Best Hiking Underwear For Itch-Free Traveling 2020 (Men & Women)

Are you here because you want to avoid those itchy-uncomfortable undies? Then you probably already had a bad experience with hiking underwear.

My bad experience was without a doubt the most uncomfortable hike of my life. At the time, I didn’t spend too much attention to underwear and that was a major mistake. The hike itself was already pretty tough and my undie wasn’t going to make it any easier for me. It was forcing itself on places where I didn’t want it to be. Wedgies, chafing, annoying tags, thick waistbands and big seams-you name it, I had to deal with it.

That’s when I realized that good hiking underwear is a must-have. So I did my research and wrote this article: the six best hiking underwear in 2020. But before we start with the reviews, let’s go over what you should know about hiking underwear. If you already know that, you can click here and I’ll take you to the reviews.

 

What you should know about undies

Before diving into the reviews, you may want to know a thing or two about underwear.

  • What fabric should it be made of?
  • How should it fit?
  • What style are you looking for?
  • What are the important features?
  • How do you wash and dry it?

If you already know the key aspects of hiking underwear, you can safely jump to the reviews.

 

What fabric should it be made of?

Most underwear is either made of merino wool, cotton, nylon, polyester, or a combination of them. For example, merino wool, nylon and something that adds some stretch like lycra.

 

Merino wool

Merino wool is often the most favorable choice. It’s a natural fabric that’s breathable and great at wicking away sweat. This is a must-have feature if you don’t want to have a sweaty booty after a few hours of hiking.

It can even offer some cooling in warm weather. Merino wool stores some of the moisture in the core wool fibers. When it’s hot, the merino wool releases that moisture, which can help you cool down.

An often overlooked but important aspect of merino wool is odor-resistance. You don’t always have the option to wash your clothes when you’re backpacking in the wild. After a few days, your underwear can get smelly due to the growth of bacteria. Merino wool is naturally resistant to odor-causing bacteria. This is a good thing because it helps to keep your underwear odor-free, even after wearing it for a few days.

So what are the disadvantages of merino wool?

First of all, it’s not as soft as synthetics, for example. However, it’s also not itchy as regular wool either.

Second, merino on its own is not really durable. That’s why they add synthetics like nylon and lycra to make it stretchier and more durable.

Third, merino doesn’t dry as fast as synthetics. It’s still superior to regular wool or cotton but synthetics really have the upper hand in terms of drying time.

And fourth, generally speaking, merino wool is a bit more expensive than synthetics like polyester or nylon. 

 

Merino sheep in a grass field

 

Synthetics

Breathable fabrics such as

  • polyester
  • nylon
  • polypropylene
  • acrylic
  • and rayon

are also a great choice for your hiking underwear. They dry quicker as merino wool and do a great job at wicking away sweat. These fabrics are superior when it comes to giving you the driest feel.

Synthetics hold up very well to abrasion, better than merino wool. Generally speaking, they’re the best choice if you’re looking for the most durable underwear.

However, merino wool is still a better choice if you ask me. Synthetic fabrics tend to hold onto odors more than merino wool. Don’t be surprised when you smell bacteria after spending some days on the trail without washing. Some manufacturers give their synthetic underwear an antimicrobial treatment. This may seem like a working solution, however, it gets washed out over a period of time – or sometimes doesn’t even work.

 

Cotton

Avoid cotton at all costs. It doesn’t breathe, meaning that your booty will get swampy in no time. It gets uncomfortable and makes a good living area for bacteria, resulting in smelly underwear. It takes forever to dry and gets super heavy when it’s wet. I think these are enough reasons to ban cotton from your hiking adventure.

 

How should it fit?

Your underwear should fit tight, but not too tight. But what is too tight? Well, if it’s uncomfortable to wear them and if it causes imprints in your thighs or waste, it’s definitely too tight.

You may be thinking that a loose fit is superior because it enhances ventilation. That’s true, but a tight fit improves wicking, which is much more important. If the fabric makes contact with your skin, it’ll be able to dispose of your sweat.

You may have problems with inner-thigh chafing, which can make your hiking experience unpleasant. If that’s the case, you may want to try underwear with a longer cut, such as runner-ups.

 

What style am I looking for?

While this comes down to personal preference, you may want to choose comfort over good-looking if you’re hiking all day long.

