Travel towels may bring to mind the image of a relaxed beach day or an alpine swim, but they go way beyond those outdoor adventures. Sure, choosing the best one for your needs might not be as straightforward as snagging an everyday option from your bathroom, but reusable makeup-removing towels, hair-drying towels, and even towels suitable for the sweatiest of workouts can be useful on the go.
Travelers looking for the perfect portable towel to keep everything from bacteria to sand out of their suitcase will find them on this list. Our favorite is the Everything Towel by Muslin Comfort for its increasingly soft feel over time, quick-drying capability, and lightweight packability. If this material isn’t for you, we’ve also highlighted linen, microfiber, and Turkish cotton picks, too.
Here are our favorite travel towels:
Muslin Comfort Everything Towel
Why We Love It: This small-yet-versatile pick comes in a range of colors and only gets softer with use.
What to Consider: This towel is preshrunk, but the actual size may vary due to its woven style.
The Muslin Comfort Everything Towel is our top pick overall for its combined qualities of both traditional and quick-drying travel towels. This light and breathable option is stylish yet small enough to easily pack away. The natural, hypoallergenic fibers quickly dry and effectively remove moisture like a full-sized towel should.
Each towel is Oeko-tex-certified (meaning it was made without the use of harmful chemicals) so it’s safe for you, and your babies and pets, too. Though this towel is not antimicrobial, it is machine washable and could even be washed by hand in the sink using mild detergent. Because this pick is preshrunk before it is shipped out, there is no need to worry about it shrinking in the dryer either. Lastly, this towel gets softer with every use and wash, so it will only feel cozier with time.
Price at time of publish: $25 each, $45 for 2-pack
Dimensions: 40 x 20 inches | Materials: Muslin cotton | Weight: Not listed
Sea to Summit Airlite Towel
Why We Love It: At less than three ounces, this bath towel packs down to a truly tiny size.
What to Consider: This ultralight towel can feel scratchy compared to other travel towels.
The Airlite Quick Dry Towel is one of the smallest and lightest options available in a bath towel size, folding down to 3.4 x 2.4 inches. While the material is not the most soothing, it does accomplish just what it is made to do. The microfiber cloth is highly absorbent and quick-drying. When not in use, it fits into an included stuff sack making it easy to take this minimalist, reusable towel anywhere you go.
Price at time of publish: $20 for large
Dimensions: 24 x 47 inches | Materials: Polyester microfiber | Weight: 2.4 ounces
Best for Hair:
Kitsch Microfiber Hair Towel
Why We Love It: This microfiber pick absorbs water faster than traditional towels, thus also drying hair faster at the same time.
What to Consider: Satin-wrapped versions might take longer to dry both hair and then the towel itself.
Kitsch products are popular with beauty lovers, and this Microfiber Hair Towel is no exception. The highly packable option can be used on all hair types and greatly reduces the time needed to dry hair as it quickly absorbs water.
Designed to twist at the front of the head, and to fasten using a button and elastic at the base, it’s possible to continue your routine while you wait for your hair to dry. But, while all towels have a microfiber lining, some feature satin exteriors which curly-haired people may prefer (though it may add a bit to the overall drying time).
Price at time of publish: $18
Dimensions: 8.1 x 6.8 inches | Materials: Microfiber | Weight: 4.97 ounces
Best for Makeup:
Makeup Eraser The Original MakeUp Eraser
Why We Love It: There’s no need to pack makeup remover when you’ve got this towel on hand — just add water.
What to Consider: Some types of makeup, such as waterproof mascara, might still require remover.
The double-sided Original MakeUp Eraser is another cult favorite. This face cloth is antibacterial and can be used up to five times between washes. Using only warm or hot water, it wipes away makeup and can even exfoliate the skin using the side with longer fibers. The cloth is made to last up to five years or around 1,000 wash cycles — long enough to pay for itself in disposable-makeup-wipe savings. Remember to make sure the cloth is fully wet and to test it out at home first to find out if your makeup will require a little remover along with water.
