The design and fabrication of efficient photothermal materials is the key issue in solar-driven water evaporation. In this work, a robust CuCr2O4/SiO2 composite membrane with outstanding solar-driven water evaporation performance (1.32 kg m−2 h−1) under one sun irradiation is rationally designed and synthesized by using quartz glass fibrous membrane as supporting matrix and stable CuCr2O4 particles as the active light absorber. Instead of coating a separate layer on top of the support, the CuCr2O4 particles are evenly distributed inside the matrix, which endows the membrane with great mechanical strength and excellent wear and abrasion resistance. The highly porous composite survives 6 atm pressure and retains its performance even after 75% of the membrane is removed by sandpaper. This work also looks into a generally overlooked aspect of wet versus dry state of photothermal material and its implications. Interestingly, the composite possesses a gray color with a high reflectance in dry state but turns into deep black with a low reflectance in wet state due to the decreased subsurface scattering and strong NIR light absorbance of water in wet state. This composite material also possesses excellent thermal stability and thermal shock resistance, making it able to be easily recovered by calcination in air or direct burning in fire for contaminants removal. The results demonstrate that this composite is a competitive photothermal material for practical solar distillation and indicate that the optical properties of material in wet state are more relevant to photothermal material screening and optimization for solar distillation.