How to Choose the Right Hiking Underwear

Hiking Underwear: A hiker touching the bush on a trail while feeling comfortable

In this post, we'll take a look at:

When you’re out hiking, the choice of what you wear underneath matters more than you might think. Hiking underwear, often overlooked but essential for comfort on the trail, plays a crucial role in your outdoor experience.

In this post, we’ll explore the world of hiking underwear, from fabric choices to styles and fits, to help you hike light and stay comfortable. Let’s get started.

The Right Hiking Underwear: Why It Matters

You wouldn’t want to build your house on a shaky foundation, right? Well, the same goes for your outdoor clothing.

Lots of people make the mistake of choosing the wrong hiking underwear, even if they’ve spent a lot on fancy wicking layers. This can leave you feeling too hot in one of the most sensitive areas of your body.

Ultimately, this can lead to chafing – a common skin problem caused by a mix of friction, moisture, and irritating fabric. So, what’s the culprit for many hikers and backpackers? Cotton.

You already know not to wear cotton clothes during your hike, and the same goes for underwear. However, we bet most of your underwear is cotton, and it’s time for a change.

Just like proper outdoor clothing, the best underwear for hiking and backpacking is designed to manage moisture and temperature effectively. It works by pulling away excess sweat and expelling it through your layers of hiking clothing.

Selecting the Right Hiking Underwear

Choose the Right Fabric

Not to stress you out, but the fabric is the most important part of selecting your next hiking underwear. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Moisture-Wicking, Quick-Dry Fabrics: Hiking underwear made from synthetic materials like polyester, efficiently wick moisture away from your skin and dry quickly, ensuring you stay dry during hikes. Keep in mind that synthetic materials may retain odors, so be prepared to wash them.
  • Merino Wool: Alternatively, consider soft, itch-free merino wool. It pulls moisture away from your skin, provides some cooling in warm weather, and naturally resists odors, making it a great choice for extended hiking trips.
  • Fabric Blends: Some hiking underwear combines merino wool with synthetic materials for enhanced fit, flexibility, and durability. These blends offer a balance of comfort and performance.

Choose the Style You Like

Remember, if you have issues with inner-thigh chafing, think about trying longer-cut underwear that covers that area.

Now, let’s check out the various styles and how they suit different preferences:

For Her

Hiking Underwear: A hiker on top of a vista site, feeling comfortable while enjoying the view into a national park valley

Women have several style choices, including briefs, boxer briefs, bikinis, and thongs, each with its own advantages:

  • Briefs: Briefs provide full coverage both in the front and back, ensuring comfort and protection during hikes.
  • Boxer Briefs: These offer maximum coverage, extending down to the top of the thigh, effectively reducing inner-thigh chafing and providing ample support.
  • Bikinis: Bikinis offer a balance between coverage and style with a thinner, low-rise waistband.
  • Thongs: Thongs are lightweight and quick-drying, making them a suitable choice for those who prioritize freedom of movement.

For Him

Hiking Underwear: A man sitting happily on a rock, comfortably enjoying the scenic mountain view

Men can choose from briefs, boxers, or boxer briefs, each with its own set of benefits:

  • Briefs: Briefs offer good support while providing a more minimalistic, lightweight feel.
  • Boxers: With a looser fit and added coverage, boxers are comfortable for many men, but it’s important to watch out for bunching.
  • Boxer Briefs: Combining coverage and a snug, supportive fit, boxer briefs offer the best of both worlds, reducing skin-on-skin rubbing and enhancing comfort during hikes.

Find the Perfect Fit

A good fit offers support, prevents chafing, and helps with moisture-wicking for trail comfort. Here are fitting tips:

  • Opt for a Snug, Comfortable Fit: Make sure your underwear fits snugly but not overly tight. Avoid going too big, as it can cause bunching and irritation. While compression shorts are great for activities like running, remember that they can get uncomfortable during extended hikes.
  • The Right Fit Enhances Wicking: It might seem like a looser fit provides better ventilation, but for moisture-wicking to be effective, the fabric needs to be in close contact with your skin. Therefore, it’s often more beneficial to have wicking underwear that fits snugly.

Features to Consider for Enhanced Comfort

Certain features in hiking underwear can significantly enhance your trail comfort. Here’s what to look for:

  • Tagless Design: Nobody wants an itchy tag scratching at their skin while hiking. Look for hiking underwear that boasts a tagless design.
  • Flatlock Seams: Scratchy seams can be just as bothersome as tags. Seek out underwear with flatlock seams – these are flat, wide seams that won’t press into your skin or cause irritation while you’re on the move.
  • Odor Control: Since you will sweat on hikes, odor resistance is important. Some hiking underwear has antimicrobial treatment to reduce odors, but it may wear off. Merino wool is a natural, long-lasting odor-resistant option to consider.

Final Thoughts

When you’re out hiking, what you wear underneath matters more than you might think. Hiking underwear, often overlooked but essential for comfort on the trail, plays a crucial role in your outdoor experience as it’s the first line of defense to wick sweat away from your private areas.

For suitable options to consider, look no further than REI. They offer a variety of products for men and women that meet your hiking and backpacking needs.

Just remember to pick the right fabric and a style that suits you while ensuring the correct fit and features to minimize any risk of dissatisfaction during your outdoor adventures. Happy hiking!

Socks are equally important. Looking for the lightest pairs to carry around? Check out our TOP 5 guides for both men and women.


Is nylon underwear good for hiking?

Yes, nylon underwear can be a good choice for hiking. Nylon is a synthetic fabric known for its moisture-wicking and quick-drying properties, making it suitable for outdoor activities. It helps keep you dry, which is essential during backpacking trips where you may encounter varying weather conditions and levels of physical activity. However, remember that nylon may not be as odor-resistant as some other materials like merino wool. Still, it can be a comfortable and practical option for backpacking when paired with the right fit and style.

What underwear is smell resistant hiking?

Merino wool underwear is renowned for its natural odor resistance, making it an excellent choice for hiking. The unique properties of merino wool inhibit the growth of odor-causing bacteria, allowing you to stay fresher for longer, even during extended hiking trips. So, if you’re looking for smell-resistant underwear for hiking, consider merino wool options to enhance your comfort on the trail.

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