Why a microfiber towel is one father's ideal beach blanket

Microfiber towels are thinner than traditional beach blankets and dry quickly, making them a beach day essential for one writer. Shop his go-to picks.
Since switching to a microfiber beach blanket some years back, it's been a staple in technology writer Whitson Gordon's beach bag
Since switching to a microfiber beach blanket some years back, it's been a staple in technology writer Whitson Gordon's beach bagSportLite
By Whitson Gordon

Our editors independently selected these items because we think you will enjoy them and might like them at these prices. If you purchase something through our links, we may earn a commission. Pricing and availability are accurate as of publish time. Learn more about Shop TODAY.

Buying a beach towel may seem like a boring process: Grab one that isn’t too cheaply made, in a color you like. But if you’re willing to think a bit outside the box, there are great options for beach blankets beyond the standard terrycloth towels. Fed up with packing oversized towels for vacations, my family has switched to using the more condensable SportLite Beach Blanket, and it’s become a new staple addition in our beach bag.

SportLite Beach Blanket (backordered, ships August 12)

Unlike your typical beach towel, the SportLite beach blanket is made of microfiber, which means it’s super thin. As a result, it’s a bit less absorbent than a towel, but it’s also twice the size, so it’ll still dry you off without a problem — while comfortably seating two people. It’s particularly great if you have kids and don’t want to futz with five separate towels. Measuring in at 64 inches by 76 inches, one or two of these will provide you plenty of space for the entire family. (Right now, this size is on backorder and below we share some other options if you're looking for something delivered sooner.)

More importantly, its thin microfiber fabrication allows it to dry in the sun really, really fast. While regular beach towels seem to stay damp after repeated uses, the SportLite blanket is actually ready to dry you off after your next dip. That also means you don’t have to pack inevitably wet towels back in your bag at the end of the day. Plus, to be honest, it’s really soft and comfy: It’s not as warm as a beach towel, but if I’m at the beach, it’s probably a scorcher outside anyway.

The thin material is also perfect for folding into a super-compact package, smaller than its surface area would imply. Where once we had to fill a bag entirely with beach towels, we can now stuff one or two of these into a bag with all of our other snacks, drinks and other beach day musts without batting an eyelash. And if you’re packing beach gear for an actual vacation, that compact packing ability becomes twice as much of a godsend.

Finally, each corner has a small pocket where you can stash your keys, phone or whatever else — not for security, but to keep the blanket weighed down so a gust of wind doesn’t blow it over while you’re trying to read. You could even stick some sand in there, though I’m loath to voluntarily put sand on top of my blanket when I know I’ll end up bringing home half the beach already.

While we’ve owned this model for a few years (which is showing no signs of ripping or fraying), SportLite does offer some variations on the beach blanket:

Their Amazon listings aren’t the most organized I’ve ever seen — some colors and styles are split into separate listings for seemingly no reason — but if you search “SportLite Microfiber” on Amazon, you’ll get a pretty good selection to choose from.

The Sportlite towels are also far from the only microfiber towels out there, in case you want a different style or size then what's on offer. I can’t speak to any of these, but if you’re okay with something smaller, they may do the trick — and are at least highly-rated. (All that’s not even to mention the magic sifting sand-free towels out there, which I haven’t tried but am curiously skeptical about.)

Rainleaf Microfiber Towel 40-Inch x 72-Inch

These Rainleaf models are well-reviewed and come with a carrying bag for a bit less money, but they also don’t offer the extra large size that SportLite does.

Elite Trend Microfiber Beach Towel 35-Inch x 78-Inch

The same goes for Elite Trend’s offerings, which come in a number of fun patterns.

OlimpiaFit Microfiber Towel 3 Pack

OlimpiaFit even offers a 3-pack of different sizes for all your towel needs.

No matter which brand you choose, a microfiber towel is going to be a huge step up in your beach gear arsenal. After years of using the SportLite blanket, going back to a beach towel feels archaic — and while we still have a towel or two stashed in the trunk for emergencies, the blanket covers our typical beach needs at a very affordable price.

More shopping guides and recommendations

Catch up on the latest from NBC News Shopping guides and recommendations and download the NBC News app for full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak.