The Best Travel Underwear You Must Have

October 29, 2022
https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-mens-and-womens-underwear-for-travel/
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https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-mens-and-womens-underwear-for-travel/Our pick for men’s travel pants has been updated to the Give-N-Go 2.0 Sports mesh 6”. It is almost identical to its discontinued predecessor the Give-N-Go Sports mesh moisture-wicking underwear.

You want undies that work for you, not against you, whether you are traveling for business, pleasure, or outdoor adventure.

You want quick-drying, moisture-wicking skivvies you can wash in a sink quickly if necessary. We’ve tried 34 pairs of moisture-wicking underwear for men and women while backpacking, road-tripping, hostel-hopping, and backpacking in urban and backcountry environments over the past two years.

The ExOfficio Men’s Give-N-Go 2.0 Sport Mesh 6-inch Boxer Brief and Patagonia Women’s Activity Hipster were both tested and proved to be the best for active travelers.

Our pick

This soft-fabric version ExOfficio’s tried-and-true Give-N-Go undies is durable, quick-drying, and relatively affordable. It will last you for many years.

Because it is more comfortable than any other travel moisture-wicking underwear, the ExOfficio Give–N-Go 2.0 Sports mesh 6’’ Boxer Brief has been voted the best.

It is almost identical to the Give-N-Go Sport Mesh predecessor. This was our top pick before it was discontinued. Sport Mesh fabric is more breathable and wicking than other fabrics and also has better odor resistance.

The Sport Mesh fabric feels soft and smooth on both the inside as well as the outside. This allows it to slide against your pants without creating friction.

The brief has a sculpted, crotch that provides wearers with much-needed support but doesn’t feel too tight. These briefs dry quickly, pack easily, and are lighter than most other boxer shorts we tested.

Runner-up

However, they are more comfortable and better fitting but also more expensive

These extra-soft, adjust-free, well-tailored boxer shorts are luxurious at a premium cost.

The Tommy John Air Mesh Boxer Brief 8″ is a well-tailored garment that will cost you more if you want a better fit and fabric. These soft undies have the best front pouch among all the boxer briefs we tested.

They also hold in place better than any other competitor, making them a truly comfortable, wedgie-free, and riding-free experience.

These are a bit too long in the legs, which makes them difficult to pair with shorts. However, the price is not a problem. Although Tommy John makes a shorter version, we haven’t tried it yet.

Our pick

At first glance, the Patagonia Women’s Active hipster isn’t very special. After trying every other brand and experiencing their failures, we realized what special means in moisture-wicking underwear.

It’s like wearing nothing at all. Out of all the panties that we tried, the Patagonias had the best fit, comfort, and style.

This pair is well-suited for athletic activities because the nylon material is quick-wicking and better than synthetics for odor-proofing.

The Active Hipster is light and portable, making it ideal for minimalist travelers who travel in only one or two pairs.

These same qualities make these pants great for travelers who want something lightweight and portable, no matter where they are going or what they’re doing.

Runner-up

Although wool undies are less odorous than synthetics, they can be more expensive and dry faster.

The Smartwool Women’s Merino Sport Seamless bikini is a good option if you’re willing to pay more for wool’s naturally antibacterial and odor-prevention properties. It’s comfortable and stays put all day.

These soft, flexible panties, like the Ibex Balance brief, won’t ride up or slide down as much as our previous runner-up pick. Wool can be too warm and takes a long time to dry, so it’s not a good option for tropical or summer travel.

Budget Selection

These are great value, they’re compact, comfortable, and quick-drying. They don’t fit as well and aren’t as supportive at the crotch as the ExOfficio shorts.

These undies, made of the same fabric as the Airism Boxer Brief and with a no-ride cut, are among the most cost-effective of all the ones we tested.

Uniqlo’s Airism range is a great option if you are looking for great performance at a more affordable price. It’s not as snug as our other picks.

The Boxer Brief’s legs are too short and the Seamless HipHugger’s legs can sometimes sag. The odor resistance isn’t as durable or effective as the more expensive panties and boxers.

The line is more than reasonable, but you still get great moisture-wicking underwear that wicks and breathes, supports, dries, and supports. It’s also the best travel underwear.

