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Camping Towels

Trader Joes Kitchen Towel

The main reason I bring a camping towel on a backpacking trips is to wipe down the outside of a wet tent or shelter before packing it away for the day.  It’s a neat little trick to cut down on extra water weight and leaves you with a drier shelter when you set it up the following evening.

I rarely use one on myself and just dry myself off with my clothes using my body heat to dry them out. Body heat is really good for that.

I also don’t bother with a commercial camping towel like ones from MSR or REI that cost $12 and up. Instead, I use a dish towel, like the ones you can buy at Trader Joe’s or supermarkets for 2 or 3 bucks. These are made using a slightly thicker absorbent fabric than camping towels but perform exactly the same with almost no extra weight penalty. If you’re a complete fanatic, you can probably cut one of these down to 1/4 if its size and use it like a sponge.

I’ve been think of doing that myself to save a few grams. Haha!


  1. Its a great idea and one that I also employ when out backpacking. I admit to using a "commercial" lightweight towel but the one I have from Trekmates has a very absorbent material that really soaks up the water but dries quickly.

    Its either that or another trick I use is to take a dozen or so "wet wipes" that i have completely dried out. They weigh nothing and are great for mopping up water. Oh and, if you dont mind packing them out, as toilet paper too

  2. Jerry from Montana

    I'm a novice camper. Thus far I've just used a bandana for wiping down my tent.

  3. The "microfiber" car detailing towels from target or walmart are what I use. Similar performance to the uber-fancy "backpacking" towels but much much cheaper (something like 8 for $2). One the size of a washcloth is about as good as normal large bathtowel. They wring out almost dry.

  4. Found some great "backpacker style" super absorbant kitchen towels at Ocean Lots for a dollar each. All they are missing is the little loop. I have also used the dried out "wet ones" as TP and quick clean wash cloths. If you look around on the web you can find all sorts of home-made recipes for these things and use cut down paper towels if you want 'something more' than paper towels for personal clean up. I haven't done that but I may consider it for longer trips (using tea tree oil and the likes for quick body clean up).

  5. Always wanted to try that. Cool.

  6. WalMart carries these kitchen towels too–last time I looked, in yellow which makes for better low-light visibility. One, cut to whatever size you like, works well as a cook aid for those who actually cook food in their pots (versus boil water and pour into a bag). Triples as prep mat, potholder, cleanup & more and when carried lining nesting pot/cup/penny stove it cuts down pack rattle. In hot weather you could cut a small piece & string it to a pack strap as a forehead wiper…;-)

  7. Neat idea…I never thought of trying to save water weight this way…Just had a thought, however, If the water from you tent is now on your towel and your packing out your towel with your tent. You haven't lost any water weight. Unless you can wring out the water from the towel.

  8. @MyLifeOutdoors –  You haven’t lost any water weight.  I was thinking that too, but as you mentioned it helps to wring out the water.  Even better, you can hang the towel to the outside of your backpack. It must dry off quickly that way, while hiking (assuming dry weather). In contrast, when your wet tent sits in a stuff sack inside your pack, it basically never dries off till you take it out again. I've wished I could hang my tent outside the backpack while hiking just for this reason.

    Personally I just shake the tent out to get rid of excess water. I doubt the remaining weight due to moisture is more than the weight of a towel.  OTOH it's nice to keep the tent and the inside of your pack dry…

  9. This past year we removed all of the high tech micro-fiber towels, wipes, etc.,  and replaced them with good old fashioned bandanas in our fly fishing kit bags, day packs; and, my back pack(s) .  Nothing is better for drying off a sweaty face and they dry out as fast as the high tech options as long as you give both some air.  Bandanas rinse out well and they are washable so they they are green – reusable and sustainable. 

    – David

  10. Ya know, in these days of small tents and lightweight gear, it is important to keep your equipment dry. One trick is to also wipe down the inside of the tent with it. This will save a bit of water weight.


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