Best Underwear for Hiking: What’s best and why?

You probably don’t give much thought to the functionality of your underwear, but on a hike it can be a pretty big deal. A rash from chafing thighs or a recurring wedgie tends to distract from the fresh air and beautiful views. The best hiking underwear will protect your sensitive bits from your hiking pants, keeping your nether regions as dry as possible.

At a Glance: Our Top Recommendations for Hiking Underwear

Men’s Underwear:

Women’s:

Note: Clicking the above links will take you to further information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon

If you prefer your inner thighs chafe-free and all your bits feeling fresh, then check out the undies we reviewed below.

We’ve also put together a list of factors to look out for when you buy your next pair of outdoor delicates.

Trail-Fresh Underwear Reviews

Best synthetic hiking underwear: ExOfficio Give-N-Go Mesh Sport Boxers

ExOfficio Mens Underwear | Mens Boxer Briefs | Give-N-Go Sport Mesh 3' Boxer Brief

The Good…

  • Dries real quick – great for washing on the trail
  • Good moisture control and breathability
  • Great elasticity – form fitting
  • Long lasting antimicrobial treatment
  • Machine washable, mesh weave – durable and lightweight

The Bad…

  • Being 100% synthetic you do eventually get some pilling
  • Tag is tricky to remove

These form-fitting boxer-brief style undies are made from a lightweight mesh fabric. The ergonomic design keeps all your bits and pieces comfortably out of the chafing zone, and the fabric feels soft on the skin.

Being all synthetic there’s always the odor-control concern, but these come with a molecularly-bonded antimicrobial treatment. Meaning it’s not going to wash out as easily as some do.

What makes these great is how quickly they dry. A weather-dependant drying time of between 2 and 5 hours makes these ideal for multi-day hikes. These boxer briefs are good value if you’re not keen on spending a lot on a Merino wool pair.

They also come in both a men’s and women’s brief design.

VIEW ON AMAZON VIEW AT REI


Best wool hiking underwear: Woolx Basix Boxer Briefs

Woolx Mens Dailys Merino Wool Boxer Briefs - Knock Out Odor & Sweat - Lightweight & Breathable, Black Olive, Medium

The Good…

  • No interior tags, comfortable, flatlock seams and smooth waistband
  • Good moisture wicking and breathability
  • Excellent odor control
  • 100% Merino wool – super soft
  • Machine washable (not always a given with Merino)

The Bad…

  • Price. But hey, it’s 100% Merino wool

If you just have to have the super-soft feel of Merino wool, then grab a pair of these.

They feel like cashmere against your skin and are super-comfortable. These boxer briefs deliver the moisture performance you expect from Merino, but it’s the odor control that sets them apart.

You can wear these for days straight without them getting funky – but please don’t, unless you really have to! Even in warm weather, these undies shift sweat like few others and refuse to get smelly.

We also loved how these adapt to the contours of your body after a few days.

VIEW ON AMAZON


Best cotton-blend hiking underwear: ExOfficio Sol Cool Boxer Briefs

ExOfficio Men's Sol Cool Print Boxer Brief, Atlantic/Modern Argyle, XX-Large

The Good…

  • Cotton component makes these feel cool and comfy
  • Good sweat wicking, breathes well
  • Odor-resistant antimicrobial treated
  • Ergonomic pouch

The Bad…

  • Sizing runs a little big
  • Price

So while we would never recommend cotton underwear for hiking, cotton does feel lovely against your skin when it’s dry.

ExOfficio have taken the cool comfiness of cotton (52%) and blended it with nylon and spandex to deliver good moisture performance.

The fibers have been treated with an antimicrobial, as well as Xylitol, which reacts with perspiration to create a cooling sensation. They may not be up to wearing for days straight, but being quick-drying, they’ll dry overnight if you give them a wash.

If you don’t get too sweaty these could work for you. The thicker fabric, and cotton make these really comfy.

VIEW ON AMAZON VIEW AT REI


Best Hiking Underwear For Women

ExOfficio Women's Give-N-Go Bikini Brief - Large - Black

Women’s hiking underwear mostly comes in the regular bikini-brief design. You want to take note of fabric features, as well as some design features.

On the fabric side, avoid any and all cotton, and go for the synthetic fabrics like nylon, elastane, and spandex. The fabric needs to have an antimicrobial treatment and should breathe well.

Avoid high waisted or low-rise underwear. A mid-rise cut won’t get in the way of your backpack straps, and you won’t be pulling them up the whole day.

