Skip to main content

Best camping towels 2022: for keeping dry, keeping warm, and keeping your pack light

Collage of the best camping towels
(Image credit: Future)

How are the best camping towels like Swiss army knives? They’re both incredible multitaskers. If you’re a backpacker, wild camper, van lifer or international traveler, you will already be well aware that a good towel is an essential piece of kit to have handy at all times and not just for the obvious: drying yourself off after a shower or a wild swimming session, though they are undeniably great for that. These seemingly simple pieces of (usually) rectangular fabric have a multitude of more innovative applications too. 

They can double up as blankets, provide privacy when you’re getting changed, supply protection from hot sand and rough undergrowth when laid on the ground, and from the heat or wind when strategically strung up in a tree or some other structure.

Some designs can literally be worn for warmth as a robe or a sarong, and lightweight versions can be added to headwear to protect the back of the neck from the sun. Brightly colored towels can be used as flags in an emergency, and they even have applications in various first-aid scenarios (to apply a poultice, staunch a wound or, soaked with cool water, to sooth minor burns – see also: First aid kit: emergency supplies for the trail). Lastly, they can be employed as a weapon – deadly in the hands of an experienced towel flicker.

Having said all of that, towels can be bulky and heavy items, and a pain to fit into even the best hiking backpacks. You need to pair the right towel to whatever escapade you’re planning, thinking about the conditions you’re likely to encounter, the essential requirements for the adventure and the amount of weight you’re willing to carry.

Here we’ve tested out a range of the best camping towels, from ultra lightweight numbers to full body robes.

The best microfiber towels for camping and travel

Snugpak Head To Toe Towel

(Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

Snugpak Head To Toe Towel

A large, lightweight microfiber travel towel with antibacterial properties

Specifications

RRP: £24
Size (in use): 125cm x 120cm / 49in x 47in
Packed size: 24cm x 15cm x 8cm / 9.5in x 6in x 3in
Weight: 360g / 13oz
Material: Polyester (80%) & polyamide (20%) treated with antibacterial Silvadur
Colors: Olive / Coyote Tan

Reasons to buy

+
Large coverage area
+
Comes with storage bag 
+
Clip for hanging 
+
Antibacterial treatment

Reasons to avoid

-
Not overly absorbent
-
Relatively heavy

While it might not quite literally cover you from head to toe, this is a very generously proportioned travel towel that comes in very useful in a wide range of camping and outdoor scenarios, from lying on the beach or drying yourself off after a wild swim, to being worn sarong-style as you swish around the campsite.

The antibacterial properties in the fabric are a bonus, especially on longer trips with big gaps between laundry visits, helping to stop the buildup of bacteria and pong. The mixed material means it feels nicer and smoother against your skin than some of the more prickly fibrous towels, but it’s not quite as absorbent as they are. It does dry you off, though, and then dries out reasonably quickly itself, and the smooth finish means it won’t pick up grains of sand.

The corner attachment hoop (which opens with a clip) comes in handy if you want to hang this towel up from a branch or pole to create shade or cover, or simply to stop it dropping onto the floor.

The bag is great for keeping things neat and tidy in a pack or bag, and you have the option to keep it in a waterproof cover (to prevent it making other items damp) or just in the mesh bag if you want to air it a bit (for example, on the outside of your pack while you walk).

Best camping towels: Mountain Warehouse Micro Towelling Travel Towel

(Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

Mountain Warehouse Micro Towelling Travel Towel

Extremely absorbent, fast-drying, reasonably priced microfiber towel that delivers on its promises

Specifications

RRP: £13.99
Size (in use): 120cm x 60cm / 47in x 24in
Pack size: 20cm x 13cm / 8in x 5in
Weight: 300g / 11oz
Material: Polyester (80%), polyamide (20%)
Colors: Dark Purple / Navy

Reasons to buy

+
Highly absorbent 
+
Dries very quickly
+
Good price
+
Comes with bag

Reasons to avoid

-
Collects sand and grass
-
No recycled material
-
No antibacterial treatment

A classic no-frills microfiber towel that really is extremely absorbent (taking four times its own weight in water) and genuinely fast-drying (just as it promises to be), the Mountain Warehouse Micro Towelling Travel Towel is ideal for camping trips and travelling.