Price at time of publish: $20
Dimensions: 15.5 x 7.25 inches | Materials: Polyester | Weight: 1.6 ounces
Best for the Beach:
Nomadix Original Towel
Why We Love It: This do-it-all towel is sand- and pet-hair resistant.
What to Consider: The Original Towel is single-sided and can be slippery.
The Nomadix Original Towel can be used for so much more than a day at the beach; however, it is easily the best towel to tuck under your sunscreen and hat. This towel, made from roughly 30 plastic bottles, absorbs four times its weight in water and dries four times faster than cotton towels. While that is great for drying off after a dip, the sand-resistant quality of the Original Towel is wonderful when the time comes to shake off any evidence of a beach trip, and pack it back into a suitcase. Plus, added odor resistance means you don’t need to think twice about a smelly, damp towel tainting the other items in your bag.
Price at time of publish: $40
Dimensions: 72.5 x 30 inches | Materials: Recycled polyester | Weight: 16 ounces
Best Turkish Towel:
Olive and Linen Dots Turkish Terry Bath Towel
Why We Love It: This Turkish terry bath towel is opulently thick.
What to Consider: It doesn’t dry quickly and therefore may need to be packed damp.
Olive and Linen’s Turkish Terry bath towel is made in Turkey using 100% premium Turkish cotton. Free of chemicals and synthetic dyes, this one of the coziest options out there thanks to its extremely plush and soft texture. While perfect for those who love thick, heavier bath towels, this 26-ounce option does take up more room in suitcases than other more compact towels.
This pick is very absorbent and should, however, be hung or placed flat to dry which could take time. Ultimately, this towel might feel like a little piece of home while traveling, but it will likely come at a cost — namely, space, weight, and maybe even odor.
Price at time of publish: $55
Dimensions: 36 x 60 inches | Materials: Turkish cotton | Weight: 26 ounces
Slowtide Mind Waves Quick-dry Travel Towel
Why We Love It: It’s ultra-absorbent, quick-drying, and comes in plenty of styles.
What to Consider: Not all Slowtide towels are printed on two sides.
Slowtide Towels come in a staggering number of designs that fit any aesthetic. From music and beach themes to photography-based prints and abstract patterns, anyone looking to make a statement with their towel while traveling can count on Slowtide. Apart from appearances, these quick-drying towels are made with performance in mind as well. Not only are these some of the lightest towels available, but each one also includes a drawcord to help wring-out water.
Price at time of publish: $40
Dimensions: 30 x 60 inches | Materials: Recycled plastic water bottles, other post-consumer materials | Weight: 5.9 ounces
PackTowl Luxe Towel
Why We Love It: This antimicrobial towel has the absorbency benefits of microfiber with the feeling of traditional terry cotton.
What to Consider: It picks up other materials such as grass, sand, and leaves quite easily.
The PackTowl Luxe Towel is treated with a silver-ion solution made to fight bacteria that could cause odors (and much more) from developing after multiple uses. Said to reduce up to 99.1 percent of bacteria such as E. coli after 50 washes, this finish is also certified by the International Antimicrobial Council.
The microfiber fabric absorbs five times its weight in water and packs down into a protective stow bag that is roughly the size of a 32-ounce water bottle. Along with that considerable packing and drying efficiency, it is the texture of this machine-washable towel that makes it a soft-yet-durable option, whether you pick the beach or body sizes.
Price at time of publish: $33 for body, $50 for beach
Dimensions: 54 x 25 inches (body), 59 x 36 inches (beach) | Materials: Polyester, nylon | Weight: 10.4 ounces (body), 16 ounces (beach)
Cultiver Pure Linen Bath Towel
Why We Love It: This 100 percent European flax linen towel is Oeko-tex certified.
What to Consider: Expect extra lint during the first few wash cycles.
The Pure Linen Bath Towel from Cultiver is a simple but beautiful bath towel. Its Oeko-tex certification signals that this option is environmentally-friendly throughout its entire sourcing and manufacturing process. Those with sensitive skin will appreciate the softness of this linen pick as well as its ability to dry quickly. Plus, the lighter weight of this linen bath towel allows it to be easily folded and packed away without compromising any of the coziness of feeling at home.
