If you’re into fitness, you may reach for a towel while exercising at the gym, competing in an intense tennis match, or taking a challenging hike. But a standard towel can’t do much more than sop up sweat. Cooling towels, on the other hand, are welcome workout partners that can help you to literally chill out; they employ evaporative technology that lets them get up to 30 degrees colder than the surrounding temperature.
Cooling towels are typically made from either soft microfiber or polyvinyl acetate (PVA), a superabsorbent synthetic polymer. They’re often about the size of large hand towels, allowing you to comfortably wear them about your shoulders to keep your neck cool or fold them into a bandana to wear around your head. If you want to keep from overheating when you exercise, read on to learn how these products work and why those listed below are among the best cooling towels you can buy.
- BEST OVERALL: Mission Original Cooling Towel
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Ailawuu 6 Packs Cooling Towel
- BEST UPGRADE: FROGG TOGGS Chilly Pad Cooling Towel
- BEST FOR RUNNING: Chill Pal 12 in 1 Cooling Neck Gaiter Face Cover
- BEST FOR HIKING: Ergodyne Chill Its Cooling Towel
- BEST FOR GOLF: Chill Pal PVA Cooling Towel
- BEST FOR TENNIS: Sukeen 4 Pack Cooling Towel
- BEST FOR TRAVEL: Tough Outdoors Cooling Towel
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Cooling Towel
Keep these factors and features in mind when shopping for the right cooling towel for your post-workout comfort.
Cooling towels are made from either PVA or microfiber mesh. Both types of towels use evaporative cooling, a process that creates a natural cooling sensation when water evaporates. The material in these towels causes water to evaporate at a high rate, creating a chilling effect on your skin. This is the same cooling process created naturally in your body by the effect of sweat evaporating off of the skin. To activate, soak the towel in water, then wring it out to cool off.
However, PVA and microfiber are different in feel. PVA has a rubbery texture, similar to the chamois you use to dry your car without leaving lint. It’s stiff when dry but becomes malleable and sponge-like when wet, and it cools as it dries. Microfiber is soft and similar in texture to a standard towel, whether damp or dry.
PVA offers superabsorbent capabilities and a longer-lasting cool, but the plastic feel of the material can take some getting used to. A microfiber towel may not absorb as much water, but it’s softer on the skin.
Small cooling towels are generally about 35 inches long, a good size to drape around your neck without getting in the way, such as while exercising on an elliptical machine, for instance. Larger 40-inch towels can hang around your neck or wrap around your waist, while a 50-inch or longer towel may wrap around the entire body.
Most cooling towels are machine washable for easy care. Some, however, can be damaged in a single machine washing, so check care instructions before purchasing. Most cooling towels are not dryer safe and require air drying.
In addition to the cooling component, many cooling towels can also shield you from the sun’s harmful rays, with some rated up to 50 SPF. Other extra features include handy carrying bags and multiple color choices, helpful so you can identify your towel and pick it out from others at the gym or on the bench.
Our Top Picks
These cooling towels are some of the best options on the market for a variety of uses, ranging from running and hiking to tough golf games and tennis matches.
When soaked with water, this towel instantly cools to 30 degrees below average body temperature in just 30 seconds, making it an excellent option for post-workout relief in hot weather. Simply saturate with water, ring out, then snap three times to start the cooling action.
Its small 10-inch by 33-inch size is ideal for wearing around the neck while running, hiking, or doing yard work. Made of microfiber, it’s soft and comfortable against the skin. It also features an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rating of 50, making it effective at blocking out harmful UV rays. The towel is machine washable for easy care.
Buying in bulk is a great way to save money, and this Ailawuu set offers six cooling towels for the price other manufacturers might charge for one. Each towel is made from soft microfiber and cools after it’s been soaked in water and wrung out. This towel will stay cool for several hours, making it ideal for various activities, including golf, jogging, hiking, and fishing. It also protects the skin from harmful sun rays with a UPF rating of 50.
Each towel measures 39 inches by 11 inches, so they are well suited to drape around the neck or wear as a headband or bandana when folded. All the cooling towels in the set are a different color, making it easy to identify which towel belongs to who.
Outdoor apparel company frogg toggs uses what it calls “hyper-evaporative material” to soak up as much as eight times its weight in water, giving it excellent cooling longevity. Soak the towel in water to chill it by as much as 30 degrees for three to four hours, which makes it ideal for active situations like long hikes where rewetting it could be difficult. Its dimension of 33 inches by 19 inches makes it suitable for wearing around the neck or as a bandana. This towel includes a hard plastic tube for storage and comes in 10 different colors.
A cooling towel to help keep your body temperature down during a run needs to stay comfortably in place—and that’s exactly what this neck gaiter face cover is designed to do. Its innovative tube design allows for 12 different possible positions around the head, face, and neck that stay put no matter how vigorously you run.
The cooling towel is made of soft and stretchy microfiber for complete comfort in a variety of positions. To use, simply soak it in cold water and wring it out. The Chill Pal comes in four colors: blue, green, black, and purple.
Hikers hitting the trail in warm weather may appreciate how this Ergodyne towel maintains its cool temperature for up to four hours. It’s made of PVA, which retains a significant amount of water yet feels comfortably cool and dry. The 29-inch by 13-inch size is ideal for draping around the neck without getting in the way as you tackle the terrain.
To use, simply saturate the towel in water, wring out the excess, and twist or snap to activate its cooling action. This cooling towel is machine washable and comes in blue, gray, orange, pink, and green.
Walking 18 holes while toting a full bag of clubs can spike your body temperature pretty quickly. With its small 12-inch by 32-inch size and ability to provide hours of cooling relief before needing to be re-saturated, this PVA towel is an excellent partner to take along on the links.
To get the cooling action going, simply soak and wring, and then place it around your neck. This Chill Pal comes in yellow, black, purple, and blue.
Tennis courts can get hot in the summertime, reaching temperatures 15 to 20 degrees hotter
than the ambient air. These Sukeen towels, which come four to a pack, can help keep you cool during and between sets.
The 40-inch by 12-inch size is suited to draping around your shoulders or over your head as you take a breather between sets. Or you can channel your inner Andre Agassi and fold one into a bandana to wear during play. The towels will remain cool for up to three hours, and they’re made from microfiber to stay comfortably soft, even when dry.
Traveling light doesn’t leave a lot of room for toting specialty linens, but this cooling towel is good to go. Though an ample 38.5 inches by 12 inches unfolded, the towel folds neatly into an included 4-inch by 5-inch mesh pouch to take up minimal space in a carry-on bag, backpack, or purse.
This towel is made of breathable mesh microfiber that feels soft, whether dry or wet. It boasts smooth yet sturdy hems, comes in nine color options so you can identify your towel easily, and is machine washable for easy care.
FAQs About Your New Cooling Towel
If you want more info about how cooling towels work or how to best care for one, read on for answers to the most common questions about these handy workout companions.
How long does a cooling towel stay cool?
Depending on how saturated the towel is and how hot the weather is, the towel should stay cool for between two and five hours.
How do I wash a cooling towel?
A cooling towel can either be washed by hand in warm water with a mild detergent or machine washed in cold water on a gentle cycle. Never put a cooling towel in the dryer.
How long does a cooling towel last?
Depending on how often you use it and how well you take care of it, a cooling towel should maintain its cooling ability for three to five years.