Every good backpacker knows that they will need some sort of pack towel while on a trip. Pack towels can be used as multi-use items and are quite a pleasure to have around. They can be used from everything from wiping sweat from my brow, to drying off after taking a quick bath in the stream, as well as cleaning/drying cooking items, and even wiping down my tent before I pack it up in the morning. (And trust me, this is just the beginning, there are many other uses…) And of course, there are quite a few different pack towels to choose from, with the cotton bandana probably being the most common one. Although, there are quite a few specialty pack towels out there. Some are quite technical whereas others are more simple.
In my browsing I have come across these Lightload towels at quite a few different online stores. When compared to some of the more technical microfiber towels, they seem to be quite promising. From the FAQ section of the Lightload site:
What is the difference between this and the other towels in the outdoor market? Lightload Towels are much more absorbent than microfiber and cotton. They also are more versatile and pack down smaller.
Not to mention, these towels are quite inexpensive when compared to some of the microfiber towels. So, I decided to buy two of these Lightload towels, one for me and one for my wife, to try out while on a 2-1/2 day hike in the Smokies.
When they got here I was immediately impressed with the tiny packed size. Each towel was individually packaged (smashed) between 2 paper sleeves with a plastic wrapper holding it all together. The packaged towel measured about 2″ (5 cm) in diameter by about 1/2″ (1.25 cm) thick and weighs 0.6 oz (18 g) according to my scale.
Looking at the packaging, I thought to myself, “This thing will pull out to 12″ x 24″ (30 x 61 cm)?!” But, sure enough, it did…
Of course in the above picture the towel doesn’t quite reach the 24″ (61 cm) measurement, however, if it were stretched out flat it would actually go just a little over the 24″ (61 cm) mark. The towel above has been washed and now its natural state is shriveled up a little.
Initially, when I unwrapped the towel I had to pull on it fairly hard and was actually afraid that I may tear it while unraveling it from its packaged state, but in the end, it came out fine. Immediately after unwrapping it, it felt a little stiff and a little scratchy feeling against my skin. I simply wadded it up a few times in my hands and it softened up. I also found that by adding a little water to it would help it soften up considerably.
As far as durability is concerned, the towel reminded me of simply a heavier-duty paper towel, or one of the blue mechanic towels. Because of this, I decided that I didn’t want to use it for anything “heavy-duty” such as washing/drying dishes or wiping down my tent, but rather to simply wipe the sweat from my face or neck. Although, in a pinch I see no reason why these towels could not accomplish these “heavy-duty” feats, however, in my opinion, using it for tasks such as these would greatly shorten the life span of these towels.
Over the course of my hike, I carried the towel in my hip belt pocket on my pack rather than hanging it off my pack. This way it was protected from being snagged on a passing limb or any other such thing. And like I said, I only used the towel to wipe sweat from my head, or to wipe my nose and for these tasks, it did great. It held up well over the course of the trip, and I was very happy with it.
When I got home I decided that I would hand wash the towel in the sink with a few other items rather than throw it in the washer (which is what is recommended). So, my wife filled a sink with some water and a very small amount of laundry detergent and began hand washing some of the items. She put one of the Lightload towels in and began lightly rubbing the towel together. When she pulled it out of the sink, well, it was tattered…
Obviously, this towel is now at the end of its life span. The only good that it is to me now is that of being a fire starter, however, I have no desire to carry this as simply a fire starter, so it will go straight to the trash (a good thing is was so inexpensive). After she saw the results of this one, she approached washing out the 2nd towel a little different. This time she simply put it in the water and lightly massaged it (no rubbing) for a moment and then gently removed it, rinsed it out, and then lightly wrung it dry. The purple towel seen in the pictures above are the results after this washing, and as you can tell, the towel is still fine. Actually, it is very soft too. It will still be able to be used though, at least once more.
So, my conclusions…
Regardless off how the first towel washing went, I am still happy with the towels. They are indeed lightweight and very versatile. However, it’s hard for me to say that they do in fact absorb more water than a microfiber towel does, and I would also have a hard time saying that they also dry faster, although, I haven’t tested the two side by side (not to mention that there are quite a few different versions of the microfiber towel available).
Also, the Lightload towels are quite inexpensive, up-front. The microfiber towels are more expensive than the Lightload towels, but maybe for a good reason, the microfiber towels will obviously last longer. So, after purchasing a few of the Lightload towels, I would easily spend the same amount as I would as if I were to buy a microfiber towel to begin with. The durability of the Lightload towels vs the microfiber towel, in my experience, is no match. The microfiber towels will undoubtedly last much longer than a Lightload towels.
I would say that the Lightload towels are lighter than the microfiber towels, however, there are also quite a few microfiber towels that easily rival the weight issues.
So, in the long run, I think that I will probably stick to using the microfiber towels, especially for longer hikes. However, for shorter hikes I see no reason why the Lightload towels would not be ideal. I still wouldn’t mind getting a few more to keep around for just in case. The Lightload towels would make a great item to give to a buddy that wanted to tag along on a hike with you but didn’t have anything.
So, do you have a Lightload towel? If so, leave a comment below and tell me what your experience with them are.
Thanks for reading!
Disclaimer: I paid for these Lightload towels with my own money. They were not provided to me, and I am not obligated to write about them.