Overheating can be a real problem on the road. I’m sure we’ve all experienced it at one time or another; that exhausting, dizzying feeling that’s the equivalent of a running hangover.
But it doesn’t just hamper your running. When overheating goes from simple dehydration to heat exhaustion, the reality is that your life could truly be in danger.
Step number one is choosing your clothing wisely in the heat. Clothes alone can only do so much, though. As well as your gear and staying hydrated, we highly recommend getting yourself one of the best cooling towels for runners.
Coming in at number one is the Mission Original Cooling Towel. It’s made from soft and long-lasting brushed microfiber for comfortable use, and uses quick-activating Evaporative Cool technology. UPF50+ sun protection is an added bonus, insofar as you are using your cooling towel for sun protection.
Here’s a list of some other great options if you’re looking at getting yourself one.
Top 3 Best and Favorites
Mission Original Cooling Towel
Frogg Togg Chilly Mini Cooling Towel
Ergodyne Chill-Its 6700CT Cooling Bandana
1. Mission Original Cooling Towel
This inconspicuous little towel wins top spot on this list for its impressive cooling properties and an extra layer of sun protection.
It’s crafted from brushed microfiber, which makes it soft on the skin and lightweight, so it’s easy to carry around with you.
A really nice factor is that it has UPF50 sun protection. Drape it over your neck when outdoors to keep cool and avoid sunburn at the same time.
When you get home after your workout, simply throw it in the washing machine to get it clean and fresh. These kinds of towels can hold onto bad smells if you use them regularly, so it’s important to wash them as regularly as you use them!
- Lightweight brushed microfiber
- Machine washable
- UPF50 sun protection
- It can hang onto bad smells
- You need to soak it to activate the cooling, so it may not be effective if you aren’t nearby a water source or have an extra bottle of water
2. Alfamo Cooling Towel
Whatever size towel you’re looking for, you’ll find one of these to suit you. It comes in four different sizes, from 11” x 33” to 14” x 47”. Whichever size you choose, it comes in a handy ziplock bag that you can clip easily to your bag.
The larger sized ones are versatile and can be used as a towel, a bandanna, a neck wrap, or whatever else you choose.
It’s made of polyester, which is soft and durable. Although it’s not quite as cooling as PVA, it still does the job well.
According to the manufacturer, it stays cool for up to 3 hours, although this will definitely depend on the environment in which you use it. Make sure you use it properly though – there’s a specific way to activate the cooling, which you’ll find in the instructions.
Alfamo also offers a lifetime money-back guarantee, so if you have any issues just get in touch with them to sort it out.
- Comes in four sizes
- Stays chilled for up to 3 hours
- Comes with a handy ziplock pouch
- UPF50 sun protection
- Polyester isn’t as cooling as other materials
3. Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad Cooling Towel
This little 2-pack is high-quality and great value for money. The Frogg Toggs are made from a very evaporative polyester blend material, and hold their coolness for an extended period of time.
Picking a size is easy, since there’s only one: 30” x 13”. If that’s too big, you can always cut it in half.
They come in a plastic container, but be careful putting them back inside when they aren’t fully dry yet. This could invite mold and mildew!
They’re super soft and comfy, so you can use them as you wish quite comfortably.
We like that you get 2-for-1 here, as you can alternate and make sure each one gets washed between uses.
- Hyper-evaporative material
- Versatile use
- Stays cool for extended period of time
- 30” x 13”
- Susceptible to mold if placed in a closed container when it’s still damp
- Color may run when washed in the machine (hand washing is recommended)
Top Neck Cooling Towel
4. Frogg Togg Chilly Mini Cooling Towel
It’s surprising how easily your core temperature cools down when something cool is placed on your neck! That’s exactly what the purpose of this little towel is – to cool down your neck.
It’s a longer shape than others, at 29” x 3”, which is scarf-like and perfect for wearing around the neck. If you’re using it outdoors, it adds a sun protection element of UPF50.
The towel may have a more rubbery feel than others, and isn’t quite as soft. But it cools well, is machine washable, and comes in a handy carry case so you can move around quite easily with it.
If you like a towel you can sling around the back of your neck and carry on with, then this one would be a good choice!
- Comes in plastic carrying case
- 29” x 3”, perfect for wearing around the neck
- Machine washable
- UPF50+ protection
- Not as soft as some others
5. Ergodyne Chill-Its 6700CT Cooling Bandana
If you dislike the idea of carrying a separate towel for cooling, a headband may be more your thing.
Simply run this band under cold water until it’s saturated, twirl it around to activate the cooling, and place it on your head like any other headband.
It lasts up to 4 hours (depending on where you’re using it) and keeps you cool without dripping annoyingly onto your shoulders or neck.
It’s also pretty stylish and is available in a nice range of colors and patterns.
- Cooling can last up to 4 hours
- Drip-free cooling
- Available in a variety of colors and patterns
- Can be quite stiff when it dries
Top Large Cooling Towel
6. Frogg Toggs SCP200 Super Chilly Pad
This cooling towel can be used either as one large, all-covering towel, or even cut up into a few smaller ones.
It’s made of highly absorbent mesh, so it’s soft and easy on the skin as well as staying damp and cool for a good while.
Use it indoors at the gym or while exercising at home, or outdoors while taking a run or working in the garden.
