Writing about travel underwear isn't necessarily my first choice for a topic but let's face it: it's an important one that can make or break your trip.
Sound a bit excessive?
Think about it. If your outer clothes are uncomfortable, you can stop and change. It's a bit harder with what you're wearing under your clothes - privacy isn't always available. Whatever has happened to that underwear will have to wait until you get back to your room.
Yes, of course you can wear your regular underwear when you travel and that's fine for walking around the city. But if you're going hiking or plan to do anything more strenuous than stalking the Mona Lisa, travel underwear makes perfect sense.
If you happen to be traveling for weeks or more, there's no way you'll be able to cart around enough underwear to put on something clean every day - unless you happen to be carting your washing machine around.
If you're keen to get buying, here are a few highly recommended brands.
The always popular Patagonia Hipster is a perennial favorite - soft and moisture wicking (also comes
in a higher cut brief).
Buy from Patagonia
It breathes, it dries quickly - the ExOfficio Give-n-Go also comes in bikini and string. It's been voted a Readers' Choice for a reason!
Buy from ExOfficio
Not all travel underwear are alike, so here's what you should look for.
I usually like underwear by Tilley Endurables, especially their Coolmax range. They're expensive, even more so here in Europe, but my three pairs lasted a full two years of daily wear and were well worth the expense. I also have several friends who have tried Ex Officio underwear and rave about them. Both brands advertise them as quick dry travel underwear, essential if you're going to be washing and wearing only a couple of pairs. I'm sure there are plenty of other excellent brands and styles out there so do some research.
A less common choice would wool mixed with artificial fibers to make them last longer and help them hold their shape, like the Icebreaker Merino (different models cut both high and low). Sounds too hot for the tropics? Not so. Actually they're very fine and breathe well. Wool is also great at keeping odors away but does take a little longer to dry.
In addition to the bottom - known as underpants, panties or knickers, depending on the country - there's also a top called a camisole or vest (you'll find several on this page). The best camisoles for travel are made of wicking material and mostly used in colder weather.
I usually carry one camisole (if I'm heading to the cold) and 2-3 pairs of underwear: two if I plan to wash a pair every night, three if I'm feeling a bit lazy. If I'm washing a pair each night, you can see how important it is that they dry quickly!
One more thing: on a very short trip, disposable travel underwear might be worth considering. You can actually wash some of the models once or twice so they're not one-time wear only (the environment thanks you). Magellan makes an all-cotton version, and while I've never tried them, they have an excellent reputation. As for other brands I can't say... but worth giving them a try, don't you think? They don't take up much space and are lightweight.