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Beach Towels for Summer Camp: Thin, Cheap may be Best

Smaller towels are easier for kids to manage

When you’re looking at beach towels for daycare splash day or summer camp, there are important factors to consider.

A thick, well-made towel from Lands’ End or Pottery Barn is sumptuous and soft, perfect as a beach blanket or to go over your pool side lounge. But if you’re sending a towel off with your kid this summer, you’re better off choosing the thinner, cheaper beach towels from discount stores that sell for around $5.50.

Thick, plush towels retain moisture and take forever to dry. They get heavy when they’re wet and they’re usually a generous size, taking more room in a backpack or bag. When that towel is wadded up and stuffed into a backpack that sits in the heat, by the time it’s home and in your laundry (assuming someone had the presence of mind to remember it and pull it out), it stinks. What’s more, it will take a series of soaking, washing, airing and treating to get completely rid of the stale, mildew-y smell.

On the other hand, the thinner and coarser towel will absorb moisture yet dry out quickly in the breeze. The cheaper towels are lightweight and easy to throw over shoulders to carry or cover up from sun (unlike the larger, thicker towels that become an albatross). Even if they are left too long in a tangled mess, they air out more easily than the thick variety. In the worst cases, they aren’t as painful to discard or lose because they cost less to begin with.

If the YMCA issued thick, plush towels they would never get them completely dried and laundered (or returned). It seems ironic to pay more for monogramming than for the towel itself, but you will find that the lighter weight versions are adequate for toweling off after a swim and don’t require any extra minutes in your dryer. Considering how stinky camp laundry is in the first place, a stale towel is the last thing you need. 

The best thick towels are from $12 to $24 and up from TJMaxx to catalog retailers. Cheap, camp-worthy towels are around $5.50 at Target or WalMart. Daycare moms, your kid won’t be the only one who likes character-theme towels. Skip the confusion over who brought the Cinderella towel and send a simple, personalized version with your kid.