Hot Tip – Backpacking Towel

Handy Shammy Label

When backpacking it’s really nice to have a towel along to dry off after that refreshing dip in a chilly stream. Anything bigger than a hand towel is too big and heavy to be carrying in a backpack.

Handy ShammyAlways on the search for something effective, light and inexpensive, I gave the Handy Shammy a try. It’s 20 inches (50.8 cm) long and 13.5 inches (34.29 cm) wide and weighs round 3/4 ounce (21 grams), dry. It looks like a piece of felt fabric and I suspect it is manufactured the same way.  The composition of the fabric is unspecified.

According to the back of the label, it is:

  • Perfect for cleaning up spills
  • Perfect for cleaning up stains
  • Perfect for drying your car
  • Perfect for using over and over

Well, I wondered, would it be perfect for backpacking?

It claims to hold more than five times it’s weight in liquid. That would be something like 3.75 ounces (106 grams). I had no idea how that compares to the water that needs to be dried off of a wet body. My only solution to this ignorance was an experiment. Instead of drying off with a towel after my shower, I dried off with the handy chammy.

I discovered that the towel worked as well as my large bath towel.  It weighed 3.3 ounces (94 grams), wet, so apparently my wet body carries around 2.5 ounces (71 grams) of water and the shammy was holding about 3.4 times its weight in water.  The shammy was not waterlogged, so it looks like the “five times it’s weight” claim is in the ballpark.

I found that trying to squeeze water out of the shammy was futile – it didn’t have enough water in it for me to be able to squeeze any out.  I tried shaking it with a quick snap and that dislodged a bit of water.   Next, I put the wet shammy outside in the morning sunlight with the temperature at 32°F (0°C) and rising, started my stopwatch and forgot about it.  Well, it was dry after 4 hours, but took less time than that.  It should dry considerably faster in higher temperatures and midday sunshine.

As for the cost – I found mine at the dollar store for a dollar. You can find these at Amazon and other stores, so if you want to minimize your use of fuel and time spent shopping you can order it there. When I last checked, a five pack at Amazon was $11.48 or $2.30 each.

One caveat – they don’t like heat. The instructions say to wash warm , do not put in the dryer and do not iron. I suspect you will also want to keep it away from the fire!

The bottom line:  the Handy Shammy will make a great replacement for the towel you are now carrying in your backpack.

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