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Women on the Road

Travel Underwear: When Skin Matters

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.

A bit of underwear shopping

If you're keen to get buying, here are a few highly recommended brands.

Patagonia Hipster

The always popular Patagonia Hipster is a perennial favorite - soft and moisture wicking (also comes
in a higher cut brief).

Buy from Patagonia

ExOfficio Give-n-Go

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

Here's something cut a bit differently - the Boody Organic Bamboo EcoWear Women's BoyLeg Briefs, if you'd like a comfy boy cut.

Buy from Amazon

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, it needs to dry fast. 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.)
  • Chafing: If it's hot you certainly don't want the elastics to pinch and chafe, around your thighs or your waist. 
  • 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...

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. 

travel underwear pinnable