Woman by lake in best underwear for hiking

The Best Underwear for Hiking Men and Women in 2018

Undies, panties, knickers, boxers, briefs, under-crackers, crown-jewel protectors. Whatever you call your underwear, it can be a bit of game-changer if you don’t wear the right pair when hiking. Of course, a simple solution is to not bother with them at all. But without going into too much detail, hiking underwear is kind of essential without throwing all levels of hygiene out the window. And making sure you have the best underwear for hiking will make your time on the trail SO much better.

So, we’ve dragged our sweaty backsides over mountains and through dales on a quest to find the best hiking underwear for women and men in 2018. Here’s what we found:

ProductFabricBest forCost
Rab Women’s Merino 120 BoxersMerinoOdour control$$
Runderwear Women’s Merino BriefsSyntheticComfort and support$
Odlo Women's Performance Light Sports BriefsSyntheticComfort and coolness$
Howies Boxhers Merino UndiesMerinoOdour control and comfort$$
Howies Penn Merino BoxersMerinoOdour control and comfort$$$
Runderwear Merino BriefsMerinoComfort and coolness$$
Rab Merino 120 BoxersMerinoLightweight, odour control$$$
Runderwear Low-Impact Crop TopSyntheticComfort and quick drying$
Icebreaker Sprite Racer Back BraMerinoOdour control$$$$

Best underwear for hiking: women’s

Rab Women’s Merino 120 Boxers

Rab Women’s Merino 120 Boxers

Best for: Odour control

If you’re a fan of girl boxers then you’ll love these Rab Women’s Merino 120 Boxers. Made with exceptionally fine merino wool and blended with polyester, these are lightweight high performing hiking underwear at their best. They feel wonderfully soft on, and are comparable to the Howies Boxhers in terms of odour control and moisture wicking. Plus, the polyester content prevents them from loosening, like the Howies do. What lets them down slightly is their shape. The central seam, although divided at the crotch with a gusseted section, makes the shorts ride up slightly on me. I prefer side seams that don’t seem to do this.

In all other areas they are highly comfortable with a wide elasticated waistband that sits low on the hips. They are also thinner and more lightweight than the Howies Boxhers, making them a little more suited to warmer days on the trail.

Pros

  • Lightweight and soft
  • Excellent odour control
  • Great moisture wicking

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Central seam rides up slightly

Find the latest price at:
Rab


Runderwear womens brief

Runderwear Women’s Briefs

Best for: Comfort and support

If you’re after unrivalled support and comfort on the trail then Runderwear Briefs are where it’s at. These are big panties — the sort I just want to snuggle up in! Their tight fit around the legs cup the buttocks nicely — no chance of them riding up. Plus, the high waistline holds me in well around the stomach. I love that they are seamless (other than the lined crotch area). And the wide, elasticated waistband doesn’t create a muffin top! That said, I am usually a size S but opted for a size M — they fit perfectly. So it’s worth ordering a size up, unless you like your undies super tight.

There’s a lot of fabric in these briefs. And although the polyamide/elastane blend does a super job at wicking moisture away from my body, I can’t help feeling like I wouldn’t sweat quite so much if there were less of them! The Odlo Briefs might be a better option if you need something cooler and a little more skimpy. For extra warmth when winter hiking, however, these Runderwear Briefs are a cosy, high performance option that come with a chafe-free guarantee.

Pros

  • Super comfortable
  • Excellent support
  • Great moisture wicking
  • Dries very quickly

Cons

  • Sizing is on the small side
  • Warm for summer hiking

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | Runderwear


Odlo Women's Performance Light Sports Briefs

Odlo Women’s Performance Light Sports Briefs

Best for: Comfort and coolness

For summer hiking when staying cool is top priority, the Odlo Women’s Performance Light Sports Briefs are hard to beat. Not only are these virtually seam-free with no chance of them riding up, they are also incredibly lightweight and airy. I’ve barely noticed myself sweating in them at all. And when I do, they deal with the moisture with expert wickability, drying in no time, too.

But what really makes them stand out from crowd is their ability to deal with odour, despite their synthetic makeup. The Oldo-Effect Anti-odour system inhibits the growth of bacteria on the fabric. This is down to a silver treatment when the fabric is created. Clever stuff, and worth the relatively high price tag.

I love how comfortable I feel in these lightweight briefs, and choose them every time for summer hiking.