Everything we recommend

These are great value, they’re compact, comfortable, and quick-drying. They don’t fit as well and aren’t as supportive at the crotch as the ExOfficio shorts.

These undies, made of the same fabric as the Airism Boxer Brief and with a no-ride cut, are among the most cost-effective of all the ones we tested.

The research

Flaws, but not dealbreakers

Flaws, but not dealbreakers

The competition (men’s underwear)

The competition (women’s underwear)

Sources

I am a former Appalachian Trail speed record holder and have hiked more than 15,000 miles in performance moisture-wicking underwear. Ultralight backpacker: I will use the same pair of undies every six months.

Then, I’ll wash and dry them tomorrow. I’ve taken travel undies and hostel-hopping on five continents, too. Over 50 models have been compared and tested over the course of my two years of covering travel and long pants for Wirecutter.

On expeditions, I have tried dozens of different contenders and experienced differences in their odors, chafing, and longevity. Travel moisture-wicking underwear is my only item of clothing, with the exception of a few gift items from mom.

We reached out to Francis Tapon, global nomad, and author of Hidden Europe during his five-year journey through all 54 African nations.

Genevieve Hathaway is the director of ArchaeoAdventures which is a tour agency that specializes in “for women-by-women” trips to the Middle East, and Northern Africa.

We also spoke with Michael Kleinmann (aka The Underwear Expert), editor-in-chief of The Underwear Blog, and founder of the Underwear of the Month Club, in order to gain a better understanding of design features, fabrics, and the changing market for men’s underwear.

The convenience of getting rid of cotton underpants is a big plus for anyone who travels light and needs more space in their luggage.

Your discomfort won’t be a problem as your underwear will reduce chafing and wick away moisture. Because they are thinner, the material takes up less space in your bag. They dry twice as fast as cotton underwear.

Doing laundry can be a time-consuming chore and can even result in a loss of money. There is a better way to travel with clean clothes.

You won’t have to rely on expensive hotel laundry services or laundromat hours for quick-drying, washable underwear. You can travel for as long as you want with only two pairs of travel undies if you are willing to handwash every night before you go to bed.

Travel underwear is more expensive than regular cotton undies. Uniqlo, for example, makes both synthetic and cotton boxer shorts. The cotton version is approximately half the price.

Even though synthetics have the silky, smooth feel many people like in underwear, they feel less luxurious than soft modal-blend skivvies made by MeUndies. These softer materials don’t dry as quickly as cotton and aren’t as efficient at wicking moisture.

Underwear for travel and performance must meet minimum standards, as well as other criteria. These standards were met by the panties and boxer shorts that made up our line of travel underwear.

It is important to be breathable and moisture-wicking: Athletes and travelers will sweat more than average office workers.

When you don’t have the luxury of changing your underwear every day, moisture-wicking fabrics and breathable fabrics will maximize comfort, reduce odor and minimize the chance of infection.

Tapon said, “Any traveler who has a brain will pack light.” This means that you should reduce the number of clothes you bring, even if they take up so much space.

You’ll be able to appreciate the importance of quick-drying underwear now that you have so many. They should be washable at night and dry quickly in the morning.

Odor-resistant: Odors are caused by bacteria and moisture. Some materials, such as wool and treated synthetics, are harder surfaces for bacteria colonies. We only included undies that claimed to be “odor-control,” odor-resistant,” anti-bacterial, or anti-odor.

https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-mens-and-womens-underwear-for-travel/

Stretch: If you’re filming jumps over chasms or rooftops with your GoPro, you don’t want to have your pants ripped.

Kleinmann advised us that underwear should contain a performance fabric or at least some stretch for active men. A pair of comfortable travel undies should contain 6 percent spandex or elastane.

For boxer-brief and boyshorts cuts, stretch is more important than for short or hipster cuts. Because you will need them to stretch your legs while you run, cycle, walk, or squat.

Style: Travel underwear shouldn’t mean dorky underwear. Your underwear shouldn’t be too revealing if you travel to a location where you will be wearing your skivvies.

Tapon is very particular about his style choices and cuts. “You want underwear that can be used as an emergency bathing suit, or even shorts.” Your shorts may get lost while drying on a line.

This could leave you without your shorts for four days. You can have a backup plan in case you are far from civilization, or don’t want a new pair. My full-cut underwear has been worn many times for jogging and no one seems to notice.

