Traveller's guide to technical underwear
Review Words : Phoebe Smith | 20 November

Traveller's guide to: technical underwear

Travel underwear is often overlooked, but a bad pair can ruin your adventures - here's how to pick the best pants!

You might think your regular underwear will do fine, but the difference a pair of well-made technical pants can make is hugely noticeable. Imagine sitting on a humid train for hours: there’s nothing worse than feeling sweaty below – a pair of these will work to move sweat away from your skin, stopping you getting damp.

Plan on being on the road/a boat/multi-day walk for a while? You don’t want to take masses of underwear with you. Technical underwear is often made from quick-drying fabric, meaning you can wash them daily, knowing they’ll be dry for the next day’s adventure, and some are made from fabric that prevents odours, meaning you don’t need to change them quite so often.

Finally, if you are getting active, you want underwear that moves well with you. Using special material and panel construction means this kind of underwear offers a superior fit.

Things to consider...

Weight: Think light and small – to keep the bulk of your bag down, or to enable you to pack more pairs so you don’t need to do laundry if you don’t want to. However, don’t sacrifice a few grams in weight for comfort.

Styles: Think about the activities you’ll be doing – you may want a variety of styles. Options will include boxer shorts and underpants (men) and lady boxers, fuller briefs and hipster knickers (women).

Fit: This is a very personal choice but whichever type you choose, ensure your undies fi t your body shape and don’t rise up when you move around.

Seams: The fewer the better – these are where underwear can rub and be uncomfortable. Check any seams are not too bulky and are flatlocked for maximum comfort.

Fabric: Look for stretchy, unrestrictive material that is breathable and that will move sweat away from your body (known as wicking). A quick-drying fabric will make pants easier to hand-wash on the road, so you can pack fewer pairs. Some fabrics have anti-microbial properties – either naturally occurring (eg merino wool) or synthetically added – which helps minimise odours.

SUE ME Beech Shorties / Tree Trunks

£16, www.sueme.com

THE TEST: Made from beech-tree pulp, and sold with a pack of seeds (to o# set your carbon footprint), these pants have great green credentials. As the fabric is naturally anti-microbial, they smell better for longer too.

SHE SAYS: Of all the boxer short-style pants, these ones felt more like a traditional full brief, with a good fit. The fabric is super soft, the seams minimal and flatlocked for comfort, and the waistband didn’t rub.

HE SAYS: Instantly comfy, these are fairly loose – though I had a larger size than I’d usually pick; a closer fit would be better for active days. Seams were not problematic. Weighing 44g (women’s M) and 78g (men’s L), these are at the heavier end of the scale. Other fabrics here offer more in the way of quick-drying and wicking properties, but these come at a lower price.

THE VERDICT: A good price for enviroconscious, comfy underwear that feels good, especially on long journeys.

Features: ★★★★✩

Design: ★★★★★

Comfort: ★★★★★

Weight: ★★★★✩

Value: ★★★★★

Overall: ★★★★✩

PÁRAMO Cambia Briefs

£20, www.paramo.co.uk

THE TEST: If you’re after a pair of good old-fashioned style briefs, these are for you. The Cambias feature Páramo’s Directional Clothing System technology, which makes them very effective at moving sweat away from your body. They are also very fast-drying so washing them on the road is quick and easy.

SHE SAYS: These were fairly snug compared to others on test – they fi t quite high around the waist. The fabric is nice and soft. They didn’t rub but I found the seams a little bulky – a visible panty line could be an issue!

HE SAYS: Size was also an issue for me. I’m a 34” waist and found these a bit tight – go up a size for comfort. The waistband, fabric and seams were soft against the skin though, so a great option for men who prefer this style. Unsurprisingly, being the only brief-style on test, these are the lightest men’s pants (48g, M); the women’s are third-lightest (29g, M).

THE VERDICT: Great fabric for on-the-road washing and against-the-skin comfort, but consider buying the next size up.

Features: ★★★★★
Design: ★★★★✩
Comfort: ★★★★✩
Weight: ★★★★★
Value: ★★★★✩
Overall: ★★★★✩

SMARTWOOL PhD Seamless Bikini / NTS Micro 150 Boxer Brief

£23 / £35, www.smartwool.com

THE TEST: Made from a merino wool blend, which has natural anti-microbial properties, these are good for long trips. They are warm (but not too hot) and move sweat away from the skin when you’re active, keeping you cool.