Pros

  • Super comfortable
  • Great moisture wicking
  • Good odour control
  • Dry very quickly

Cons

  • Pricey for synthetic briefs

Find the latest price at:
Baselayer | Amazon


Howies Merino Boxhers

Howies Boxhers Merino Undies

Best for: Odour control and comfort

If you’re not quite sold on boxer-style undies but love the idea of their comfort and chafe-free warmth, then these Howies Boxhers are a superb option. They are shorter in the leg than the Rab Boxers and offer a much more snug fit around the buttocks without riding up. They’re shaped more like a brief — but with a little ‘extra’. The elasticated waistband is super comfortable and stays in place nicely without being too tight. Otherwise, the main fabric of these undies is 100% merino, with no added elastane. The downside of this is that they loosen slightly with wear. They also take a little longer to dry that the Rabs. However, they come out on top when it comes to odour control, lasting a good few days in the mountains without the need to change.

These are my go-to choice for multi-day hiking trips in cooler conditions.

Pros

  • Superb odour control
  • Very comfortable
  • Great moisture wicking
  • Comfortable

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Loosens slightly with wear
  • Don’t dry as quickly as synthetic options

Find the latest price at:
Howies | Amazon


Best underwear for hiking: men’s

Howies Penn Merino Boxers

Howies Penn Merino Boxers

Best for: Odour control and comfort

Updated with a new elasticated band-style waistband, the Howies Penn Merino Boxers are a huge hit here at Cool of the Wild. A first wear, almost two years ago, converted Rob to the luxury of merino undies instantly — he’s barely taken them off since! Yep, they do a cracking job at odour control, and they’re still going strong, despite their overuse. The 100% merino fabric is a little thicker than the Rab’s, although no less comfortable. This makes them slightly too warm for summer hiking, but they are ideal for hiking in all other temperatures and are the favourite option for winter adventures.

Pros

  • Superb odour control
  • Very comfortable
  • Great moisture wicking
  • Opening fly

Cons

  • Pricey
  • A little too warm for summer hiking

Find the latest price at:
Howies | Amazon


Runderwear mens merino brief

Runderwear Merino Briefs

Best for: Comfort and coolness

Rob, our reviewer, is a boxers boy. That is, until he found the Runderwear Merino Briefs! Little did he know how wonderfully cool and comfortable one can feel in a pair of tighty-whities. As with all the merino options we have reviewed, they excel at moisture wicking and odour control. But, the blend of polyester Thermocool, polyamide and elastane, make these briefs pretty fast drying too. And because of that, they are Rob’s first choice for multi-day hiking in the summer. Although they’re more fitted than the boxers on our list, the lack of fabric around the legs makes for a cooler, freer feel when hiking in the heat. Plus, their seam-free construction eliminates any risk of chafing or irritation.

Pros

  • Superb odour control
  • Very comfortable
  • Great moisture wicking
  • Quick drying

Cons

  • Pricey
  • No opening fly

Find the latest price at:
Runderwear | Amazon


Rab Merino 120 Boxers

Rab Men’s Merino 120 Boxers

Best for: Lightweight, odour control

It’s merino all the way in the men’s hiking underwear department, with another superb contender from Rab. These are the boy version of the women’s Rab Boxers, offering superfine, soft and lightweight merino comfort. Unlike the women’s boxers, there is no central seam making them sit very nicely around the buttocks without riding up. And because the merino/polyester single jersey fabric construction is so lightweight, they feel nice and airy, despite being the longer in the leg than the Howies (so I’m told!).

They feature an opening fly, flat lock seams and the standard moisture wicking, odour resistant qualities of merino fabric.

Pros

  • Superb odour control
  • Very lightweight
  • Great moisture wicking
  • Comfortable

Cons

  • Pricey

Find the latest price at:
Rab


Best sports bra for hiking

A quick dry sports bra for hiking is an essential item for every outdoorsy gal out there. Sweaty cleavage is unavoidable, no matter your size. When you’re moving, you don’t really notice it that much. But as soon as you stop and your body starts to cool, trapped sweat that hasn’t been wicked away, or a sodden sports bra next to your chest can cause a chill quicker than you might realise.

Runderwear Low-Impact Crop Top

Runderwear Low-Impact Crop Top

Best for: Comfort and quick drying

The Runderwear Low-Impact Crop Top is the best quick dry bra for hiking on our list. This is down to a blend of synthetic fabrics, coupled with a perforated lining that keeps air flowing nicely, wicking moisture away from the skin well. Although it’s not suitable for running in for anyone larger than a B-cup, it provides ample support for hiking. Plus, its seamless design is ideal when worn underneath a heavy backpack — nothing digs in, irritates or rubs, and the fabric feels very soft on the skin.

An excellent choice for summer hikers, and like the briefs, it comes with a no-chafe guarantee.

