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I was skeptical of this $11 cooling towel — now I never leave home without it

It's helped me keep my cool all summer long.
Katie Jackson / TODAY

Somehow I always end up spending summer in a sweltering place. I've survived July and August everywhere from Miami to Phoenix and Madrid. Last year, I was actually in Paris when the record-breaking high temperatures shut down public transportation.

I'm currently soaking up the sun in Portugal, but I've luckily discovered a new accessory to keep me cool this summer. I decided to take a chance on Amazon's bestselling Chill Pal PVA Cooling Towel — and now I never leave home without it.

Chill Pal PVA Cooling Towel

It has more than 3,000 reviews

Amazon has no shortage of cooling clothes (it's where I bought my favorite "freezer" dress), towels and accessories. However, at least 90% of them don't have as many reviews — approximately 3,050 — as this towel. In fact, it's currently ranked No. 1 on Amazon's list of Bestsellers in the Golf Towels category.

Most other cooling products also don't have a high 4.3-star average rating, and because the $11 price tag is so accessible, the buyers are a diverse bunch. I read rave reviews posted by everyone from a U.K.-based woman with eczema to a traveler who wore it while volunteering with elephants in Southern Thailand. Of course, it's also popular among people who play sports.

The trick is "evaporative technology"

wringing out the Chill Pal PVA cooling towel
Katie Jackson

This towel is simply activated by water. I just get it wet with cold water, wring it out and wear it around my neck while it works its cooling magic. The manufacturer, Chill Pal, says they don't have a secret, just "high-grade and extra-thick PVA." I imagine some mad scientist working in a boiling hot laboratory came up with this "evaporative technology" that prevents the cold water from evaporating. This is definitely not the quick-drying microfiber towel that works wonders on frizzy hair.

wearing my Chill Pal PVA cooling towel while climbing the endless stairs in Porto
Katie Jackson

As one would expect, the colder and wetter the towel, the cooler it will feel and the longer it will last. As tempting as it is, you shouldn't store it in the freezer. The instructions say the PVA material can become "sensitive" if it freezes. You also don't want to put it in the dryer since it can damage the PVA.

It goes wherever I go

the Chill Pal PVA cooling towel comes with a carrying pouch and a caribaner
Katie Jackson

Another reason I chose this cooling towel — besides the sheer number of reviews — was the handy water-resistant pouch it came in. It even has a carabiner so I can clip it to my backpack when I'm not wearing it around my neck. Despite its size — 12 inches by 32 inches — it's thin and light enough to fit in most purses. Folded up, it can even fit in my small Fjallraven Pocket Bag I use when all I want to carry around is my wallet and my phone. It's also possible to turn it into two smaller towels — the fabric doesn't lose its cooling properties even when cut.

the Chill Pal PVA cooling towel folded up and stashed in my pocket bag
Katie Jackson

Lately, I've been bringing mine on my daily 6-mile walks around Porto, Portugal. Walking around this hilly city is such a physical challenge that there are actually outdoor escalators for residents in the steepest neighborhoods. I sweat a lot, but I swear this towel drops my body temperature by at least 2 to 3 degrees. After an hour or so, when the towel starts to lose some of its coolness and needs refreshing, I just duck into a restroom and get it wet again. Of course, since Porto is located where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Douro River, I can also just dunk it in a natural water source.

Summer 2021, Death Valley?

eating gelato while wearing my Chill Pal PVA cooling towel
Katie Jackson

I'm joking. I don't think I'll be spending my summer in the hottest, driest and lowest place on earth. However, as a travel writer who goes where the story is, I don't know where I'm spending summer 2021 yet. But if I do spend it in a hot place (as per my usual), I know I'll have this towel handy.

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