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They are bulky, they are thick, and they are large. “They” are towels.

Buy a towel in the city you’re visiting

This is a lovely way to manage the towel dilemma for those who are traveling to a destination that is likely to sell towels (aka: most places). Purchasing your towel abroad allows you to support the local economy,  while avoiding the worry of how to pack your towel and maybe even get one with the city/country’s name on it as a pragmatic keepsake. My grandparents purchased towels in the Galapagos (Ecuador) in 1989 and the entire family still uses them as we lounge by their pool today!

The Towel Dilemma - Fitting Your Towel in Your Travel Backpack

By Chelsea Sauvé   |  June 28th, 2019

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The essential feature of any shower, bath, or swim, towels are a must have. They are the welcoming layer to wrap yourself within as you leave the soft drizzle of a shower head or the cold drizzle of a waterfall (side note: if you are the person who just showered in a waterfall then (a) I hope you used eco-friendly shampoo and (b) you are the envy of everyone reading this blog post).

But despite their necessity, towels are also a challenge to pack in a travel backpack that has to house the rest of your belongings for your adventure - from shoes to shorts to sunscreen, it must all fit in your 50L closet on your back. And so often times a bulky towel will not make the cut when packing.

So what are some alternatives to a traditional towel that won't be a burden on your travels?

Thirsty for more? Check out our previous blog post on what does it mean to skinny dip.

Purchase and pack a Turkish towel before you leave

Turkish towels are made from the light magic of Turkish cotton that happens to dry very quickly. These towels are light, thin, sleek, and pretty much everything a traditional towel is not. This travel alternative to a chunky towel also happens to be quite cute, with an adorable fringe, and large enough to practically cover your entire body! I purchased my first Turkish towel on Hornby Island in British Columbia’s Gulf Islands (plug for Canadian pride), and I love it. Not only because it is from one of my favourite places, but because it is remarkably practical. While not cheap, Turkish towels are durable and should last you for your some time. Check out Lualoha and Chic Towels - Amazon also has quite an assortment (and reasonably priced)!

Bring a sarong (or two) - it will be the most versatile piece you pack

A sarong is my go-to alternative to a towel.  They are practical, light, easy to pack, multi-purpose, and purchasing them supports the local economy. I must have 6 sarongs from my time in Thailand, and each one is diligently used.


Often times I will pack two for my travels (they are easily smush-able) - one to be used as a sarong/ extra blanket if I ever need, and one as a beach/shower towel.  They can be your sarong for the way to the beach, your towel to lay on while on the beach, your skirt, your cover from the sunshine, or your towel to dry off with. And since they are thin and dry quickly, you can easily wash them and leave them out to dry.

As my Gramey says, a sarong is the best shmata you will ever have!

Invest in a quick dry microfiber towel before you leave

A soft fibre travel towel that dries quickly can be extremely beneficial, especially if you are visiting a humid place!  But before we delve into it, time for an honest moment - I once travelled with a microfiber towel and it did not go well! It wasn’t overly absorbent and essentially never dried (and naturally, had a slight odor). Given that it may just have been the brand, I am totally willing to give this entire genre of towels another chance.  The towels are notoriously lightweight, soft, absorbent and quick-dry - so basically a gift to travelers.

 

And finally, you can always drip- dry

If your towel is lost or stolen, or simply sitting on your bed at home (forgotten in a different continent) do not fret. You can likely borrow a towel, and if not, then you can use a spare t-shirt (and some toilet paper/paper towel for your underparts) dry off and seek out some sunshine! Desperate times but don’t let it spoil your day or your travels - a little water on the skin can be nourishing!

Don’t want to bring the towel home at the end of your travels? Don’t fret. Donate it once you’re done with it or find a new use for it somehow. You’re creative. Also, want to carry it from city to city, country to country once you’ve purchased it abroad? Simply tie it to the outside of your backpack to save on space, or wrap it around your shoulders while you en-route to your next destination.  Just be sure to wash it when you arrive so that you have a clean towel to use.

Choosing a microfiber towel can be a mission in and of itself, as there are a number of different brands competing for your attention!  I found two awesome blog posts that should help - 5 Best Microfiber Towels for Backpackers and Light Travelers and The 8 Best Travel Towels of 2019.