A magic rabbit-from-a-hat-trick micro towel that comes in super-useful in a myriad of situations during lightweight adventures.
Incredibly light & quick drying
Easy to pack
Comes with a stuff sack
Made with mostly recycled material
Saturates relatively quickly
Easy to lose and can be blown away
No bacteria / odor control treatment
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Sea to Summit Airlite Towel: first impressions
The first thing that strikes you about the Sea to Summit Airlite Towel is the small pack size compared the other best camping towels we tested. Stashed away in its included stuff sack it fits easily in the palm of your hand – it’s about the size of a lemon, but weighs considerably less. Laser-cut edges (instead of over-locking hems) help keep the weight down.
• List price: $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
Sea to Summit are a great Australian brand, full of innovative ideas, and pulling this towel from its little bag is a little like one of those magic tricks where the material keeps coming for much further than you expect possible. Don’t get too excited – it’s no beach towel, and you won’t be wrapping it around yourself to get changed in a public place – but considering its packed dimensions, getting a one-meter long drying cloth is pretty impressive.
I tested the medium-sized iteration, but the Sea to Summit Airlite Towel is also available in Small (40cm x 80cm / 15.5in x 31in; 30g / 1oz; $9.95 / £10) and Large (60cm x 120cm / 23.5 x 47in; 67g / 2.4oz; $19.95 / £16).
Sea to Summit Airlite Towel: in the field
I initially tested test this tiny towel during a bikepacking escapade, but the ultra compact, multifunctional Airlite is perfect for all kinds of adventures when every ounce of weight and inch of storage space counts, from overnight camping trips when you just want to take a small pack to fastpacking trips and multi-day trail runs.
Obviously it is small, but in terms of functionality the Airlite comes in useful for everything from patting yourself dry after a wild dip, to washing your face and drying the dishes (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. It does reach saturation point pretty quickly when you’re drying yourself off (especially if you start with your hair – so bear that in mind), but you can also wring it out easily.
Once you’ve finished with it, hang it up and it will dry in no time. A popper on the towel attaches it to the nifty 15D Nylon stuff sack, which is very useful in keeping the two elements together (both are easily lost, especially in windy conditions), and also means you can easily hang it from tree branches.
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.
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Author of Caving, Canyoning, Coasteering…, a recently released book about all kinds of outdoor adventures around Britain, Pat has spent 20 years pursuing stories involving boots, bikes, boats, beers and bruises. 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 and Dorset, and once wrote a whole book about Toilets for Lonely Planet. Follow Pat’s escapades on Strava here and instagram here.