If you’re an athlete who loves the outdoors, you’ve probably had to contend with all types of inconvenient weather during your workouts. While you may have amassed a solid collection of wool and fleece for the colder months, it’s just as important to stay cool during the dog days of summer. Here, we’ll explain the basic purpose of these products, and explore the many options that are currently on offer. For your convenience, we’ve also included an in-depth review of the TOP 11 Best Cooling Towels on the market, complete with product information and consumer reviews.
- What is a cooling towel?
- How Cooling Gel Towels Work
- Materials and types
- Top 11 Best Cooling Products
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Pros & Cons
- Tips & Life Hacks
A cooling towel is a product designed to keep body temperature at a safe and comfortable level during exercise in hot and humid weather. Runners especially enjoy the benefits of these accessories, as they’re lightweight and easy to carry, even during hard efforts. When the product works properly, it can keep you feeling refreshed and energized all through your workout. That’s why it’s so important to understand what you’re looking for before you start shopping.
Cooling towels are constructed of performance fabric that cools instantly when water is applied to it. In most cases, the combination of high absorption and fast evaporation provides the cooling effect, but other materials can also be included (see Materials). Some brands don’t even require the addition of water but are activated simply by snapping the towel in the air.
When the user applies the towel to the neck, head, or another pressure point, it provides temporary but relatively long-lasting relief from the heat and humidity. Note that some products work better in high humidity than others, depending on the construct (see Top 11 Best Cooling Towels below for more information).
Most of these towels are constructed of either PVA, microfiber, or a combination of the two. Some might also incorporate the use of beads that contain a cooling gel for a longer-lasting effect.
PVA, or polyvinyl acetate, is a compound used in many cooling products. When water is applied to the treated material, the rapid evaporative effects help to create a cooling sensation. If the towel begins to dry out, or otherwise feel too warm, it just needs to be dampened and wrung out, then waved in the air. The effects will return in an instant.
As the name suggests, microfiber cloth is constructed of fibers that are many times thinner than the ones used for traditional clothes – around 0.33 microns, as opposed to the traditional three to five. This helps the water molecules to circulate and therefore evaporate faster, which contributes to the cooling effect. As with PVA-treated materials, microfiber towels are activated by dampening the fabric and “snapping” it in the air.
Cooling Gel Bead Products
These towels incorporate gel beads that expand when exposed to moisture, gathering into a sort of cooling “blanket.” While these are popular choices for workplaces or gyms, as they’re ubiquitous and easy to purchase in bulk, they may not last as long as some of their fabric-based counterparts.
Hybrids with PVA and Microfiber
The inclusion of both polyvinyl acetate and fast-evaporating microfiber gives these hybrid brands an added boost. Not only will they retain their soft feel throughout the drying process, but they’re also long-lasting and machine washable as well.
- Here are a few things you should look for when shopping for this product:
- Long-lasting performance (at least 3 hours)
- Quick-drying performance
- Antibacterial properties
- Small, lightweight construction
Now, let’s cover the TOP 11 Best Cooling Products. For ease of understanding, we’ve gathered them according to the materials used: hybrids, microfiber, gel beads, PVA, Frogg Togg, and ice packs. We’ll also review a cooling towel that’s specifically designed for dogs.
Mission Enduracool Microfiber Cooling Towel – for athletes
The Mission is internationally known, popular and recognized by professional athletes like Serena Williams, Dwyane Wade, and Drew Brees. You definitely want to try one of those towels, trust us.
This Mission Cooling Towel is 90% polyester and 10% nylon. To activate the towel, you’ll have to soak it in and gently air it out. It cools down to 30 degrees below average body temperature and when wet, it stays cool for hours.
The consumers loved the product, with only a handful saying the towel doesn’t work well in a humid environment.
Another cooling accessory that we’d like to draw your attention to is the Mission Multi-Cool 12 in 1 Multifunctional Gaiter and Headwear. It’s not a towel, but works just as well and thus deserves a mention. It can be worn in more than 12 ways making it a very stylish addition to your fitness routine.
OlimpiaFit Microfiber Towels (Set of 3) – for gym addicts
These microfiber towels are quick-drying with antibacterial properties, so they don’t need to be washed as frequently as some of their counterparts. They’re also soft, lightweight, and hypoallergenic.
There are three sizes available in this package, so if you’re buying for several family members–or need a variety of sizes for different uses–the bulk nature of this purchase could make it more appealing.
Customers note that microfiber towels are meant to be washed before first use; otherwise, the fibers might stick to your face and body. They are machine-washable, however, taking some of the sting out of this task. The majority of respondents used these towels for drying rather than cooling, but the responses were enthusiastic overall. The OlimpiaFit can be recommended for anyone who needs to add a good sports towel to their repertoire and is looking for maximum versatility in their selection.
Alfamo Cooling Towel – large towel for yoga enthusiasts
This large microfiber towel provides many inches of soothing relief from the heat, in an impressive variety of colors. The soft, breathable fabric won’t stiffen as it dries, and can be rinsed repeatedly if you’re the sort of person who sweats a lot and tends to ruin towels with the salt damage. The handy plastic case comes with a carabiner clip, so it can be affixed to your duffel bag or even your keychain (although the latter isn’t recommended unless you have very heavy keys).