Underwear that has very little coverage such as thongs, dry fast and are light. However, they protect you less from possible chafing due to the decreased coverage. Longer undies with more coverage dry less fast and are heavier but do keep you safe from chafing.

Boxer briefs are the best choice in my opinion. Not only for men but also for the ladies. They have a tight fit, meaning that your sweat wicks away easily. Not only that, but they also cover the inner thighs, so you don’t have to worry about chafing.

 

What features can underwear have?

Flat-lock seams

This feature is definitely a must-have. Believe me, seams that press into your skin are the worst. It irritates your skin so much that you have to scratch every few minutes. I recommend looking for underwear that has flat, wide seams, also known as flat-lock seams. These don’t shaft or rub due to the pressure of your hip belt.

 

Underwear that stays in place

There’s nothing worse than undies that bulk up and result in chafing during your hike. Underwear that creeps up is something else that’s super annoying.

So, you want to look for underwear that doesn’t need attention every 10 seconds. That’s also why it’s important that your undies have a tight fit.

 

Loose waistband

Don’t get me wrong, it should still fit tightly, but not so much that it gets uncomfortable. Search for underwear with a flat, thin and wide waistband. They don’t annoy you when your backpack applies pressure. Thick and bulky waistbands are uncomfortable and get pressed into your skin while wearing a backpack.

 

Tagless

Tags can be annoying, especially when you’re hiking. So you may want to look for tagless underwear. However, you can still cut the tag out if it has one. Some undies have tags but they don’t get in the way.

 

Odor resistance

If this is a must-have for you, you definitely should go with merino wool undies. Synthetics don’t have this feature and will result in smelly days.

 

Ultra-lightweight

Lightness is an important aspect if you’re a backpacker. So how do manufacturers get their underwear so light? It’s simple, they make it super thin. This may seem great at first, but keep in mind that the thinner your underwear is, the less durable it is. After a year or so, depending on how often you wear and wash it, you may notice that it becomes a bit translucent. What you see are the fibers that are thinning out.

On the other hand, thin underwear feels much more comfortable. It’s weird, you sometimes don’t really feel it or it may feel like a second skin.

 

How to wash and dry?

You can just wash your underwear by hand with mild soap or shampoo. In order to dry it, you may want to wring it out, fold in a towel and squeeze. By doing this, you’re able to dry your clothes a lot quicker. Proceed with hanging them in a shady and well-ventilated area. You can also get creative and let your underwear dry on your backpack while you’re hiking.

You can also just machine wash them of course, just make sure you read the label first for possible instructions.

If you plan on washing merino wool underwear, check out this guide.

 

The Reviews

For The Men

Best Synthetic Runner-Up: Arc’teryx Phase SL Boxer


 

Best for you if: you’re looking for an ultra-lightweight synthetic runner-up. You’re willing to pay an impressive price for lightness, quality and compressibility. You’re not looking for sturdy underwear but rather for thin, effective and easy-to-take-along undies.

The Good

  • Ultra-lightweight (2.3 ounces)
  • Although they’re so thin, they don’t roll up while you’re hiking.
  • Pack very small – can easily be stuffed in your backpack.
  • The waistband is sturdy but also soft and comfortable to wear.
  • Quality – the seams and stitches remain in place, the threads don’t come loose. However, keep in mind that manufacturer defects are not excluded.
  • Flatlock seams don’t feel uncomfortable. They’re sewn in a way that no excessive fabric can rub against your skin.
  • Since there’s no fly opening, these underpants keep your stuff in place much better.
  • It’s made of Phasic™ SL polyester, a fabric made with a focus on fast-drying, moisture-wicking, comfort and flexibility. For more information about Phasic™ SL polyester, check out this page.
  • It’s treated with an antimicrobial coating that makes sure it doesn’t smell bad.

The Bad

  • The antimicrobial coating degrades over time due to wear and tear. After a few months, it may stink after a day of use.
  • It’s not a sturdy fabric because it’s so thin. If these undies are wet and you’re not careful, you could tear it by accident.
  • Expensive
  • No fly opening
  • Tight fit (but that’s also what makes it so breathable)
Specifications
  • Manufacturer: Arc’teryx
  • Gender: Men
  • Weight: 2.3 ounces (65 grams)
  • Materials: 100% Polyester

 

Best Merino Boxer Briefs: Smartwool Men’s Merino 150 

 

Best for you if: you’re looking for merino wool boxer briefs. You want something durable, and you don’t mind that it’s bulkier, heavier and takes longer to dry. You especially want underwear that doesn’t smell bad after just one day of wearing it.

