Despite what it’s covering, travel underwear is not really as sexy to review as fancy ski jackets and cool $200 shoes, but for most travelers its a very important subject. You probably wear underwear every day no matter what and let’s face it, that underwear requires frequent washing.
Fortunately you no longer just have to buy what’s hanging from a hook at Target or Wal-mart when you hit the road these days. You can buy underwear made specifically for travelers. This means undies that can be sink washed, will dry quickly, and will not stay soaked with sweat when you’re wearing them. Here are a few noteworthy types to choose from.
ExOfficio Give-n-Go underwear is probably the best-known for travelers because it was the first to really market travel undies heavily and raving fans (like me) helped spread the word after seeing how well they performed on the road. Many women weren’t as excited as us guys though because the original offerings were far from sexy. The new line-up has changed all that though, with these Give-n-Go Lacy Low-rise bikini ones saying “Technically Sexy” on the tag.
They’re still odor-resistant, quick-drying, and lightweight, but they wouldn’t look out of place at Victoria’s Secret. Unlike those though, these are treated with Aegis Microbe Shield and are made from nylon and Spandex so they’ll dry overnight after a sink washing. They come in six sizes, three colors, and list for $15-$20 depending on style. I’m no cross-dresser, but my bedmate tried them out and will use them on her next journey. Yes, they look good on. See the whole travel underwear line at ExOfficio.com and buy direct or see the Lacy l0w-rise bikini, string bikini, or Lacy regular bikini at Backcountry.com, where they have pretty much the whole line.
Polarmax AYG (for all year gear) underwear has been reviewed in detail on this gear blog before, but the company continues to expand the offerings and add new styles. Polarmax has put all the technical know-how it’s gotten from making great base layers and applied it to what’s under your shorts in hot weather as well. They now offer briefs, boxer briefs, and regular boxers. The first two come in “four-way stretch” synthetics that are anti-microbial, wicking, quick-drying, and breathable. These all work well, look good, and feel good, though if your size is borderline then err on the side of buying too large. These seem to have the world’s strongest waistbands and the medium is tighter than I would like in, ahem, some regions. These are great to have though if you’ll be involved in adventure activities or on tours that involve cycling or hiking. Good support and all that.
The boxers have a more traditional loose feel and are made with TransDRY “wicking cotton.” Yes, I know, sounds like an oxymoron, but although they won’t wick as quickly as nylon, they certainly do so much faster than your Fruit of the Looms. They’re also treated to be odor-resistant, which you’ll be thankful for if it’s been too long between laundry sessions while on the move. They’re made in the USA, but are priced in line with those put together in China. I’ve found these to be comfortable and they perform as advertised. My main problem with the whole AYG line is the actual footprint of the product: pack five pairs of these and it’s a rather sizable wad of fabric. It’s best to mix in one or two pairs with others that are more compact. See more details at the Polarmax site and check prices on the Polarmax AYG line at Amazon, including the TransDRY cotton briefs and boxers.
With this Saxx Underwear, there’s no worry about your junk getting squashed. Think of it as underwear that incorporates a jock strap, though it’s all in thin, lightweight stretch polyester that dries quickly when sink-washed. Its “ergonomic comfort pouch” keeps you cool and dry and it has “added compression to keep everything in place.”
I saw the whole line on display at the Outdoor Retailer show and though it seemed kind of gimmicky, I’ve got to admit that I keep returning to the Pro Elite Boxer Briefs I got a sample of to try out. They’re quite comfortable, I do feel cooler when I have them on, and they’re great for outdoor activities in hot weather. These come in six sizes and the medium fit my 34-waist body well, as in not too tight. (Sorry ladies but no, that’s not me in the photo to your right…)
The company makes four main fabric styles, from 24/7 (cotton, w/5% Spandex) to Luxury (modal, cotton, Spandex). Each comes in varying leg lengths and three colors. These are thinner and take up a bit less room than the Polarmax ones and will take anything you throw at them in terms of the washer and dryer. Saxx also makes long johns, but for the regular underwear the list prices are around $24 to $35. See more at the Saxx site or follow these links to buy from Backcountry: Pro Elite boxer brief, Luxury boxer brief, or 24-Seven Trunk. (You can browse around from there to the others.)
The Ibex Balance Boxer Briefs are the most expensive here, at 50 bucks a pair list price. Most men aren’t used to laying out anything close to that amount for underwear, but in all fairness these are made from the soft New Zealand merino wool that Ibex is known for, plus a smidgen of nylon and Spandex to give them more stretch. Merino wool is naturally quick-drying, odor resistant, and wicking, so these accomplish what the all-synthetic ones do without needing additional chemical treatment.
Think of this underwear as a base layer for your torso. The fabric feels great against the skin and it’s very good at temperature regulation. In the interest of testing I wore these far longer than I normally would a pair of underwear on two recent trips and the odor-resistant properties are for real. These take some getting used to though as they’re about the most snug pair of underwear I’ve ever had in this size. I would strongly advise going up one size or even two if you’re at the high end of the range in waist size. Thes Balance Boxer Briefs are the opposite of the Saxx ones: there’s not a lot of extra room in the front. “Are those going to fit?!” my wife asked when I pulled them out of the package. They’ve got a lot of give, but go bigger unless you’re very small…
See more at the Ibex site or order the Ibex Balance Boxer Brief – Men’s at a tad off list price at Backcountry.com. If you buy last season’s color, the price drops more.