A great choice for bath towels on the boat. Dry fast, don't take up a lot of space, large enough to wrap around me and they actually get me -- and my hair -- dry.

Fast-Drying Towels

Normal thick terry cloth towels seem to never dry on a boat — not even when we were cruising the Sea of Cortez, surrounded by desert. Instead, they pick up a sour smell in just a day or two.

Using thin terry cloth towels was somewhat better — they’d generally dry eventually and it’d take several days before they smelled bad.

Then I had the brilliant idea to try some “backpacking towels” I found in an outdoor store — unfortunately, they were smaller than a dish towel and still didn’t dry all that fast.

Finally, about 8 years ago I finally found “travel towels” that do everything I want them to:

  • Dry fast — in about 10 minutes when it’s sunny, breezy and moderate humidity; about an hour in anything short of rain (and even in rain, they’ll dry inside in just a couple hours).
  • Go at least a week without laundering and not stink. What’s the point of getting all nice and clean in the shower, just to stink from my towel?
  • Large enough to cover me — in communal shower rooms, I want to be able to wrap a towel completely around me. Actually, I want to be able to wrap a towel around myself even on the beach!
  • Get me dry — this is, after all, the purpose of a towel. My hair too.
  • Not take up too much space even hanging on a peg in the head. Space is precious.

The only “problem” with them is that they’re not cheap. But I’m glad that I finally bit the bullet and bought them — they’ve been perfect for us not just on the boat but also on inland travel, camping and numerous other times.

These same towels have gone through several “brands” — first they were “Rick Steves Micronet by McNett” (when I got them), then just Micronet by McNett, and now I see them branded as both McNett and Outgo by McNett. As far as I can tell, they’re virtually the same towel.

There are other brands of travel or camping towels that are similar, but I like the feel of these just a little better. I’m sure others prefer some of the other brands, but I find many to be “felt-y.”

The material in the McNett towels is called a micro-terry or microfiber (mine are the microfiber).  It’s not like a terrycloth towel, it’s more like suede. It feels different but it does absorb water well. I find that it sticks to my skin just slightly and works best if I pat or blot the water rather than wipe. I admit, it’s not the same as cuddling up with a big fluffy terrycloth towel . . . but it doesn’t get stinky as terry cloth does. The trade off is worth it in my book!

I haven’t tried their micro-terry towels to know how much of a difference there is. The company says that the microfiber dry slightly faster while the micro terry has a bit more of the feel of a terry cloth towel. Amazon reviewers also say that the terry version, while still compact, is a little “fluffier” than the microfiber.

They are now heavily marketing to the military, so you’ll find lots of very neutral colors although you can still get the bright colors if you poke around a bit. See links at the bottom of this article.

When I bought ours, the “large” was the largest size available. It’s 30″ x 50″ and about the size of most bath towels (that’s what’s wrapped around me in the top photo; no size 0 models here). But now they make an “extra large” that’s 35″ x 62″ which is even better. If ours ever wear out — and they’re not showing signs of doing so soon — I’ll buy the XL, which is closer to a beach towel size.

These larger sizes are one of the real advantages of the McNett brand towels — many other brands only have smaller sizes. Drying off with something the size of a dish towel just doesn’t thrill me.

The towels are fairly thin and the large size rolls up smaller than a t-shirt. They have a snap loop on one corner, making it easy to hang them to dry outside without worrying about them blowing away. Use a permanent marker and put your boat name on the towel just in case you leave it in the shower room!

A great choice for bath towels on the boat. Dry fast, don't take up a lot of space, large enough to wrap around me and they actually get me -- and my hair -- dry.A bonus is the carry bag that the towel comes in. There’s a mesh compartment with zipper on each side of the bag. The theory is that you put the towel in one side and your shampoo and so forth on the other size. I’ve never put my towel back in it, but I do like it as a small toiletry bag for going to the shower room. I put the stuff that goes into the shower with me in one side and the after-shower stuff on the other side. It also has a snap loop — very handy if the only place to put it other than on the floor is to hang it from the shower curtain rod!

And yes, find a way to put your boat name on the bag, too — I ended up using a luggage tag that I could write on with a permanent marker (anything with paper does not work well in the steam of the shower room).

The best prices that I can find are on Amazon — but note that there are several listings for these towels on Amazon and some are much more expensive (don’t ask me why but be careful!). I am comparing prices on the XL size and these are the lowest I find (different colors sometimes vary greatly in price, too):

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  • Diana K Weigel
    Posted at 28 June 2014 Reply

    Fast drying towels are a necessity in my opinion. Thanks for the advice.

