Best Beach Towels: 10 Off-Season Finds for Your Next Vacation | TIME Stamped

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You’ve got your cooler, your beach chair, your favorite sunglasses, and flip flops. The sun is out and the sky is clear, there’s nothing that can stop you from having an awesome day at the beach, lake, park, or even your backyard as long as you are prepared. If living at the shore for more than three decades has taught me anything, it’s that you shouldn’t take your beach essentials for granted.\ \ In my experience, it’s easy to overlook your beach towel as a piece of gear that is more than just a “that’s a fun pattern” decision. The difference between you and a stress-free day in the sun could be as easy as a functional, versatile, durable, and reliable beach towel. To make the search easier, and provide some insight about what the modern version of the ideal towel looks like; I was more than excited to research, test, and rank the best towels for the beach, backyard, bath, and beyond. Extra Large Bath Towels

Best Beach Towels: 10 Off-Season Finds for Your Next Vacation | TIME Stamped

While this is one of those things that you don’t really know about until you take the towel to the beach, certain towels—like the Sand Cloud—specifically note they are made to be sand resistant. One thing to consider here is the towel’s pile (meaning, how long the threads that comprise the towel’s absorbent surface stick out). Long or plush piles will grab on to sand more than a flat weave. For this reason, Turkish towels tend to have the most sand resistance. 

A 3:1 or higher absorbency to weight ratio is ideal, because this allows you to dry off quickly from a dip in the pool or ocean. If a towel brand doesn’t disclose that ratio, there are some ways to get an idea of how absorbent a towel will be. The GSM (Grams Per Square Meter) tells you the overall density of the towel, and the higher the number, the denser the towel—and the more absorbent it’ll be. However, GSM doesn’t tell the full story, because you should factor in materials. For example, microfibers are less dense, but absorb water super-fast.  

No one wants to walk around with a soggy towel in their beach bag. A towel that dries fast is a must. Turkish towels and microfiber towels tend to dry the fastest, while cotton (unless made with a performance fiber) dries slowly. The thicker the towel, the slower it’ll dry. 

Though it’s largely a matter of personal preference, the style of your towel is important when considering its use in a social space (like a beach or pool). You want a towel you can spot from a distance. You also want to make sure it’s a towel that’ll wash well. White towels may look nice, but they can often yellow (or stain) from exposure to sunlight, sunscreens, and spills. 

You don’t have to sacrifice quality when looking for an affordable towel, and this is a perfect example of that point. You’ll still find all of the base features of a beach towel you’d expect to see, including quick drying and super absorbent. There are a ton of color options too, so this is perfect for stocking up the linen closet for unexpected pool guests as well.

There’s a decent jump in quality from the typical vacation destination souvenir shop towel and taking your time to find something for a similar price. That’s what you’ll find with this towel. The microfiber material is the stand-out feature for this towel for several reasons—one of which is that sand simply does not stick to the material. Two of my other personal favorite things about microfiber is that it has the ability to absorb 7 times its weight in water and that it stands up nicely to wash after wash. This towel is also huge at 78 inches x 35 inches, yet it folds fairly easy as well and comes with a carry bag.

Microfiber isn’t for everyone—some may find the thin material to be not as comfortable as cotton.

So it was difficult finding a landing category for this towel because it sits in the top 3 for almost all of the categories. It’s by far the softest and best-feel with the 100% organic Turkish cotton material.  Combine that with the special weaving process and this towel is super absorbent yet quick drying, and sand falls off in one or two shakes. It’s also very light at under 1 pound, and folds down to about ¼ the size of a normal cotton or other type of towel of the same dimensions.  Another interesting feature of Turkish cotton is that it gets softer, more absorbent, and generally better quality as you continue to use and wash the towel.  

Much thinner than normal towels, so if you’re looking for something with some “cushion” or “give”, you may be disappointed.

When I see a product that has a lot of claimed features and a low price point, I get a little skeptical—but this microfiber towel was a nice surprise. One of the best features that this towel possesses is that it’s made from a special waffle-weave microfiber. Microfiber has a tendency to be very absorbent as well as quick drying, and it’s very lightweight. (Which is why swimmers usually pack a microfiber in their workout bags.) The typical trade-off is that the microfiber is not the softest/most comfortable, but the weave of the material makes it feel much better than usual microfiber. I’m also a fan of the dual-sided design, adding to the quality and visual appeal.

