Ill-fitting, poorly performing underwear can bring a woman –or any hiker– to the point of madness on a backpacking trip. I speak from experience. Yet, while most debate footwear, packs, tents and pants when planning a hike, underwear is often an afterthought.
Let’s not forget how frustrating damp, odorous, wedgie-inducing undies can be, though, ladies. High-quality underwear is vital to keeping our bodies and minds focused on our gait. Not on our garments.
In this guide, you’ll find a thorough roundup of the best hiking underwear for women on the market. From merino wool bikinis to seamless boy shorts, these backpacker-approved undies aim to make your buying decision as seamless as possible.
My Review Process
From multi-day backpacking trips to warm weather hikes with swimming hole rewards, I’ve enjoyed being active outdoors for over twenty years. And decades-worth of adventures mean decades-worth of testing various underwear styles.
Have I learned to avoid cotton undies when hiking? Sure have. Compared the moisture-wicking and odor-repelling capabilities of natural fabrics and synthetic materials alike? Indeed. Is all underwear for hiking built the same? No way.
A lot goes into making a great pair of hiking skivvies. Seams, cut, and fabric all determine how comfortable, durable, and practical a pair of underwear is. I’ve taken these factors into account when rounding up these top contenders.
Before I tested ExOfficio’s Give-N-Go Sport 2.0 Hipsters for myself, I constantly heard about them from fellow female hikers. Women would rave about their comfort, breathability, and how quickly they dried on backpacking trips.
I’m picky about underwear for hiking, so I had doubts. But these are worth the hype! The nylon-blend, ultralight mesh material and wide waistband are thin yet supportive. And the fabric’s anti odor treatment nearly matches the effects of merino wool.
The hipster fit and flatlock seam construction mean all-day comfort, too. No issues with pinching, bunching, or chafing on skin. Easy to wash and dry in mere hours, as well; just as quickly as others claimed.
All-in-all, ExOfficio’s Give-N-Go Sport 2.0 Hipsters stand the test of time for active pursuits.
The Balanced Tech Seamless Hipster Briefs won me over from the first backpacking trip I took them on. Five years later, and the same original three are still my favorite underwear for hiking and backpacking adventures.
Their durability and hiking-friendly qualities are unmatched for the price. Breathable and moisture-wicking? Check. The nylon-elastane fabric delivers. Quick-to-dry? Unbelievably so. Comfort? I like them so much, I wear them even when not hiking! No seams means no skin chafing or irritable butt-bunch, either. I dig that the flat waistband sits higher, too.
After hundreds of hikes, they’re as indestructible and form-fitting as ever. Hands down, the best value-to-performance underwear out there. A near-tie for Best Overall!
The best seamless undies are ones that offer an invisible, irritation-free panty line while still offering a moderate amount of coverage (i.e., not a thong.) That’s exactly why Under Armour’s Pure Stretch Hipster deserves the crown for seamless comfort.
The undies’ laser-cut, hem-free edges -and lack of a waistband!- are key for preventing skin chafing issues. All while being undetectable under clothing. I also love how incredibly soft and lightweight the polyester fabric is. It’s quick-drying and provides utmost breathability, yet a barely-there fit and feel.
For me, the Pure Stretch Hipster underwear felt great with leggings but moved around too much under looser hiking pants and shorts. I’d still use them for shorter outdoor activities, but they may not be as reliable for longer backpacking trips.
Sure, merino wool underwear comes with a higher price tag. But hands down, there’s nothing like the antimicrobial, odor preventing, thermoregulating properties of merino wool on your skin.
And of all wool-focused outdoor companies out there, I trust none more than Smartwool. Their Merino 150 Bikini is my go-to underwear for the most rugged and remote of hiking adventures.
Even if I’m sweating one minute and shivering the next, the underwear reacts to my body temperatures and manages skin moisture before I even have to worry about it. Having undies that both insulate you and cool you down is huge when hiking.
The Merino 150 Bikini also offers far more breathability than synthetic materials. If I had to bring just one pair of underwear for a month-long adventure, this would be it. Trust me, ladies: they’re worth the extra cost.
High-rise underwear has its fans and its critics. But personally, I think higher waistband styles work really well for long days on the trail- especially if wearing tight pants or leggings!
I’ve found that ExOfficio makes the most hiker-friendly model with their ExOfficio Give-N-Go Full Cut Mesh Brief. The waffled, ultralight mesh material is super lightweight, making them a breeze to clean and dry when on-the-go.
But are they comfortable, you ask? So much so, that at times it feels like they’re not even there! The waistband sits naturally, and flatlock seams do a great job allowing range of motion while preventing skin chafing area. Breathability and moisture-wicking is also top-notch with ExOfficio undies.
Boy-short underwear can be a gamble sometimes. If the inseam is too long or too short and if the fabric isn't right, they can bunch up and cause real discomfort when logging miles.
You’ll be pleased to know that’s where the Reebok Performance Seamless Boyshorts shine! They hit the mark with a performance-forward construction that balances compression and comfort. Especially for those that struggle with skin chafing issues, the skin tight fit and lack of seams makes these undies a win.
The nylon-spandex fabric is also super lightweight and breathable. While great for day-to-day hikes, though, perhaps it’s too much fabric for backpacking. With such a low price tag, however, they’re worth testing out for yourself.
Patagonia knows how to make a reliable product for active lifestyles. It’s no surprise, then, that their Active Hipster Brief makes for one of the most comfortable, high-performing and fastest-drying undies on the market.