  • Candy Ann Williams
    Posted at 28 June 2014 Reply

    This looks like what I have been looking for!

  • Alex Miller
    Posted at 28 June 2014 Reply

    Michael R Miller

  • Michael R Miller
    Posted at 28 June 2014 Reply

    Get those!

  • Hilary Helkenn
    Posted at 28 June 2014 Reply

    They are the best!!! I love ours. I cringed at the price also but now I’d probably pay twice retail they are so great.

  • Liz Davis
    Posted at 28 June 2014 Reply

    I agree, these are the best boat towels EVER! We have 4 of the XL size in different colors. They’re so big they can pinch hit for a sarong or be added ontop of a sheet as an extra light covering on your bed, yet they roll up to about the size of a sandwhich from Subway when you need to stash them. They dry faster than any towel I’ve ever used.
    I’ve had a little problem with 2 of my 4 towels in that the terminal zigzag stitching at the corners of the towel has unraveled leaving the corners prone to more wear and tear with a bit of resultant fraying. If I were handy with a needle and thread and more motivated, I could renew the protective stitching, but I haven’t and both towels still work fine and look OK. Additionally, I’ve noticed that, since they dry so fast, when my husband gets a smear of shaving cream on them, the shaving cream doesn’t just “go away” and become invisible like it would in a terry cloth or more fuzzy microfiber towel. Instead, the towel dries so fast that the smears of white shaving cream are left on the outside of it and look like, well, smears of dried shaving cream. If you wet the towel and ring it out after using it, that doesn’t happen and it still dries in about 15-20 minutes even hanging inside. I like these so much I even bought some smaller ones to use as drying towels in the kitchen. They’re kind of oddly shaped for kitchen towels and too thin to be pressed I to service as an emergency pot holder, but they’re GREAT for tasks that require a towel to get repeatedly wet and then dry again quickly. We bought ours at the Navy Exchange in Pearl Harbor, O’ahu so they’re dirt-colored…perfect!

  • Lupari Sue
    Posted at 28 June 2014 Reply

    In Australia they have them at Katmandu and Whitworths, but I find the ones we bought at Whitworths feel better. They have lasted well and the colour has not faded.

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 28 June 2014 Reply

      Thanks for the Aussie source — it’s always hard for me!

  • Monika Ludewig Bradley
    Posted at 28 June 2014 Reply

    These are the only towels we have used on the boat for five years. They also fit the little towel bars better….

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 28 June 2014 Reply

      Absolutely — I forgot to add that in, but it’s a biggie on a lot of boats where the towel bars are either short or close to the wall.

  • Dan Thomas
    Posted at 28 June 2014 Reply

    Do not use these for hot dishes in the galley. They are made of plastic recycled drink bottles, the same as “fleece” clothing, and will melt is used with hot pots/pans, or oven racks.

  • Julie Anderson
    Posted at 29 June 2014 Reply

    My cheap fix for bath towels this year was to sew 2 Shammies together and put a fabric loop on a corner. They have been working great for us. Less water to wash and quick dry. I do however have one of the other fancy towels too and I do love it but my cruising budget didnt allow for buying some this season.

  • Jessie
    Posted at 02 July 2014 Reply

    We, too, are obsessed with these! These are a great item to purchase when REI has a big sale. They occasionally go on sale as much as 40-50% off. ~Jessie

  • Susie H
    Posted at 03 July 2014 Reply

    Not keen on microfibre towels as when damp they feel “slimy” on my skin and I still felt slightly damp after drying using them so hunted for an alternative. Two yachtie girlfriends recommended Turkish hamman towels, a bit expensive but they are 100% cotton so easy to launder, thin so dry quickly without getting smelly and they dry you really well.

    • lauri hamilton
      Posted at 25 May 2015 Reply

      I’m not thrilled with the feel of these towels either. I like the ones that have no nap, really thin, but my hubby doesn’t like either.. of course he doesn’t like laundering towels all the time either. Where did you find Turkish hamman towels?

  • Paulag
    Posted at 07 July 2014 Reply

    Agree, these are the best for the boat. We have several “real towels”, complete with the boat name embroidered (!), but always seem to reach for these quick-drying ones. You’re right…they don’t stink! The feel on the skin is a little strange at first, but I quickly got used to that, and love the way it gets my hair “towel-dried” so fast.