Have you ever gone to the beach and wanted to just lounge out and take a nap or read a book? So you lay out your towel and get comfortable, and soon enough you find that you moved a little too much to the side or your legs stretched a little too far. Now you’re covered in sand. This towel is a perfect solution for you. At nearly 6 feet tall and over 3 feet wide, it’ll accommodate for size. It’s also great to lay out on the grass in the park and have a picnic for two.  Often you’ll find a trade-off for size that usually means you’re sacrificing quality or durability. Not the case with a super soft 100% cotton terry weave and an impressive 500 GSM. Oh, and it’s under $45. If you’re looking for a towel that is big enough for you to lounge out on the sand and soft enough that you’ll never want to leave your perfect beach spot, you’ve found it.

One of my least favorite things about going to the beach is figuring out what to do with all of the wet towels at the end of the day. Growing up, we would head up with our beach cart full of gear and a backpack filled with dry towels. But, by the time we are headed back up the path between the dunes, the towels have to make their way into the bottom of the cart, or anywhere other than the backpack because they are wet and primed for that “wet towel smell.” We’ve come a long way from the days of damp, sandy towels and find that there’s a myriad of “quick drying” options to choose from. This towel is woven with a quick-drying polyester blend that really does dry fast in the sun, and even comes with an elastic hook to help hang it to dry. There is also a huge selection of awesome colors and patterns to choose from, my personal favorites are the Chevron Chic and Tropical Bloom, which would coordinate very nicely with a bright beach umbrella. On top of all of that, each towel also comes with a matching polyester carry-bag.

Little did I know when I was looking for the best travel towel that I would find a contender for one of my favorite towels ever. Aside from the beach, it’s rare that you find a towel that can also work well as a bath towel as well as something you’d want to use for a picnic or an outdoor concert. If you find yourself regularly catching flights for work or leisure, live in an area where you can bike to the beach or park, or just find yourself on the go and like to be prepared whenever you want to lay outside and relax, this is the towel for you. The 100% linen is impressively durable and can absorb 20% of its weight in water while still feeling dry, so you’re set for the beach. The waffle weave allows for added absorbency but sheds sand as good as any towel I’ve tried. The thickness and size of the large towel (200 GSM, 55 inches x 36 inches) leave a little to be desired for those looking for a full size lounger that provides cushioning. However, this allows this towel to fold down super-compact, and the XL variety comes with a strap to keep your towel rolled up and ready to go with you wherever you’re headed.

I couldn’t wait to get to this part of the list, because kids always have the most fun patterns for beach towels. And I also know that kids' beach towels with exciting cartoon graphics tend to be very low in quality and durability. This towel takes out the guesswork while still allowing a huge variety of options for fun patterns so your little ones will be proud of their very special towel. The long stape weave helps the towel absorb a large amount of water, but the drying is relatively quick as well. My favorite features on this towel go beyond the comfort of the plush cotton which is also perfect for bath time all year round. There is a hood attached to the middle of the towel so kids can wear the towel as a robe. This helps dry their hair quickly while also staying warm.  There’s also an easy-to-fasten two button feature to keep the towel wrapped around their body on a chilly day at the lake. Just be sure to take your time checking out all of the fun patterns, or maybe get a bunch! I’m personally a fan of the “Dog” pattern which shows a small dog wearing sunglasses, riding a surfboard. And also the rainbow unicorn pattern, because it will easily be the brightest and most fun towel on the beach.

I was making a list of things to consider when picking a beach towel that is great for the whole family. And after a couple of revisions, I found two non-negotiables that really make for an ideal family towel. First and foremost is the size. A family beach towel to me is something you can bring to the beach and lay out to establish your “home base” of sorts. And the second is being as sand resistant as possible without sacrificing comfort. There’s going to be several people sitting, standing, and undoubtedly walking on the towel all day. So you’ll be getting up and down to shake the sand off when needed. There are beach blankets on the market that meet the size requirements, as well as sand resistance. But those options tend to be made of polyester or other rough-feeling materials that aren’t comfortable for a long day at the beach or lake. They also tend to be bulky and don’t dry as quickly either. Sand Cloud takes care of all of the issues with a typical beach blanket but incorporating all of the iconic features from it’s individual towels into a massive 90 inch by 90 inch (that’s 56.25 square feet, by the way), sand resistant, quick drying, softer with every wash, light weight, and thin folded profile towel that will last you years to come. 

