So you’re on the road and your luggage is loaded with spanking new travel gear. Now is the time to see if what you bought really works!
One of the items I least care to pack is a towel.
If I were only staying only at hotels, this may not be a concern. But if I’m backpacking and I’m staying at budget accommodations like hostels and guesthouses, then a towel is a necessity. Or is it? Should you get a travel towel or not? What kind of travel towel would work best?
Should you pack a travel towel?
Here’s four ways I revised my towel on the road:
#1. Micro-fiber travel towel
My first towel was an Eagle Creek Microfiber Travel Towel. I bought it in 2008.
Quick-drying, durable and antibacterial. These are three reasons that travelers, like myself, buy one of these babies. At 29×55 inches, it’s been long enough to act as a blanket or a beach towel. Although, it’s hardly ideal. Any “towel” will add bulk to your pack and microfiber towels are thick and hard to hand-wash. Not to mention, the chamois-feel may have your body feeling like a car! Nevertheless, it’s a solid towel and recommended as a decent “travel towel”. Store Cost: $24 (depending on size); Amazon (click on link above) offers it for around $11.
• Quick drying, durable for rugged conditions and antibacterial.
• Multi-use: use it as a blanket, beach towel and bath
• Thinner than a towel, but still thick and bulky to pack.
• Hard to hand wash.
• After a few years, it stops being antibacterial.
• The only time you’ll want to use it is when you travel.
• You get to feeling like an automobile, because you feel like you’re wiping yourself with a chamois.
#2. A microfiber travel towel (but reduced size).
After down-sizing my guidebook, my scissors-yielding should come as no surprise. Any additional weight and bulkiness eventually nags on me when I’m traveling. I chopped my towel down from its 29 x 55 ” size to a 22 x 40″ one.
Did the bulk change? Minutely, and my body still felt like a car!
• Smaller size and same benefits
• Same cons
#3. The Pashmina Shawl
Pashminas make the best backup towels and are my personal favorites!
In India, I picked up pashmina scarf in Kerala for $5. No crazy designs, just a neutral, all-purpose blue-grey. Between shielding myself in India’s dust-polluted traffic, visiting its Sikh and Muslim temples, where I was required to cover my hair and using it to cover my shoulders in conservative countries, it was a wise investment. There’s always a handful of uses for pashminas and they’re fashionable, long and light-weight.
As towels, they’re easy to hand-wash and can dry in under 3 hours (especially on a hot day). When I got to Malaysia, I ditched my microfiber towel for my Indian pashmina. Store Cost: $11 and up; but in Asia or the streets of New York City, you can get them for $5 and under.
• Fashion accessory with multiple uses.
• Especially useful in countries, where it’s hot but you can’t show shoulders (just throw it over your tank top or t-shirt)
• Face protection on hot, dusty or traffic polluted roads
• Useful for temples, where you need to cover up hair or legs.
• Warm & snuggly blanket wrap for cold places
• A perfect towel.
• Quick drying.
• If used as a towel, I’d have to wash it, before using it as a scarf. But as I said, it’s quick drying.
#4. The Sarong
Everyone in Bali wears a sarong! As part of Balinese customs and traditions, you’re not allowed to enter temples with bare legs. So I bought a sarong and kept it in my bag. Personally, I’d always wanted one for beachy occasions and for Southeast Asian heat, it was a perfect backup skirt!
I’d loved my pashmina, but the sarong was even thinner and lighter in fabric. So, in Cambodia, I traded in my pashmina for the sarong. I gave my shawl to one of the hotel workers in my hotel; she was more than happy to receive it. Cost: approximately $10 and up; or $5 and under in Southeast Asia
• Similar to a pashmina and works great as a towel.
• Can be lighter than a pashmina.
• Fabric can be thinner, thus dries a bit quicker.
• Designs can be a little crazy.
• Not practical as a fashion accessory that can be worn at any occasion.