The material mix is soft, but can catch a bit on dry skin. There is no antibacterial treatment in the fabric either, so bacteria can build up over extended periods of time if you can’t get to a washing machine, which can result in the towel getting a bit stinky.

The medium size iteration of this very functional camping and travel towel is just about large enough to cover your modesty if you’re using it to get changed, but it’s also available in Large (£15.99; 130cm x 70cm; 350g; Navy / Dark Purple / Charcoal) and Giant (£17.99; 150cm x 85cm; 400g; Dark Purple / Khaki) versions.

The towelling finish does collect sand, especially if you lay on it when wet. A material hoop on one of the corners is ideal for hanging it up, and the mesh bag keeps it nicely contained in your pack.

Best camping towel: Decathlon Nabaiji Swimming Ultra-soft Microfibre Towel

(Image credit: Decathlon)

Decathlon Nabaiji Swimming Ultra-soft Microfibre Towel (large)

A super-soft, highly practical camping and travel towel available for a bargain price

Specifications

RRP: $15 (US) / £8.99 (UK)
Size (in use): 130cm x 80cm / 51in x 31in
Size (rolled up): 18cm x 16cm / 7in x 6in
Weight: 262g / 9oz
Material: Polyester (90%), polyamide (10%)
Colors: Petrol Blue / Orange

Reasons to buy

+
Great price
+
Extremely soft
+
Absorbent 
+
Big hanging loop
+
Light for its size

Reasons to avoid

-
No bag
-
Collects sand and grass
-
No recycled material
-
No antibacterial treatment 

This camping towel is super soft and very kind to your skin no matter how vigorous a drier you are. It takes in lots of water, and while it doesn’t dry quite as quickly as some others on test, the wait time isn’t too long.

There’s no bag included with this one, but you can wrap the large elasticized hanging loop around the rolled-up towel and that keeps everything nice and tidy. The same loop is ideal for securely hanging the towel from a tree (or whatever else you have nearby) while it dries in the wind.

The large version is easily long enough to wrap around your body while you get changed, and the color schemes and insignia are quite striking. For a budget item, this is a handsome towel (words we never thought we’d be writing). There is an XL alternative (175cm x 110cm / 69in x 43in; 476g / 16.5oz; Teal / Pink / Petrol Blue: £14.99).

The fluffy nature of this towel means it does pick up sand, dust and grass, so you need to wait until it’s fully dry and give it a very good shake. There’s no antibacterial treatment in the material, so regular washing is required to prevent it smelling.

The best eco-friendly camping towels

Best camping towels: Sea to Summit Drylite Towel

(Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

Sea to Summit Drylite Towel (XXL)

A large, lightweight, quick-drying and easy-to-pack travel and camping towel for all sorts of outdoor use

Specifications

RRP: $39.95 (US) / £35 (UK)
Size (in use): 85cm x 190cm / 33.5in x 70in
Packed size: 20cm x 20cm x 4cm / 8in x 8in x 1.5in
Weight: 495g / 17.5oz
Material: Recycled polyester (80%), nylon (20%)
Colors: Beach Blue & White (other colors available in smaller sizes)

Reasons to buy

+
Soft, smooth feel
+
Made with recycled plastic
+
Large & functional
+
Has a hang hoop with popper
+
Doesn’t collect sand
+
Dries very quickly
+
Comes with a storage bag

Reasons to avoid

-
Relatively heavy
-
Not as absorbent as some pack towels
-
No bacteria / odor control treatment
-
XXL size only available in one color

Made with suede-woven, 80% recycled fabric, this towel from Aussie backpacking and camping specialist brand Sea to Summit is at much at home on the beach as it is hung outside a campsite shower or waiting on riverbank to wrap a dripping wild swimmer in its soft embrace.

With a smooth ultra-suede finish, it is comfortable to lie on, doesn’t collect sand and is nonabrasive on your skin when you rub yourself down. But for our money it isn’t quite as absorbent as some of the more fibrous towels on the market.

