After wringing, the PackTowl UltraLite weighed 196 grams, or 6.9 ounces. This means that 27% of water was left. Here are the calculations in case you’re interested:

Water absorbed before wringing = 400 milliliters (13.5 fluid ounces)
Water left after wringing = 196 grams (weight after wringing) – 90 grams (original weight) = 106 grams = 106 milliliters (3.6 fluid ounces), because 1 gram = 1 milliliter.
Percentage of water left after wringing = 106 milliliters / 400 milliliters = 27%.

As for the cotton towel, it weighed 842 grams, or 29.7 ounces, after wringing, and 46% of water was left.

Drying Test 1 (With Wringing)

After wringing, I left both the PackTowl UltraLite and the cotton towel to dry outdoors. This is to recreate the situation where you’re drying your towel after you wash it while backpacking.

Drying the PackTowl UltraLite outdoors.

The PackTowl UltraLite started off at 196 grams (or 6.9 ounces), and dried completely in about 23 minutes. On the other hand, the cotton towel took 2 hours and 15 minutes to dry.

When left indoors to dry after wringing, the PackTowl UltraLite took 3 hours to dry completely. In contrast, the cotton towel took much longer, drying only after 27 hours.

Drying Test 2 (100mL)

For this next drying test, I measured 100mL (or 3.4 fluid ounces) of water for the PackTowl UltraLite, and also for the cotton towel, and left both to dry outdoors. This is to make sure that both towels absorbed the same amount of water.

The PackTowl UltraLite started off at 190 grams (or 6.7 ounces), and dried completely in about 22 minutes. As for the cotton towel, it took much longer, drying in about 40 minutes.

I also conducted the same test indoors. When left indoors, the PackTowl UltraLite took 2 hours and 45 minutes to dry completely. On the other hand, the cotton towel took much longer, drying in about 7 hours.

Drying the PackTowl UltraLite indoors.

Odor Resistance

I soaked both the PackTowl UltraLite and the cotton towel in seawater, wringed out whatever I could, then sealed both in separate plastic bags for 4 days, or 96 hours.

At the 4-day mark, the PackTowl UltraLite had a faint smell, while the cotton towel started smelling like food that had gone bad. I also checked for mold, and there wasn’t any.

For the second odor resistance test, I took a shower and then dried off with the PackTowl UltraLite once, then sealed it into a plastic bag immediately, also for 4 days.

After 3 days, the PackTowl UltraLite had no smell. This means that you can pack up your PackTowl UltraLite without drying and it wouldn’t smell.

I sealed up the PackTowl UltraLite in a plastic bag to see if odors will develop.

For the third odor resistance test, I used the PackTowl UltraLite every single day for 7 days without washing it. In between uses, I hung the PackTowl UltraLite indoors on a rack.

After the 7 days of continuous use, the PackTowl UltraLite had no smell at all.

The PackTowl UltraLite does not come with Polygiene odor control (unlike other towels from the same brand), but it didn’t do too badly in the odor resistance tests.

In contrast, the cotton towel started smelling like rotten food in the first seawater test, smelled musky in the second shower test, and had a musky (but not too strong) smell in the third continuous use test.

Dirt Repellence

For this grass and dirt repellence test, I dragged both the PackTowl UltraLite and the cotton towel along some grass and stepped on them.

The PackTowl UltraLite picked up a few tiny pieces of dry grass, but it was very easy to shake them off.

The PackTowl UltraLite picked up a few flakes of dry grass.

The cotton towel picked up a little more dirt, which I thought came off easily, but after getting home, I noticed some dirt was still stuck to it.

Sand Repellence

For the sand test, I covered both the PackTowl UltraLite and the cotton towel with sand. Some sand did stick to the PackTowl UltraLite, though a few good shakes got rid of it. Here’s what it looked like before I shook all the sand off:

Sand stuck to the PackTowl UltraLite.

Sand also stuck to the cotton towel, but shaking it did the job.

