* Prices may differ from that shown
----- Lightload Beach Towel - what is this? -----
When I lost my soft fibre towel on a recent trip abroad, I had to look for a replacement. I searched for a lightweight travel towel on Amazon website and found the Lightload Beach Towel - "the only beach towel that fits in your pocket". Unbelievably, this is true when you first see the product, although unfolded it measures 90cmx150cm. The towel is supposed to be designed mainly for backpackers with very limited amount of space and who want an ultra light towel (it weighs only 114 grams!) The manufacturer, an Australian company called Dyna-E International, markets this as the only beach towel that fits in your pocket and also a survival tool as it serves many other purposes: sarong, first aid supplement, fire starter, insulator, etc.
This all sounded too good to be true, but after reading the reviews and ratings (on Amazon it has 4.4 out of 5 stars) I decided to buy it (currently at £7.95). I also, just in case, ordered a soft fibre towel.
The towel arrived packed in a disc of 9.5cm diameter with not much packaging - just a little foil around it and a round label on top and bottom with information. The package was inside a transparent foil for additional protection against dirt and moisture. It is apparently waterproof packaging, so should stay dry and clean until you decide to use the product. The towels come in various colours, but unfortunately, you cannot choose the colour yourself and they are randomly allocated. My towel is orange and in the middle of it there's a design of several yellow, green and orange squares with the Lightload Towels company logo in the centre of the square design.
----- My experience -----
When the towel arrives, it is extremely squashed and stiff, shaped into a tiny round packet. The manufacturer advises to add water to the towel in order to unwrap it. Alternatively, you can just start wiping water off yourself, which will make the towel moist and softer. Then you can unfold it completely and dry yourself as normal. I tried doing the latter but the towel comes very compressed and it is extremely difficult to unfold it with just the moisture from the body. I think it took me about 5 minutes to completely unfold it and I had to use some force (although not too much as I was worried I would tear the towel). For that reason, if this is bought to be used in backpacking, I would recommend you use this at home first (or at least wet and unfold), as surely, you wouldn't want to spend your holiday time trying to unfold the towel. You could also dip it in water, let it soak a bit, then wring out and you're good to go.
After the initial little struggle with the product, I was positively surprised, as the towel it a proper beach towel size, has good thickness to it and is not at all transparent (I was afraid it would be), given the size and weight of it. The texture is slightly paper-like and porous. The design might not be the best in the world and also the towel is not exactly an even rectangle, but I don't think it is bad either.
I used it to dry my body and hair and must say that it is much more absorbent that a microfiber or a soft fibre towel. Apparently, it can soak up 10x as much moisture as a cotton towel. It is quite pleasant to use once slightly damp.
It dries very fast and once dry, it becomes stiff, a little bit like paper table cloth. Needless to say, after expanding the towel, you can never get it back to the original size, but it is still pretty small. Dry folded towel takes slightly less space than a soft fibre towel I own, but it beats the soft towel on weight. The towel feels strong and is re-usable.
The product is made of 100% viscose derived from plants. It is recommended to wash it by hand, but you can use a washing machine in delicates cycle too. I decided to wash mine in a washing machine at 30C, because I thought it would be more hygienic than hand washing. I wasn't sure how the towel would react to this treatment, but it seemed fine when I took it out of the machine. Unfortunately, the second time I washed it, I made a mistake of putting it into a tumble dryer at high heat with my other washing. After an hour, the towel came out fluffy and uneven, and I knew it wouldn't be the same again. It was my fault for drying it in a tumble dryer, although I knew it would dry at a room temperature within half an hour. I have ruined it!
I haven't thrown the towel away, because it is still usable, but the space it takes now is about the same as a large soft fibre towel. With the advantage that soft towel has now over my Lightload towel is that's got an antibacterial barrier and still holds its shape. Lightload towel after a tumble dryer treatment looks unsightly and I would be embarrassed to carry it with me in this state.
----- Other uses -----
Although I have only used this product as a towel, there are many other uses for it. Depending on the size of your towel, you could use it as: washcloth, fire starter, diaper, water/coffee filter, first aid supplement, face mask (to help with breathing rather than a beauty mask ), scarf or bandanna. The coloured square design on the towel can be used as a game board for chess. You can probably find several other uses for this product - these are just examples mentioned by the manufacturer. You can always cut a bigger towel into several pieces or buy various sizes.
The product I am reviewing here is a beach towel, but these are available in smaller sizes too - 30x30 cm or 30x60 cm and these smaller towels are sold as multipacks.
----- Recommended? -----
In spite of what happened to my towel, I would recommend this product to my friends. It has the benefit of being the size of a beach towel, but taking less space and weighing less. If you're backpacking or have limited space/weight allowance for any other reason, this is a great solution. Just make sure to wash it in low temperatures and never put it in a tumble dryer. It dries fast enough in open air and will have a longer lifetime. The towel is big enough to be used as a sarong and has many other uses, especially handy if you're going backpacking for a long time and need to limit the amount of stuff taken with you. The disadvantage of this towel is that it is not exceptionally pretty and is not antibacterial (unfortunately, you cannot wash it in high temperatures to kill bacteria). This product is great for campers, hikers, bikers and backpackers.
You can buy them here: http://www.ultralighttowels.com/ or on www.amazon.co.uk