To understand my fascination with shawls, I need to explain why they are so damn good. A shawl can be used 1) as a towel, 2) as headgear (a turban) in strong sun or when the body becomes cold, 3) as a shawl, 4) as an item of clothing to wrap around the body (if the shawl is large enough) or wrapped around the legs/waist like a skirt to veil the lower part of the body, 5) as a blanket, if it’s large, or 6) as something to lean against or lie on when the ground is uncomfortable.
I am convinced that there are more areas of use, such as to make it a bag by tying it on your back or use it inside an ultralight bag as extra backrest. But I do not yet use my shawl like that.
I praise the shawl just like the author Douglas Adams praised the towel in the “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy“. But I have to say that the shawl is on another level due to its: lightness, ability to be compressed a lot, better absorbency of water and fast drying time.
Do not think that you can choose any shawl and believe that just because it is called a shawl it is going to be good. A really good shawl, for the ultralight life, needs to be very thin and at the same time very large for its many purposes. It is only when it satisfies these two important criteria that it is genuinely useful.
Over the years I have found three scarves that have lived up to these criteria. Two of them can be found in markets in many of the world’s corners and are easily recognizable. The third one is a new bargain and is actually a bit of a level up compared to the other two.
The three shawls
It was when I was in India 2013 and trained myself to become a Yoga teacher as I found the first shawl. The traveler of India recognizes this shawl, as it is worn by many Indian people and nearly as many travelers.
These Indian shawls have many advantages. They are extremely inexpensive (maximum of 20 SEK each if you buy them in India). They are extremely thin and easy to pack. They soak up water super fast and dries almost as quickly.
Then I came to Thailand 2014 and found a shawl that was made of some kind of silk and/or wool like material. You would find a label on these shawls where it says something like “100% Pashmina”, which most likely is a scam because it should make them extremely expensive as pashmina is a very exclusive material. Very rarely you would find such a shawl with a price tag above 40 SEK, which indicates that it is mass produced somewhere.
During my travels I have seen that this colorful garment can be found in many of the world’s markets nowadays. They are made in different colors and are sent out to all corners of the world. The advantage of these scarves is that they are very pleasant against the skin, which you cannot really say about the aforementioned cotton shawl that I found in India. Besides that, it’s slightly smaller in size and less packable due to its heavier fabric.
Now I have mentioned two scarves I was very infatuated with until I discovered the third. The third shawl is of a completely different caliber. It possesses all of the good qualities of the previously mentioned but is also made out of 100% wool which gives it a insulating property and a makes it a bit soft. And it’s HUGE and can therefore easily be used as a duvet but still it’s extremely compressible in relation to its size.
This shawl possesses such good qualities that I probably would have bought it if I had to for the 599 SEK which was the price I found online. But I was lucky to be offered to help my friend Julia with her computer and she gave me the wonderful piece of blue sky textile in exchange. If you are curious to find a similar shawl: It is of the brand “Manzini” and you can find it at Kosta Outlet between Växjö and Nybro, in Sweden. At the moment the price for the shawl at that location is 299 SEK.
A shawl. A scarf. A duvet. A towel. A blanket. A friend in the ultralight life.