Ugh, nothing worse than that skanky feeling from damp underwear after hiking all day! And it’s even worse when you’re out on the trail and your panty rubs your inner thighs raw. Or the ultimate nightmare where you have to walk for hours with a wedgie.
Talking about underwear might seem odd, but I’ll bet sweat proof underwear for women is something dozens of women have googled. After coming home from a hiking trip all sore and smelly you are super anxious to find the best hiking underwear for women before that next trip.
Odd as it may seem, once I started searching for a better solution for women’s hiking underwear I really became obsessed with finding a super healthy and comfortable solution.
How to Choose the Best Women’s Hiking Underwear
But how do you choose the best hiking underwear for you? Underwear is not a returnable item, so you can’t try them on and then return them. And with every panty that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do, there goes a few more dollars down the drain.
So let’s look at factors involved in picking the best women’s underwear to prevent chafing and the perfect sweat absorbing underwear. It doesn’t really matter if you are just out for a day hike or looking for the best backpacking underwear for a long trip, these are the critical features.
Moisture Wicking is a term women’s hiking underwear manufacturers throw around but what does it really mean? It means the material absorbs moisture from the skin surface. The moisture then evaporates from the surface. So really, a good wicking fabric isn’t really sweat proof underwear. What it does instead is become a sweat absorbing underwear.
Fabrics, like wool, that can hold a high ratio of moisture are considered the best moisture wicking underwear.
Unless you’re hiking in the middle of the desert, you’re likely to encounter rain and streams on your hiking or camping trip. Lightweight and quick drying are important to stay comfortable and eliminate rubbing and chaffing.
Bikini area sweat is real! Undies that have antimicrobial properties reduce body odor, keep the undies fresh longer, and can be worn for days together. For longer hikes, antimicrobial underwear can be stuffed into a bag with an old piece of dry soap and left there till you reach a stream to wash them.
Synthetics like polyester and nylon are usually treated with antimicrobial chemicals so that they stay fresh longer, while bamboo and merino wool have natural antimicrobial properties.
It’s always safest to try to stick to the style of underwear you wear regularly. Then you won’t be tugging and pulling on them all day when the ride is unusual. In general there is a large select of bikinis, boy shorts and hipsters that feel comfortable and flexible.
Thongs may feel sexy, but might end up giving you wedgies or a lot of chafing. If you’re looking at getting more stylish hiking underwear, there are hybrids of bikinis and thongs available that provide both comfort and style.
There are no washing machines on the road. So if you’re traveling for days, you might not have the luxury of washing your panties for a few days. When you’re hand-washing, you’ll really want quick dry underwear or fast drying underwear.
But if you want the best quick dry travel underwear, merino it is. Synthetic dries pretty quick too. You cannot lug around a dryer on a trek. So drying your panties on a rock or string for a few hours may be your only option. So yes, if you’re looking for quick dry, merino is the best. If you’ll have a few hours of leisure time, polyester or nylon is great too.
Comfortable Seams and Stitching
Some undies have seams running down the center of your bottom or in the front, while some have seams running across them. Those may be okay for regular days, but when it comes to hiking, they’re an absolute no-no and can cause unnecessary chafing. Undies with flatlock seams or no seams are the best option for hiking underwear.
Also look for waistbands that don’t dig into your skin. A wide no-roll band or even some with no waist band are much more comfortable. And don’t forget that tag that rubs the small of your back all day. Look for tag-less or panties that have an easy to remove tag.
What Fabrics are Best for Women’s Hiking Underwear
Hiking and athletic underwear are generally made of either a synthetic blend, cotton, bamboo or marino wool. Let’s take a look at each type of fabric so you can decide what’s best for your undies. And then I’ll share our top choices in each fabric.
Skip the Treated Anti-Microbial Synthetic Fabrics
My initial list of great women’s underwear included several popular and reasonably priced undies that were listed as antimicrobial. Antimicrobial is important because it means the fabric is resistant to bacterial and fungal growth. Hence that sweaty locker room smell is no more.
But when I read the descriptions, my eyes zeroed in on the word “treated”. Hmm… what did treated mean? And do you want “treated” fabric rubbing against your most tender parts.
What I learned was that fabrics that are anti-microbial treated generally are either surface treated or have tiny bits of silver (or other metals) woven into the fabric. The silver releases ions that keep bacterial and fungi from growing.
