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Women on the Road

How to Choose the Best Travel Underwear for Women

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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.

So it's important to choose something light, practical and washable!

Comparison chart: top women's travel underwear

Name

Image

Material

Style

Details

Price

Synthetic

Hipster (low ride)

Wide lay-flat band, so comfortable. Moisture-wicking and Polygiene® permanent odor control. Also available in brief style for more tummy control.


$$$

80% rayon made from bamboo, 13% nylon, 7% spandex

Boyshort

These boyleg briefs come with mid-rise coverage and a large waistband to prevent rolling and binding. They size small. Moisture-wicking, breathable and feel silky soft. Static repellent (if you're wearing a skirt) but not quick-drying. Bamboo is organically grown.  

$

Nylon, Merino wool

Boyshort


Nylon fibers wrapped in (soft) merino wool. Lining is moisture-wicking and elastic in leg hem, so no rolling up or bunching. Lots of bright colors and fun stripes. 

$$$

ExOfficio womens travel underwear

94% Nylon 6% Lycra Spandex

Bikini or full-cut briefs

Incredibly breathable and fast-drying (outdoors - but may shrink in dryer). No bunching, riding up or chafing. Moisture-wicking material - and no panty lines.

$$$

100% CoolMax® Extreme polyester 

Brief

My brand of choice (separate websites for the US, UK and Canada - make sure you drop down the correct one). Expensive, but my two pairs lasted across Africa. Great quick dry travel underwear, super lightweight and non-sweat. Not exactly sexy, mind you. 

$$$

100% cotton

Brief

If washing underwear feels like too much of a hassle, you could go the travel disposable underwear route. These can be washed and re-worn a couple times in a pinch. Each pair is individually wrapped. Not super environmental but can be useful in a pinch.

$

Image

Travel underwear - womens active hipster

Material

Synthetic

Style

Hipster (low ride)

Details

Wide lay-flat band, so comfortable. Moisture-wicking and Polygiene® permanent odor control. Also available in brief style for more tummy control.

Price

$$$

Image

Material

80% rayon made from bamboo, 13% nylon, 7% spandex

Style

Boyshort

Details

These boyleg briefs come with mid-rise coverage and a large waistband to prevent rolling and binding. They size small. Moisture-wicking, breathable and feel silky soft. Static repellent (if you're wearing a skirt) but not quick-drying. Bamboo is organically grown.  

Price

$

Image

Material

Nylon, Merino wool

Style

Boyshort


Details

Nylon fibers wrapped in (soft) merino wool. Lining is moisture-wicking and elastic in leg hem, so no rolling up or bunching. Lots of bright colors and fun stripes. 

Price

$$$

Image

Quick drying underwear women's - ExOfficio Give-and-Go

Material

94% Nylon 6% Lycra Spandex

Style

Bikini or full-cut briefs

Details

Incredibly breathable quick dry panties (outdoors - but may shrink in dryer). No bunching, riding up or chafing. Moisture-wicking material - and no panty lines.

Price

$$$

Image

Tilley is one of the best women's travel underwear brands

Material

100% CoolMax® Extreme polyester 

Style

Brief

Details

My brand of choice (separate websites for the US, UK and Canada - make sure you drop down the correct one). Expensive, but my two pairs lasted across Africa. Dry incredibly quickly, super lightweight and non-sweat. Not exactly sexy, mind you. 

Price

$$$

Image

Material

100% cotton

Style

Brief

Details

If washing underwear feels like too much of a hassle, you could try women's disposable travel underwear. These can be washed and re-worn a couple times in a pinch. Each pair is individually wrapped. Not super environmental but can be useful in a pinch.

Price

$

Best travel underwear: here's the skinny!

All the above underwear are good travel buys and it's hard to make a decision, so I've highlighted some of these pairs for you here.

ExOfficio Women’s Give-and-Go Bikini Briefs

ExOfficio Give-n-Go - fast drying underwear for travel

ExOfficio’s travel underwear Give-N-Go line features plenty of styles, including a bikini brief, a full-cut brief, and even a pair with a stretchy lace band. They're all made of moisture-wicking synthetic material that has a waffle-weave look, but a soft-to-the-touch feel. These undies also include an “Aegis Microbe Shield” to keep odors away. What makes these a perfect pair of travel underwear is definitely how quickly they dry — in one hour, even if it's cool or overcast. You even get a variety of solid color choices, from the classic black to a bright mint shade. ExOfficio claims you’ll only need two pair, good news since since the price is pretty hefty.

PROS

✓ Moisture-wicking
✓ Breathable
✓ Odor-resistance
✓ Quick-drying
✓ Multiple styles
✓ Good color choices

CONS

✕ Expensive

Click here to find the latest prices

Boody Body EcoWear Women's Boyleg Briefs

For travellers who prefer boyshort coverage AND natural fibers, consider these. Although they do include nylon and spandex, these are primarily made from organically-grown bamboo (a sustainable plant fiber). The price is less than half the cost of ExOfficio panties, making them easier on your pocket book. They only come in basic “boring” colors, and hit mid-rise height (just above the hips). They do tend to run small, so give yourself some breathing room to prevent chafing or binding. If synthetic materials tend to irritate you, try these instead. The biggest drawback? Like my favorite cotton panties, they just don’t dry as quickly as purely-synthetic products.