Sea to Summit offer towels made with the same fabric in a range of other sizes, from small (40cm x 80cm / 16in x 32in; 62g / 2.2oz; $12.95) right up to this XXL version, which is impressively proportioned and easily large enough to wrap around your body and get changed under, or wear as a sarong.

For its size, this towel is pretty lightweight and very quick drying, and it comes with a carry bag that makes it easy to pack and carry whether you’re hiking a multiday trail or heading to the beach for the day. It also has a handy hoop with a popper, which is extremely useful when you want to hang the towel from a tree branch to dry or to create shade or shelter. It hasn’t been treated with any bacteria / odor control technology (so needs to be regularly washed and stored fully dry), but does come with a lifetime guarantee.

Best camping towels: Lifeventure SoftFibre Recycled Towels

(Image credit: Lifeventure)

Lifeventure SoftFibre Recycled Towels

A super-soft and smooth travel and camping towel, which is good-looking and large enough to wear as a sarong, and is made mostly from recycled plastic bottles

Specifications

RRP: £21.99 (UK) / €24.99 (EU)
Size (in use): 150cm x 90cm / 59in x 35in
Packed size: 20cm x 10cm x 5cm / 8in x 4in x 2in
Weight: 203g / 7oz
Material: Polyester (100%, 66% of which is recycled), treated with Polygiene permanent odor control
Colors: Wide range of vibrant patterns available

Reasons to buy

+
Light & very packable
+
Lovely soft feel
+
Made with recycled bottles
+
Treated with Polygiene for permanent bacteria / odor control
+
Doesn’t collect sand
+
Features a hang hook that doubles as a wrap-band
+
Comes in lots of colors & funky patterns

Reasons to avoid

-
Doesn’t seem as absorbent as claimed
-
No carry bag

Each of these beautifully soft camping and travel towels is made from 8.7 recycled plastic bottles, which are rescued from landfill and woven into the yarn, comprising 66% of the overall material used.

The patterns creatively splattered across these funky camping and travel towels by Lifeventure are as easy on the eye as the microfiber fabric is on your skin, and the dimensions are large enough for them to be worn as a wrap-around sarong when you’re wandering along the beach or chilling in the campsite.

The finish is smooth, which means these towels are ideal for laying down on beaches and other terrain, and they won’t collect sand or grit.

Treated with Polygiene, they boast permanent bacteria control, which will prevent the buildup of bad odors.

Lifeventure state this towel will soak up nine times its own weight in moisture – but on test we didn’t think it was anywhere near as absorbent as claimed. It does dry you off, of course, but not as fast and efficiently as some towels with a more fibrous finish. However, the smooth feel will more than compensate for this for many people.

There is no carry bag, but these towels do feature an elasticated hoop that’s handy for hanging them up to dry, and also wraps around the product to keep it neat and tidy in your backpack or drawer.

The best robes and wearable towels

Best camping towels: dryrobe Organic Cotton Towel

(Image credit: dryrobe)

dryrobe Organic Cotton Towel

The summer version of dryrobe’s famous Jedi-style drying garments, beloved by surfers, wild swimmers and many other outdoor pursuit enthusiasts

Specifications

RRP: $70 (US) / £50 (UK)
Size (large): 120cm x 85cm / 47in x 33in
Weight (large): 1,133g / 2lb 8oz
Material: 100% organic cotton
Colors: Navy / Royal Blue / Slate Gray / Pink / Red / Black

Reasons to buy

+
Very functional
+
Soft and comfortable
+
Supplies warmth without overheating wearer
+
Organic material used
+
Good looking

Reasons to avoid

-
Carry bag not included
-
No pockets
-
No antibacterial treatment 

In the past few years, the sight of people wandering around campsites, beaches, pools and outdoor events wearing a dryrobe has become commonplace. The robe-style wearable towel the company came up with has been much imitated, but never bettered.

The brand is based on the North Devon coast in South West Britain, and the products are designed by surfers and beloved, it seems, by everyone who enjoys getting wet in the outdoors, whether they’re wild swimmers, kayakers or board riders. In fact, it’s not unusual to see people sporting dryrobes for whole evenings around the campfire or at festival gatherings, because the warmth and protection they offer is so sumptuous it’s often tempting just to keep them on long after you’ve emerged from the water and dried off beneath the garment.

