For decades I thought that damp-towel smell was just a part of life. I’d used terry-cloth towels post-swim for years (at the beach, pool and lakeside), and it took hours for them to dry, even when hung out in the sunshine.
Then I met a friend of a friend who exclusively uses Turkish towels. She gushed about how quick-drying, lightweight and easy to pack they are. So when I saw Wirecutter’s budget pick, the Huckberry Mediterranean Turkish Towel, on sale for Prime Day, I snapped up four of them.
Turkish towels were used as far back as the 1600s to provide privacy in Turkish baths. They are most often woven in Turkey of 100% long-staple cotton, which produces a smoother, stronger yarn to create a soft and lightweight towel.
“My parents lived in Turkey when I was born, so my mom always had a bunch of Turkish towels on hand for our beach days,” says senior copy editor Holly Gallo. “The Huckberry version is hand-loomed in Turkey, and it’s just as lightweight and beautiful as the ones from my youth. They’re so beautiful, in fact, that I now use them as bath towels as well.”
Turkish towels are big but pack down small
The biggest (literally) selling point of these Turkish towels for me is they are large but not bulky. The Huckberry Mediterranean Turkish Towel is one of the larger of our beach towel picks, and the company says they are 40 by 70 inches.
While we found they actually vary in size anywhere from 37 ½ by 69 ½ inches to 30 ½ inches by 72 inches this doesn’t really affect their use very much. So while not ideal, it’s not a dealbreaker either. The good news is that we didn’t see much, if any, shrinkage from washing.
Despite their size, these Turkish towels pack down tiny, to about 9 by 3 1/2 inches. For comparison, our pick for classic beach towel, the L.L.Bean Seaside Beach Towel, comes in at 36 by 68 inches and packs down to about 19 by 3 1/2 inches.
I no longer have to bring a separate beach bag just for towels, which significantly reduces the mental and physical strain of schlepping all of our stuff during what was intended to be a day of fun. Less schlep happier family.
They dry quickly
Because the towel is thin and cotton, it dries quickly in various environments: slung over a beach chair, hung on the railing of a summer camp cabin, or tossed on a chain-link pool fence. But unlike some Turkish-style towels that annoyingly seem to just rub moisture around your skin, the Huckberry ones are actually absorbent.
The Huckberry towels are also Oeko-Tex certified, which means they should be free of potentially harmful substances such as heavy metals, formaldehyde, and plasticizers.
And unlike terry towels that can feel like sandpaper straight from the clothesline, these towels always feel soft and pliable.
The Huckberry towels are the lightest of all our picks. Our upgrade Turkish towel pick, the Coyuchi Mediterranean Organic Towel is nearly the same size at 39 by 71 inches but about double the weight (and double the price).
They come in many patterns and colors
Personally, I barely notice the tassled edging, but it does make a pretty visual and allows the towel to double as a breezy, casual cover-up.
“Because they’re so light and come in such lovely colors, you can wrap one around you like a sarong if you head to a beachside bar or restaurant,” says Holly.
It’s a good point. If you try to do that with a terry towel, it gives more of a “the smoke alarm went off while I was in the shower” vibe.
I bought four distinctive patterns of our towel pick so each family member gets one and there’s no confusion (or sibling bickering) about whose towel is whose. While many other inexpensive Turkish towel designs feel a bit cheesy, the Huckberry ones look a lot more expensive than they are (especially if you buy them on sale).
I wouldn’t call these towels divas, exactly, but they can be a little persnickety, like that slightly high-maintenance best friend you always want to hang out with because they’re such a good time.
- Soak in cold water for several hours before the first use.
- Wash on a gentle cycle in cold water with little detergent and no fabric softener.
- Air dry (or if you must, on a very cool dryer setting)
While I completely ignored their advice to soak the towels in water (it’s supposed to help open up the fibers and make them softer), I did heed the gentle-wash-on-cold instructions. I don’t wash them after every use, and I’ve never put them in the dryer. I’ve owned mine for one year, and Holly has owned hers for two, and our towels have not pilled.
However, senior editor Kalee Thompson said hers started to pill after just a few washes. “I’ve been washing them in with everything else and putting them in the dryer. So their care instructions are meaningful because I’d say mine are slightly pilly after fewer than half a dozen washes,” she said.
Everyone I spoke with said they’d buy them again even Kalee, whose pilly towels still work great for beach, bath and hot tub sessions since they’re inexpensive, light and durable enough to not be precious.