When I think about treating myself to a high-end beach towel, I picture not only the standard performance-based features you’d find in a high-quality towel, but also an elevated level of comfort.  A “treat yourself” towel should be absorbent but relatively quick drying, sand-resistant so you have refuge from the surface of the hot beach, but also luxuriously soft. Brooklinen is known for high-quality and luxury bedding (they made our list of the best places to buy bedding, after all), and they didn’t break suit with their towels. This is not your ordinary two-sided towel, the main difference being there are different materials and weaves on either side. One side is a thick (600 GSM), absorbent, and plush 100% cotton terry-weave. While the other side is a luxuriously soft velour, it’s one of the softest materials you’ll find on a towel. It’s also an extra large sized towel at 70 inches x 38 inches, truly a lavish item that will make you feel like you’ll never leave the beach. And, last but not least, the patterns are very unique and fun. I am particularly fond of the Pool Party and NYC Summer designs.

As mentioned above, there are a few main qualities to check off before you even consider investing in a reliable beach towel. Tossing the towel through the sand both wet and dry and seeing how many shakes it takes to get the towel nearly sand-free. It’s also helpful to try drying your hair and face/body with the towel as well as laying out on it, as this helps to determine the absorbancy as well as how quickly it can dry.

Traditionally you would be able to spot the differences between bath towels and beach towels from a mile away. Bath towels tend to be much more plush than beach towels, usually made from 100% terry woven cotton. They don’t need to be quick dry since they are typically hung up overnight to dry in a home or washed and dried after being used.  A beach towel is traditionally more thin with less weight than a bath towel. They are also ideally sand-resistant and quick drying. Absorbency is a plus for beach towels, but less important than your typical bath towel. 

First of all, always wait until your beach towels are completely dry, and then do your final “shake-off” before you fold them. I have found that a simple 4 way fold is fine for storing on a shelf in the garage or inside the house for multiple uses. If you are packing a towel in your bag, you may think you are better off rolling the towel but you’d be surprised. You’ll often get more use of the space by sticking with less folds and a flatter area.

GSM, or Grams per Square Meter, is a measure of the thickness and weight of the towel. A towel with a GSM of 400 is ideal for the beach since it’s a medium thickness. However, the material of the towel can affect that aspect.

You can’t go wrong with a 100% cotton terry blend. Just make sure it’s not too thick to allow for quicker drying and easier sand removal. My personal favorite material is 100% Turkish cotton. It’s very thin (usually 200-300 GSM) but if woven properly it can be more absorbent than traditional cotton and even microfiber. It also gets softer and more absorbent with every wash.

I found that the best size for a beach towel depends on how sand-free you want to be when you are laying out. If you don’t mind getting your feet in the sand, you can find a towel that is the same distance from your knee area to the top of your head. I prefer to be off the sand a bit when I am laying out, so I stick with at least a 70 inch towel  (I am roughly 70 inches tall). 

Thick and thin for a beach towel is less of a concern for absorbency than it is for comfort. If you prefer a thick towel because the sand on your beach is more compact or firm, I’d go with 400 or more GSM. The only downside is a longer drying time and less sand resistance. A thin beach towel provides less cushioning but tends to be much more sand-proof and quicker-drying.

Turkish cotton is a natural, long-fiber, and premium material, grown specifically in the Aegean Region of Turkey. As is common with similar cotton, like Egyptian, this material is stronger and becomes softer over time. It can be woven to be nearly sand-proof and is still very absorbent. Turkish cotton is also quick drying and can fold down to roughly ¼ the size of a typical 100% terry woven cotton towel.

On the similar yet opposite end of the towel material selections, there is microfiber. Microfiber is used for many different purposes such as lens cleaners for glasses as well as drying towels for car detailers. It is a synthetic material typically made from a polyester blend. It’s slightly thicker than Turkish cotton but shares the same qualities. Microfiber is also sand-resistant, extra absorbent, quick drying, and a thinner profile. It’s not necessarily a “rough” feeling, but it feels different than the softness of Turkish cotton.

Best Beach Towels: 10 Off-Season Finds for Your Next Vacation | TIME Stamped

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