Home > Gear, ultralight bicycle touring > Always Know Where Your Towel Is

Always Know Where Your Towel Is

Until the development of the modern car washing shammy, towels were a problem for the Ultralight traveler.  They were bulky, heavy and difficult to pack into a tight space. Camp towels or Pack towels made from a polyester and nylon blend are now common place.  I usually have one wrapped around my handlebars in the summer months to wipe the sweat from my face or if I become overheated I’ll dip it in one of our many cool mountain streams and wrap it around my neck.  For bathing out on the road, I carry a small kitchen sponge, a mild biodegradable liquid soap (that I can also rinse my clothes with) and my camp towel.  A word of caution: never put a camp towel in a dryer.  It will shrink beyond belief!

  A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

 More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

 Hence a phrase that has passed into hitchhiking slang, as in “Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.” (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.)”— Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

 Remember, May 25th is Towel Day!

  1. February 5, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Yes! HHGTTG reference! When I saw the headline I was hoping. Came here, was not disappointed. Every time I pack my towel into a bike bag, I think about HHGTTG secretly. It was heartening to see another cyclist thinking similarly. In the summertime in Arizona, dipped in cold water and wrapped around neck, as you mention, is my cowboy air conditioner.

  2. The Velo Hobo
    February 5, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    “Don’t Panic” and “Always carry a towel” are Adam’s gift to the UL traveler. My sagging book shelves are stacked high with traveling novels, journals and guide books. None are as useful as the Hitchhiker’s Guide. Cheers, Jack

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