Minimalist travel towel

Yet another article about those light microfiber travel towels? Nay! Today we’re going to look for a vegan and petroleum-free towel that will not make your bag weight a tonne…

The problems with microfiber towels

Microfiber towels are the trending travel towels. But they are all made from petroleum. The synthetic fibers slowly degrade into micro-beads that pollute our planet, and recycling doesn't change a thing to that. We could also discuss whether or not it’s healthy to scrub them on our skin – definitely not a pleasant feeling if you ask me.

Other issues I have noticed with synthetic towels:

  • Smell bad quite easily.
  • Doesn’t absorb the water, but rather repulse it.
  • Still to bulky to my taste.
  • Not that easy to dry in certain conditions.
  • They’re ugly…

Better travel towels

I started my travelling without a bag project with a linen towel that I had cut in half to reduce it’s size:

My linen towel, before and after the size reduction.

I was pleased to find a better alternative to microfiber towels. It doesn’t smell, dries almost as fast as synthetic fabrics and it’s much more pleasant to use. It’s also very absorbent. Compared to cotton it’s lighter and dries faster. Linen has a lower environment impact than cotton or microfiber. Hemp would probably be a nice alternative to, with even less impact.

After a few months I lost it. I noticed that every time I lost something there was a lesson for me to learn. So I decided to try something smaller: a cotton mitt. And I actually liked it better that the linen towel.

The advantage of a mitt — or any tiny piece of fabric – is that it has two usages: you can wash with it, and once you’re done, wring it and dry yourself. If it’s too soaked, then just wring it again. It’s way easier and quicker to clean and wring than a towel. You can dry it very quickly with any source of heat or air you can find. As a result it’s more hygienic because you can wash it in a blink. A linen or hemp mitt would be lighter than cotton and quicker to dry.

Below a summary of the differences between different textiles:

materialdrying timesmellpollutionpetroleum
cottonvery slownomediumno
hempquicknovery lowno


If you really want the comfort of a relatively large towel, a linen towel is a great natural alternative to microfiber. If you choose a large one you will be able to use it at the beach or as a piece of clothing. If you don’t mind wringing the mitt to dry yourself, go for it! You will save laundry time as well as space and weight in your backpack – if you have one, that is!

It may sound unusual to dry yourself with a tiny piece of fabric, but I actually got used to it in a single try. You can test it at home with any piece of cotton or linen you have at hand. If you try it, feel free to share your impressions on twitter or in the comments below.

Want to read other opinions about linen towels for travel? Check out this blog post about travel towels on Snarky Nomad , a blogger I enjoy following.