The Good

  • Merino wool is much more odor-resistant than synthetics. So during a hike, you can easily wear them for multiple days in case you can’t wash them.
  • It’s a soft and comfortable type of material.
  • Merino wool is a natural fabric that breathes well and does a great job in wicking away sweat.
  • Features a fly opening.
  • It’s made with some nylon (13%) to increase durability.
  • Weighs next to nothing (2.24 ounces).
  • They don’t lose shape after being worn for long periods of time.
  • The fit is great – not too baggy or tight.
  • The seams are in the middle of the crotch which makes you don’t really notice them.
  • The waistband is sturdy and much more durable than other types of underwear. It’s also lined with merino wool for increased moisture-wicking. A wider waistband also means more durability. And although it’s wide, it’s still very thin so it won’t hurt due to the weight of your backpack.

The Bad

  • Merino wool dries less quickly than synthetics. Generally speaking, it takes one night to completely dry it.
  • Merino wool is more fragile to tearing than synthetics.
  • Expensive
  • Not as compressible as the Phase SL Boxer, for example.
Specifications
  • Manufacturer: Smartwool
  • Gender: Men
  • Weight: 2.3 ounces (65 grams)
  • Materials: 87% merino wool, 13% nylon
  • Waistband materials: 54% merino wool, 46% polyester

 

Icebreaker Anatomica Boxer Briefs

 

Best for you if: you need almost-fully natural undies that dry quickly. You don’t care about its compressibility and the fact that it may show signs of wear and tear after one year of use.

The Good

  • A flatlock and wide waistband ensure no itching or pain from the pressure of your backpack.
  • A snug fit but not too tight, that’s also why this runner-up does a great job in wicking away sweat.
  • It’s pretty lightweight (3 ounces).
  • Although merino wool doesn’t dry fast normally, that’s not the case with this underwear. Since it’s so thin, it only takes about an hour to completely dry out during a sunny day.
  • An open fly makes it easy to pee.
  • This runner-up uses a combination of materials: merino wool, nylon and lycra. They core-spun these fabrics, which means they wrapped nylon and lycra around the wool for increased durability. The merino wool provides odor-resistance, the ability to wick away sweat and breathability. Nylon makes this runner-up much more durable and the lycra ensures a soft feeling while also providing flexibility.

The Bad

  • Expensive.
  • Some customers complained about the seams. They’re placed in a bad spot and may rub against your thighs. It’s worth mentioning that these were only two customers out of the hundreds. Most people said it was very comfortable and didn’t mention the seams.
  • The thinness comes at the cost of durability. After a year or so, you may notice that the fabric becomes a little translucent because the fibers are thinning out.
  • Compressibility could be better.
Specifications
  • Manufacturer: Icebreaker Merino
  • Gender: Men
  • Weight: 3 ounces (85 grams)
  • Materials: 83% merino wool, 12% nylon, 5% lycra

 

For The Ladies

Best Merino Runner-Up Bikini: Icebreaker Siren Bikini

 

Best for you if: you don’t mind underwear with slightly less coverage. You simply need almost-fully natural, comfortable, breathable and lightweight undies.

The Good

  • It’s extremely lightweight (only 0.7 ounces!).
  • This runner-up uses a combination of materials: merino wool, nylon and lycra. They core-spun these fabrics, which means they wrapped nylon and lycra around the wool for increased durability. The merino wool provides odor-resistance, the ability to wick away sweat and breathability. Nylon makes this runner-up much more durable and the elastane ensures a soft feeling while also providing flexibility.
  • The waistband is just about the right width and doesn’t fit too tightly.
  • Does a better job in wicking away sweat than its competitors.
  • The material is not itchy.
  • Dries pretty fast, a few hours on a sunny day.
  • The fabric is thin, sturdy and breathes well. Many customers claim that they don’t have the feeling they’re wearing undies.
  • It’s very unlikely that this underwear will give you wedgies because it provides a tight fit.