Price at time of publish: $80
Dimensions: 28 x 55 inches | Materials: Flax | Weight: 16.2 ounces
REI Co-op Multi Towel Lite
Why We Love It: This towel is soft, but does not stick to wet skin as much as others.
What to Consider: Due to its length, the towel drags the floor when hung to dry from its loop.
The REI Co-op Multi Towel Lite comes in three sizes, but the large is a good bath towel size for most people. With an absorbency of up to eight times its weight and a promise to wring dry, this towel delivers. Though it is not the lightest weight option available, all have a textured quality that feels soft when toweling off. Each towel also includes a pouch that it can be packed into to minimize its size as well.
Price at time of publish: $16 for medium, $23 for large, $36 for extra-large
Dimensions: 29 x 16 inches (medium), 50 x 25 inches (large), 58 x 39 inches (extra-large) | Materials: Polyester, nylon microfiber | Weight: 2.3 ounces (medium), 6.5 ounces (large), 10.4 ounces (extra-large)
Eamecl Compressed Towel Tablets
Why We Love It: This option is low-cost and highly packable thanks to its compressed packaging.
What to Consider: Because these towels are ethically disposable, the towels are not made with the softest, most luxurious materials.
For those who do not tend to pack their own towel for most trips, then a simple, cost-effective towel that gets the job done is likely the best choice. Eamecl Compressed Towel Tablets are just right for trips that do not require a towel to be reused or packed to last several days. Each bath towel comes in a small 4-by-6-inch pouch that travelers can easily tuck into their suitcase without taking up too much space. Better yet, the biodegradable towels can be tossed before packing your bags to head home. The compact towels are an easy, convenient option available in packs of five.
Price at time of publish: $10 for pack of 5
Dimensions: 55 x 28 x 0.2 inches | Materials: Cotton | Weight: 4.8 ounces
Tips for Buying a Travel Towel
Like a favorite coat or sweater, towels can be bulky and take up more room in your suitcase or carry-on than anticipated. Unless you favor ultra-thick towels and are willing to allot more space to them, evaluate the size of your luggage and how much room you typically use when packing. With a clear idea in mind of how much space you have left to work with, you can more easily decide how small your travel towels should be. With a range of lightweight and compact options, there are plenty of towels to choose from for your travels.
Consider drying time
Another essential quality to factor in your decision is a towel’s drying time. Many towels that dry very quickly tend to be on the scratchy side. Those that are more luxurious to the touch usually take longer to dry. Understand what is most important to you and then seek out a towel that meets your expectations. Microfiber tends to be the best material for fast drying.
Look for odor resistance
Towels that are packed away wet can quickly develop a sour odor. If you anticipate needing to pack a damp or wet towel often, then consider looking for antimicrobial-treated towels. Many use a silver-ion solution to help fight bacteria that can cause odor.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I wash a travel towel?
Be sure to consult the laundering instructions accompanying any travel towel. Many are machine washable, but the recommended water temperature may vary. Most require cold water and mild detergent, but it is best to be sure before washing a towel for the first time. All travel towels can also be washed by hand, but, again, be mindful of the water temperature and detergent.
How do I dry a travel towel quickly?
Fewer towels are safe to place in the dryer, though some can be tumbled dry with low heat. Others need to hang or lie flat to dry. While you might feel brave enough to use your hair dryer from a distance to speed up the air-drying process, it is best to wring as much water out of the towel as possible and then allow it to dry on its own.
When are travel towels useful?
While some people might simply enjoy having a little piece of home wherever they go, travel towels can be key for more active or outdoor excursions. That could include a backpacking trip, yoga retreat, oceanside getaway, or any other time you want to have a towel outside of a hotel room. From showering off before heading in from the beach to bathing at a campsite, travel towels can be incredibly handy.
Why Trust Travel + Leisure
Travel + Leisure contributor Molly Harris researched dozens of travel towels and used her own personal experience as a travel writer to curate the perfect list of towels for jet setters.
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