Cut: Your shape and the type of cut of your underwear will determine how well it stays up. We opted for undies with generous coverage, but not so much that they hinder mobility: Boxer briefs for men, and hip-hugger/bikini-style panties for women.

For traveling, modest underwear gives you more freedom to change if necessary and allows for the use of underwear for unusual activities such as swimming, running, or (in Pon’s case), tennis.

This isn’t about modesty. Medium-coverage underwear held its place well, while skimpier underwear caused wedges. We found that ill-fitting clothing could cause our pants to rub against the underwear.

Variety of cuts: Although we focused our guide on boxer shorts and hip-hugger/bikini styles, different bodies require different styles. It’s great to have multiple options in a line.

Each pair went through rigorous testing back home. This included drying, washing, and sniffing tests. I was the primary woman’s tester, and Miguel Aguilar performed men’s testing. Our ultimate goal was to determine which pair was ranked according to:

Comfort and fit

Your clothing should be able to wedgies your siblings. To minimize the chance of slipping, a good-fitting pair of underwear should be designed and cut so that it is easy to adjust.

We searched for elastic waistbands that were flexible and didn’t feel restrictive. Kleinmann warned that if the waistband digs into you or rolls over it could be a poor-quality pair of pants or the wrong size for your body.

Kleinmann advised that the fabric should be snug enough to keep your undies up and have enough stretch to allow for movement. If the rise is too low, it will make you feel tight.

You’ll feel restricted if the rise is too long. Snarky Nomad wrote in his guide, “Why are so many people getting their underwear wrong?”

That the front panel should surround and contain the body to prevent contact with the legs or seam rubbing.

The 3D front panel should be snug and not restrict your movement.

A good pair of underwear should hug your body and feel slightly compressed but not too tight. Saxx, for example, has an extra pouch in their pouch that is basically underwear within your underwear.

However, our testers prefer the more lightweight feel of a panel.

Fabric and seam scratchiness. Does the fabric make you feel itchy? Is there an annoying tag that you can’t remove (or is it still rubbing the area where the tag was) Are the seams rubbing against your skin?

The fabric stays put: Also called “doesn’t require constant adjustment”, SnarkyNomad suggests in the same underwear guide, that quality undies should be made from a fabric that can stretch and contract with movement.

The best underwear fabric will not lose its shape with time, and it will not sag or shrink between washes like jeans. He refers to “lateral drift” as a loosening of fabric that expands and does not contract.

Durability

These skivvies are not cheap. Fabric that lasts is what you want. Solid waistbands should not lose or fold over time.

Handwashing should ensure that the fabric and seams are not prone to pilling or loosening threads. Experts vary on the acceptable life expectancy of pair of underwear. Some estimates range from six months to four years. A pair of underwear that has holes in a matter of months is unacceptable.

Comfort for the long-term: These should be comfortable whether you are on a 23-hour flight sandwiched between two 10-hour bus trips or backpacking in the tropics.

Lightweight, packable underwear: While it won’t break the weight limit at check-in for you to bring your own clothes, smaller pairs will allow you to store more gear.

It was easy to start by trying everything. Any item that was uncomfortable to use as a desk chair and workstation failed the initial test and was removed from the final list.

The moisture-wicking underwear top performers were then worn for two consecutive days before undergoing a sniff test. The testers also took note of whether the underwear felt gross or grimy.

We asked testers to test the underwear again for two days to make sure it wasn’t gross. We washed each pair three times with a few jeans to simulate rough washing.

We line-dried the travel underwear because drying time is so important. To determine if it was dry or not, we touched each pair 20 minutes apart.

The next step was to do real-world testing of some trips that we had planned. These included backpacking 215 mile through Portland, Oregon, six weeks backpacking in the Canadian Rockies, walking from lowest point to highest point in the Continental US, and road-tripping to national parks across the West. They were also worn on all flights to get us there.

We then checked for signs such as fraying at the seams or pilling. We checked the durability of each finalist as we tested them more.

Our choice for boxer shorts: ExOfficio Men’s Give-N Go 2.0 Sport Mesh 6’’ Boxer Brief

This soft-fabric version ExOfficio’s tried-and-true Give-N-Go undies is durable, quick-drying and relatively affordable. It will last you for many years.

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