The overall positive response to the Alfamo has been unanimous, with testers praising its soft texture and the longevity of its cooling effects. Some even used it as a bed for their sleeping pets and claimed that the animals seemed to enjoy it as much as their humans. If you’re looking for a larger model, this could be the towel for you.
Chill Pal Ultimate Microfiber Cooling Towel—Extra Soft – perfect for summer
The Chill Pal Ultimate comes in a handy zip-close bag for ease of transport and can be activated with just a flick of the wrist once it’s taken on a good dose of water. If you spend a lot of your summer days at the ball field or race track, the towel is portable and provides hours of cooling relief. This model also gets high marks for appealing color variety.
The majority of respondents claimed to be very sensitive to heat and reported that this towel did a superior job of keeping them cooled off, even in severe conditions. Evidently, it worked just as advertised–apply water, give it a wave, and you stay refreshed and alert until the towel dries, which is quite a while. Its portability and long-lasting effects make the Chill Pal easy to recommend for anyone who keeps an active summer schedule.
Ergodyne Chill-Its 6602 Evaporative Cooling Towel – for workers
This microfiber towel is PVA-treated, making it the only hybrid option on our list. At 13 by 29.5 inches, it’s also fairly large, which could be a hindrance to performance athletes, but appealing to those who make their living working out of doors. Machine-washable and durable, the Chill-Its offers up to four hours of cooling on just one soak.
It may also be used to treat migraines and other types of vascular headaches, and to help bring down high fevers. Available in a variety of colors.
Testers who used this product in especially hot and humid conditions were pleased with its performance. Even testers from the South and other warm regions praised the long-lasting effects and the intensity of the cooling sensations. Those who were particularly interested in using the Chill-Its for medicinal purposes reported good results as well. It was noted that the color can sometimes leach out onto clothing, causing stains; washing the towel ahead of time could alleviate this issue. The size was another weak point for some–if you’re looking for a really lightweight towel, this one might not be your best bet. Overall, though, the Ergodyne Chill-Its 6602 is a solid offering, and easy to recommend.
IceWraps Flexible Cold Gel Pack for Therapy – for recovery
The IceWraps differs greatly from the majority of the offerings on our list, as it needs to be placed in the freezer for a time before use. It resembles a larger version of the ice packs that are used to treat acute injuries such as sprains, and indeed, the company advertises its positive effects against sciatica, bursitis, and more.
As ice packs go, this is a large and therefore versatile choice; however, if you’re looking specifically for a product that can be brought along during workouts or outdoor activity, this type of cooling system is probably not what you’re looking for. It can be recommended for treating specific problem areas, especially during marathon training.
FlexiKold Gel Cold Pack – for treating problem areas
This is one of the few cold packs on our list that doesn’t require the addition of water in order to work its magic. Like the IceWraps offering, though, it’s also meant to target swollen or painful areas, which may limit its functions as a cooling towel. It does stay cold for long periods of time and comes in a variety of sizes. Its nylon exterior makes it both washable and reusable.
Physical therapists in particular report good results from the FlexiCold pack. A few users have complained that the product tends to leak after long periods of frequent use, but that it works great while it lasts. If you’re in the market for a cold pack rather than a lightweight towel, and you plan to use it only once a week or perhaps less, then this model works as advertised and can, therefore, be recommended.
Chill Pal–The Original PVA Cooling Towel – for everyone!
In addition to its microfiber offering (see above), Chill Pal also dabbles in PVA technology with this extra-thick model. The product comes in a convenient plastic pouch that’s easy to carry and offers a variety of color options.
Testers have wonderful things to say about this towel, praising everything from its generous size to its performance. Some claim that it doesn’t even need to be re-saturated once it starts to warm up–just wave it around in the air again, and it will rejuvenate. As with most PVC towels, though, it does stiffen up a bit when it dries; customers should be prepared for this. Despite that faint shortcoming, the Chill Pal comes highly recommended.
02COOL ArctiCloth Sport Cooling Towel – for runners
Despite its large size, the ArctiCloth rolls easily into a tube that can be transported anywhere, from the workplace to the gym to the hiking trail. It features an absorbent side for wicking away sweat, while the reverse side provides cooling action. As an added bonus, it also offers UV protection.
Durable, portable, and reliable, the ArctiCloth receives consistently high marks from consumers. The material is thicker than some of the other products on our list (mainly the microfiber ones), but its double-sided versatility could make up for the added weight. Recommended especially for pregnant or menopausal women.
Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad Cooling Towel – for summer workouts
The unique construction of these towels provides cooling action for three to four hours, whether doused in hot or cold water–all while remaining cool to the touch. This towel comes in a hard plastic tube that offers protection and convenience all at once. It also offers an SPF level of 50 plus, as well as UV protection. Impressive color variety.
