On a scuba trip to Egmont, BC Canada in the spring of 2015, we experienced extreme towel envy as two of our wetsuit clad friends whipped out colorful microfiber towels and dried off after a dive. The towels looked lightweight and highly absorbent. Our friends raved about them, gloating that their REI Multitowel allowed them to stay warm on the breezy boat trip back to the dock because, after removing their wetsuits and dabbing themselves with the towels, they were dry in seconds. Not only were the divers dry, the towels were nearly dry and ready to use again before docking. I’m sure we were drooling at that point, needing to use their towels as a bib. We decided to give them a try.
Back home, we purchased two sizes of the Multitowel Lite version and REI sent us a regular Multitowel to compare. The “Lite” version of the towel is the one that looks more like a chamois. The non-Lite version looks a bit slightly more like a regular towel in that it has a textured nap.
We’ve tried microfiber towels from Costco, as well as the completely useless ShamWow. Both of those early experiments ended up pushing water around, instead of absorbing it. And, they seemed to get worse with each wash.
The REI microfiber towels are different. Without a doubt, they’re the most absorbent towel you can imagine. Washing them only seems to increase their absorbency. Additionally, these 85% polyester/15% nylon microfiber multipurpose towels are soft on the skin, while sucking up water. While the REI website states they are ideal for travel, backpacking, camping, yoga sessions and the gym, we’d have to add on the boat or shore for scuba diving, or poolside when teaching scuba classes. They’re incredibly lightweight and take up little space, unlike their cotton terry counterparts.
During extensive testing, using the towels for diving, bathing, hot tubing and pool we learned a few things and were completely sold on this product.
- The REI website states the towel absorbs up to 8 times its weight in water, yet wrings out almost completely dry. We agree. They suck up water like magic and dry in a snap.
- They’re very light and compact, taking up very little space in your backpack or bag
- Quick-attach loop makes it easy to hang the towel to dry
- Both versions work equally well.
- The choice between the two is only between feel and pack-ability.
- They don’t slide across your skin like a regular towel so you use them by dabbing.
- You probably can use the size smaller than you think.
- Comes in three sizes — 59″ x 36″, 54″ x 25″, 36″ x 16.5″
- Three colors available – blue, grape and green
- Small, personal towels are also available
- The main downside to the towel is that they tend to become slightly odorous if not washed frequently. A couple of our friends who served in the Peace Corps confirmed this, stressing their time in humid jungle environments resulted in stinky towels. We recommend investing in some Pau Pilau wetsuit and dive gear cleanser.
- If you’re used to the luxurious feel of a thick, soft cotton towel, you may find the REI microfiber towel texture to be a little odd. It takes some getting used to. The regular version feels a bit more like a normal towel.
- Some people will find it hard to get used to the change in technique (dabbing vs sliding) when using these towels. The non-Lite version feels a bit more like a regular towel in this regard.
- The only other complaint we have seen is that the sizing does not allow you wrap yourself up in it for coziness or modesty. The larger towels are sufficient to wrap around a small to medium waist.
In summary, we heartily recommend the REI multipurpose towel, available only at REI. This is not just a camp or sports towel. We continue to use the towels daily at home. John uses the medium size calling it his “tiny home towel.” I use the larger one. They do the job better than any of our equally priced, full size cotton bath towels and dry much faster after use.