In your travels, there are many important items to have with you at any given time. Arguably among the most important of these general use items is the simple towel. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams has this to say on the topic:
“[A towel] is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have. Partly it has great practical value - you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so readily on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.”
If you follow Douglas Adams’ advice, a towel is definitely not something to be without. Unfortunately, towels can get a bit bulky to lug around. Enter the Lightload Towel, a potential solution to this problem.
Lightload towels come in two sizes, the 12”x24” hand towel and the 36”x60” beach towel. They come heavily compressed into a disc-shaped package that is both compact and lightweight. Compressed, the hand towel weighs in at a svelte ½ ounce and measures 2” across and about ½” thick. The beach towel weighs only 5 ounces and measures 4” across by about 1” thick. To use them, you just unwrap them, wet them a bit to get them to expand to their full size, and use them. They are touted to be more absorbent than a cotton towel and machine washable on the delicate setting.
So how do they actually work? When first unwrapped, the two towels remain in the shape of fairly hard discs. After efforts to spread the towels out dry failed, I added water to them. This worked well. After put under water, the smaller towel expanded quickly spread out. The larger towel took a bit more water and some fairly aggressive unwinding. When all was done, the two were both roughly towel-shaped. The only downside was that they both started out somewhere between damp and fairly wet.
The towels that emerge from the discs after unwinding and spreading are very lightweight, similar to shop rags that you might buy in a grocery store. They’re about 1/3 the thickness of a normal towel but are quite absorbent. While they are wet when you first expand them, they can be wrung out and immediately become absorbent again, making them excellent for drying off. Still, because they are lightweight, they do tear easily, making them less than suitable for repeated uses.
Overall, Lightload towels are great for some things, and not so great for others. They’re fantastic to keep around for those times when you don’t expect to need a towel: spur of the moment swimming, drying off from sudden downpours, etc. They’re not going to replace normal towels, but they make a great portable supplement to them and a perfect emergency supply item.
EDIT: Since the writing of this review, I've been in contact with the
maker of these towels and been informed that they need not be dampened
to be opened. They can, in fact, be opened by squeezing the sides of
the compressed towels. Based on this new information (which is
unfortunately not printed on the package) I experimented and found this
to be true. That being the case, my above statements about not being
able to use these for things that require a dry cloth are not