SHE SAYS: A great fit if you like a bikini-type style (not too high or too low). The large waistband feels flattering and seams are soft. A variety of panels in the fabric stretch with you for a perfect fit, even during activity.

HE SAYS: With a close, yet unrestrictive, fit and longer length, these are instantly comfy, and less likely to ride up. The fabric is soft (though I was aware I was wearing wool), with great-feeling seams and waistband. Weighing 39g (women’s M) and 87g (men’s M) these were at the heavier end of those on test, though both packed down small.

THE VERDICT: Great fit with nice design touches, though a slightly heavier weight and higher price may deter less active types.

Features: ★★★★★
Design: ★★★★★
Comfort: ★★★★★
Weight: ★★★★✩
Value: ★★★★✩
Overall: ★★★★✩

BERGANS Fjellrapp Lady Boxer / Fjellrapp Boxer

£25, www.bergans.com

THE TEST: Manufactured from 100% merino wool, these are made to keep you warm when the temperature drops – whether you’re stood watching the aurora or out snowshoeing.

SHE SAYS: Unlike other female boxer-styles on test, these feel like they were designed specifically for women. They are longer on the leg, which made for a good fit, if a little restrictive during activity. Having no seam down the front (others did) prevented chafing.

HE SAYS: These feel like thermal underwear – quite long, which took some getting used to, and felt a little restrictive at times. The seams and waistband were soft but the unnecessary embroidered logo rubbed on my leg. At 75g (women’s M) and 90g (men’s L) these were the heaviest on test – which is to be expected given the high wool count.

THE VERDICT: A fantastic price for merino wool but the weight and warmth make them better for winter trips than all-round travel.

Features: ★★★★★
Design: ★★★★✩
Comfort: ★★★★✩
Weight: ★★★✩✩
Value: ★★★★✩
Overall: ★★★★✩

ARC’TERYX Phase SL Brief / Phase SL Boxer

£25 / £27 www.arcteryx.com

THE TEST: Arc’teryx has come up with a fabric that is quick-drying, stretchy, high-wicking, lightweight, has odour control and uses hydrophobic technology (so won’t absorb water) – ideal for active travellers.

SHE SAYS: These were so light I barely felt I was wearing them. The fabric is very soft, the seams and waistband virtually invisible. There’s a cotton insert in the crotch for extra comfort. And they pack down so small you can easily take several pairs.

HE SAYS: These are almost like wearing cycling shorts. I wasn’t sure that a close fit would be comfy, but the fabric is so good, and the seams so well thought-out, I had no issues with chafing, even when active all day. Plus they weigh so little. Very impressed. A light option: 22g (women’s M) and 57g (men’s M). And they also come in black!

THE VERDICT: Proof that keeping things simple is the best – light, comfy, quick-drying and packable, a perfect option for travellers.

Features: ★★★★★
Design: ★★★★★
Comfort: ★★★★★
Weight: ★★★★★
Value: ★★★★✩
Overall: ★★★★★

ICEBREAKER Siren Hipkini Rosette / Anatomica Boxers

£30 / £35 uk.icebreaker.com

THE TEST: ‘Wool with sex appeal’? These Icebreaker undies certainly don’t lack colour (less bright options available!). However, on touching them you wouldn’t think there was wool in them – they feel so soft and even. They are 96% merino though, so naturally wicking, odour-resistant and breathable.

SHE SAYS: These felt so good it was hard to believe the high wool count. They were very stretchy so moved well during activities; they sat well, being neither too low or too high. The crotch section seemed a little low but the seams were flatlocked, so not a major issue.

HE SAYS: I liked the feel, and the waistband was nice and soft. I had an issue with the diagonal seam on the fly though – a potential issue, depending on which side you dress! At 25g (women’s M) and 53g (men’s M) these were the second-lightest on test.

THE VERDICT: A good weight and, despite a few niggles, the fabric alone is worth the price.

Features: ★★★★★
Design: ★★★★✩
Comfort: ★★★★✩
Weight: ★★★★★
Value: ★★★★✩
Overall: ★★★★✩