What’s the secret? The recycled polyester / nylon fabric manages moisture while repelling odors with its special HeiQ technology. That’s key for all-day hikes and backpacking adventures.
It also makes it easy to care for on longer trips. When I tested the Patagonia Active Hipster Underwear on a ten-day trek, I had no issues with quick washes and waking up to fresh, dry undies.
The hipster bikini style is also a win. Moderate skin coverage, coupled with irritation-free seams and bindings, makes them as comfortable as hiking underwear gets.
Bamboo fabric isn’t used all-too-often in underwear for hiking, which is exactly why Warm Sun’s Bamboo Fiber High Waist Panties set themselves apart.
For consistent hot or warm weather hiking, bamboo underwear provides the ultimate in cooling, moisture-wicking properties. All while keeping comfort at the forefront. A crucial combination on scorching days when skin may be sensitive and sweating more than normal.
What’s more? Warm Sun’s panties feel silky-smooth on skin while providing ample stretch for a body-hugging fit. The higher waistband and full coverage style also minimizes bunched-up fabric that rides up under hiking bottoms, too. That means less skin irritation and less chafing.
Although they take slightly longer to dry than other natural fabrics, that’s not a deal-breaker if you’re sticking to shorter hikes.
I used to think thongs and hiking didn’t belong in the same sentence. Then I discovered Icebreaker Merino’s Siren Thong! Although the style isn’t for everyone, if you want minimal skin coverage but maximum quality and comfort -both in the wild and for daily wear- these will impress.
For one, the merino wool / nylon fabric blend ticks all the boxes for hiking. It’s super quick-drying, naturally odor repelling, breathable, and regulates your body temperature whether in freezing temps or triple digits. Moisture-management ensures you stay dry on the trail, too.
Plus, a thong-style means no panty lines. For ladies that struggle with pinching underwear seams on butt cheeks as they hike, the Siren Thong is a game-changing option.
Hiking garments don’t always cater to plus-sized women or unconforming body types. TomboyX is determined to change that with underwear that balances inclusive, gender-neutral sizing and performance.
The TomboyX MicroModal Bikini Cut was an easy choice for the best plus size women’s underwear for hiking. With sizing up to 4X, it fits snugly but comfortably on all body shapes. The thicker elastic waistband also ensures its stays put when in constant motion.
Additionally, the underwear is made from a pretty high-tech -and eco-friendly- Tencel Modal fabric. It’s soft and lightweight like silk, but remains breathable and wicks sweat well. So whether you’re on a two-mile jaunt or a ten-mile trek, you can count on these undies to regulate your body’s temperature and keep you feeling fresh.
Women's Hiking Underwear Buying Guide
Don’t risk discomfort and frustration on a hike with undies that don’t do their job. Here are the top three things I look for when choosing the perfect pair of underwear for active days on the trail.
The fabric of your hiking underwear matters above all else. It’s responsible for keeping your skin cool, dry, fresh, comfortable and odor and irritation-free.
In general, avoid cotton underwear. It absorbs moisture instead of repelling it, and won’t insulate if wet. Silk is also a poor choice. It may feel amazing on your skin, but it’s not as sturdy and moisture-wicking as other fabrics, and often traps odor over time.
I suggest synthetic underwear made with a base of nylon or polyester, or merino wool underwear. Here’s why:
- Synthetic materials are durable, affordable, quick-drying, and sweat-wicking. They’re often treated with odor resistance technologies, too, and have a stretch that conforms to a range of body types.
- Merino wool -hailing from merino sheep- is naturally antimicrobial, keeping you fresh and odor free the longest. It regulates a body’s temperature, as well- wicking sweat when you get too hot, but insulating in colder temperatures.
Many brands are also experimenting with natural fibers made from sustainable sources like bamboo and wood pulp (tencel modal). Bamboo is a great option for hot or warm weather because it’s hypoallergenic and has a natural cooling effect. Tencel modal is known for offering maximum breathability and moisture absorption.
Style & Cut
From hipster undies and high-rise briefs to thongs and “boy cut” boxers, there’s a motley of style options out there when it comes to underwear for hiking. It’s all personal preference, though! Remember that comfort reigns, and choose a shape that your skin and body feels best in.
Where to start? Hipster styles are a solid option because they offer moderate coverage with a lower cut. They stay in place really well under all types of pants pants and hiking shorts, too.
For those that struggle with thigh chafing, try boy-shorts or boxer-style options with longer inseams. Issues with seam irritation or want less cheek coverage? Maybe a thong or high-waist cut with a seamless or laser-cut edge is best.
The seams on women’s hiking underwear are almost as important as the fabric itself. Thick or poorly constructed seams can cause skin irritation, chafing and discomfort.
I suggest underwear with a flat, minimalist seam construction. Or better yet, seamless altogether. Laser-cut edges are also great, but only if the fabric is stretchy and sturdy enough to support lots of movement.
The underwear I recommend most to female hikers? The ExOfficio Give-N-Go Sport 2.0 Hipster or the more budget-friendly option, the Balanced Tech Seamless Hipster Briefs. Both are made with synthetic materials that are quick-drying, breathable, moisture-wicking, and prioritze comfort for long days outdoors.
For more rugged adventures, like thru-hikes or long mountaineering trips, I’d go with Smartwool’s Merino 150 Bikini. Especially if you won’t be washing regularly, merino wool underwear manages body temperature and odor buildup like no other.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.