Will my Tighty-Whities work?
Probably not, but there are those out there that they do work for!
Do a search on the internet and you may not find as much information about what kind of underwear you should choose as compared to other apparel choices.
I have learned from personal experience what works for me. My first time backpacking was a section of the Finger Lakes Trail and was one of the worst experiences I have ever had on trail. I chose to wear cotton boxers!
Underwear is perhaps one of the most underrated pieces of hiking equipment. Typically you hear hikers talk about how much money they spent on other pieces of equipment or how equipment performs, but very little about their choice of underwear. Why not put a little more thought into this garment? After all this is an item that is in direct contact with your skin and one of the items that can have a significant impact on your hike.
So what should you look for in your underwear?
This is for me the first and most important consideration when choosing this layer. All of my compression shorts are synthetic. I look to compression shorts that are made from Nylon and Lycra that contain spandex and offer comfortable stretch. Synthetics tend to be fast drying, they work well in rainy conditions, and are great for heat and high humidity. These materials do not absorb moisture. You have probably heard that cotton kills, well it can also cause significant chaffing because it will absorb excess moisture and increase the friction down there. As cotton absorbs your sweat, it will begin to stick to your skin. The seams of cotton underwear are usually not flat and will rub your skin raw as they begin to bunch up.
Look for underwear that has flat lock seams. Flat seams increase comfort and reduce chaffing unlike normal seams that chafe your skin by rubbing the skin.
Hiking underwear should be antimicrobial. This allows your underwear to remain fresh after days of use. On many a trip I have been able to take a stealth shower and rinse my compression shorts out and freshen them up. An added benefit is that these synthetic materials tend to dry quickly when set out in the sun.
Styles to Consider:
- Boxer Briefs
- Compression Short
You don’t really need to spend a lot of money. There are many options available from target (about $15.00) and other stores that will work just fine and not break the bank. As with any piece of gear you need to make sure what you choose will work for you. I have experimented with various brands in order to find a compression short that performs for me.
I knew nothing about the available types or fit considerations when I started out and paid the price due to horrible chafing. I am now a strong believer in synthetic compression shorts! Having the correct fitting underwear made from a quality fabric is an important way to be comfortable out on the trail.
As always, Outdoor Gear Lab has a good, short write up and comparisons for the best travel underwear out there. The brands they list are a little pricey though.