A trekking or travel towel is certainly one of the most essential items for any backpacker on the road (who is actually planning to shower). For readers from around the world, I have seen a few other names being used for travel towels – such as; ‘pack’ towel, ‘compact’ towel, ‘quick-dry’ towel and ‘fast dry’ towels. While a lot of places offer free towels or the option to rent one, there is still a good chance if you go on a long trip or are heading to some less-developed countries, you could find yourself stranded without a towel.
Before this trip, I had been the proud owner of two different options. The first one which is now long gone, was more of a spongy, highly synthetic material. Thicker and rolled into a hard plastic case, I don’t remember the exact brand, but have seen similar offerings in sporting goods stores for swimmers. My second was purchased from Kathmandu, of the thinner, more common microfiber style I see online and in stores. That is now also retired after many years of good service and my brother ‘borrowed’ it for a trip (about 10 trips ago). So it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try a new one. Most travel towels tend to have a limited life before they start to have that permanent sweaty/ damp smell that can’t be shaken anyway.
So with my usual gift for timing, I decided to wait until the day before leaving to shop around for a new pack towel. I wasn’t looking for just any towel either – I needed it to be;
- Large enough to actually resemble a towel
- Able to pack into a small bag or roll
What I found were towels that were either too small (e.g. 30 cm x 50 cm) or too expensive (in the range of $50-$65 AUD). So I said “Hey, whatever- I’ll grab one at the airport”.
Guess what? The only ones I saw were basically handkerchief size. Awesome.
On the road, I was lucky enough to be staying in places that had towels but still kept a lookout in Turkey and Italy. We were approaching the portion of our trip that had the highest chance of towel-less accommodation (Western China, Kyrgyzstan & Mongolia) and I really didn’t like my chances of finding compact travel towels in unfamiliar territory. As luck would have it, I happened to see a small shop selling camping equipment in Bishkek and lo & behold – they had a travel towels!
With only the “Blue Line” brand to choose from, I went ahead and bought the largest size, which turned out to cost around $15 AUD or so. The towel itself is 75cm x 150cm – about chest height for me which is ideal for a pack towel. Rolled up, it is compact- a bit longer than my hand and a little wider in diameter than a can of soft drink.
The texture is a bit strange – it feels a bit rubbery to the skin compared with microfiber, but does a really good job of absorbing water and you don’t have to scrub to get dry. It also dries in a matter of hours in a normal bathroom with no windows.
Washing has been easy by hand or machine- I will try and update after more heavy use how it is performing. If you are like me and want travel towel that still feels like a real towel – this is the ideal size. The only negative I can find on the Blue Line brand is that it still smells a little like rubber.