Is There A Best Cooling Towel For Runners?

Cooling towels keep runners cool through a process of evaporative cooling.  To activate a cooling towel you simply wet it. You can then put it on your head or around your neck. Cooling towels are made of materials that are not as heavy as a regular towel when they are wet.

Cooling towels sounded like magic when I heard about them, so I did some research before I bought one. I knew we sweated to keep cool and I discovered that sweating is a form of evaporative cooling. A cooling towel acts like an amplifier for that process. Bottom line is cooling towels work in theory and practice. Take a look here for a more scientific explanation of evaporative cooling.

But why would you use a cooling towel rather than jump in a cold shower or bath? Read on to find out.

Buyers Guide

How Long Does It Take To Activate A Cooling Towel?

A cooling towel just needs to be wetted and wrung out to be activated. As soon as that’s done put it on the area of the body that needs to be cooled and you’ve started the process.

How Long Does The Cooling Effect Last?

About 30 minutes. They all last about the same time. You can pay more for a better one that will last longer. However if you feel the towel is loosing its effectiveness all you need to do is wet it again to reactivate it.

How Much Does A Cooling Towel Weight?

Most cooling towels are made of Polyvinyl Acetate (PVA) or a blend based on PVA. It’s a lightweight material thats perfect for cooling towels. When wet and laying around my neck it doesn’t feel heavy as a traditional towel would.

What Sizes Are Cooling Towels Available In?

Any size you need. Most cooling towels are small enough to be packed into a back pack without taking up notable space. Think about the part of your body you need to cool and theres a towel that is an optimal size for you.

How Much Does A Cooling Towel Cost?

My cooling towel was about $10. There are more expensive versions out there but I’m not sure how they are better. I haven’t used an expensive one and do I feel like I’m missing out.

You can pay a little bit more and get one with a bag or case that allows you to clip it to the outside of your bag. Thats the only thing I would consider paying extra for.

Other Considerations

How And When Would You Use A Cooling Towel?

I use my cooling towel at the end of a race. I have it in my drop bag ready to go. I soak it in water from a bottle someone has thrust into my hand and wrap it around my neck.

I did once use it at the start of a race where was able to hand it off to someone who was there helping me. But that was a one off.

Essentially I use my cooling towel at times when I’m hot and cant immediately get cool. Either by taking a long cool shower or getting into a pool.

They can of course be used in non-athletic settings. I can see how they would be useful in a family setting on a long hot day out.

Are Cooling Towles Easy To Wring Out?

Yes. Being easy to wring out is one of their defining characteristics.

Will A Cooling Towel Help With Sunburn?

Yes, in the short term. Firstly, if you’ve got to the end of a race and you’ve got sunburn, learn from that experience for the next race.

Cooling towels are a great option to help easy sunburn if you find yourself in a position where you cant take immediate action on the area of sunburn. A cooling towel is a good short term option.

How Should You Wash Your Cooling Towel?

You should follow the washing instructions that come with your towel. But they are robust things that can generally be washed at a cool temperate with a normal washing load.

If it’s a bright color you might want to wash it by hand the first couple of times just to make sure there’s no color leak.

How Should I Carry A Cooling Towel When I’m Not Using It?

The towel is only slightly damp after you’ve used it. So putting it back in your bag isn’t too much of a concern. However some cooling towels come with very nice carry cases. I’m going to treat myself to one of these, two reasons.

  • Easy access after a race.
  • It will dry quicker if its out of the bag.

I’m going to start taking that one with me when I take the dog for a long walk. I think she will appreciate the cooling effect of the towel just as much as me.

Final Thoughts: Best Cooling Towel For Runners

A cooling towel is a useful tool to have in your tool kit. They work very well and you will never regret paying about $10 for one. They do not replace a long cool shower but you will appreciate the cooling effect after a long hard race.

They are durable and easily washed. There is a cooling towel of any size, shape or style that you might like or need.

Best Cooling Towel For Runners


Slightly obsessed middle aged runner.