* Prices may differ from that shown
When you want to travel lite and are constantly on the move on a trekking holiday or something similar you want to find as many items that help to reduce the weight as possible and a towel is one of those things as you not only want something that weighs a little and will dry fast but it still has to get the job done when it comes to drying yourself off and this is where a microfiber towel comes into its own. Now there is no way this sort of towel can compare with a luxurious bath towel but then it is not practical to carry one of these when trekking or camping so sometimes you have to compromise and what you do get with a microfiber towel is something that really packs down without the need for a compression bag and works well enough as a functional towel.
These come in a range of sizes and I picked up an extra large one in a turquoise colour for only £9.99 when in an outdoors shop down in Plymouth, normally these can retail at closer to the £20 mark. The other colour available is the purple one shown in the Dooyoo picture. In terms of dimensions it is 150cm by 85cm. It comes in its own carry pouch which has a part mesh part solid structure which allows the towel to dry even while stored in the pouch wet. What is amazing is how much the towel seems to expand as you unfold it however it is also really easy to stuff back into the bag after use, ideally when dry but you can store it wet if you are hiking and it will dry while in the bag.
These towels are fast drying however there is a slight downside to them in the fact that certainly when you first start to use them you feel like you are using a giant shammy leather on your body and at first I did not feel like I was actually getting dry however after a couple of uses I actually found the performance to improve quite considerably and I was able to dry myself just as quickly as if I was using a regular towel.
If they do begin to wiff a bit they can be washed in normal travel shampoo and wash if needed and again the fact that they dry quickly is a real benefit when they are initially soaked through after a quick wash. If cared for they will last a long time and as they pack down to such a small size they will not take up much space in your bag which is a real bonus.
One of the most important things to have when travelling is a towel. If you are only taking oner then it needs to be good quality and also rather space spacing. I took a couple of travel towels with me because I did not think one would be sufficient. Before travelling I visited my Springfield Camping supplies, they stocked all the sizes of the Mountain Warehouse towel; the mega, giant and large. I chose the smallest of the set, which measures 130 cm x 75 cm.
The towel I bought came in a choice of blue or purple colour; of which I chose the blue. The material of the towel is micro fibre. Now this is definitely the material of choice for travel towels and it is favoured because of its ability to i) dry quicker than normal materials, ii) soak up more water than other materials and iii) because of its ability to compress the fibres into small compact spaces.
The towel is thicker compared with other travelling towels I have and the fibres are really soft against my skin.
This towel claims to be treated fibre technology making it anti-bacterial. It is supposed to prevent odours. I still experienced my towel smelling foisty at times so do not think that this is a cure to never washing the towel again!
The towel can be stored and comes in a little mesh zippable pouch. This pouch keeps the towel small in your bag and also the mesh lets it breath.
The pack size is 20cm by 25 cm by 5 cm thick. It is a bit of a squeeze getting the towel in the bag but this is the case for all travel towels. This pack is alot fatter than other travel towels, mainly because the towel is a lot thicker and feels better quality. Whether this is an advantage though is another matter because the extra size of the pack and the extra weight is a bit of an inconvenience.
Pleasingly the towel is really absorbent and it soaks up quite a lot of moisture. Due to its thickness it can hold a lot of water and it makes it much more comfortable and easier to dry body parts.
It is also fairly quick to dry out again afterwards. I always like to make sure the towel is fully dried before stuffing back in the bag.
This towel lasted for the duration of my travels and I was able to bring it back home. The towel is in great shape and after a good decent wash at home, it looked like new. I was fairly impressed with this and the £10.50 I paid for it was well and truly justified. Sometimes it is worth spending a bit more on a product if it is better quality.
~In praise of towels~
One of life's simple joys is a good towel. Stepping out of the bath and wrapping yourself in a massive bath sheet made of Egyptian cotton is wonderful but when you go travelling, you have to make compromises. The big fluffy towel that's such a pleasure at home is a total nightmare when it's filling your bag, refusing to dry properly and - after a relatively short time if you aren't careful - making everything you have in the bag smell slightly of feet. And at the end of your trip when you've bought so much more than you intended, there's no space in your bag and the weight limit is looking like a challenge, that poor much loved towel is smelly, grubby and looking like a prime candidate for getting left behind in your hotel room. You may have packed your nicest looking towel and got up every morning to stake your claim on the sunbeds in a battle with the Germans, but by the end of your holiday you'll be wondering if you really should have lugged several kilos of bulky cotton all the way to wherever you've been.
