Underwear might be one of the least glamorous yet most important pieces of gear that you take into the backcountry. The right pair of underwear provides support, prevents chafing and all kinds of other good things. The wrong pair can do all kinds of not good things. However, finding the “right” pair of underwear might not be as easy as it seems. You have many choices that include boxers, briefs and a slew of fabrics. Here are a few things to look for along with how I solve the hiking underwear conundrum.
Tip 1: No cotton
There are many choices when it comes to hiking underwear and only one rule. Never wear cotton! Cotton is slow to dry which means it builds up moisture and then it can start to feel like a buzz saw after a few hours on the trail. This is why the cotton stays at home if I do anything that involves anything more than a brisk walk. Polyester and wool are your best bets.
Tip 2: Look for antimicrobial fabrics
These will keep smells at bay and when it comes to underwear that is something you want. You can find polyester products with antimicrobial protection or you can go with merino wool, which does it naturally. You will pay a little more for this but your tent mates will thank you when you don’t stink quite as bad.
Tip 3: Test it before your trust it
Once you have found the right hiking underwear be sure to take it for a short test hike before going into the backcountry. This will make sure that you get the comfort and performance that you expect in a low risk situation. You don’t want to be miles away from civilization with uncomfortable underwear; you just don’t.
My Solution: Running Shorts!
For me running shorts are the perfect hiking underwear. They tend to be made of tech fabrics, provide the right support and they don’t chafe. Since they don’t look like underwear you can wear them around camp without looking awkward; how is that for a bonus? They are also a great value. A nice pair of running shorts costs about as much as a pair of technical underwear but running shorts can serve double duty since they can also be worn as running shorts; I know this is obvious. Support, value and versatility all make the case for running shorts as the perfect hiking underwear in my view.
What is your solution for hiking underwear?