Best Hiking Underwear for Men in 2021
Shreddies, skivvies, undercrackers… whatever you want to call them, your underwear is probably the last thing you think about when planning a hike. Yet, all great adventures start with the basics, and the one piece of gear you don’t want to overlook is the first thing you put on.
Wear the wrong underwear for hiking and your trip will be memorable for the wrong reasons. Instead of the fun you had, the trail banter or the great views, all you’ll remember is how much pain you were in from being rubbed raw. Yikes.
The best hiking underwear is the stuff you can put on and forget you’re wearing. It’ll be soft, breathable, quick drying, stay in one place and won’t leave you feeling sore in places you’d rather not mention.
We’ve put on our research hats and come up with some of the best men's hiking underwear options out there to keep your nether regions happy, dry and pain free.
Best Hiking Underwear for Men- Our Top Picks
Best for: everyday use – Smartwool Merino 150 Boxer Briefs
Best for: multi day hiking and bikepacking – ExOfficio Give-n-Go Sport Boxer Briefs
Best for: Fastpackers and weight conscious back packers – Outdoor Research Echo Boxer Brief
Best for: multi activities – SAXX Underwear Mens Ultra Boxer Brief
Best for: hot conditions – Under Armour HeatGear Compression Shorts
Best for: odor control – Icebreaker Anatomica Boxer Briefs
Best for: best budget buy – Forclaz Trek 500 Merino
Best for: mountain hikes - Minus 33 Acadian Boxer Briefs
Best for: trail runners and faster hikers – Arc’teryx Modus SL Boxers
Men's Hiking Underwear Buying Guide
Underwear for hiking is generally made from either merino wool or synthetic materials. So what’s the difference?
Think wool and you’d be forgiven for imagining old-fashioned bulky underwear. Merino wool is in a league of its own; it’s lightweight yet super soft and comfortable against the skin. It’s also breathable – it has great moisture wicking abilities and will suck sweat away from the skin, yet it still feels good even when it’s damp.
Merino wool is naturally antimicrobial, meaning you can wear your underwear day after day without washing. There are a couple of downsides of merino wool; it’s usually more expensive and as it’s not as hard-wearing as synthetic fabrics you’ll need to replace it more often.
Clothing made from synthetic fabrics is usually cheaper and lasts longer. Synthetic hiking underwear generally has good moisture control, is breathable and quick drying. Synthetic fabrics are often treated to make them odour resistant, but this can wear off over time as they’re washed.
The downside of synthetics is that they don’t feel as soft and comfortable against the skin as merino wool, particularly when they’re wet.
Often manufacturers combine merino with synthetic fabric to get the best of both worlds – super softness and durability. Some products use corespun merino, where the wool is wrapped round a nylon core, while others pair merino up with synthetic fabric for stretch and freedom of movement.
Men’s hiking underwear generally comes in either brief, boxer or compression boxer briefs. Briefs keep everything supported and in its place, but there’s not much protection if you suffer from chafing. Whatever you go for, try and look for flat lock seams, as these will prevent chafing and make the underwear feel light on the skin.
Boxers tend to be looser cut and resemble shorts in style. They offer good ventilation and the best freedom of movement, plus they help prevent inner-thigh chafing. However the looser material can bunch up.
Boxer briefs are fast becoming the most popular cut as they give you the best of both worlds – more coverage and a snugger fit. They’re designed to keep everything in place when you move.
Compression Boxer Briefs
Compression boxer briefs are designed to hug your body close whilst applying gentle pressure. This can help prevent the usual muscle fatigue and soreness that comes after a tough workout or day spent on the hills. They’re also designed to increase the flow of oxygen to different parts of your body, giving greater muscle function and performance. This can help tired muscles recover as they increase blood flow to the muscle tissue, encouraging it to heal. If you suffer from chafing, compression briefs might be worth a try as they fit tightly against the body so friction isn’t such an issue.
They do have their disadvantages though; underwear that’s too constricting can start to chafe if worn for days without being washed, though boxers that are too loose can ride up and cause chafing too.
Whatever the cut, most hiking underwear has flat lock seams to help reduce rubbing and they're designed to allow for repetitive movement.
The best hiking underwear for you very much depends on what you’re used to and are comfortable with. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to the cut – just wear what feels right for you.
The best men's hiking underwear for you depends on personal preference and what you’ll be doing with it. Going on a multi-day hike? You’ll want underwear that's lightweight, odour repelling and prevents chafing, such as the Icebreaker Anatomica or the Arc’teryx Modus SL Ultra.
The Under Armour HeatGear will keep you cool and dry out there. Into other sports as well as hiking? The SAXX Ultra is a great all-rounder. Looking to shave a few ounces on weight? Check out the Outdoor Research Echo as they’re the lightest men's underwear we’ve found.
Think about what you’re comfy with and go with that. You’ll also need to consider whether you want underwear with a fly or whether you can do without. No fly means fewer seams, which prevents chafing but it isn’t as convenient when nature calls.
Can I wear my usual underwear for hiking?
Well, you can, but just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Everyday briefs are usually made from cotton, which just isn’t breathable or moisture wicking. You’ll end up wet, uncomfortable and possibly red raw from chafing – most unpleasant.
Underwear for hiking is cut specifically to allow for the repeated movement of walking or running, plus it’s made from fabrics that are moisture wicking and quick drying. As for odour control, well, after a few days on the trail your normal skivvies will probably march to the washing machine on their own!
How do I wash my hiking underwear?
If they’re synthetics, they should be fine on a regular washing machine cycle, but anything containing merino needs a cooler cycle.
Don’t use laundry detergent as this destroys the wicking properties of outdoor gear - use liquid soap instead.
It’s not a good idea to put your hiking underwear in the drier, unless you want them ultra tight! Pull them into shape and let them dry naturally – they're quick drying so this won’t take long. Checking the washing instructions on the label before their first wash.
Ok, so how do I wash my hiking underwear when out on the trail?
Great question! There aren’t too many laundry facilities out there on the hills. You may get lucky at some of the larger campsites but otherwise it’s down to you to keep your underwear fresh.
If your skivvies are made from merino wool, you can get away with wearing them several days at a time without washing them, but you’ll want to clean synthetics more often than that, especially if you’re sharing a tent.
Just swish them around in soapy water (you can buy soap that washes everything), give them a rinse, squeeze as much of the liquid out as you can and hang them to dry. If it’s wet, hang them in your tent, and if it’s sunny your undies can be hung on the outside of your backpack. Just make sure you attach them securely so you don’t lose them.
If it’s a decent day you can expect them to dry overnight or within a few hours.