Camping Towels 101: How to Choose the Right One

Camping Towels: A neatly hung camping towel at a campsite next to a tent

In this post, we'll take a look at:

If you’re into ultralight backpacking, you know every ounce matters. But consider adding a camping towel—it’s a lightweight and versatile luxury that keeps you dry and has many other uses.

In this post, we’ll delve into the realm of ultralight camping towels and guide you on choosing the perfect one for your needs.

Let’s get started.

Key Takeaways

  • Go for microfiber material – it’s lightweight, quick-drying, highly absorbent and packs down small compared to other fabrics like cotton or bamboo.
  • Consider towel size based on your needs – smaller sizes under 16×32 inches are most compact, while medium around 20×40 inches provides better coverage. Larger sizes are versatile but heavier.
  • Look for qualities like low weight, good absorption (higher GSM), fast drying time, softness, and bright colors that can aid visibility in emergencies.

Types of Camping Towels

Before picking the right camping towel, know that there are four types based on their materials that can greatly affect your experience:

  • Microfiber Towels: Soft, lightweight, and highly durable. They dry quickly, are super absorbent, and excel at soaking up water. Additionally, they are very breathable.
  • Bamboo Towels: Soft, eco-friendly, and dry relatively quickly. However, they are often more expensive and come in plain colors.
  • Linen Towels: Odor-resistant and soft, but they may not be the best at absorbing water due to their thin fibers. They do dry quickly, though.
  • Cotton Towels: These are comfy but have drawbacks. They dry slowly, making them less than ideal for backpacking. They can also develop a bad odor quickly, especially when damp.

From an ultralight perspective, when backpacking, it’s wise to opt for the microfiber option as it’s noticeably lighter than other materials. While you can choose more eco-conscious options, be mindful that they may weigh you down.

How to Choose the Right Camping Towel

Now that we’ve established that microfiber is likely the best choice, consider the size you’re comfortable with:

  • Small Towels (under 16”x32” or 40cm x 80cm): These are like the MVPs of compactness. They might be tiny, but they can absorb water surprisingly well. So, they might be the choice for you if you have minimalistic needs and use them for drying only parts of your body.
  • Medium Towels (around 20”x40” or 50cm x 100cm): This is our favorite size because it’s large enough for a full-body shower yet compact enough to fit easily into your pack. However, as basic males, we aren’t the pickiest people on the planet.
  • Large Towels (around 24”x48” or 60cm x 120cm): Think of these as the all-rounders. They can do everything the smaller ones can, and they’re also great for laying out by the lake, wrapping around yourself after a swim, or changing into fresh clothes. Consider this larger size if you use a pillow sack instead of a regular pillow that needs to be filled.

Keep in mind that the weight difference between different microfiber towel sizes is considerable. High-end smaller microfiber options are around 1 oz (30g), while the larger ones are 2.3 oz (66g).

Now let’s examine the key qualities that make up a good towel:

  1. Lightweight and Compact: Look for one that is the lightest in your pack and packs down the smallest. Even among microfiber fabrics, there are differences. The lightest and smallest microfiber option that we know of is the Sea to Summit’s Airlite Towel.
  2. Quick Drying: Top-notch camping towels are quick to dry, allowing you to use them again in no time. Quality microfiber towels are known to dry in about one hour if spread out in a shady environment, or in as little as 5 to 10 minutes if exposed to the sun.
  3. High Absorbency: A camping towel’s main role is to keep you dry, and its absorption is indicated by the “gram per square meter” or “GSM” value. Higher GSM towels are heavier, so when choosing, it’s a trade-off between absorbency and weight. Consider your priorities accordingly.
  4. Soft and Comfortable: Camping doesn’t have to mean sacrificing comfort. Opt for a towel that’s gentle on your skin, not one that feels like sandpaper. While finding towels that excel in this area can be challenging, relying on reviews can be a helpful guide.
  5. Color: If possible, choose a brighter color for your camping towel. Why? In emergencies, standing out with bright colors can significantly aid rescue missions by distinguishing you from the natural surroundings.

The Many Ways You Can Use Camping Towels

Camping Towels: A female hiker using a camping towel to clean up condensation in her tent in the morning

Camping towels are like Swiss Army knives when it comes to outdoor gear – they have more uses than you might think. Let’s explore some of the versatile ways you can make the most of your camping towel:

  • Wiping Down the Tent: In the great outdoors, mornings often bring dew or condensation to your tent. Use your camping towel to wipe it down, ensuring a dry and comfy start to your day.
  • Emergency First Aid: In unexpected situations, a camping towel can serve as a makeshift bandage, sling, or tourniquet. It’s a valuable addition to your first-aid kit, offering versatile solutions in emergencies.
  • Shade or Sun Protection: On hot, sunny days, your camping towel can be fashioned into a makeshift hat, headband, or neck gaiter to provide some relief from the sun’s rays.
  • Pillow Filler: A camping towel is a good option if you use a pillow sack instead of a regular pillow that needs to be filled. Just make sure to dry it before using.

So, when you pack your camping towel, remember that it’s not just for drying – it’s for enhancing your outdoor experience in countless ways.


When you’re out hiking and backpacking, maintaining cleanliness and comfort can be challenging.

That’s where camping towels come in as versatile companions, serving not just for drying off but for elevating your entire outdoor experience.

As you’ve discovered, it’s one of the handiest and most versatile pieces of gear you can have, so make sure to bring one along.


Should I bring towel hiking?

Absolutely! Bringing a towel while hiking is a smart choice. A compact and quick-drying camping towel can be a versatile tool during your hike. It helps you stay dry, wipe away sweat, and can even serve as a first-aid or emergency item.

Are microfibre towels worth it for hiking?

Microfiber towels are a top choice for hiking due to their lightweight, quick-drying nature. Unlike traditional cotton towels, microfiber towels are compact and won’t weigh down your backpack. They absorb moisture effectively, helping you stay dry on the trail, and their rapid drying time ensures they’re ready for reuse in no time. While other options may be bulkier and slower to dry, microfiber towels are the practical and space-saving choice for hikers.

Spread the word →

Why you should trust us

At Hikinglite, we're all about helping you hit the trails with lightweight and ultralight outdoor gear that won't weigh you down. Our crew of content creators? Real outdoor enthusiasts who've logged countless miles on the trails.

Leading the pack is our editor-in-chief, Alex Jardine – an ultralight evangelist who's hiked over 10,000 trail miles across the globe. He's basically a walking outdoor encyclopedia. This dude loves testing out the latest and greatest products, so you can trust his recommendations are always well-informed and reliable.

We treat all our suggestions like advice from close trail buddies. No fluff, just real insights from folks who live and breathe the outdoor life.

Have any questions?

More Insights

Suscribe to Our Newsletter

Stay smartly informed with our weekly newsletter

Follow us

hikinglite logo white
© 2024 Hikinglite - All rights reserved

Subscribe to our newsletter

Subscribe now to stay ahead of the pack with the most up-to-date outdoor content.