Pros

  • Good value
  • Quick drying
  • Great moisture wicking
  • Super comfortable

Cons

  • No very supportive

Find the latest price at:
Runderwear | Amazon


Icebreaker Sprite Racer Back Bra

Icebreaker Sprite Racer Back Bra

Best for: Odour control

When in comes to odour control, the Icebreaker Sprite Racer Back Bra comes out on top. You can wear this thing for days and days without it getting stinky. With 83% merino, blended with lycra, you can also enjoy all the moisture wicking properties one would expect from a high performing hiking sports bra. It provides a little more support than the Runderwear Crop Top, and is an excellent option for high energy hiking adventures! It also has a much more flattering shape. However, despite its super fine merino fibers, the Sprite struggles to compete with the Runderwear Crop Top (and its seam-free construction) when it comes to comfort.

An ideal option for long distance hikers, if you find the seams comfortable enough.

Pros

  • Superb odour control
  • Very lightweight
  • Great moisture wicking
  • Flattering shape

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Not as comfortable as it should be

Find the latest price at:
Baselayer | Amazon


What to look for when choosing underwear for hiking

Comfort

No matter how technical your undies may be, if they’re uncomfortable you’re going to hate wearing them. Hopefully, you’ve worn underwear for long enough by now to know what sort of style and fit works for you. Good. Then stick with that when it comes to choosing hiking underwear. Knickers that ride up, boxers that chafe, elastic that digs in, or fabric that irritates will be 100 times more noticeable (and annoying) on the trail, compared with everyday life. Get a style that is comfortable and suits you, and you’ll be off to a good start.

If you’re not sure, then here are your options:

  • Briefs

    Briefs

    If elasticated at the legs, briefs shouldn’t ride up and should cup your buttocks (and everything else) nicely! Arguably the most comfortable style of undies — if you get the right fit.

  • Boxers

    Boxers

    These help to prevent your inner thighs from rubbing together (though ill-fitting boxers can actually cause chafing). They provide extra warmth in cold weather and are a favoured choice by men.

  • Thong

    Thong

    Ideal for the minimalist, thongs take away any risk of your underwear riding up. They’re lightweight and packable — ideal if you need to bring multiple pairs, assuming you find them comfortable!

Quick drying

As well as being mega comfortable, underwear that is specific to hiking should also be quick drying. Moisture management is essential to prevent nappy rash and chafing. You’ll be sweating loads, potentially drip-drying after bathroom stops, sitting on damp grass or rocks and getting intermittently battered with rain. Soggy undies makes for a dampened mood.

Lightweight synthetic fabrics wick moisture away from your skin efficiently and dry super quickly too. They are an excellent option if you know you’re a very sweaty hiker. However, some find synthetic fabric to be an irritant to sensitive parts, especially when damp or wet.

Merino fabric is excellent at wicking moisture away from your skin and deals with low levels of moisture well. If you manage to get your underwear really soaked, however, merino takes longer to dry out than synthetic fabric. For those sensitive to synthetic fabric, merino is the closest you’ll get to wearing cotton, without having to deal with its slow drying, water holding properties.

Odour control

If you are hiking for days at a time, you don’t want to have to take a fresh pair of underwear for each day. Equally, you don’t really want to have to put on unclean, smelly smalls each day. This is where the magic of merino really comes into its own. The naturally occurring antimicrobial properties of the wool fibers inhibit the growth of bacteria, making them odour-resistant. With a couple of days of inside-out wearing, you can probably eek 4 days of wear out of a single pair of merino undies. Maybe?!

Synthetic fabric doesn’t do so well in this department. So if you’re wanting to keep your packing list short but don’t want to fork out on merino underwear, add some biodegradable wash to your list and make panty-washing part of your evening routine!

Fabrics

I’ve already mentioned many of the properties of both merino and synthetic underwear. Here are the pros and cons of each, just so we’re all on the same page!

Merino

Pros

  • Moisture wicking
  • Naturally odour-resistant
  • Comfortable
  • A sustainable fabric

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Doesn’t dry quickly when very wet
  • Can become misshapen with wear
  • Can be itchy to some wearers

Synthetic

Pros

  • Moisture wicking
  • Quick drying
  • Inexpensive
  • Very durable

Cons

  • No odour control
  • Can cause irritation to some wearers

What about cotton?

For many people, cotton is the only fabric that works for them in terms of comfort and minimising irritation in sensitive areas. As you may know, however, cotton is pretty terrible at dealing with excess moisture. It holds it, becomes heaving (think chafage and rubbing), and takes ages to dry. Although this isn’t an ideal option for hiking, if it’s the only thing that brings you comfort then you’ll just have to have lots of spares to change into when they become too wet.


Now that you’ve got your undies sorted, you just need to figure out the rest of your hiking get-up. For some guidance on hiking clothing, check out our article on what to wear hiking.

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