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Reviews > Personal Hygiene > Towels > Wick-er Warm Up Towels > Test Report by Roger Caffin
|Initial Report 8-July-2009
I started bushwalking at 14 and took up rock climbing at University with the girl who became my wife and my permanent walking partner. Ski touring and canyoning followed. Winter and summer, we prefer long hard trips by ourselves: about a week in Australia, up to three months in Europe/UK. We prefer fast and light in unfrequented trackless country. We would be out walking, skiing or snowshoeing for at least three months a year. We have now moved to lightweight gear, much to our backs' relief. I designed and made much of our lightweight gear myself.
I am also the maintainer of the Australian aus.bushwalking FAQ web site www.bushwalking.org.au/FAQ/.
Sometimes, you just need a towel.
|Discovery Trekking Outfitters
|Year of manufacture: 2009 (assumed)
|Country of manufacture:
|The box says 'Fabric made in USA, Sewn in Mexico' but the tag says 'Made in Canada'
|One Medium towel
|One Ultra-light towel
|~ 28" x 34" (711 x 864 mm)
|~ 28" x 34" (711 x 864 mm)
|28.5" x 33.5" (724 x 851 mm)
|29" x 33" (737 x 838 mm)
|' less than 4 oz '
|5.0 oz (142 g)
|3.39 oz (96 g)
|Polartec swing tags included but not attached
Well, basically, both of these towels are flat rectangles of some sort of stretch knit synthetic fabric, a bit like fleece but without the fur. I could easily imagine using the same fabric for a summer-weight base-layer top. The hems are flat-sewn with a 3-needle overlocker and are fairly broad - a bit over 1/2" or about 15 mm wide. The Ultra-light one has a finer knit than the Medium one.
My first impression was that these are made from soft synthetic fabrics in nice colours, with a soft handle, with good hems, and not very large. The fabric has a nice handle, and did seem to wick water off my wet hands quite well. I have not tested them beyond that yet.
I will include some quotes from the manufacturer's web site so I can comment on them. Of the Medium size they say 'It is the best size for baby bath towels'. Well, they certainly are not 'adult bath size' anyhow. 'The lightweight moisture-management fabric pulls the water from your skin. It really works!' This is a key question of interest to any walker and one which I will examine in the Field and Long Term sections: just how well can one of these towels dry off a whole body, given the apparently small size. Mind you, I have used even smaller towels during testing, but with variable results. An even more serious test will be when both my wife and I try to use one towel between the two of us. I recognise up front that this may be asking rather a lot of a single towel, although the Aquis towel I tested here passes that test OK. The 'super lightweight backpacking towel' is promoted for 'serious backpackers'. OK, just how much of my body (our bodies) will this towel dry?
A second claim the company makes is that the towel fabric will dry fast: 'When the moisture reaches the outside of the fabric, it spreads out to many times its original surface area, enabling it to evaporate very quickly.' Now this is very attractive for long-distance walkers ('thru-hikers') who have to dry off their washed gear on the back of their packs as they go. My experience with some of these synthetic fabrics is that they do dry quickly, so I am going to look at this feature very carefully.
Two swing tags were included in the packaging, bearing the Polartec (Malden Mills) brand. This is a well-known and respected outdoors brand. One swing tag claims 'sun protection', but I can't see that being hugely relevant for our use of the towels. The other swing tag says 'odor resistant', and explains that there is some silver in the fibres. The silver inhibits the growth of bacteria. This may be of some interest on a long trip.
Field Report - 01-September 2009
Field Test Conditions & Locations
Very shortly after I posted the Initial Report for the two Wick-er Warmup towels my wife and I put them into our packs and set off for six weeks walking in Switzerland, doing as many of the alpine passes as we could stagger over. We did the Chamonix to Zermatt Walkers Haute Route, The Alpine Passes Route right across Switzerland (also known as the Swiss Via Alpina), and finally a bit of wandering around near the start of the French GR5 to fill in the residual time. So the towels have had a lot of use in the Field Test period.
The agenda for the trip was generally to spend the night in a valley at an altitude between 500 m and 1,000 m (1,600' to 3,300'), and then to cross a high pass typically over 2,500 m (8,200') and descend to the next valley. That meant we were climbing and descending over 1,500 m (4,900') each day. The weather was mostly warm, in the range 20 - 33 C (68 - 91 F), and the humidity ranged from about 30% to 95%. In short, we sweated a lot, and that meant we usually needed to have a wash at the end of the day. Washing usually meant drying. We each used one of the two towels on this trip, rather than trying to dry two people with one towel. It didn't matter which one each of us used.
However, we didn't get to camp every night. For a start, camping is technically illegal in Switzerland except in proper camping grounds, but a bigger problem is that most of the land is intensively farmed, especially in the valleys. Nonetheless, we did do some camping, both in campgrounds and in the high alps. In most of these cases we had a quick wash in a creek (if there was a creek) or in the campground showers and dried ourselves with the towels. In many other cases we stayed in a Refuge or similar. These offer a bed and food and sometimes a (cold) shower, but they do not provide towels. Once again, when showers were available we used the Wick-er Warmup towels. The remaining nights were spent in mainly small village hotels, there being no other choice, and these did provide towels. All told we would have used the towels for about 20 - 25 nights.
Having used the towels in the evening we would hang them out overnight, either in or near the tent or in the Refuge, to dry. If necessary we also hung them on our packs to dry during the day.
Field Test Findings
First of all, I can confirm that both towels dried quickly. No question about that. In addition, I didn't notice much difference in drying capacity between the two versions.
Second, both the towels were quite effective in drying a single person when used correctly, but the 'correctly' caveat is important.
What I did find was that getting dry was not quite that easy. The fabric is very slippery when folded against itself and quite different from cotton. If I take a cotton towel I can easily rub it across my skin; the bunched-up Wick-er Warmup towels would move in my hand instead. It seems that the friction against my wet skin is much higher than the friction between layers of towel. It took a careful effort to hold the towel in the right way such that I could actually rub the water off my skin. I could make a rope out of the towel and use it that way, although the lack of bulk meant this was somewhat less effective. In short, while lighter than many other 'pack towels' I have tried, these ones proved harder to use effectively. My wife reported exactly the same experiences. I suspect that the trade-off between weight and ease-of-use will be unique to every person.
I think we actually washed the towels once during the whole six weeks. I guess they must have picked up some body oils during use (cold showers aren't that good!) but we did not notice any problems with the towel becoming less absorbent with time. Maybe we didn't rub very hard? Nor did the towels develop any musty smell over time - perhaps the embedded silver helped?
Finally, neither towel showed any sign of wear at all over the six week trip. After a good wash at home they look just like new.
Long Term Report - 10-November-2009
Later Test Conditions & Locations
Trips during the Long Term Report period included a 4-day ski trip in the Australian Alps and an overnight walk in the Blue Mountains. The ski trip had very bad snow and the walk had howling cool winds - none of which had any effect on the towels of course. The towels got a small amount of use but nothing like the sustained use they experienced in Switzerland. They showed no further wear and their behaviour was unchanged.
The towels dry me (us) off reasonably well, they are very light, they do dry fast as promised (much faster than cotton), and they aren't showing any signs of wear after a fair bit of use.
The difficulty of rubbing the fabric over wet skin is apparently known to the vendor. It is not a show-stopper by any means, but I did have to get used to using the towels in a different way from ordinary cotton towels. I think I still find cotton towels easier to use and maybe they dry my skin just a bit better, but the extra weight of cotton towels makes them definitely a non-starter for my pack. Yes, I will continue to take these towels on trips.