PROS

✓  Made from natural fibers (bamboo)
✓  Comfortable silky feel
✓  Inexpensive
✓  Breathable
✓  Good for sensitive skin

CONS

✕ Run small
✕ Limited color choices
✕ Not quick-drying

Click here to find the latest prices

Best women's underwear for travel: how to tell your briefs from your thongs

First things first: when you choose women's travel underwear, consider the style.

Brands like ExOfficio offer panties made from the same moisture-wicking, odor-controlling material, but with different levels of coverage. Which one is right for you? Check out this list to learn more.

NOTE: Definitions often vary by country/region, and there is always some overlap between styles depending on the manufacturer. This is a quick guide, but read reviews to learn more about how a particular pair tends to fit.

Classic/Full-Cut Brief
These are probably what you imagine when someone says “underwear” (or pants, panties, undies or whatever you call them). Often referred to as “granny panties,” these fully cover your bottom (and front) and depending on the pair, the band sits well above your hips or even above the belly button. Classic and comfortable, these are almost always a sensible option. They’ll take up more space in your bag, but that’s about the only travel-related downside.

High-Cut Brief
Like the classic brief, these provide full bottom coverage and rise up on the stomach, but the leg openings are cut higher towards the waistband. This reveals more skin in the front, while keeping full coverage in the back.

Hipster
As the name implies, these are briefs that sit at hip-level. You still get medium back/bottom coverage, but with less fabric up around your midsection. These are a great choice if you prefer low-rise trousers, or if standard briefs tend to cut into your tummy. They still offer enough coverage to keep your comfortable during a hike, but will also save space overall.

Bikini
Essentially a hipster with a narrower waistband. Again, great for anyone who wears low-rise pants or simply dislikes extra fabric around their middle. These are probably the best compromise between comfort and space-saving.

Boyshort
Because only men can wear shorts? Despite the sexist name, these women’s underwear closely resemble men’s boxer briefs. The fabric is skin-tight like normal panties, but these look more like shorts rather than bikini bottoms. Most sit on or below your hips, and many women love the full bottom coverage, while others dislike that the legs sometimes ride, roll or bunch. They’ll take up more space in your bag, but otherwise they make great undergarments. 

Cheeky
Not to be crass, but these are bikini panties that show off a lot more cheek! They aren’t as revealing as a thong, and offer more coverage to your undercarriage. Women often wear these under jeans or trousers because you’re less likely to see panty lines, but you still feel like you’re wearing underwear. They save space, for sure, just make sure they stay put and don’t leave you with a wedgie!

(Another name for this style is the “tanga”: Although some manufacturers consider these to be two different styles of underwear, others use the terms interchangeably. If anything, the tanga provides even less coverage than the cheeky.)

Thong
These come in various degrees of tinyness, but the central marker of a thong is frontal coverage and an exposed rear. Some thongs have wider waistbands than others, and those connected with just a string are called g-strings. While these will certainly save space in your bag, I wouldn't bet on them for comfort. And, you can’t wick away moisture with so little fabric.

What to look for in travel undies

Not all travel underwear are alike, so here's what you should look for.

  • Quick-drying: When you're traveling, the last thing you want to cart around is soggy underwear so yes, quick dry women's underwear is a good idea. Modern synthetics are so performing you can wash and wring your undies after dinner and wear them again for breakfast. (I personally prefer cotton for comfort but sadly they take too long to dry.)
  • Comfort: If it's hot you certainly don't want the elastics to pinch and chafe, around your thighs or your waist. (Plus ill-fitting undies can be bad for your health!)
  • Form: Make sure those elastics are sturdy and last as long as your trips. Saggy elastics are just as uncomfortable as tightly gripping ones. The elastic should last at least as long as your trip!
  • Fibers: You'll probably want something that breathes - and most modern fabrics do, while wicking sweat from your body and keeping you comfortably cool. Some panties have anti-microbial properties, useful when you can't change as often as you'd like. Wicking properties are important to control sweating. 
Travel underwearNot quite what I had in mind...
  • Colors: A pair that matches your skin tone is the most versatile and reduces the risk of visibility through light fabrics. You can of course spring for something red or fuschia or anything under the sun - just avoid packing white pants. 
  • Style: Boyshort, thongs, bikini, hipster, brief? This comes down to personal preference, and there’s no “right” answer. Boyshorts and full-cut briefs take up the most space, while thongs and bikinis can fit almost anywhere. But don’t pack tiny underwear just to leave more room in your bag: you’ll regret it a million times if they aren’t comfortable.
  • Easy to wash: It's hard to tell before you actually try to wash a pair because a lot depends on the soap you use or the hardness of water but yes, when you travel, your undies should wash with ease.

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.

When I travel, 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 underwear for travel 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). 

I bet you thought it was a lot easier to choose a pair travel undies!

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Quick dry underwear - women

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