Updated: Jun 14, 2022
Drying wet clothes while traveling has always been, and perhaps always will be, an issue; there are no standards when it comes to hostel beds, hostel rooms, hooks, hangers, hanging space, or usability of any of the many products in this space that are designed to simplify drying..
We have hostel beds with side-to-side walls but no header or footer, beds with head and footboards but no walls, beds with frames but no bars, beds with bars but no frames, open beds with no frame at all, beds with no frames or bars, and occasionally, beds with built in hangers and the perfect place to hang whatever you want (these are rare and priceless..), but for everything else, the inconsistency can make drying clothes a pain.
You may find yourself with one wall hook for all your stuff, a full hanger bar or closet with hangers, or in a worst case scenario, no hooks to hang anything.
Layered on top of that inconvenience, is that fact that drying clothes drip, constantly, so you have to be cognizant of where you hang your clothes.. if you're top bunk, do you want your clothes dripping onto the bottom bunk? If you're on the bottom bunk, do you want to commandeer the ladder from your upper bunk mate? The short answer, probably not..
So what do we do when minimalist travel requires us to dry our clothes nearly every day?
Below, I will go through the various drying methods and tools I've used... if you're traveling long-term, you'll probably want to plan for and pack a couple different items to account for any situation.
The Minimalist Standard
Before I list out all the options, you can, of course, always just lay your clothes on your bed, this is the simplest, cheapest and most universally feasible of all drying methods; but I've found that, when traveling, your hostel bed becomes your only "you space" for comfort, privacy and relaxation; so having your bed overtaken by wet clothes isn't an ideal situation.
Portable Travel Hangers
Portable hangers are convenient, and for the small amount of space they take up in your bag, I think having one or two of these is worth it; you won't always be able to use them, but they are nice when you can; and you can combine these with a travel clothesline if it makes sense for you.
Search "portable travel clothes hangers" on Amazon or check out what I pack here.
Portable Travel Clotheslines
I haven't had as much luck with clotheslines, there never seems to be a good place to hang a line, and even if there is, there's a decent chance you'll be stretching your line into a walk-way, between beds or over your own bed for drying; which never goes over well. Unless your hostel room is empty, or your room has lots and lots of wall-mounted hooks, I rarely find myself using it.
That being said, if you have the space for it and want the flexibility, there are a few different options you can choose from; there's the bungee twist (no hooks required) , the retractable (space saver), the elastic all-in-one (built-in hooks), the bring-your-own-hooks (designed for lots of byo-hangers), the single vertical hook (it's bigger than I'd like, but single hooks are very common) and the always useful, do-it-all, multi-use paracord line.
I keep it simple and carry a 10-15ft paracord line as a just-in-case, but I leave the fancy, built-for-travel clotheslines at home.
Portable Travel Clothes Rack
This option is a stretch, but if your bag is a little on the bigger side and you don't want to worry about hanging, ever, there are mini-portable drying racks.
If you really want to stretch your imagination.. (note: I have not tried this at home nor on the road - but I think it's hilarious), check out this collapsible noodle drying rack. Would it work? Probably. Do you really want to find out, I don't know...
There are portable dryers on the market, most of them are way too big, the only one I've found worth considering is the Vonovo portable dryer*, which is only effective for small items (socks and underwear); though if you're packing a bigger bag, you could consider the Panda portable dyer or the Nekithia portable dryer.
And of course, if you're a female traveler and/or traveling with a bigger bag, you may already be packing a handheld dryer. The issue I've run into with any of these options is the noise, which may or may not be an issue if you're in a shared dorm, just something to keep in mind.
If money isn't an issue, Dyson (of course) offers an inaudible, supersonic hair dryer that could double for drying your clothes, I personally wouldn't risk bringing something so spendy on the road, but to each their own!
*Update, as of April 2022, this appears to be unavailable with no foreseeable availability.. I've found what appears to be an identical option on a site I'm unfamiliar with, linked here, order at your own risk!
There is definitely room for improvement in the portable clothes drying department, but until better products come on the market, we'll have to make do. I would love to hear what other minimalists are doing to simplify the process, please feel free to comment and share your ideas!