ExOfficio makes a great pair of Give-N-Go Bikini Briefs that offer the same performance you get from the guy’s boxer briefs we reviewed above.

If you don’t like bikini briefs, then Boody make a nice pair of boyshort style underwear with a high bamboo rayon count, which is great for sensitive skin.

What about a Bra?

FITTIN Racerback Sports Bras Pack Of 4 - Padded Seamless High Impact Support For Yoga Gym Workout Fitness With Removable Pads, L(Fit for 34D 36C 36D 38A 38B 40A), 4-pack

Of course, when it comes to underwear, you’re going to need a decent bra too. All the same fabric selection criteria apply if you want to avoid a sweaty chest.

Finding a bra that fits right is part science, part magic and a whole lot of trial and error. But there are some hiking-specific things to look out for:

  • Pull on closure – no clasp at the back
  • Racerback design – centre strap reduces contact with pack straps
  • Wide centre gore (stretch band) for comfortable support

The Fittin Racerback Sports bras are a great choice if you’re looking for a good bra for hiking that doesn’t cost too much.

Best underwear for hiking

Our favorite underwear for hiking would have to be the Woolx Basix boxer briefs.

They combine high performance with a luxurious feel that only Merino wool can deliver. The excellent moisture management, and that they refuse to get smelly make these ideal for multi-day hikes. The flat seams and inseam-gusset deliver great comfort and no chafing.

Best underwear for travel

What is travel underwear? If it’s comfortable to wear for a long time, and dries quickly, then it could fit this broad term. When you’re traveling you don’t have space for 20 pairs of undies and don’t have time to find a laundromat.

If you can wash your underwear in the basin and have them hang-dry overnight that’s perfect. Synthetic fabrics dry faster than wool or cotton, so they’re a good travel option.

ExOfficio Give-N-Go boxer briefs are great as hiking underwear but work well for general travel use too. Besides the good moisture wicking and breathability, they’re super light, and dry fast. This, coupled with the fact that they don’t cost a lot, makes them our choice for best travel underwear.

Choosing the best underwear for your next hike

Material and Moisture Management

You want your underwear to breathe well, wick away sweat, and dry fast. Right off the bat this rules out cotton, which is horrible when it gets even a little bit wet.

The best options are either Merino wool or a synthetic blend of nylon, polyester, polypropylene, elastane or spandex (lycra). Each of these has their own properties.

  • Polypropylene – Extremely light fibers, producing very thin fabrics. Polypropylene tends to get a bit rank faster than other fabrics, so it’s not a great choice for long-term wear without daily washing.
  • Polyester – Lightweight, and dries fast.
  • Nylon – durable, can get a bit smelly if not treated
  • Merino wool – soft, comfortable, natural fabric that breathes well and is quick-drying. Naturally antimicrobial.
  • Elastane and Spandex – Added to fabric to provide stretch in form-fitting underwear

Natural vs Synthetic Fabric

All-natural sounds like a good idea, so why not just go for Merino wool? With natural antimicrobial properties, comfort and moisture performance it’s a great option.

At a price.

Merino can be quite a bit more expensive than synthetic fabrics. It has great moisture wicking capability and is very breathable.

Merino wool has natural antimicrobial properties for long-term anti-odor performance. It doesn’t dry as fast as synthetic fabrics and is less durable. It’s an animal product so you also want to be sure that it’s ethically sourced.

Fabrics made from synthetic fibers are cheaper and lighter than Merino wool and are more durable too. They also dry quicker. They need an antimicrobial treatment to prevent odor, and this eventually washes out. Once that happens they can develop nasty odor problems.

If you want maximum breathability, then go for Merino wool. If you’re looking to save a few bucks and want something super-light and durable then grab a synthetic. Fabric with a high Merino wool content, blended with some nylon for extra durability gives you the best of both worlds.

Antimicrobial Odor control

You’re bound to get hot and sweaty down there and the resulting bacteria is often what causes your undies to get funky after a day or two.

A good pair of hiking underwear will have antimicrobial properties that will combat odor and keep you fresher for longer.

Merino wool is naturally antimicrobial, while synthetic fabrics need treating to prevent bacteria growth. After a couple of washes the antimicrobial treatment will wash out.

There are some synthetic pairs that have “molecularly bonded antimicrobial treatments” that last longer than the silver-ion treatment. (Score another point for Merino wool.)

Durability And Construction

If the label says it’s machine washable, that’s a good indicator that you’ve got yourself a durable pair. They’ll get some wear and tear from being worn on the trail, but going through the washing machine is the real killer of cheap fabrics.

