The 10 Best Cooling Towels

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This wiki has been updated 21 times since it was first published in April of 2018. Serious athletes, gym rats, sun lovers, and anyone who regularly works outdoors in summer needs something a little more from their towels. These cooling neck wraps and cloths will suck the sweat off your body and replace it with refreshingly cold water. They’re affordable and often fold down to a nice, compact size, so no beach bag or hiking backpack should be without one. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Alfamo Sports

2. Columbia Omni-Freeze

3. Yellowstone Pro Gear Evaporative

Editor's Notes

May 24, 2019:

We've added in the Columbia Omni-Freeze, which features sweat-activated cooling, by which its blue rings react with your body’s moisture to lower the fabric’s temperature. As a result, you’ll feel more comfortable quickly. And, its wicking fabric helps you to stay dry longer. This 14- by 36-inch choice is refreshingly lightweight and easy to bring with you anywhere. In addition, we removed the Polar Pad in this update, due to issues with durability.

Retaining its top spot is the Alfamo Sports. It not only provides relief during exercise, but it’s also made to help those going through menopause or in need of cold therapy after surgery. Unlike PVA material, it stays soft when wet, and it chills instantly and stays cold for up to three hours. Another exceptionally reliable selection is the Yellowstone Pro Gear Evaporative, which is a practical 40 by 13 inches in size (it's available in 3 other size options as well), so it’s great for just wrapping around your neck or even being rolled into a headband. It’s created with safety in mind, too, reaching a UV-blocking rate of up to 98%.

Special Honors

Boombah Cooling Towel No matter the activity, you’ll stay refreshed with this PVA foam towel that wicks away heat and stays cool for up to three hours. Once you’ve soaked and wrung it, just snap it for activation. It absorbs sweat and lowers your body temperature so you’re ready to keep up with sports, workouts, and more. It’s also conveniently easy to cut to any size to suit your needs, and is machine washable for easy care.

4. U-Are Neck

5. Mission HydroActive Max

6. Chill Pal Ultimate

7. Frogg Toggs Original

8. Bogi Instant

9. SYourself Relief

10. Mission Enduracool

Cooling Down With A Little Science

As the water in the towel evaporates, its temperature drops, as the evaporated water takes some of your body heat with it.

If you’re unfamiliar with the science of evaporation, it would be easy for you to assume that cooling towels and other cooling tools that employ moisture and evaporation work by simply putting you in contact with water that’s cold. In the case of cooling towels, this can be initially true, as cold water on the towel can give you a sense of cooling before that water begins its evaporation process. But if that was all there was to it, then a cooling towel would cease to be effective the moment the water it held onto warmed up even in the slightest. It’s this misconception that leads some people to assume that these tools aren’t worth using. But with a deeper understanding of what’s going on, you’ll see just how useful and effective a good cooling towel can be.

To make this easier to understand, let’s talk about sweat. When your body gets hot, it sweats, or at least it should. There are some poor unfortunate souls whose sweat glands underperform, and they are in a very precarious situation. That’s because the sweat on your skin exists to evaporate. When it does so, it ferries away a bit of heat along with it in the form of water vapor. That’s why a humid environment is so much less comfortable than an arid climate, as humid air isn’t able to receive as many new water molecules, causing less of your sweat to evaporate and making you feel hotter.

Now, take that same science and apply it to a cooling towel. As the water in the towel evaporates, its temperature drops, as the evaporated water takes some of your body heat with it. What’s more, the moisture that it transfers to your skin will also evaporate, causing your body temperature to regulate downward even further. It’s like a second skin full of overactive sweat glands that don’t make you stink and don’t dehydrate you as they work. And using one can also help you prevent dehydration, as your body will feel the cooler temperatures provided by the towel and sweat a little less on its own.

Of course, you might well be wondering at this point why you can't just get any old towel wet and let it do the same job. Well, if you did that, you might find yourself weighed down by a towel that’s absorbed too much water, and that isn’t breathable enough to evaporate properly. A cooling towel is designed to hold an ideal amount of water so that it doesn’t drip all over the place, and it’s somewhat more porous than a traditional bath towel, allowing more air to flow through it more easily. More air flow makes for more effective evaporation, and a better cooling experience.

Choosing A Cooling Towel

When you look at the variety of cooling towels on the market, you might get a little anxious about choosing the right one, especially with so many different sizes and wild claims from manufacturers about temperature control. The reality is that the majority of the best towels out there will perform to roughly the same standards, so you can make your choice based on your intended use for the towel.

Athletes may require a different sort of cooling towel, especially those who may spend a lot of time on the bench.

For example, if you just want something light that you can place on the back of your neck and that will provide you with a little bit of cooling on a warm summer’s stroll, you can opt for one of the smaller models out there. These are especially useful when traveling, as well, so if you make the mistake of visiting a hot climate in the summer, you can still fulfil your tourist’s itinerary without being too uncomfortable.

Athletes may require a different sort of cooling towel, especially those who may spend a lot of time on the bench. Football players (both American and international), as well as outdoor basketball or tennis players can get a lot of use out of a large cooling towel. This is especially true when you aren’t seeing a lot of action, as the motion of your body through the air isn’t available to help you increase the rate of sweat evaporation. Be careful when using these larger models when you’re already very sweaty, however, as you don’t want to inhibit the natural evaporation of your sweat across too much of your body.

If you’re concerned about sun exposure, not only is a large model a good idea, but some options out there also boast SPF protection, even though the technical specification for clothing-based sun shielding is UPF. It’s also a good idea to take into account the average drying time for a given cooling towel, as well as any specification for its maintenance, as some towels will lose a bit of their natural abilities from running in the dryer or being washed in the wrong temperature water.

Other Great Ways To Conjure Up Some Cool

If you’re committed to staying as cool as possible, you’re going to want more than just an arsenal of cooling towels to get you there. Fortunately, we humans have been engineering ways to keep the heat off our backs for as long as we’ve been around.

Evaporative cooling doesn’t stop at the towels you’ve got your eye on. Electrical evaporative cooling fans are one of the most economical and efficient ways to cool down a space without having to resort to the use of an air conditioner. They’re also much easier on the environment, as they draw a lot less electricity.

As we mentioned above, it’s also important to stay hydrated. Not only will this help you produce enough sweat to keep your body temperature in check, it will also help keep you from succumbing to heat stroke on the hottest of days.

Karen Bennett
Last updated by Karen Bennett

Karen Bennett lives in Chicago with her family, and when she’s not writing, she can usually be found practicing yoga or cheering on her kids at soccer games. She holds a master’s degree in journalism and a bachelor’s in English, and her writing has been published in various local newspapers, as well as “The Cheat Sheet,” “Illinois Legal Times,” and “USA Today.” She has also written search engine news page headlines and worked as a product manager for a digital marketing company. Her expertise is in literature, nonfiction, textbooks, home products, kids' games and toys, hardware, teaching accessories, and art materials.

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