This version is the warmer-weather iteration of the robe. Made from soft-feel organic cotton, it quickly dries you off, and supplies plenty of privacy and space to jettison swimmers and put pants back on. Complete with a hood, it’s warm, without being uncomfortably hot, and the generous unisex, short-sleeve design allows for plenty of freedom of movement.

Our only criticism is that, considering how many people keep the robes on for long periods of time, a pocket or two would be handy.

Best camping towels: Lifeventure Lightweight Changing Robe

(Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

Lifeventure Lightweight Changing Robe

A thin travel towel in robe form, ideal for wild-swimming backpackers

Specifications

RRP: £39.99 (UK) / €24.99 (EU)
Size (in use): 109cm x 75cm / 43in x 30in
Packed size: 18cm x 30cm x 8cm / 7in x 12in x 3in
Weight: 555g / 20oz
Material: Polyester (85%), nylon (15%) with Polygiene permanent odor control
Colors: Charcoal gray

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight & packable (for a robe)
+
Treated with Polygiene for permanent bacteria / odor control
+
Comes with storage bag
+
Features a huge hand pocket
+
Good price

Reasons to avoid

-
Not especially absorbent
-
Only one size available
-
One color only

Robe-style wearable towels are increasingly popular with campers, wild swimmers and paddlers, but they can be very expensive and extremely bulky and heavy.

Not so this lightweight number from specialist travel and outdoor brand Lifeventure, which has taken the microfiber fabric you typically see used in backpacking towels and shaped it into a changing robe. While it can soak up its own weight in water, and therefore will dry you off to some extent, absorbency isn’t really this robe’s main selling point – rather it’s a light, easy-to-carry robe for getting changed under and wearing as a bit of protection against sea breezes post swim or after a camp shower.

It features a hood, and the arms are three-quarter length to allow for full freedom of movement and leave your hands unencumbered. The enormous passage pocket passes right through the robe, so you can bury both hands deep in the garment if they’re getting cold. You can also put goggles and other items in it, but be careful if carrying anything vital (like a phone, wallet / purse or car keys), because it’s not a deep pocket, and things can fall out.

Treated with Polygiene, the garment has permanent protection against the buildup of bacteria, which means it shouldn’t smell bad even after repeated use, so long as you store it dry (and it dries out quickly). It comes with a carry bag, making it easy to pack, but is only available in one, fairly dowdy, color.

Best camping towels: dryrobe dryrap Hands Free Towel

(Image credit: dryrobe)

dryrobe dryrap Hands Free Towel

A wrap-around towel that stays securely in place for getting changed or wearing like a kilt

Specifications

RRP: $30 (US) / £20 (UK)
Size: 140cm x 115cm x 80cm / 55in x 45in x 31in (fits up to 46in waist)
Weight: 517g / 1lb 2oz
Material: Organic cotton (100%)
Colors: Black / Gray / Navy / Royal Blue / Red

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent for getting changed
+
Absorbent 
+
Made with organic cotton
+
One size fits all

Reasons to avoid

-
Relatively heavy and bulky
-
Takes longer to dry than microfiber towels
-
Collects sand
-
No carry bag included

We’ve all been there – stumbling around in a public place with a towel loosely wrapped around your waist, trying to change into or out of swimmers, with the threat of accidentally flashing everyone around you a constant worry.

The addition of an elasticated band at the top of the towel and a strip of Velcro means this simple but innovative product from dryrobe instantly makes this predicament a problem of the past. Made with organic cotton and highly absorbent, this one-size towel will stretch around and stay in place on waists of up to 117cm / 46in, which makes getting changed or walking back from the campsite shower a less fretful experience.

You can leave the towel securely in place and wear it kilt-style, with or without a top, leaving your hands free to grab bags, paddles, wash bags and other gear, or to enjoy an ice cream, beach beer or picnic. And when you want to peel it off there’s a fabric pull hoop, which also comes in handy for hanging the towel up to dry.