The seams are worth considering. You want your undies to have flatlock seams, and a wide inseam gusset, so they don’t rub up against your skin and cause chafing.

Weight and Packability

If you’re packing a few pairs, then weight and packability may be an issue. Lightweight undies made from thin fabric are going to make less of an impact in your pack than regular cotton ones would.

But let’s be honest.

You’re probably going to wear just that one pair and wash it after 2 or 3 days. If you buy a really good pair with proper antimicrobial odor control you could easily get away with it. Don’t expect to make many new friends on the trail though!

Cut – Boxers vs Briefs

Are you a boxers or briefs guy? If current sales trends are to be believed, you’re probably a boxer-briefs fan.

The cut of your underwear is very subjective.

A looser fit allows for more airflow, which is great. You may think this makes boxers a breezy choice if you tend to sweat a lot down there. Boxers aren’t great if you tend to chafe though. Also, they do tend to ride or bunch.

Form-fitting underwear like briefs, or boxer-briefs that extend partway down your legs, are less likely to have you chafing. Figure-hugging fabric is going to do a better job of wicking away sweat than those with a loose-fit.

Without putting too fine a point on it, there’s a good reason why the best men’s hiking underwear often has something called an “ergonomic fit”. This keeps any dangling bits securely out of the way of your thighs. If your underwear tends to creep up your leg, then go for the longer leg boxer-briefs.

Washing care

Keeping your undies clean on your hike is really important. Getting rid of the sweat, salt and dirt is going to help reduce chafing. A quick hand-wash on the trail (with a bit of soap) will do the trick.

If you want to get super-fancy (and like being clean) try this Scrubba Wash Bag – at a price, it’s your laundromat-on-the-trail. Looks like a fun gimmck to me, I haven’t tried it yet!

If your underwear is made from a quick-dry synthetic, they should be dry in a few hours. Once you get home you’ll have to give them a proper wash. Check the label to see if they’re machine washable before throwing them in the machine. You want to be especially careful when washing Merino wool.

A quick note on washing on the trail – please use a biodegradable soap and be sure not to pollute water sources.

But What if I Normally Wear Cotton?

Most of the underwear we wear everyday is made from cotton so that’s probably what you’re used to.

Cotton is fine for driving, working at the office or wearing around the house. It just doesn’t work when you get hot and sweaty when exercising, or hiking. Cotton feels great when dry, but the problem is that when it gets wet, it stays wet.

It doesn’t breathe well and is not exactly lightweight. Most people who say they don’t like synthetics or wool, probably haven’t ever tried a good pair of underwear made specifically for hiking.

They may have worn something made from a horrible, cheap synthetic fabric that didn’t breathe and started to smell nasty. Or they remember how itchy their last wool garment made them feel.

The reality is that the top-end synthetic fabrics are super-comfortable and Merino wool is soft and completely itch free.

Why not just wear ordinary underwear?

Normally our underwear is just the piece of fabric between us and our pants. It doesn’t really need to do much else except be there.

When you start high-stepping, climbing or walking double-digit miles for a few days on end, you start to realize that your regular y-fronts just aren’t up to the job.

You actually need your underwear to do a little more than just hang around. The reality is that ordinary underwear won’t give you the support, comfort, and moisture-control that you need when putting in the miles.

What about skin irritation or allergies?

If you’ve got sensitive skin you may find that Merino wool, soft as it is, irritates your skin. Or, you may get an allergic reaction to certain synthetic fibers.

If that’s the case you need to pay more attention to the fabric composition mentioned on the labels. You could try opting for hypoallergenic fabrics like bamboo rayon.

Bamboo rayon has similar properties to cotton, but is more breathable. Companies like Boody make some of the best bamboo hiking underwear that some will find milder on their skin.

These are made from sustainable sources and have natural antifungal and antibacterial properties. The bamboo fabric breathes well, wicks moisture away, and is soft and comfy. It doesn’t dry quickly though and is a little on the heavy side which is why it’s not our first choice fabric for hiking.

Conclusion

It all comes down to comfort. The right fabric choice will keep you dry – and that’s half the battle.

If you want to avoid chafing, riding up or bunching then make sure your underwear fits properly. A form-fitting pair may not be your everyday choice, but this cut works much better on the trail than loose boxers.

Seamless designs or those with flatlock seams might cost a little more, but will be way more comfy. The best hiking underwear may cost a bit more than your regular pair but your sensitive bits will be super grateful after a long sweaty hike.

Product Image credit ©Amazon.com

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