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Reviews > Personal Hygiene > Towels > Packtowl Camp Towels > Owner Review by Ray Estrella

MSR Packtowl Personal camp towel, Face
By Raymond Estrella
July 30, 2008


NAME: Raymond Estrella
EMAIL: rayestrellaAThotmailDOTcom
AGE: 47
LOCATION: Orange County, California, USA
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 200 lb (90.70 kg)

I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, and in many of the western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I have made a move to lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with my wife Jenn or brother-in-law Dave.

The Product


Manufacturer: Mountain Safety Research (MSR)
Web site:
Product: Packtowl Personal camp towel, Face
Year manufactured: 2005
MSRP: $ 12.95 (US)
Weight listed: 1 oz (25 g)
Size listed: 10 x 14 in (25 x 35 cm)
Actual weight: 0.8 oz (23 g)
Actual size after 4.5 years of use and washing: 9.5 x 12.5 in (24 x 32 cm)
Color reviewed: Dusty Blue (also available in Curry)

Product Description

The MSR Packtowl Personal camp towel, Face size (hereafter referred to as the wash cloth) is a very light-weight, compact, fast-drying washcloth.

It is made of an 85% polyester/15% nylon microfiber blend that is highly absorbent. The material is extremely soft to the touch and has a cushiony give to it. The edges have been serged to decrease the chance of fraying.

On one corner a nylon hang loop strap has been riveted on. It has a metal snap closure which when snapped leaves a loop 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter.

MSR suggests that it be machine washed, then hung dry using the convenient snap loop or tumble dry.

Field Conditions

I have used the MSR wash cloth in just about every three-season hike I have taken in the past four years along with quite a few of the winter trips. It has been used in the following locations from south to north.

Cleveland National Forest, San Jacinto Wilderness, Mount San Jacinto State Park, San Bernardino National Forest, Joshua Tree National Park, San Gorgonio Wilderness, Death Valley National Park, Sequoia National Forest, Sequoia National Park, Domeland Wilderness, Kings Canyon National Park, Inyo National Forest, Golden Trout Wilderness, John Muir Wilderness, Sierra National Forest, and Grand Teton National Park.

It has been as high as 14500 ft (4419 m) in elevation and below sea level. Temperatures have ranged from a frigid 17 F to well over 120 F (-8 to 49 C). I have used it to wipe condensation from tent walls in snow, rain storms and dewy Sierra mornings. It has been dried on rocks and boulders, draped over bushes, hung in trees, but mostly on the sternum strap of my pack as many pictures here attest.


Towl Hut...

It is funny that a guy like me, that has been a gear nut for a very long time, would find that one of the least expensive items I have is the thing that I have brought along on the most trips. But that is precisely the case with the MSR wash cloth. No items other than my trowel and safety whistle have logged more miles with me. (And heck, the whistle has only been used once.)

I did not even mean to purchase it. I got it with a set of MSR cook gear as part of a promotion. But I would replace it in a minute were I to lose it now.

I use it as a wash cloth (fancy that) taking sponge baths in camp using water from my collapsible bucket (see review) or right at the creek or lakeside. Because it is so absorbent I can sponge off a section of my body, and then squeeze the water that is left out of the wash cloth on the ground. Then I dip it back into the bucket and pull it out as soon as it absorbs a bit. Then I wring it out getting rid of the dirt that was left in it. Now the next dunk absorbs clean water that I use for the next section of my body. Repeating this process keeps the bucket of water from getting dirty as I wash. This would be hard for me to do with a regular terry wash cloth that does not have the absorbent qualities of the MSR version.

On the rare occasions that I cook nicer meals I use it to clean the pots and plates. When doing this I make sure to keep it as full of water as possible to keep it from absorbing food particles into the material. I rinse it out extra well after using it this way.

I use it in my tent to wipe condensation from my sleeping bag and tent walls when conditions warrant. It has soaked up quite a few loads of water during the past four years.

When cooking my freeze-dried meals I use the wash cloth to insulate my hand from the heat of the boiling water as I pour it into the bag. I will often use it to hold the bag while I eat also.

But the most use it sees is to keep me cool and dry while hiking. I carry the wash cloth attached to the sternum strap or shoulder pad loop of my backpack, as is seen in most of these pictures. I can then wipe or blot sweat from my face as I hike. When I pass a stream I will often dunk it a few times to rinse it out, giving my face and neck a cool swipe while I am at it. It then dries as I hike. Sometimes I flip it over my back to let it dry out of my way, as can be seen below on the Pacific Crest Trail along Mission Creek.

Flipped back

I wash it along with anything else I have going in the laundry and dry it at high heat. It has never shrunk and is as soft or softer now as the day I got it. The snap still works and holds well, and it is still in very good condition. It has a few melted spots from grabbing too hot of a pot handle and one abrasion from an encounter with a sharp stick. It did not punch all the way through though, a testament to the durability of it.

I have nothing to complain about the MSR wash cloth. If I lost it I would replace it as soon as possible. But I plan to keep using this one for a long time to come.

At Onion Valley

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

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