Right then, I knew I didn’t want that in my panties.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing uses for these fabrics. They are used extensively in hospitals where something as simple as the curtain around your bed could be a haven for staph. And there are dozens of other uses that make sense. But the idea of ions being released against my sweaty skin was disturbing.
You may have never considered Bamboo as a source of fabric, let alone underwear. But seriously, it is a pretty amazing choice for the best backpacking underwear.
First it’s super soft, almost silk like. The yarn that is spun from bamboo has smooth round edges which means when you run your finger over the fabric, it just rolls over.
You’ll love that bamboo naturally stops odor-producing bacteria from growing and spreading in the fabric. As a result your underwear will smell cleaner and fresher.
Most people with skin allergies, find bamboo the perfect fabric. Caution though, all bamboo fabric is not made the same. Some of the older processes for altering bamboo stalks to fabric used caustic chemicals. Make sure you select a bamboo panty that is using a non-toxic solution in the soaking step.
You’ll feel nice and dry due to the natural absorbing properties of bamboo. This fabric creates amazing moisture wicking underwear. The fabric also dries quickly so you will feel comfortable. Compare that to a fabric like cotton that also absorbs easily, but doesn’t dry quickly and you feel the wet fabric against your skin all day.
Bamboo fabric can be machine washed and dried at cooler temps. (Although I often forget my bamboo socks are in the laundry and haven’t noticed any shrinkage.) That’s because fabrics that have small amounts of synthetics, like polyester, blended with bamboo seem to have less shrinking problems.
Once considered a fabric only fit for kings, today’s hikers sing the praises of Merino Wool Underwear. At times it seems a little odd how obsessed they can be with a fabric. That is until you actually try it yourself.
Why so much excitement? Because without a doubt, it’s the perfect fabric for hiking underwear. That is except for the crazy prices which can run up to $40 a pair.
It’s really, really soft! The wool of the merino sheep is extremely strong, long and fine. When spun it becomes one of the softest finest threads and weaves into a premium fiber you would never ever expect from wool. Merino wool is not your mama’s wool, all itchy and scratchy.
Merino wool has a high moisture absorption ratio so it pulls water away from your skin. And then it breathes, allowing moisture to escape to the surface and dry quickly. Super comfortable on the hottest days!
You can wash your merino underwear with your regular wash in cool water, but it is better to line dry them to maintain the life of the material. The good news is they dry quickly. So when traveling or backpacking, you can easily hand wash before bed and find dry fresh panties in the morning.
Cotton Blends Might be Back in The Game
Cotton is generally a no, no for hiking underwear. While it has an extremely high absorption rate, cotton likes to hold on to that water so it fails to dry quickly. That makes cotton the source of nasty chaffing when hiking. No one wants to hike all day in wet panties.
So I decided to try a few of the cotton blends that are advertised as quick drying and cooling. And of course weren’t treated anti-microbial (if you read my rant above on that topic). Surprisingly I found a couple amazing choices. This is definitely the lowest cost solution.
Where to Shop for the Best Price for Women’s Hiking Underwear?
Of course Amazon is always a good choice for wide selection and quick shipping. I’ve also added in links for one of my new favorite stores, Moosejaw. I was so surprised at their competitive pricing, plus they have a generous rewards program. I hope you check them out.
THE LIST: BEST HIKING UNDERWEAR for WOMEN
Best Bamboo Women’s Panties
WICKING: High rating
QUICK-DRYING: High rating
COLORS: Black, gray, purple, skin, rouge, white
SIZES: US Sizes 4 through 10
You’ll love the wide waistband in Warm Sun’s Women’s Bamboo Panties that will reduce chaffing and rolling on a long hike. They are super soft to the touch and incredibly lightweight. It’s hard to believe that they work so well at wicking moisture away from your skin. The little bit of spandex woven into the bamboo helps the fabric hold shape and stretch with your movements.
PROS: Very affordable. Extremely lightweight and soft. High moisture wicking and drying ratios. Large selection of sizes.
CONS: Only available in briefs
WICKING: High rating
QUICK-DRYING: High rating
COLORS: Black, Beige, Nude, White
STYLES: Classic Bikini, G-String, Bikini Brief, Mid Brief and BoyLeg Brief
SIZES: Sm, Med, Lg, XLg
Available in 5 Styles: Classic Bikini, G-String, Bikini Brief, Mid Brief and BoyLeg Brief! Check them all out here.
