REI Multi Towel Lite – Complete Review

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Rating and Summary

The REI Multi Towel Lite (“REI Lite”) is the lighter version of the plushy REI Multi Towel, and is a decent choice as a camping towel. Compared to a regular cotton bath towel, the REI Lite is better in a lot of ways; it dries faster, has better odor resistance, it packs small, amongst other things. The REI Lite is a great size for a shower towel, is soft to the touch and is pretty comfortable, which is its biggest advantage. However, it has a low absorbency and does not wring out well.

Compared to the 9 other camping towels that I bought for this review, the REI Lite is average at best, which I’ll explain in detail below.

Pros: Soft, smooth, pretty comfortable
Cons: Low absorbency, does not wring out well
Price: I paid US$17 for this.
`Where to buy: REI Co-Op
Check out my YouTube video, if you prefer watching over reading.

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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 REI Multi Towel Lite directly from REI Co-Op, and paid US$17 for the Extra-Large size. This was on sale because it’s a discontinued item. It may or may not still be available, and you can check it out at this link here.

Unboxing

I bought the REI Lite with some other items, and they all came in a cardboard box. After taking the REI Lite out of the box, here’s what the packaging looks like:

Front and back packaging of the REI Multi Towel Lite before unboxing.
Front packaging (left) and back packaging (right) of the REI Multi Towel Lite.

What’s in the Box?

When you buy the REI Multi Towel Lite from REI, you get the following 2 things:

  • The REI Lite towel; and
  • A storage pouch.

Specifications

The following specifications are from my personal measurements of the REI Multi Towel Lite:

  • Length: 53in / 135cm;
  • Width: 24in / 61cm;
  • Weight of towel: 189g / 6.7oz;
  • Weight of storage pouch: 12g / 0.4oz;
  • Packed size: 7 by 7 by 1.5in / 18 by 18 by 4cm;
  • Made of 100% polyester;
  • Made in Korea.

Features

The REI Lite has a quick-attach hanging loop for hanging your towel anywhere, like on a hook at home, on a clothesline in the outdoors, or even on your pack when you’re hiking. It is also machine washable in cold water, and can be tumbled dry on low.

REI Multi Towel Lite quick-attach hanging loop
The quick-attach hanging loop of the REI Multi Towel Lite.

The storage pouch also comes with a hanging loop, and has ventilation on one side in case your towel isn’t completely dry when you pack it up.

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
  • Grass/Dirt Repellence
  • Sand Repellence
  • Portability
  • Quality and Comfort

Absorbency

To test absorbency, I measured the amount of water in this blue bucket, and soaked the REI Multi Towel Lite in it. After the REI Lite got completely soaked, I lifted it above the water and let excess water drip back into the bucket. When the water stopped dripping, I measured the water left inside the bucket.

Soaking the REI Multi Towel Lite in a bucket to test its absobency.
Soaking the REI Multi Towel Lite in a bucket to test its absobency.

From this testing, I found that the REI Lite absorbed 450mL (or 15.2fl oz) of water. Since it weighs 189 grams, total absorbency is 450 divided by 189, which is about 2.4 times.

I did the same thing to a similar sized cotton towel and found that it had a higher absorbency of 3.26 times. This is why I felt that one of the disadvantages of the REI Lite is its low absorbency.

Wringing

After soaking the REI Multi Towel Lite, I wringed out as much water as possible. After wringing, the REI Lite weighed 405 grams, or 14.3oz. Since its original weight is 189 grams, this means that 216mL of water was left (405 deducted by 189 is 216, and 1mL = 1 gram). Therefore, the percentage of water left is 216mL (water left) divided by 450mL (total water absorbed), which means that 48% of water was left.

Wringing out the REI Multi Towel Lite.
Wringing out the REI Multi Towel Lite to see how much water would be left.

As for the cotton towel after wringing, 46% of water was left.

Drying Test 1 (with Wringing)

To test drying time, I conducted 2 separate drying tests.

This first drying test measures how long it’ll take the REI Multi Towel Lite to dry after being completely soaked and wringed out as much as possible (for example, after you wash it while camping).

As mentioned above, the REI Lite clocks in at 405 grams (or 14.3oz) after wringing. When left outdoors, the REI Lite takes about 55 minutes to dry; when left indoors, it takes about 7 hours and 15 minutes to dry.

