How I Rated My Camping and Backpacking Towels

How I Rated My Camping and Backpacking Towels
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This is a follow-up blog post on the 10 Best Camping Towels and the 5 Best Backpacking Towels review round-ups.

Disclaimer: This is not going to be a very interesting post, just some numbers and rating systems. So, feel free to hit the X button whenever you get bored.

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Control Towel

Before we go into the tests, I just want to mention that I added in a 100% cotton bath towel as a “control” towel.

The 100% cotton towel that I used as a control towel in all my camping and backpacking towel tests.
The 100% cotton towel that I used as a control towel in all my camping and backpacking towel tests.

But I don’t think it was the best choice as a cotton towel because the piles are very short and it’s not really fluffy, unlike most bath towels.

My control cotton towel has short piles and is not fluffy at all.
My control cotton towel has short piles and is not fluffy at all.

So my cotton towel might have performed better than you expected it to in some of the tests, especially in dirt repellence and portability, whereas fluffier cotton towels tend to perform much worse. On hindsight, I probably should have chosen a better control cotton towel.

Sizing of Towels

As for sizing, I got the shower size for each towel, but some are smaller than others.

The Matador NanoDry towel, one of my best camping towels and also one of my best backpacking towels in a Shower size.
The Matador NanoDry towel, one of my best camping towels and also one of my best backpacking towels in a Shower size.

The exception is the Nomadix towel, which is a beach size, because they didn’t seem to have shower towels at the time I bought it.

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.

Here’s the rating for each of the sub-tests above, and how I rated them:

Total Amount of Water Absorbed

Camping TowelTotal Water Absorbed Ratings
PackTowl Luxe10
REI Multi10
Sea to Summit Tek9
Cotton9
Nomadix9
PackTowl Personal7
Wise Owl6
Sea to Summit Drylite6
REI Lite6
Rainleaf6
Matador NanoDry5
  • 1,250 and above: 10
  • 1,000 to 1,249: 9
  • 750 to 999: 8
  • 500 to 749: 7
  • 250 to 499: 6
  • 150 to 249: 5
  • 100 to 149: 4

Absorbency Ratio

Camping TowelAbsorbency Ratio Ratings
PackTowl Luxe9
REI Multi10
Sea to Summit Tek9
Cotton7
Nomadix5
PackTowl Personal7
Wise Owl6
Sea to Summit Drylite6
REI Lite5
Rainleaf6
Matador NanoDry5
  • 4.6 and above: 10
  • 4.1 to 4.5: 9
  • 3.6 to 4.0: 8
  • 3.1 to 3.5: 7
  • 2.6 to 3.0: 6
  • 2.1 to 2.5: 5

After Shower Absorbency

Camping TowelAfter Shower Absorbency Ratings
PackTowl Luxe10
REI Multi9
Sea to Summit Tek9
Cotton10
Nomadix10
PackTowl Personal8
Wise Owl7
Sea to Summit Drylite7
REI Lite8
Rainleaf7
Matador NanoDry8
  • Excellent/Almost: 10
  • Very Good: 9
  • Good: 8
  • Fair: 7

With each of the 3 tests weighted equally, here are the final absorbency ratings for camping towels:

Wringing

For the wringing test, I wringed out, weighed, and did some calculations based on the weight of each towel to find out how much water was left in percentage. After that, I let each towel dry outdoors and indoors.

20% of the final ratings went to the wringing, and 80% of the final ratings went to drying after wringing. (Because if the towel wrings out well, but doesn’t dry quickly after, then that pretty much defeats the purpose.)

Wringing Only

This accounted for only 20% of the final rating.

Camping TowelWringing Only Ratings (20%)
Matador NanoDry7 (1.4)
Sea to Summit DryLite9 (1.8)
Rainleaf8 (1.6)
Wise Owl8 (1.6)
PackTowl Personal8 (1.6)
REI Lite6 (1.2)
PackTowl Luxe10 (2.0)
Sea to Summit Tek10 (2.0)
REI Multi10 (2.0)
Nomadix4 (0.8)
Cotton6 (1.2)
  • 26-30%: 10
  • 31-35%: 9
  • 36-40%: 8
  • 41-45%: 7
  • 46-50%: 6
  • 51-55%: 5
  • 56-60%: 4

Drying after Wringing

This accounted for 80% of the final rating.

