Or, The Joys of Microfiber Towels
Most hostels do not come with free towels. You can borrow one, and think about how many people have used it before you; or you can purchase one from the hostel reception, probably getting one that is not the right size nor the best “quality”. And not free. So you you had best bring your own. And of course if you are camping, you only have what you’ve brought.
But not just any towel. You MUST HAVE A MICROFIBRE TOWEL! Oh microfiber, where were you my whole life? Before I tell you about the MFT (my abbreviation for MicroFiber Towel), I’ll tell you about what I had before.
Towel One was a full, body sized towel that took up half of my backpack and more than half a day to air dry. It seemed to get dirty anywhere within a foot of the floor, and smelled of moisture and other odious perfumes that I’d rather not recall. If I had to pack and check out after a shower (ie. in the morning), in went the wet towel, stinking up my things and becoming its own mold and mildew farm. Even were I not checking out, I would attempt to drape it over dusty heaters or hang it on the side of my bed. But it always seemed to gather more dirt than expel moisture.
Towel Two was a smaller, face-sized towel. It took up less room in my bag, dried relatively quicker (perhaps three to five hours), and could be more conveniently hung anywhere. However, within three days of regular usage it was brown with filth. I was drying 100% of the body with just 15% of the cloth. By the end of a week’s travel it was a science project.
Then I discovered the MFT. There are actually not too many brands out there that I am aware of. But the good news is that, it seems to me, they are comparable. MFT is MFT. Mine is a Sea to Summit Medium.
These photos show the towel tag, and a close-up of the material’s texture. (Photo: LH Dooley)
So what is a microfiber towel? It seems space-age and brand new, but I think it’s been for five or so years (according to Wikipedia). Basically, it is a thin, NASA-like fiber that is designed to fold compactly and dry quickly. My medium towel is about 75% of a full size towel, but folds into a wallet-sized package. This is about 20% or less the space of a full size, regular cloth towel!
Second, the towel dries within 20 to 40 minutes, of course depending on where it is placed, how it is unfolded or hung, etc. If you fold it up wet and stuff it into your bag, it isn’t going to dry. BUT if you hang it from your bedside, it will probably be dry in no longer than an hour. If you hang it on a heater or radiator, or in the sun, it will dry in 15 to 30 minutes. Simply amazing.
These photos show the relative size of the towel when folded: not much bigger than a BlackBerry, and not much thicker either (even when not pressed down). (Photo: LH Dooley)
I wouldn’t use this towel at home – regular bath towels are more comfortable. But it’s good for the gym, swimming pool, or anywhere else where portability and efficiency are more important than comfort
BUT DOES IT DRY THE BODY?
Mostly. You have to pat yourself down rather than wipe yourself dry. You are absorbing the water – not wiping it up. So it’s not as comfortable or refreshing but when you have a dry, cleanish towel folded into a small corner of your backpack an hour later, you will be a happy camper – or hosteller.
NO SMELL IS A GOOD SMELL
One last note: the towel neither looks nor smells filthy after a few uses. Sure, it helps to have a green or black MFT. But it’s not just an optical illusion; it simply does not retain the grime, odors, and crud that a regular, cloth towel does.
Here are a few links where you can purchase a Microfiber towel. But here’s a tip: the larger the towel, the more water it absorbs but the more space it will take up in your bag.