If the number of market stalls in holiday resorts selling towels is anything to go by, a lot of people are of the 'I'll buy it when I get there and throw it away after' approach to towels. Trouble is that there are few things less absorbent than a brand new towel. They coat them in chemicals to make them look so soft and bulky in the shops. If you use a new towel before it's been through the washing machine, it's about as effective of rubbing yourself with a carrier bag.
~Do you need one? Really?~
Not everyone needs a travel towel of course. If you are going to a big swanky hotel where you know that they'll provide you with more fresh towels every day than you could ever possibly get through, you can just forget the need for a travel towel. But if you are going somewhere less up-market where they may not give you enough towels or may not change them very often or if you've got long hair and need and extra towels to get it dry you'll maybe want to consider investing in a travel towel. And if you like to travel to rougher places where you can't be sure of even getting a towel, then this should be top of your pre-holiday shopping list.
I bought my first travel towel in 1995 when such things were still quite rare. It spent a month camping and hanging out on a truck in Africa and has since been all over the place with me, never looking any the worse the wear. The problem is that in the 16 years that I've had it, everyone else has caught on to the need to have one of these and mine was one of the very typical mid-blue ones that are sold in just about every camping and outdoor shop in the civilised world. When I found myself on a dive-boat in Egypt trying to work out WHICH of the dozen or so almost identical blue towels was mine, I realised I needed something different - something that would be easier to find when it's hanging out with its peers.
~ I know where my towel is~
The Mountain Warehouse microfibre towel comes in two nifty shades - turquoise and purple. Since the turquoise is too similar to the myriad blue ones I've already complained about, I went bold and bought two purple ones (one each for me and hubby) in the slightly misleading 'Giant' size. You'd think that giant would be the biggest wouldn't you? But no, giant is a mere 135 cm by 75 cm which I call pretty small really based on my weakness for whopping great bath sheets. There's a bigger one - that's called 'mega' - and it's 150 cm by 85 cm. Since I paid less than a tenner for each and since the towel was intended as a back up to our other Lifesystems towels, it wasn't too important that it was a bit smaller. However if you're about to set off round the world with only what you can carry and will be staying in sleazy hostels and places where you may have to use shared shower facilities and go running down the corridors wrapped only in a towel, then buy the biggest you can find and can afford (or risk attracting unwanted attention).
Mountain Warehouse's stats claim that their microfibre towels are just 1/6th th the weight of a standard towel, dry 4 times quicker and take up just 1/8th of the space. I have no reason to disagree with those claims though I've not carried out any scientific tests to prove them. Left hanging over a chair in a hotel room it'll be dry (enough) by morning or draped over a tent on a sunny day, it'll be ready to go again in under an hour.
~ Micro Towelling beats regular Microfibre ~
We have the 'Micro Towelling Travel Towel Giant' which is slightly different form the other Mountain Warehouse travel towels and to the usual blue ones. What makes my purple Mountain Warehouse towel so different from the Lifesystems ones and most of the other microfibre towels is that the fabric has a 'looped' fibre effect, similar to a regular home-use towel. This so called 'soft towelling finish' is much rarer than the normal flat fabric towels and I've found it a lot easier to use. With the flat unwoven microfibre towels you need to adopt a sort of 'dabbing' method to get yourself dry. Simply holding the towel and giving a good rub doesn't work very well and can be quite time consuming. The looped texture of this type means you can get closer to the normal rubbing action of a towel whilst retaining all the benefits of quick drying and light weight.
The towel also comes in a rather nifty little stuff sack which always seems to go into hiding the moment you take the towel out of it only to reappear when you return home and really turn out all the gunk at the bottom of your bag. The great thing is that there's no compression needed to get it into the bag because the towel is just as small whether your pack it up or not. I've just popped it on my kitchen scales and can confirm that it weighs just 275g.
~ Easy Care ~
If you should find that your towel gets grubby or smelly, it's easy to wash it with travel wash (or if you don't have any shampoo or shower gel will do). From soaking wet in the sink to dry enough to use will only take a short time and if you are somewhere warm and sunny, it'll soon be raring to go again, or will generally be OK if left hanging in a hotel bathroom over night.
The Mountain Warehouse site currently has my model on sale at just £7.99 instead of the usual price of £19.99. At that price I'd say buy a couple - I'm absolutely sure you won't regret the investment. And most likely you'll still be using them for decades to come.