Portability

The PackTowl UltraLite weighs 90 grams, or 3.2 ounces, whereas a similar-sized cotton towel weighs 337 grams, or 11.9 ounces. It is also significantly more compact. Here’s what it looks like beside the cotton towel from the side:

A rolled up PackTowl UltraLite beside a similar sized cotton towel.

The PackTowl UltraLite comes with a hanging loop for easy carry and drying. Unfortunately, if you’re not tall like me (about 5’3″, or 160 cm tall), the PackTowl UltraLite will drag on the ground if you hang it on your pack.

The PackTowl UltraLite drags on the ground when I hang it from my pack.

To fold the PackTowl UltraLite, just keep halving it until it packs down as small as possible.

Comfort and Quality

The PackTowl UltraLite feels very soft to the touch, kind of velvety almost. It’s also very smooth and not stiff at all. It feels thin though, and doesn’t feel like a regular cotton towel.

The PackTowl UltraLite feels and looks thin.

It’s also a little bit sticky, so I have to pat instead of wipe, but I don’t feel damp after drying off. As for sizing, the PackTowl UltraLite is true to size, its dimensions (given above in a previous section) are pretty accurate, and the Body size is the perfect size for a shower towel.

As for quality, after about 2-3 months of light usage, the edges are still holding up pretty well, and the weight of the PackTowl UltraLite is still the same (at 90 grams or 3.2 ounces), so no material was lost. The Bloom Noir color that I bought seems to bleed quite a bit for the first 2-3 washes though.

The hanging loop is useful, secure and high quality, and the catch does not feel stiff.

What other Reviews Say

I read the reviews on Amazon, and here’s what I found.

Positive reviews said that the PackTowl UltraLite is lightweight, compact, fast drying, absorbent, durable, soft and has good sizing, all of which I agree with, after my experience of using the PackTowl UltraLite for about 3 months.

On the other hand, negative reviews said that it bleeds, stains, and that the material breaks down. I did have bleeding issues for the first 2-3 washes, but it did not stain any of the other towels that I washed it with. Also, my PackTowl UltraLite is durable and I had no issues with shedding or the material breaking down.

The material of my PackTowl UltraLite is durable and does not break down.

Pros and Cons

For pros, the PackTowl Ultralite is super absorbent and dries me off well. It’s very soft, and is the perfect size for a shower towel. It’s high quality and durable, showing no signs of wear after 3 months of usage. It’s fast drying, and dries 82% faster than a regular cotton towel. It has good odor resistance, good dirt repellence, and is very portable, weighing just 90 grams or 3.2 ounces.

As for cons, the PackTowl Ultralite is my most expensive backpacking towel, it doesn’t come with a storage pouch, and it bleeds a bit for 2-3 washes.

The PackTowl UltraLite tends to bleed a bit for the first few washes.

Recommendation

Would I recommend the PackTowl UltraLite?

I was very pleasantly surprised by how absorbent, soft, and comfortable the PackTowl UltraLite is, which is kind of uncommon for backpacking towels. And weighing just 90 grams, or 3.2 ounces, it doesn’t even pack on much weight or take up much space.

On top of that, the PackTowl UltraLite is high quality, durable, fast drying, odor resistant and dirt repellent. So yeah, I think it makes a comfortable backpacking towel, and I would recommend it.

It is expensive though, but the quality makes it worth it.

If the PackTowl UltraLite is out of your budget, or you want to check out other backpacking towels that I bought and tested, you can click here: The 5 Best Backpacking Towels: I Bought & Tested Them All (complete with YouTube video).

Me holding all 5 backpacking towels. From left to right: Sea to Summit AirLite Towel, Matador NanoDry Trek Towel, Matador NanoDry Shower Towel, Sea to Summit Pocket Towel, and PackTowl UltraLite.
Me holding all 5 backpacking towels. From left to right: Sea to Summit AirLite Towel, Matador NanoDry Trek Towel, Matador NanoDry Shower Towel, Sea to Summit Pocket Towel, and PackTowl UltraLite.