Maybe sports towel use has been limited to just the athletic types who casually bring them like ordinary gear. I don't know.
When I go to various swimming outings in beaches or resorts, I don't see people using them. What I see people bring are the usual bathroom cotton towels. So you could say that, in spite of their advantages, their widespread use hasn't really caught on.
How I Discovered Sports Towels
Many years ago, I saw a brief coverage of the Olympics Platform Diving event on the TV. During breaks, after each dive, the camera showed the divers taking open showers. After turning off the shower, the divers would wipe themselves with what looked like a small face towel.
Naturally, I was incredulous how they managed to wipe their bodies dry with such a small towel. The towel material didn't look like normal bathroom towels and they actually looked like thin sheets of foam rubber!
Wikipedia briefly defines a sports towel.
A sports towel, or (synthetic) chamois, is a towel used by swimmers and divers. It is a super-absorbent towel that can be wrung out when saturated, leaving the towel able to absorb water again, although not dry.
If you're familiar with the synthetic chamois used for drying newly washed cars, the sports towel material is made with something similar. But the material for sports towels is much softer and fluffier when damp.
Damp? Yes, because when totally dry, a sports towel is as hard as a thick piece of cardboard. So, to use a very dry sports towel, you need to soften it a little by soaking it in water
Advantages of Sports Towels
- Very Absorbent
The towel's microfiber material is what makes it super-abosrbent. To use, you wipe the water from your skin and the sports towel absorbs. When it's full of water, you simply wring the water out.
You can use the sports towel on your hair too, just like with a normal bathroom towel. You simply wipe and wring as needed.
The microfiber material that most sports towels are made of is tough. For several years, I swam almost everyday and never had to replace my Arena sports towel.
When I had to replace the tattered sports towel, the material was still useable.
- Handy and Portable
Most sports towels come rolled-up inside transparent plastic tubes while others are folded in pouches. Regardless, this is the best selling point for sports towels.
Because its super-absorbent, you don't need a big towel to dry yourself. Just keep wiping and then wringing out the water as needed.
Unlike ordinary towels, you don't need to dry the sport towel when it's time to go. To pack the sports towel, squeeze out the excess water, roll the towel and replace back into the tube.
The plastic tube keeps the rest of the contents of your bag dry. The tube is small and compact that the sports towel can easily fit into any-sized gym bag. Compare that with the bulkiness of bathroom towels.
For long term storage though, it's better to wash and air-dry it.
Unfortunately, it's because of the sports towel's size that some people (mostly the ladies) do not favor it. You cannot wrap around a sports towel and cover yourself with it the way you can with a bathroom towel.
But that's the only disadvantage I can think of.
Actually, another nifty use for the sports towel is for walking trips where you might find yourself hiking under the sun. During Visita Iglesia (Lenten Church Visits), where I walk a lot, I soak a sports towel in cold water and then pack it in my bag.
When the day becomes too hot, I could easily take it out and wipe my face, neck and arms with it, thus keeping me substantially cool. How's that for a bonus?
Personally, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantage and I will keep bringing my handy sports towel to anywhere where I need to bring a towel.