Everything about the design of Boody Body Ecowear screams comfort. You can start with the unique manufacturing process that eliminates pesky, rubbing side seams. And the wide no roll waistband is super comfortable. And most important they will keep you fresh and dry on the hottest hikes. If you are looking for something comfy, feminine and practical this an excellent choice. Boody’s committed to providing ethically made under-garments made from sustainably sourced bamboo.
PROS: Wide variety of attractive, feminine styles that work for everyday as well as long hikes! No rubbing and chaffing. High moisture wicking and drying ratios.
CONS: Although a little pricier than the average undie, they’re not crazy high.
Best Merino Wool Women’s Underwear
Merino wool is without a doubt the most natural way to find comfort when hiking. The natural wicking and fast drying properties can’t be topped. The wool from these unusual sheep creates the strongest and softest wool fabric that is perfect to wear against your skin. Here’s our favorite choices for merino wool hiking underwear.
The two biggest brands for merino wool hiking clothes are IceBreaker and SmartWool, both with an excellent selection that we cover below. We’ve also included Woolly Clothing because it offers a more affordable alternative to the other 2 brands.
Merino underwear can be quite on the pricy side. However, Wooly Clothing has successfully designed moderately priced panties for the modern hiker. You’ll love the smooth flatlock seams and soft wrapped waistband that will eliminate chaffing. And you’ll appreciate the super soft fabric that quickly wicks away sweat while hiking.
PROS: More affordable merino wool option. Will keep you super dry and comfy.
CONS: Lack of styles for people who like more traditional briefs.
WICKING: Very High rating
QUICK-DRYING: Very High rating
COLORS: Teal, Blue, Gray, Poppy, Black
SIZES: Sm, Med, Lg, XLg
IceBreaker has several different fabrics for women’s underwear, however you should definitely check out the Cool-Light Meld Zone Hipkini first. The Meld Zone features panels of eyelet merino mesh, to amplify ventilation and manage moisture when you’re on the move in hot conditions. They combines two natural performance fibers – premium merino wool and TENCEL® – to keep you cool in even the most hot and humid conditions. These are some of the best backpacking underwear on the market.
PROS: All the benefits of odor control and moisture wicking of merino wool, with the flexibility of the best in synthetics. That means a lot more stretch and less shinking of the fabrics.
CONS: The Meld Zone fabric only comes in the Hipkini. For more styles, check out the IceBreaker Siren Underwear series which is made of a more traditional merino wool fabric.
WICKING: Very High rating
QUICK-DRYING: Very High rating
COLORS: Purple, Mauve, Berry, Capri, Black
SIZES: XSm, Sm, Med, Lg, XLg
The SmartWool Merino 150 series wraps the fine fibers of merino wool around a nylon core. That means the soft wicking wool is all that is touching your skin. While the nylon core allows the fabric to flex with your movements. These SmartWool underwear are meant for warm weather.
PROS: The smooth flatlock seams keep away chaffing and the natural fabric is odor resistant. You’ll also love the selection of bright colors. Also available in a Seamless Thong Style or Women’s Boy Shorts.
CONS: Pretty pricy
Best Cotton Blend Wicking Women’s Panties
WICKING: Moderate rating
QUICK-DRYING: Moderate rating
COLORS: Assorted multi package
STYLES: Brief, Hipster, Bikini and Hi-Cut
SIZES: US Women’s 5-9
So what makes these different than regular cotton panties? Well Hanes calls it their X-Temp Technology which is a hydrofuntional polymer designed to wick moisture away. I know that sounds a bit high highfalutin technology, but what I get from it is they’ve done something with how they weave the fabrics to improve the moisture wicking, hence keeping you cooler an drier. What you will like about the Hanes Constant Comfort X-Temp Panty is the wide smooth waistband that will not roll when you are in motion. The fabric is soft and comfy.
PROS: These are so cheap compared to other quick drying panty options, generally just a couple bucks a pair. If money is no concern, pop up top for the bamboo or merino wool options. But sometimes when you are traveling having some inexpensive undies is exactly what you need.
CONS: They come in multi packs that don’t allow you to select the colors.
As you can see, natural fabrics offer a lot more than just being sweat proof underwear when it comes to keeping you dry, comfortable and odor free when hiking. Without a doubt merino wool or bamboo are amazing choices for the best hiking underwear for women. Even so, it’s nice to have an affordable option for best women’s hiking underwear in the new technology cotton blends. Sending wishes for a happy and dry hike!
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