If you’re storing it back in its original container, make sure it’s completely dry before putting it away. If it’s damp, it can quickly become moldy.
- Large size, 33″ x 25″
- Can be cut into smaller pieces
- Made of absorbent mesh
- Stays cool for a while
- Prone to mold or mildew if stored when damp
Best Bamboo Fiber Towel
7. Zacro 3 Packs Cooling Towel
If you’ve never heard of a bamboo towel, you may be surprised at how useful bamboo fiber can be!
This 3-pack is packed with value. You’ll get three different sizes (47.2”, 39.3”, and 31.5” x 11.8”), with each one a different color so you know at a glance which is which.
The bamboo/nylon mix is highly absorbent, but dries very quickly, which is perfect for a cooling towel.
It’s also very lightweight and folds up nice and compact, so they’re easy to take anywhere with you. The mesh bag can be tied to any bag or belt.
- Comes in a 3-pack of different sizes
- Absorbent and quick-drying
- Lightweight and compact
- Can be damaged by sunlight and bleach
Top Budget Cooling Towel
8. Ergodyne Chill-Its 6602 Evaporative Cooling Towel
If you’re looking for an affordable, easy to use cooling towel, the Ergodyne Chill-Its 6602 is our best budget option.
For less than a tenner you get a good sized towel (13” x 29.5”) that you can drape around your neck, use as a bandanna, or use just like a normal towel.
Although some users found the rubbery PVA material to be too bulky, it does absorb water well and holds onto its coolness for a few hours. Depending on your environment, it can cool the body by up to 20℉!
It also comes in a few different colors, so you can pick whatever suits you.
- Made from PVA
- Comes in a few different colors
- 13” x 29.5”
- Can drop skin temperature by up to 20℉
- Some may find it to be quite bulky
Best Towel for Recovery
9. MISSION Premium Recovery Cooling Towel
Recovery is a super important part of training, and getting it wrong can have adverse effects on your performance.
This towel is designed for recovery. It’s meant for home use, not to take on the road or trail with you. The size alone would make carrying it around uncomfortable!
At 27.5” x 55”, it’s the largest on this list and perfect for home use to ease up muscles and cool you down after a hard run.
Of course, you can take this with you on hikes and runs if you don’t mind carrying it or if you fold it into a bandanna or neck gaiter style.
The large surface area aids in evaporation, keeping it extra cool. Simply put it in the washing machine when you’re done and you’ll have it ready for after your next run.
- Made from polyester
- Machine washable
- Large size, 27.5″ x 55″
- UPF50 sun protection
- Doesn’t come with a storage tube
Have some questions about cooling towels and why you should get one? We’ve answered some of the most common questions below.
What Are Cooling Towels Made Out Of?
Cooling towels aren’t just your everyday towel, like swimming towels or bathroom towels.
They’re made from a light, soft fabric like microfiber mesh or a plastic-like material such as PVA (polyvinyl acetate).
They definitely feel different than a normal towel, which is usually thicker and rougher.
How Do Cooling Towels Work?
Cooling towels use a phenomenon called “evaporative cooling.” This is actually quite simple when you think about it. Water requires heat energy to evaporate. The towels draw the moisture away from your skin, and then use the heat of your skin to evaporate the water.
This is exactly what sweat does when it evaporates from our skin. That’s why we feel cooler when we sweat.
A cooling towel amplifies that effect. They’re quick-drying, which basically means water evaporates faster off them, which increases that cooling, chilling feeling on the skin.
Just soak your towel in water, wring it out, and snap it in the air for the cooling effect to be activated. Place it against your skin, over the back of your neck, or over a shoulder and you’ll instantly feel the cooling.
What Other Benefits Do Cooling Towels Have?
Another nice benefit of a cooling towel over a normal towel is that they’re easier to wring out, so you don’t have to carry around a heavy, moisture-filled towel.
They definitely retain moisture, but being so easy to wring out they remain lighter and easier to handle than other types of towels, which is super if you’re taking it with you on the road or trail.
What Do You Need to Consider When Buying a Cooling Towel?
When shopping for the best cooling towels for runners, consider the following things:
This really depends on what’s convenient for you. Would you prefer a small, square cooling towel just to wipe your face every now and then? Or a larger one that you can throw over your shoulder or around your neck?
Thickness can contribute to weight, so the thicker the towel, the heavier it will be (whether or not it’s saturated). You may feel that a too-thin towel isn’t substantial enough, though, so it will be up to you to decide what feels best.
Nobody wants to spend money on something that’s not likely to last. Check the workmanship before buying. Are there loose fibers? Are there seams that are coming apart? Perhaps there are reviews about the quality of the towel. Do your research!
Some cooling towels are designed specifically for sensitive skin or for people who suffer from skin-related allergies. Others don’t cater for this, and may cause a reaction.
We advise checking what material it’s made from, and also browsing through reviews to see if anyone else has had an issue before purchasing one.
Although we’ve covered the main points above, there are a few others less important things to think about. One is color. While the color won’t make a difference to the quality of the towel, you may as well choose something that appeals to you!
Secondly, if you’re going to be using your cooling towel every day, you may want to invest in more than one, perhaps in a set instead of individually. That way, you can alternate between using one and washing the other.