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The Best Cooling Towels to Prevent Overheating During a Workout

They're loved by Amazon customers, and Serena Williams even swears by them.
By Braelyn Wood
April 05, 2021
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Your post-workout cooldown is an important part of any fitness routine — but it turns out staying cool throughout your workout is equally important. Science suggests keeping your body temperature down can improve your performance by letting you workout longer.

Many professional athletes and fitness enthusiasts rely on cooling towels to keep their body temperature in check, including Serena Williams. It might sound contradictory, but the versatile fitness accessory keeps your body cool via the heat emitted by your own body — no ice necessary.

Here are the best cooling towels of 2021, according to customer reviews: 

How Do Cooling Towels Work? 

The towels rely on evaporative technology to reduce body temperature. Similar to sweat, the water in the towel evaporates into the air and lowers the temperature of the surrounding air. This cools the body and prevents overheating, which can lead to heat exhaustion or even stroke. (Check out Shape's guide to heat stroke.)

Microfiber and polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) are the primary materials used to make cooling towels. Both options are lightweight, but PVA tends to be more absorbent and offers better cooling benefits. That's because PVA is a synthetic, biodegradable material that can hold up to 12 times its weight in water. The downside? It dries stiff like a sponge and may feel uncomfortable on the skin between soakings.

Who Needs Cooling Towels? 

Cooling towels can be worn before, during, and after a workout, with most designs offering at least two hours of cooling. But the benefits of a cooling towel aren't limited to sweaty workouts: They can be worn during outdoor activities like yard work, or on visits to amusement parks (well, post-COVID). 

Plus, they're totally reusable and relatively affordable, with most towels priced under $25. Ready to give a cooling towel a try? Here are some of the best options to choose from, according to thousands of customer reviews.

Best Overall: Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad Cooling Towel

Buy It, $13

More than 4,600 shoppers gave this cooling towel a perfect rating, calling it a “lifesaver” for staying cool, even in direct sunlight. It’s made from 100 percent PVA, and holds enough water for up to four hours of cooling relief. You can rely on it for everything from hot flashes to outdoor workouts. Simply wet the towel and drape it over your head and shoulders for an instant cooling effect (and UPF 50+ sun protection). 

Best Breathable: U-pick 4 Packs Cooling Towel

Buy It, $13 for 4

If you plan to use your cooling towel during a workout, opt for a more breathable option like this mesh design. It’s made with a lightweight microfiber that molds to your body and stays in place during hikes, yoga, and bike rides. You’ll only get three hours of cooling time before the towel needs to be refreshed, but almost 1,700 five-star ratings prove it’s not a dealbreaker. Plus, the towels can be worn at least 10 ways, and come in a pack of four to easily layer for max cooling. (Try these outdoor workouts with your new purchase.)

Best for Head: Mission Cooling Hoodie Towel

Buy It, $20

Serena Williams trusts this cooling towel brand on the tennis court — and this hoodie towel might be the company’s most innovative design. Its contoured shape drapes over the head with extended sides that tuck into your shirt or hang loose for extra sun protection. Wear it tailgating, poolside, or during a workout for up to two hours of cooling. Plus, the lightweight pick is machine washable, and has 1,100 perfect ratings.

Best for Body: Ideatech Cooling Towel

Buy It, $21

Ideatech is the same size as a standard bath towel, and the largest pick in the lineup. Its oversized design is big enough to wrap around your body for an instant cooling effect post-workout. Maximize its benefits by using it as extra sun protection on sunny days or a lightweight towel to dry on the go. When you become obsessed — like one reviewer who says it’s the “best thing” they’ve bought on Amazon — prepare to buy the other colorways. The body towel also comes with a bonus mini towel, so you’ve got options.

Best for Neck: Your Choice Cooling Towel

Buy It, $13

The rectangular shape of this mesh towel easily drapes around the neck to drop your body temperature right at the pulse point. Equally lightweight and absorbent, it’s powerful enough to keep you cool for at least an hour according to reviewers. Each compact towel arrives in a carrying bag with a metal carabiner clip that attaches to backpacks, fanny packs, and lanyards. Not sold? It also has almost 500 perfect reviews.

Best Gaiter: Mission Multi-Cool 12-in-1 Neck Gaiter

Buy It, $20

Protect yourself from dust and debris with this machine-washable gaiter from Mission. Its performance fabric with evaporative technology provides up to two hours of cooling relief. One experienced desert hiker shared that it worked “like a champ” to keep them cool in 120-degree Fahrenheit weather — and 800 perfect ratings back the sentiment. Your hardest choice will be to decide how to wear the multi-use design.

Best Bamboo: Bogi Cooling Towel

Buy It, $8

This popular pick is made with an unexpected fabric: mesh bamboo fiber. It provides the same cooling effect as microfiber or PVA, without chemicals to keep you chilled for up to three hours. It comes in two sizes, and almost 1,800 shoppers are already obsessed with its extra soft feel. (And if you need more softness in your life, these are Shape editor’s fave soft leggings.)

Best Machine-Washable: Ergodyne Chill-Its Cooling Towel

Buy It, $6

Get up to four hours of cooling relief from this PVA-based pick. Despite its plush fabric construction, the reusable towel is machine-washable for an easy refresh. That means it won’t start to smell, and can be used for everything from night sweats to workouts. Shop the popular pick with more than 4,300 perfect ratings in five colors. 

Best Soft: Alfamo Cooling Towel

Buy It, from $7

Alfamo’s towel has the benefits of PVA (a three-hour cooling time) without the downsides (stiffness when dried). That’s because it’s made with a PVA blend that also uses polyamide to retain its softness over time. Although the brand only launched in 2015, its cooling design has become a shopper favorite with more than 1,600 perfect reviews. (Related: Breathable Workout Clothes and Gear to Help You Stay Cool and Dry)

Best Bulk: Sukeen Cooling Towel

Buy It, $32 for 10

Snag cooling towels for a little over $3 apiece with this affordable bundle. It includes 10 breathable, microfiber towels individually packed in waterproof plastic pouches with carabiner clips. Each towel is a different color — so you can share with friends — and stays chilled for up to three hours. Add yourself to the more than 6,200 people who are already impressed.