I weighed the REI Lite at certain time intervals to determine the percentage of drying, and here they are:

Outdoors:

  • 0 mins: 405g / 14.3oz (0% dry)
  • 15 mins: 338g / 11.9oz (31% dry)
  • 30 mins: 278g / 9.8oz (59% dry)
  • 45 mins: 218g / 7.7oz (87% dry)
  • 55 mins: 189g / 6.7oz (100% dry)

Indoors:

  • 0 hours: 405g / 14.3oz (0% dry)
  • 2 hours: 322g / 11.4oz (38% dry)
  • 4 hours: 261g / 9.2oz (67% dry)
  • 6 hours: 211g / 7.4oz (90% dry)
  • 7 hours 15 mins: 189g / 6.7oz (100% dry)

On the other hand, the cotton towel took 2 hours and 15 minutes to dry outdoors, and a whopping 27 hours to dry indoors.

Drying the REI Multi Towel Lite indoors and outdoors and the respective timings
Left column, top image: Cotton outdoors
Left column, bottom image: Cotton indoors
Right column, top image: REI Multi Towel Lite outdoors
Right column, bottom image: REI Multi Towel Lite indoors

Drying Test 2 (100mL)

This second drying test measures how long it’ll take for 100mL/3.4fl oz to dry off. This is to recreate a situation where you take a shower and dry off with the towel while camping, and also to conduct a more fair drying test (where all the towels that I test absorb the same amount of water – 100mL).

As the REI Lite’s original weight is 189 grams, adding 100mL (3.4fl oz) to it will bring its weight to 289 grams (or 10.2 ounces). When left outdoors, the REI Lite takes about 29 minutes to dry; when left indoors, it takes about 4 hours to dry.

Again, I weighed the REI Lite at certain time intervals to determine the percentage of drying:

Outdoors

  • 0 mins: 289g / 10.2oz (0% dry)
  • 10 mins: 253g / 8.9oz (36% dry)
  • 20 mins: 219g / 7.7oz (70% dry)
  • 29 mins: 189g / 6.7oz (100% dry)

Indoors

  • 0 hours: 289g / 10.2oz (0% dry)
  • 1 hour: 263g / 9.3oz (26% dry)
  • 2 hours: 233g / 8.2oz (56% dry)
  • 3 hours: 205g / 7.2oz (84% dry)
  • 4 hours: 189g / 6.7oz (100% dry)

In contrast, the cotton towel took 40 minutes to dry outdoors, and 7 hours to dry indoors (almost twice as long).

Drying the REI Multi Towel Lite indoors and outdoors and the respective timings
Left column, top image: Cotton outdoors
Left column, bottom image: Cotton indoors
Right column, top image: REI Multi Towel Lite outdoors
Right column, bottom image: REI Multi Towel Lite indoors

Odor Resistance

For the first odor resistance test, I went to the beach and soaked the REI Multi Towel Lite in seawater. After, I wringed out as much seawater as I could, and sealed the towel in a plastic bag for 4 days, or 96 hours.

After the 4 days, the REI Lite had a damp sea smell. While not the best, the sea smell wasn’t too unpleasant. I don’t think the REI Lite has any antibacterial treatment or odor resistance, so the results were a little surprising (in a good way).

For the second odor resistance test, I showered, and then toweled off with the REI Lite once, then sealed it in the plastic bag for 4 days, or 96 hours, as well. After the 4-day period, the REI Lite had a very faint smell. It didn’t smell musky or smell like body odor or anything, and it’s a little difficult to describe what the smell actually smelled like. Still, not too bad for being sealed into a bag for 4 days without drying at all.

REI Multi Towel Lite in a plastic bag.
Checking out the odor resistance of the REI Multi Towel Lite by sealing it in a plastic bag without drying.

Grass

For the grass and dirt test, I dragged the REI Multi Towel Lite along some grass and also stepped on it.

REI Multi Towel Lite on some grass.
Dragging the REI Multi Towel Lite along a stretch of grass.

After picking it up to check, I found out that the REI Lite picked up a few flakes of grass. They’re a bit hard to see so you’d either have to just trust me on this, or scroll into the YouTube video to find out.

Then, I shook the REI Lite to see whether the grass and dirt will come off. Surprisingly, some didn’t, and I had to manually take them out by hand.

I did the same to the cotton towel, which had quite a similar result.

For this test, I encourage you to watch the YouTube video to see it (there are chapters so you can scroll through without wasting your time), because it’s a bit hard to show this test through just pictures.