It won’t dry as quickly as a microfiber towel, and it’s much heavier, but for car camping trips it’s ideal. It is large enough to lay on the beach for sunbathing, but will pick up sand and grit so you’ll need to give it a good shake once it’s dry.

The best ultralight towels for backpacking

Best camping towels: Sea to Summit Airlite Towel

(Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

Sea to Summit Airlite Towel (medium)

A super-light, multifunctional, tiny towel for fast-paced foot adventures and bikepacking escapades

Specifications

RRP: $15 (US) / £12 (UK)
Size (in use): 100cm x 50cm / 40in x 20in
Packed size: 10cm x 6cm / 4in x 2.5in
Weight: 47g / 1.7oz
Material: Recycled polyester (85%), nylon (15%)
Colors: Sage Green / Moonlight Blue / Baltic Blue / Outback Orange / Desert Brown

Reasons to buy

+
Incredibly light & quick drying
+
Easy to pack
+
Comes with a stuff sack
+
Made with mostly recycled material

Reasons to avoid

-
Small (obviously…)
-
Easy to lose & can be blown away
-
No bacteria / odor control treatment

For adventures where every ounce of weight and inch of storage space counts, the ultra-compact, multifunctional Airlite is perfect.

Sea to Summit do use the term towel for this incredibly light product, but you could equally call it a face cloth or flannel. In terms of functionality, it comes in useful for everything from patting yourself dry after a wild dip, to washing your face and drying the dishes (when lightweight backpacking or bikepacking, it helps if you’re not overly precious about these things, but it’s very easy to give this quick-drying reusable towelette a really good rinse in between its various uses).

The fabric is 85% recycled, which is excellent, and while it isn’t as absorbent as some microfiber towels made with fluffier materials, it does the job it’s designed for admirably (Sea to Summit state it soaks up three times its weight in water, but then it weighs next to nothing when dry).

Laser-cut edges (instead of over-locking hems) reduce the weight even more. A popper on the towel attaches it to the nifty 15D nylon stuff sack, which is very useful for keeping the two elements together (both are easily lost, especially in windy conditions). The stuff sack has a pull cord and external attachment loop, and it’s color-matched to the corresponding towel. The brighter-colored towels make good emergency flags should you ever need one.

The Airlite is also available in a Small (40cm x 80cm / 15.5in x 31in; 30g/1oz; $9.95 / £10) and Large (60cm x 120cm / 23.5in x 47in; 67g / 2.4oz; $19.95 / £16).

Best camping towels: Craghoppers Compact Travel Towel

(Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

Craghoppers Compact Travel Towel

A mega-mini micro towel with multi-use capability, for the most lightweight adventures

Specifications

RRP: £10 (UK)
Size (in use): 58cm x 64cm / 23in x 25in
Packed size: 10cm x 8cm / 4in x 3in
Weight: 50g / 1.8oz
Material: Polyester (85%), polymide (15%) with anti-bacterial treatment
Colors: Orange

Reasons to buy

+
Incredibly lightweight and packable
+
Soft, absorbent and quick drying
+
Handy carry pouch
+
Anti-bacterial properties
+
Hang loop with popper

Reasons to avoid

-
Tiny (obviously…)
-
No recycled content 
-
Easy to lose pouch / towel

Virtually small enough to have come out of a Christmas cracker, this ultralight travel towel is nevertheless no gimmick – it has a multitude of functions, from the alfresco bathroom (face flannel, micro-drying towel) to the outdoor kitchen (dish washing or drying-up cloth).

You’re not going to get changed behind it without shocking everyone else in the campsite, but it’s reasonably absorbent and you can pat yourself dry after a wild swim when out on the trails, or when you emerge from the bucket shower (other types of camping shower are available).

The fabric has anti-bacterial properties, which will prevent the buildup of bad smells, and it is extremely fast drying, so you can wash it out in between using it for different purposes. It has a little hang loop in one corner, with a popper so you can wrap it around a tree branch or tent pole without worrying about the towel blowing away in the wind. It also comes complete with a little mesh storage bag with a karabiner that can be clipped to a backpack or belt.