Camping TowelDrying after Wringing Ratings (80%)
Matador NanoDry10 (8.0)
Sea to Summit DryLite8 (6.4)
Rainleaf8 (6.4)
Wise Owl8 (6.4)
PackTowl Personal7 (5.6)
REI Lite7 (5.6)
PackTowl Luxe5 (4.0)
Sea to Summit Tek4 (3.2)
REI Multi4 (3.2)
Nomadix4 (3.2)
Cotton2 (1.6)
  • 1-15 mins: 10
  • 16-30 mins: 9
  • 31-45 mins: 8
  • 46-60 mins: 7
  • 61-75 mins: 6
  • 76-90 mins : 5
  • 91-105 mins: 4
  • 106-120 mins: 3
  • 121-135 mins: 2

With 20% of the final rating going to wringing only, and 80% of the score going to the drying after wringing portion, here are the final wringing ratings for camping towels:

Drying

Camping TowelDrying Rating
Matador NanoDry10
PackTowl Personal9
Nomadix8
Rainleaf8
Wise Owl7
REI Lite7
Sea to Summit DryLite7
PackTowl Luxe7
REI Multi5
Cotton4
Sea to Summit Tek2
  • 20-22 mins: 10
  • 23-25 mins: 9
  • 26-28 mins: 8
  • 29-31 mins: 7
  • 32-34 mins: 6
  • 35-37 mins: 5
  • 38-40 mins: 4
  • 41-43 mins: 3
  • 44-46 mins: 2

One thing to note here is that the drying test was scored based only on outdoor readings, because the indoor readings are quite proportional, and also I found the outdoor readings to be a little more accurate.

As this was the only test in the drying section, these were also the final ratings for drying, and here are the bar charts (in case you prefer charts over tables):

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).

Here’s the rating for each of the sub-tests above, and how I rated them:

Seawater (4 Days)

Camping TowelSeawater Ratings
PackTowl Luxe10
PackTowl Personal10
Matador NanoDry10
Nomadix8
Rainleaf8
REI Lite8
Sea to Summit DryLite6
Wise Owl4
Sea to Summit Tek4
REI Multi2
Cotton2
  • No smell: 10
  • Faint sea smell: 9
  • Sea smell: 8
  • Faint musky smell: 7
  • Musky smell: 6
  • Faint sour smell: 5
  • Sour smell: 4
  • Stronger sour: 3
  • Stronger sour + bad food: 2

Shower (4 Days)

Camping TowelShower Ratings
PackTowl Luxe10
PackTowl Personal10
Matador NanoDry10
Nomadix10
Rainleaf9
REI Lite9
Sea to Summit DryLite7
Wise Owl7
Sea to Summit Tek7
REI Multi6
Cotton6
  • No smell: 10
  • Very faint smell (but not musky): 9
  • Faint smell (but not musky): 8
  • Faint musky: 7
  • Heavier musky: 6
  • Heavy musky: 5

Continuous Use (7 Days)

Camping TowelShower Ratings
PackTowl Luxe10
PackTowl Personal10
Matador NanoDry10
Nomadix10
Rainleaf10
REI Lite10
Sea to Summit DryLite10
Wise Owl10
Sea to Summit Tek9
REI Multi7
Cotton6
  • No smell: 10
  • Very faint smell (but not musky): 9
  • Faint smell (but not musky): 8
  • Faint musky: 7
  • Heavier musky: 6
  • Heavy musky: 5

With each of the 3 tests weighted equally, here are the final odor resistance ratings for camping towels:

Grass and Dirt Repellence

Camping TowelGrass and Dirt Repellence Ratings
Matador NanoDry10
Sea to Summit DryLite9
PackTowl Personal9
Wise Owl9
Rainleaf9
Nomadix9
PackTowl Luxe8
REI Lite5
Cotton5
Sea to Summit Tek3
REI Multi2
  • No dirt/leaves/grass: 10
  • Minimal dirt/leaves/grass, but clean after shaking: 9
  • Moderate dirt/leaves/grass, but clean after shaking: 8
  • Heavy dirt/leaves/grass, but clean after shaking: 7
  • Extremely heavy dirt/leaves/grass, but clean after shaking: 6
  • Minimal dirt/leaves/grass, and not clean after shaking: 5
  • Moderate dirt/leaves/grass, and not clean after shaking: 4
  • Heavy dirt/leaves/grass, and not clean after shaking: 3
  • Extremely heavy dirt/leaves/grass, and not clean after shaking: 2

As this was the only test in the grass and dirt repellence section, these were also the final ratings for this test, and here are the bar charts (in case you prefer charts over tables):

Sand Repellence

Camping TowelSand Repellence Ratings
Matador NanoDry9
PackTowl Luxe8
PackTowl Personal8
Nomadix8
Sea to Summit DryLite8
Wise Owl8
REI Multi8
REI Lite8
Cotton8
Rainleaf4
Sea to Summit Tek4
  • No sand: 10
  • Minimal, but clean after shaking: 9
  • Moderate, but clean after shaking: 8
  • Heavy, but clean after shaking: 7
  • Extremely heavy, but clean after shaking: 6
  • Minimal, and not clean after shaking: 5
  • Moderate, and not clean after shaking: 4
  • Heavy, and not clean after shaking: 3
  • Extremely heavy, and not clean after shaking: 2

As this was the only test in the sand repellence section, these were also the final ratings for this test, and here are the bar charts (in case you prefer charts over tables):

Portability

For portability, although I looked at weight and packed size of the towel without the storage pouch, I scored based only on weight. This is because packed size is quite proportional, and also harder to measure.

Camping TowelPortability Ratings
Matador NanoDry10
Wise Owl8
Sea to Summit DryLite8
Rainleaf8
PackTowl Personal7
REI Lite7
Sea to Summit Tek5
REI Multi5
PackTowl Luxe4
Cotton3
Nomadix2
  • 90g or less: 10
  • 91-130g: 9
  • 131-170g: 8
  • 171-210g: 7
  • 211-250g: 6
  • 251-290g: 5
  • 291-330g: 4
  • 331-370g: 3
  • Above 371g: 2

As this was the only test in the portability section, these were also the final ratings for this test, and here are the bar charts (in case you prefer charts over tables):

Comfort

For comfort, I scored based on these 2 main tests:

  1. General comfort (fluffiness, soft, smooth, thick, thin, sizing); and
  2. Stickiness.

Here’s the rating for each of the sub-tests above, and how I rated them:

General Comfort

Camping TowelGeneral Comfort Ratings (50%)
Cotton10
PackTowl Luxe9
REI Multi8
Nomadix7
Sea to Summit Tek8
PackTowl Personal6
REI Lite6
Rainleaf4
Sea to Summit DryLite4
Wise Owl4
Matador NanoDry2
  • Feels like a cotton towel: 10
  • Fluffy, soft, good sizing: 9
  • Fluffy, good sizing, staticky: 8
  • Fluffy, soft, smaller sizing: 8
  • Thin, smooth, generous sizing: 7
  • Thin, smooth, good sizing: 6
  • Very thin, smooth, good sizing: 5
  • Very thin, smooth, smaller sizing: 4
  • Extremely thin, good sizing: 3
  • Extremely thin, smaller sizing: 2

Stickiness

Camping TowelStickiness Ratings (50%)
Cotton10
PackTowl Luxe9
REI Multi8
Nomadix9
Sea to Summit Tek8
PackTowl Personal7
REI Lite7
Rainleaf6
Sea to Summit DryLite5
Wise Owl5
Matador NanoDry6
  • Feels like a cotton towel non-stickiness: 10
  • Close to cotton towel non-stickiness: 9
  • Less close to cotton towel non-stickiness: 8
  • A bit sticky: 7
  • Quite sticky: 6
  • Very sticky: 5

With both tests weighted equally (50% each), here are the final comfort ratings for camping towels:

Quality

For quality, I looked at 6 different things:

  1. Stitching of the towel (25%);
  2. Body material of the towel (25%);
  3. Any weight change after 4 months of usage (20%);
  4. Bleeding (10%);
  5. Hanging loop quality (10%); and
  6. Storage pouch quality (10%).