Sand

For the sand test, I covered the REI Multi Towel Lite with sand to see how much would stick. Basically, the same thing as the grass test above.

REI Multi Towel Lite on some sand at a beach.
Testing the REI Multi Towel Lite against some sand at a beach.

Some sand did stick to the REI Lite, though a few good shakes got rid of it. Sand also stuck to the cotton towel, but shaking it did the job as well.

Overall, both towels did pretty well.

Similar to the grass and dirt test, I think watching the YouTube video might be more useful.

Portability

The REI Multi Towel Lite weighs 189 grams, or 6.7 ounces, whereas a similar-sized cotton towel weighs 337 grams, or 11.9 ounces.

REI Multi Towel Lite on a weighing scale - 6.67 ounces.
Weighing the REI Multi Towel Lite – 6.67 ounces.

The REI Lite is also significantly more compact. Here’s what it looks like beside the cotton towel.

REI Multi Towel Lite beside a cotton towel for a size comparison.
REI Multi Towel Lite beside a cotton towel for a size comparison.

Both the REI Lite and its storage pouch come with hanging loops for easy carry and drying. Unfortunately, if you’re not tall like me (I’m about 5’3” or 160cm tall), the towel will drag on the ground if you hang it on your pack.

Quality and Comfort

The REI Multi Towel Lite is soft and smooth to the touch, it’s not stiff at all, and the Extra-Large is a good size for a shower towel. It sticks to your skin a little bit, so you might want to pat down instead of wiping.

As for quality, the stitching is consistent with no gaps, and the material is intact with no loose threads or fraying. After about 3 months of usage, the weight of the REI Lite was still the same, so no material was lost. The color also does not bleed when washed, even on the first wash.

Material of the REI Multi Towel Lite.
Material of the REI Multi Towel Lite.

The hanging loop is useful and secure, but the catch can be a bit stiff. As for the storage pouch, it’s strong yet lightweight at the same time, though I’d prefer zippers to the current Velcro opening.

Overall, the REI Lite has really good quality, and I think it held up well over the few months I used it. It’s quite a bit thinner than a cotton towel, so just something to keep in mind.

Pros and Cons

As for pros, the material is soft and smooth to the touch as well, and is pretty comfortable. I like how it felt against the skin, but it is quite a bit thinner than your regular cotton towel at home, so it may not feel comfortable for some people.

As for cons, it’s not the most absorbent camping towel in the market (it has an absorbency of 2.4x, which is one of the lowest of all my camping towels), and doesn’t wring out well either. It has a lower absorbency than my cotton towel, and was as difficult to wring out as well.

As for other aspects like drying time, odor resistance, dirt repellence, and portability, the REI Lite isn’t bad, but isn’t good at the same time. It’s just very average, when compared to other camping towels on the market. So, neither a pro nor a con for these.

Recommendation

Would I recommend the REI Multi Towel Lite?

The REI Multi Towel Lite in its storage pouch.
The REI Multi Towel Lite in its storage pouch.

Well, it’s a decent quality camping towel, and it beats a regular cotton towel in almost all aspects. Like it dries 30% faster, has better odor resistance, and it packs much smaller, amongst other things.

But the thing is, when compared to other camping towels, the REI Lite is much pretty much just average. There’s nothing outstanding about it. That’s just what I think.

At full price, I can’t say that I would recommend the REI Multi Towel Lite. However, it recently (or maybe not so recently) got discontinued so it’s on sale now for a pretty steep discount. For that price, I think the quality is superb and is worth considering. As of early June-2021, the REI Lite is still available, though I’m not sure how long it’ll be available for.

If you want to check out other camping towel options in the market, I do a complete review on the 10 Best Camping Towels out there, so you could consider check out this post: The 10 Best Camping Towels

I bought, tested and compared 10 of the best camping towels - PackTowl Personal, PackTowl Luxe, Sea to Summit DryLite, Sea to Summit Tek, Nomadix Original, REI Multi Towel, REI Multi Towel Lite, Matador NanoDry Shower, Wise Owl Towel, and the Rainleaf Towel.
I bought, tested and compared 10 of the best camping towels – PackTowl Personal, PackTowl Luxe, Sea to Summit DryLite, Sea to Summit Tek, Nomadix Original, REI Multi Towel, REI Multi Towel Lite, Matador NanoDry Shower, Wise Owl Towel, and the Rainleaf Towel.

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