How we tested the best camping towels

Each of these towels has been tested in a wide variety of outdoor scenarios, from campsites to riverbanks and beaches, and we have taken them on the road for short and long trips, ranging from lightweight bikepacking and backpacking adventures to car camping trips and international travel.

What to look for when buying the best camping towel

As this roundup demonstrates, there is a huge selection of towels available for outdoor enthusiasts, from wild swimmers, surfers and paddlers to backpackers, car campers and adventure travelers. What exactly constitutes the best camping towel for you will depend on the escapades you have planned and the outdoor pursuits you enjoy, but considering the following factors will help you make an informed choice.

dryrobe Organic Cotton Towel

The dryrobe Organic Cotton Towel first became popular with surfers (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

Size and weight

If you’re a wild swimmer, a beach camper or year-round canoe or kayak paddler, you will likely appreciate a more generously proportioned towel that you can use to get changed behind, and which will offer a decent amount of warmth when you emerge from the water. A robe of some sort might be the best choice here.

If, however, you’re more likely to set off on a multiday hike or bikepacking trip, then a much lighter, smaller microfiber towel will serve you better. The further you want to go, and the lighter you want to travel, the smaller and thinner you’ll want your towels to be. You can go right down to the ultralight ranges, where products are the size of a face flannel and weigh mere grams but can still be employed for a range of uses.

Craghoppers Compact Travel Towel

The Craghoppers Compact Travel Towel looks like it could have come out of a Christmas cracker, it’s so small when it’s packed up (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

Materials

Classic cotton towels are extremely absorbent and can be luxuriously soft, but they are bulky and heavy, and take a long time to dry. For surfers, swimmers and car campers, who don’t care about weight, they can still be a good option, and robes can be perfect, with some people continuing to wear them long after they’ve dried off and warmed up.

Lighter microfiber towels are often made from a mix of poly materials, which weigh less to begin with and dry much quicker. The best microfiber pack towels typically either have a smooth, suede-style feel, or a more fibrous finish. There are pros and cons to both: the smoother towels aren’t quite as absorbent but feel nicer on your skin and don’t collect grains of sand and grit, so they’re great for beach activities; the rougher-textured fibrous towels are excellent for drying off, but can feel horrible on dry skin, and they pick up all sorts of grit and sand.

Manufacturers are increasingly using recycled waste as raw materials, which is lovely to see. Some of the best microfiber towels boast an antibacterial treatment, which prevents the buildup of bacteria and bad smells.

Style

Wearable camping towels, especially robes, have become very popular in recent years and you’ll see them in most campsites, on beaches and at events. There are a lot of benefits in having a towel that dries you off while you wear it, which keeps you warm to a greater or lesser degree (depending on the style and the materials used), allows you to get changed in privacy, and which leaves your hands free to carry stuff or do things.

Large microfiber towels are excellent for laying on the beach, getting changed behind or hanging up to provide wind or sun shelter, and ultralight towels can be used for a multitude of functions from patting yourself dry to dealing with dishes.

Lifeventure Lightweight Changing Robe

A stuff sack, like the one that comes with the Lifeventure Lightweight Changing Robe, is always a handy extra (Image credit: Lifeventure)

Additional features

The best pack towels often come with a carry bag, which can prove very useful for keeping things neat and tidy on the trail, hanging the towel from a pack if it’s wet or protecting other things in your bag from getting damp. A hoop or loop attached to the towel is also very useful when you want to hang it from a tree or tent to dry without the risk it may blow away. And if this hoop has a popper so you can open it, that’s even better, because it can then be attached to branches or poles where you can’t reach the top. Brightly colored towels can be used to signal for help.

Writer, editor and enthusiast of anything involving boots, bikes, boats, beers and bruises, Pat has spent 20 years pursuing adventure stories. En route he’s canoed Canada’s Yukon River, climbed Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro, skied and mountain biked through the Norwegian Alps, run an ultra across the roof of Mauritius, and set short-lived records for trail-running Australia’s highest peaks and New Zealand’s Great Walks. He’s authored walking guides to Devon (opens in new tab) and Dorset (opens in new tab), and once wrote a whole book about Toilets (opens in new tab) for Lonely Planet. Follow Pat’s escapades here (opens in new tab).