OK hikers out here we are talking UNDERWEAR!
Yes, that will be the item of clothing worn under your other clothes that people usually don’t feel comfortable talking about. Well we all (I should say most) wear it and it is important to get it right when hiking as it can make a difference in your comfort and hygiene.
- Material; DO NOT WEAR COTTON! It doesn’t breathe, will just make you sweat and be uncomfortable and not to mention, dare I say, smelly! It can encourage the growth of bacteria and this will cause your undies to smell and worse case insane itching and possible infection, also cotton takes forever to dry. Now this is probably extreme examples but it is important you get material that is breathable, and antimicrobial so you stay as fresh as you can throughout your hike. Lightweight, quick drying, soft enough that you don’t get that scratchy itchy feel and sits comfortably that you don’t have rubbing that can cause chaffing!
- Don’t wear restrictive underwear; you don’t want a pair of undies that the elastic in the leg for example is too tight and cutting in. Get comfy wear, yes girls you should consider the granny undie. Men the boxer style is far better. Something with a soft waistband as well.
- No seams try flat-lock seams; this can be a lot better than having seams that can rub from the pressure of your hip belt causing horrible rubbing and chaffing.
So, what underwear is best? Let’s break it down and make it easier to choose.
Choose material like a merino wool or nylon, polyester or lycra.
- Merino Wool; this is the wool off the breed of Merino sheep. The wool has been proven to be highly resilient and can be made into a very fine fibre. It has natural moisture wicking which is perfect for hiking gear especially your underwear and is good for odour control. It also breaths well.
- Nylon; this has great durability and resistance to stretching pulling and doesn’t absorb water like cotton. Less moisture is defiantly a better thing.
- Polyester; this is very much like Nylon as it can handle the stretching and pulling but it also handles the moisture better and breathes well.
- Acrylic; this is an imitation synthetic wool that has good moisture wicking capabilities.
Now I read this is derived from the Greek words anti/mikros/bios meaning –against/little/life. Makes sense as you want the treatment to be against the little smelly micro-organisms that create the bacteria which causes the stink.
So how do they do this? Well I don’t have a science degree but this is what I found in research; it is added during the process of making the fabric by being sprayed or pressed into the fabric. It does wash out over a period of time but as it is claimed that you don’t have to wash as often so it might last longer.
This does in the end boil down to your personal choice of course but do consider comfort over looking good. Lacey underwear might look pretty but not for hiking, and men those boxers are far comfier than briefs, but you choose, try out different styles and please do let me know what works for you.
What we have tried and tested;
ExOfficio give-n-go female briefs;
These so far have become my absolute favourites as they have an ultra lightweight sports mesh fabric that are also very breathable, antimicrobial and have moisture wicking. These dry within hours of hand washing and find I only ever need 2 pairs for a trip. They are super comfortable I don’t even know I’m wearing them.
Downfall; They are expensive but I think they are worth it and mine have lasted many thousands of kms hiking.
ExOfficio give-n-go men’s boxer brief; exactly the same as the women’s plus a wide waistband, they fold on the sides and underneath so no seam that could cause irritation.
Do look around as there are some other brands that work well if you get their sports brand. Just look for the key points above and try them out.
Washing and drying while on an extended hike;
Depending on what type of hike you are doing, whether you are finishing the days walk in a town with accommodation or finishing at a campsite or just out wild, you do and should wash your underwear! The sports type underwear say you don’t need to wash every day and you might just find yourself in a situation where maybe it isn’t possible.
Where it is possible, do and hand washing in mild soap is perfect (though I did hear shampoo is better), wring out, best if you can fold in a towel and squeeze. Doing this on any of your clothes will help get the excess water out and make drying your garment a lot quicker. When you hang your undies out to dry do so preferably in a shady but well ventilated area, the sun will just break down the material quicker, though sometimes you might not have a choice. I have been known to hang my gear to dry on the back of my pack, just don’t forget to put the undies away before walking into a town. This can be a little embarrassing.
So, there is the low down on your hiking underwear and hopefully you find the perfect pair for you.