  • PugetSoundCruiser
    Posted at 12 September 2015 Reply

    We love these! Got several on a closeout sale, and the colors were army green, gray, and “dirt” (as another commenter mentioned), but the price was greatly reduced. Found a couple of smaller ones in “visibility” lime-green too. The microfiber (sueded) ones dry so incredibly fast after our showers that we just fold them back up right away and don’t have them out long enough to really notice the colors.
    No problem at all with the towels getting stinky either – well, until brother in law came aboard for several days and insisted on wearing his beloved LEATHER Keen sandals for everything “like he does in Colorado” instead of the far more substantial (and synthetic) water shoes we all have for the rocky Puget Sound beaches full of sharp barnacles and oysters. After one day on the beach, his feet were bloody, and the stench from his leather sandals was totally unbearable. He finally agreed to take them off, but the smell had penetrated his skin somehow, so he just carried the stench with him. Showering didn’t help, and then when he dried his feet, the horrible corpsy smell was transferred to the towel. Reminded me of the Cat In The Hat story where that awful blue color eventually got everywhere in the house!
    I came to the conclusion that this was far more than/different from a marine life problem and guessed he had a fungal infection that might require a tribal clinic visit and medicine, but he was resistant to the idea. Just when I thought we were all doomed, his wife kicked him out of the V-berth and told him to “Do something!” (or else!) So this story is to report that leather Keens, the microfiber towels, and BIL’s feet survived bleach water and Mexican pinesol in a bucket. Did the trick too. We all slept sweetly that night. These towels are awesome!

  • Amy Alton
    Posted at 02 October 2015 Reply

    I ordered the extra large mirco-fiber ones back in March. Unfortunately, despite regular washing, they smell bad. My husband was no a fan of the feeling, but I didn’t mind. It’s unfortunate, as I do like how well they folded up.

    Still trying to decide what else to do…

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 02 October 2015 Reply

      I’ve never had a problem with smell at all, but if you’re looking for something else, you might try Turkish towels. Our friends on Necesse love them and wrote a whole blog post about them: http://www.itsanecessity.net/2015/06/a-towel-by-another-name.html

      • Amy Alton
        Posted at 05 October 2015 Reply

        I saw her post. I commented but haven’t heard back, I just may hurry up and buy some of them since we leave the states this week!

      • Jamie Gilman
        Posted at 30 September 2017 Reply

        We too prefer Turkish towels to microfiber. Dry so fast and take up very little space. Thanks for the post! S/V Europa

  • Janine Hall
    Posted at 28 January 2016 Reply

    Thanks for all the great tips. I read them all with great interest. Although only building our boat at the moment, we have started using ‘foutala’ towels, a hamam towel. They are more expensive (£20 each) but well worth it for space saving and drying qualities. They become more absorbsnt as you use and wash them, and are big enough and pretty enough, coming in loads of colours, to use as a sarong. Because they are cotton they dry quickly. Have taken them on lots of holidays so far and we have friends who use them on their boat.

    • vicky
      Posted at 28 June 2016 Reply

      Not quite as big, but much less expensive are dog drying towels in the pet section of a discount store (around here — job lots or big lots), they were around $5 – $7. The size was a big smaller at 44″ x 57″ but it works for us.

  • Susie Marshall
    Posted at 02 July 2016 Reply

    I buy our Turkish towels from Amazon. A fraction of the price. They are wonderful. No more terry on out boat.

  • Sharon Provenzano
    Posted at 02 July 2016 Reply

    Love mine. I need to buy some more.

  • Brandy Bryant
    Posted at 02 July 2016 Reply

    We love them too!!!! No more beach towels for us.

  • Zachary Schweter
    Posted at 02 July 2016 Reply

    Just ordered 2 xl towels from amazon … thank you and will let you know result..

  • Jennifer Johnson
    Posted at 02 July 2016 Reply

    Brittany (Windtraveler) blogged about them a year or two back. I bought 4 on Amazon, and they remain one of my best purchases!!

  • D Johnson
    Posted at 17 July 2016 Reply

    Buy black or the darkest color available and the towels dry even quicker in the sun.

  • Kristi Black
    Posted at 30 September 2017 Reply

    Exactly what I used on my deployments in the Marine Corps and for camping! I didn’t know they had the XL sizes, those will be perfect for boat life!

  • Rose Mari Sephton
    Posted at 30 September 2017 Reply

    I invested in Norwex towels. Fast drying super absorbent and antibacterial.

  • Barbara Honthumb
    Posted at 30 September 2017 Reply

    Totally agree, they are the best

  • Patricia Leat
    Posted at 30 September 2017 Reply

    Have you tried Marmara Turkish towels? I like the texture better. They dry really fast as well. My travel towels seemed to also pick up odors (once has a diesel leak and it took multiple washes to get the smell out) that don’t like to wash out, Marmara towels are always fresh after a wash or rinse.

  • Lisa Womack Bosch
    Posted at 30 September 2017 Reply

    I bought these after seeing you post, love them!

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