The Bad

  • Expensive
  • Some people mentioned that this underwear is a little too tight.
  • Doesn’t provide a lot of coverage (can also be a pro).
  • The thinness comes at the cost of durability. After a year or so, you may notice that the fabric becomes a little translucent because the fibers are thinning out.
Specifications
  • Manufacturer: Icebreaker Merino
  • Gender: Women
  • Weight: 0.7 ounces (20 grams)
  • Materials: 83% merino wool, 12% nylon, 5% elastane

 

Best Synthetic Hipkini: ExOfficio Give-N-Go Sport Mesh 

 

Best for you if: you’re looking for synthetic undies with a cut that provides more coverage than bikinis. You want comfortable, fast-drying, breathable and budget-friendly underwear.

The Good

  • Inexpensive – costs roughly half the amount of its competitors.
  • The combination of nylon and lycra spandex ensures flexible underwear that doesn’t get in the way (no wedgies).
  • Is very lightweight (only 1.1 ounces).
  • The lycra spandex makes the fabric impressively soft on the skin.
  • The waistband is just about the right width and doesn’t fit too tightly. It’s also thin enough so that it won’t hurt when wearing a backpack.
  • Provides a lot of coverage (you may find this a con).
  • Since it’s so thin and close to the skin, it’s breathable and doesn’t feel like underwear but rather as a ‘second skin’.
  • Dries quickly (two to four hours on a sunny day).
  • Also has a bikini version.

The Bad

  • The thinness comes at the cost of durability. After a year or so, you may notice that the fabric becomes a little translucent because the fibers are thinning out.
  • The increased coverage comes at the expense of packability.
  • While this underwear is treated with an odor-reducing antimicrobial, it doesn’t do much. It may smell a bit after a day of hiking.
Specifications
  • Manufacturer: ExOfficio
  • Gender: Women
  • Weight: 1.1 ounces (31 grams)
  • Materials: 92% nylon, 8% lycra

 

Most affordable Synthetic Bikini: Balanced Tech 3 Pack Classic Seamless

 

Best for you if: you’re looking for the best affordable synthetic underwear, and you’re willing to sacrifice some durability.

The Good

  • Very affordable – you get three of them for a great price.
  • Features 8% elastane, which makes these undies very flexible. They don’t get in the way (no wedgies and no chafing!).
  • They don’t roll up.
  • They have a ‘hipster’ fit and thus provide more coverage. Of course, this could be a con to you.
  • Only weigh 4 ounces and are easy to compress.
  • The waistband is flat, wide and also moisture-wicking.
  • You can easily hand wash them, let them dry for 1.5 hours and be on the move again.
  • Since they’re seamless, you don’t have to worry about itchy seams.
  • They’re thicker than their competitors but still manage to wick away sweat decently.
  • They’re far more durable than their thin competitors.

The Bad

  • They’re not odor-resistant like the manufacturers claim.
  • Some people think that the waistband comes up a bit too high.
  • They do provide a visible panty line.
  • Durability issues: some people complained about them unraveling after the first wash. This can happen but certainly won’t happen with everyone. It’s most likely a manufacturer defect. They’re also really cheap so you can’t expect first-class quality.
Specifications
  • Manufacturer: Balanced Tech
  • Gender: Women
  • Weight: 4 ounces (31 grams)
  • Materials: 92% nylon, 8% elastane

 

Conclusion 

So which undies are best for you?

First, you want to answer this question: do you want synthetic or merino wool undies?

Synthetic ones are more durable but will hold an odor. If that’s a major problem for you, you may want to choose merino wool.

So, the best synthetic runner-ups for men are definitely the Arc’teryx Phase SL Boxers. They’re light, qualitative, flexible, compressible and most importantly – breathable. However, since they’re so thin, you may want to be careful or you could tear them by accident when you’re washing them.

If you don’t like runner-ups, the Smartwool Merino 150 Boxer Briefs are a great alternative for you. They’re super comfy, have an extra durable waistband and are very lightweight.

For the ladies, the Icebreaker Siren Bikini seems like the best choice if you need merino wool undies. They’re comfortable, lightweight, flexible and breathable. However, they’re also pretty thin and may show signs of wear and tear after one year of use. On top of that, you may find them too ‘exposed’. They don’t provide a lot of coverage. Some people like this and others don’t.

It’s true that the Icebreaker Siren Bikini is expensive. If you think it’s too expensive, you should consider the synthetic Balanced Tech 3 pack. Customers were very happy about them, especially for the price. Just keep in mind that the low price comes at the expense of durability.

 

That’s it for this review! I hope it could help you make a choice. Please, rate this post by using the star rating below or leave a comment. If you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Stay safe!

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