I felt that the quality of the stitching, material and any weight changes were the most important, so they made up 25%, 25%, and 20% respectively, or 70% in total. As for bleeding, the hanging loop and the storage pouch, they’re kind of secondary to me so I rated them just 10% each.

Stitching

Camping TowelStitching Ratings (25%)
Nomadix10
PackTowl Luxe9
REI Lite9
PackTowl Personal9
Matador NanoDry9
Wise Owl9
Rainleaf6
REI Multi8
Sea to Summit Tek3
Sea to Summit DryLite5
  • Excellent: 10
  • Good: 8-9
  • Average: 6-7
  • Poor: 5 and below
  • Fraying/Loose: Deduct points depending on severity

Material

Camping TowelMaterial Ratings (25%)
Nomadix10
PackTowl Luxe10
REI Lite9
PackTowl Personal9
Matador NanoDry9
Wise Owl8
Rainleaf8
REI Multi5
Sea to Summit Tek5
Sea to Summit DryLite6
  • Excellent: 10
  • Good: 8-9
  • Average: 6-7
  • Poor: 5 and below
  • Loose threads: Deduct points depending on severity

Weight Change

Camping TowelWeight Change Ratings (20%)
Nomadix10
PackTowl Luxe10
REI Lite10
PackTowl Personal10
Matador NanoDry10
Wise Owl10
Rainleaf10
REI Multi6
Sea to Summit Tek6
Sea to Summit DryLite2
  • No weight change: 10
  • Less than 1% loss: 6
  • 1-2% loss: 2

Bleeding

Camping TowelBleeding Ratings (10%)
Nomadix10
PackTowl Luxe8
REI Lite10
PackTowl Personal6
Matador NanoDry4
Wise Owl5
Rainleaf8
REI Multi9
Sea to Summit Tek9
Sea to Summit DryLite3
  • None: 10
  • Slight (1 wash): 9
  • Yes (1 wash): 8
  • Yes (2 washes): 7
  • Yes (3 washes): 6
  • Yes (4 washes): 5
  • Yes (5 washes): 4
  • Yes (6 washes): 3

Hanging Loop Quality

Camping TowelLoop Ratings (10%)
Nomadix10
PackTowl Luxe9
REI Lite7
PackTowl Personal9
Matador NanoDry8
Wise Owl8
Rainleaf6
REI Multi7
Sea to Summit Tek9
Sea to Summit DryLite9
  • Excellent: 10
  • Good: 8-9
  • Not bad, but stiff/cheap catch: 6-7

Storage Pouch Quality

Camping TowelPouch Ratings (10%)
NomadixN.A.
PackTowl Luxe6
REI Lite7
PackTowl Personal8
Matador NanoDry10
Wise Owl8
Rainleaf5
REI Multi7
Sea to Summit Tek9
Sea to Summit DryLite3
  • High: 10
  • Very Good: 9
  • Good: 7-8
  • Average: 5-6
  • Poor: 4 and below

With the scoring for each of the category explained above, here are the final quality ratings for camping towels:

Overall Performance

With all the ratings for all the tests above, I weighted each test equally to get the overall performance scores. I just added up all the scores and divided by 9, because I had 9 categories or 9 tests.

If a test is more important to you, feel free to weight is more heavily and to calculate your own scores. Here’s the graphic with all the scores:

And here’s the graphic with only the overall scores (without the individual test scores):

And that’s about it. Feel free to let me know if you disagree and how I can improve my scoring for future product reviews. Thanks!