Whether you're spending hours snaking through lines at Disney, or out for a grueling run on a summer day, a cooling towel can make the experience of being outside in the hot sun way less miserable. After all, the best cooling towels are a convenient, cheap, and portable way to keep cool when the weather gets balmy.
And, after hours of research into cooling towels, I can tell you there are a few things you should know before picking one out. First, know that most cooling towels operate very similarly. They're made from evaporative materials that absorb water and turn cool to the touch, remaining that way for minutes or hours depending on how well they work. That being said, there are some towels, and one on this list, that doesn't need water to activate, and can cool simply when you snap them in the air.
Beyond that, the big differences you'll find in cooling towels are price, size, and bonus features, like UPF protection from the sun, or extra-thick fabric for increased moisture retention. And I'd be doing you a disservice if I didn't include at least one cooling bandana on this list, which provides less coverage than a towel but easily wraps around your forehead.
Start scrolling and you'll find the best cooling towels below, perfect for any sweltering hot day.
1The Best Overall: A Towel With UPF Protection That Can Stay Cool For Hours
This instant cooling towel is actually one of the most protective — and cheapest — options you'll find. Built with UPF 50 sun protection, the fabric blocks ultraviolet light and radiation, keeping you cool and protected from harmful rays. To use it just get it wet, wring it, and snap it to activate its cooling properties, which reportedly can last for several hours. While you should avoid machine washing this (with some towels you can, but this isn't one of them), it's durable enough to last through repeated reuse. "I was actually surprised at how long it stayed cool, even after it was essentially dry," raved one reviewer. "Add more water and it activated again right away." Best of all this comes with a tiny carrying pack, so you can easily stuff it in your bag if the weather cools off a bit.
2The Best-Seller: A Smaller, Slightly More Expensive Towel That's Machine Washable
This Chill Pal towel is made with an extra-thick PVA material that makes it one of the best (and best-selling) cooling towels around. Its thick fabric holds moisture for longer than your standard towel and helps keep it cool for up to two hours. With an almost-perfect five-star rating on Amazon, this towel is simple to use: just submerge this in cold water, wring it out, and snap it dry. If it starts to get warm again, just repeat the process. While this is one of the smaller towels on our list at just 12 by 32 inches in length, reviewers say it's "the perfect size for wrapping around your neck during any outdoor activity." Another reason to love it? It's machine washable and comes in a range of colors, so you can coordinate with every look you're rocking.
3The Best Cotton Towel: An Anti-Bacterial Option That Doesn't Require Water
While most cooling towels are made of synthetic fabrics designed to retain moisture, this 100-percent cotton cooling towel is all natural and can still keep you cool. This towel stands out because it doesn't need to be activated in water, meaning it'll work just as effectively in humid versus dry air. In contrast, PVA fabrics effectively soak up water in dry air, but sometimes struggle to properly retain moisture when it's humid out. This towel is also made with an all-natural formula of plant oils and extracts, designed to help it keep cool in the heat for multiple hours. Since this is made with lemongrass and citronella, it works to naturally repel mosquitoes and other bugs in the heat. "Without any water, they cool by just airing them in the air," described one reviewer. "PLUS they are anti-bacterial and when they get warm, just waving them in the air to cool them back to normal." One thing to note, this towel may start to get warm after just 30 minutes, but simply snap it in the air to reactivate it, and it will start cooling again.
4The Best Bandana: A Head Wrap That Stays Cool For Up To Four Hours
While, yes, technically most cooling towels can be wrapped around your head, this cooling bandana will do a better job of staying out of your face and eyes if you're exercising outdoors. It's small, easy to tie around your forehead without covering your entire head, and can remain cold for up to four hours before you have to re-wet it. Reviewers love that this bandana serves dual purposes, keeping your head cool and wicking away sweat: "They not only keep my head cooler, but also keep the sweat out of my eyes." It's also made with hyper-evaporative PVA material that's machine washable, lightweight, and built to last.
5The Best Cooling Hoodie: A Lightweight Hood That'll Cover Your Head And Shoulders
The Mission Enduracool cooling hoodie is in a class all its own, because unlike the versatile towels featured on this list, it's actually a hoodie that delivers extra coverage to your head and shoulders. Lightweight and good for up to two hours when it's wet, it provides UPF 50 protection from harmful rays and helps wick away moisture from your head and neck. This hoodie is also made from soft knit material, which absorbs sweat completely, and has a slit back, so it's easy to tuck this into your shirt, jersey, or pads. For athletes and especially those in basketball, soccer, or lacrosse, this hoodie can deliver a prolonged cooling effect that makes doing your favorite high-intensity workouts or sports activities more manageable in the heat.
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