To paraphrase The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, "A towel is about the most massively useful thing you can have." While summer is coming to a close (how did that happen?), there are still plenty of outdoor activities you can embark upon to get the most out of the remaining days — and, for most of them, you're going to need a towel.
Whether swimming in a backyard pool (or makeshift stock tank), heading to the beach, picnicking in the park, or sweating things out with some hot yoga, it's a necessary companion for summer fun. And, as Douglas Adams so rightly pointed out, its brilliance lies in its versatility. A lightweight cotton towel will double as a pashmina or beach coverup, while a heavier-weight one will provide some cushion for socially distanced outdoor movie viewings. But surely there's no need to sacrifice style for utility. We've rounded up the most covetable, high-design towels for squeezing every last moment out of summer. So put one in your tote bag, or stash one in the trunk of your car in case of impromptu outings. You never know when you might need it.
Irresistibly desert-chic and generously sized for seaside lounging, Jonathan Adler's snake towel is the perfect mix of vintage glamour and edge.
A match made in getaway heaven, Gray Malin's iconic resort prints have now found their way onto soft, cushy beach towels.
Cartoonish "pelts" have been a mini-trend for a minute now, though usually in the form of wool rugs. We're happy to see the look pop up on outdoor-friendly gear, as well.
Pendleton's classic patterns are nothing short of collector-worthy. A more budget-friendly option than splurging on one of their signature blankets, these beach towels (which come in an impressive array of prints) are a clever way to get this enduring Americana style at home.
Australia-based Tesalate is among the new class of brands that have tricked out their towel materials with new technology, allowing for "sand-free" and "ultra-absorbent" labels. The brand boasts that its towels can absorb up to one liter of water, and still dry in half the time of a traditional beach towel. It also rolls to a compact size, and promises to leave the sand at the beach — a quality that our cars are eternally grateful for.
Another "sand-free" option is Sand Cloud. Unlike Teselate with its proprietary fabric, Sand Cloud makes its sand-resistant towels from 100% Turkish cotton, which gives them a recognizable look that wouldn't be out of place in a trendy boutique hotel. The fringe detail lends a nice boho touch.
Dock & Bay's towels are another import, created in partnership between an Aussie and a Londoner. They're quick-drying, sand-free, and come with a handy coordinating pouch for compact storage. The brand offers a 12-month warranty on their towels (the first we've seen, for the beach set) and monograms, to boot. The towels are made from a polyester blend, and if that idea doesn't appeal to you at first, take another look — their new range is 100% recycled.
Channel your spiritual side with this Tarot-inspired print by artist Emanuela Carratoni in collaboration with DENY Designs.
Bring some pool club panache to your backyard with these sophisticated "RESERVED" towels from tongue-in-cheek brand Sir/Madam. They're incredibly high-quality, and finished with hand-knotted fringe.
More of a beach blanket than a towel, this modern and multifunctional option gets an honorable mention for achieving most of the things we love about a good towel. Described by the brand as an "Adventure Blanket," it's designed for both indoors and out — but it really shines on the go, as a yoga blanket, beach blanket, camping blanket, festival blanket ... you get the idea. It's made "ethically and sustainably" from upcycled clothing scraps to minimize waste in the fashion industry — the pieces are shredded and then made into new yarn for weaving (which accounts for its acrylic blend composition).
You don't have to go to a nude beach to show off these curves. Luxury outdoor gear brand Business & Pleasure Co.'s 100% cotton beach towel conjures up European beaches and tanline-free living with these artful figures.
If rock-chic is more your speed, Slowtide's rebellious, music-centric selection is full of Grateful Dead logos and skulls—but we're partial to their on-trend zebra print, which is equally appealing on both sides (a rare trait).
All eyes on you. A little occult, a little groovy, Jonathan Adler's signature eye motif is ideal for getting noticed even while social distancing (or pretending you're an extra in The Love Witch).
Minna's beach towels, in a range of fruit-inspired palettes, offer all of the ethical craftsmanship we've come to expect from the brand. Each towel is handwoven through a partnership with artisans in Guatemala, and is lightweight enough to serve as a stylish wrap, too.
An appealingly chunky, Turkish-style towel with a distinct retro vibe—reminiscent of vintage Missoni, or the woven rag-rug at your Grandma's place.
Pay homage to one of America's favorite glamping getaways with this classic tourism-inspired towel, created in collaboration with design favorite Fifty-Nine Parks. Made from 30 recycled plastic water bottles per towel, it's an earth-friendly option inside and out.
Emily Bihl is a freelance writer and sometimes-songwriter who can invariably be found rearranging furniture in a domicile somewhere along the Mississippi River. She lives with her black labrador Selkie and a small army of homemade ceramics, and has not willingly closed a browser tab since 2011.