The majority of testers report great results from the Chilly Pad, especially during sporting events and visits to Disney World. Those with sensitive skin reported having no issues with this towel, although it was noted that it should be air-dried before putting away, as the material is not mold-resistant. Some mentioned that the colors were prone to bleeding on first use, even after a washing, so consumers should be cautious when wearing light clothing. On the whole, this offering from Frogg Toggs is worth a look.
Cool Pup Dog Cooling Pet Towel
While some of the offerings listed above are appropriate for use by four-legged friends, the Cool Pup is geared specifically toward dogs. It performs in the same manner as its human-sized counterparts–the main difference is the size, which is suitable for medium to large canines.
For the most part, customer response to the Cool Pup has been positive and resulted in a high recommendation rate. Those who spoke up against it were quick to point out that it might have worked better if only the dog did a better job of keeping it in place.
How do you use a cooling towel?
PVA and microfiber towels are simple to use. You simply saturate the material with water, wring it out, and expose it to the air. Some gel bead towels can be placed in the freezer before use, but not all of them require this step. Always read the instructions thoroughly before using the towel for the first time.
When should I use the cooling towel?
They can be used anytime you’re feeling overheated, or even think you might become overheated. Here are a few examples of times when one of these products might come in handy:
- During hard or prolonged workouts, especially in hot weather
- While attending sporting events
- While standing in line at theme parks
- When nursing a fever, headache, or injury
I have very sensitive skin. Is it all right to buy one of these towels?
In tests, polyvinyl acetate has not been shown to have any adverse effects on the skin; however, caution is recommended. If your skin is extremely sensitive, then you should lean toward a microfiber towel, as these contain no chemicals.
Will the towel help prevent dehydration?
Since these towels help keep you cool, they might help prevent dehydration to a small degree by reducing the amount of sweat that you produce during exercise. However, their use is no substitute for keeping yourself properly hydrated through the fluid intake. Be sure to regularly sip water and electrolyte-infused beverages, such as Gatorade, when exercising in hot weather. In fact, this is good advice to follow during long workouts in any season.
How long will the towel stay cold?
The amount of time varies depending on the material used and the particular brand, but you can expect some of the higher-end models to stay cold for up to four hours on a single soak. If you have water available, you can simply reapply and wring the towel out for another go-round, no matter where you are.
How do you keep these towels clean?
Most of the products on our list are machine-washable. Just follow the included instructions, and take care not to use the towel in a manner that’s inconsistent with its materials (for example, most gel packs shouldn’t be used for heat therapy).
What are the top brands on the market?
See our review section, Top 11 Cooling Products, for more information regarding the individual models currently on offer.
When do you need a cooling towel?
If you know you’ll be spending a lot of time outside in hot weather–for example, if you’re planning a trip to a desert region, or if you attend a lot of outdoor sporting events–then you should consider investing in a cooling towel. Athletes who exercise outdoors no matter what the weather are also good candidates for the product.
How do you wear a cooling towel?
Depending on the brand, some cooling towels can be worn around the neck like a scarf, or tied around the head like a turban. Some are even large enough to wrap around the entire body (these generally focus more on the towel aspect than the cooling technology). Others, like the gel packs, aren’t designed to be worn, but simply rest against the affected areas.
How do you activate the towel?
This can vary depending on the brand, but most are activated by drenching the towel with water, wringing it out, and exposing it to the air. The quick evaporation that results from the action produces a cooling sensation when applied to the skin.
Can I put a cooling towel in the freezer?
Towels and wraps that use gel bead technology are often put in the freezer before use. PVA, microfiber, and hybrid models, on the other hand, are unlikely to benefit from freezer exposure, since they work by forcing the water to evaporate quickly. You’d be better off simply using these brands as advertised, without attempting unnecessary shortcuts.
If you’re still on the fence about whether or not to purchase a cooling towel, it’s time to weigh the benefits against the risks.
- Keeps you cool in hot weather
- Can be re-activated wherever there’s water (in the case of the PVC, microfiber, and hybrid models)
- Provides hours of relief from the heat
- Portable and easy to pack on long trips
- SPF and UV-treated models provide sun protection
- Adds bulk on hiking trips and long runs
- May not perform well in high humidity
- Risk of stained clothing from color leaching out when a material is wet
- Ice down your water before setting out on a run or a hike to keep the replenishing liquid as cold as possible.
- Wash the towel at least twice before first use to avoid color bleed.
- Let the towels dry completely before storing them (check the instructions to see if they can be safely put in the dryer).
- Stock up on different sizes, so you’ll have options available for every activity.
- Keep a cooling towel stored in your locker at the gym.
- Have a travel-sized towel on hand in your glove compartment during the summer months.
Comparative Chart of Cooling Towels
We hope you’ve learned everything you wanted to know about these towels and the benefits they provide. Whether you’re a runner looking for a versatile therapeutic device, or are simply looking for a way to beat the summer heat, there’s bound to be a cooling towel out there that suits your needs. As technology progresses, keep an eye out for new features and benefits that these towels may offer in the future. Good luck on your search, and stay cool!