I’ll be the first to admit that hiking underwear is far from a necessity. That said… there is something wonderful about slipping on a pair of merino wool underwear on a chilly morning, or finding that your underwear still doesn’t smell after its third day of use. As I’ve detailed before, I’m a bit of a diva when it comes to backcountry comfort, and women’s hiking underwear is one luxury I’ve begun to view as a necessity.
Yet, unfortunately, there is very little information on the internet about women’s hiking underwear. So to make the decision easier for you, I’ve written this article with everything you need to know about hiking underwear – including specs, reviews and buying advice.
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Top Pick – Best Hiking Underwear for Women
As I have stated earlier, I have spent years trying out various types of ladies’ hiking underwear. Thus, the best women’s underwear for hiking are:
- Best hiking underwear for women (overall):
Patagonia Barely Hipster Underwear
- Best hiking underwear for maximum comfort (merino): Smartwool Merino 150 Bikini Underwear
- Best hiking underwear for women (for quick drying): ExOfficio Give-N-Go 2.0 Bikini Briefs
- Best lightweight hiking underwear for women:
Patagonia Barely Hipster Underwear
- Best underwear for hiking on your period: Thinx Air Hiphugger
Comparison Chart – Best Women’s Hiking Underwear
Here’s a quick overview of all the best underwear for hiking reviewed in this article. In this quick summary, you can overview the key details of all the best women’s underwear for hiking and then buy ones that meet your requirements.
If you are not sure what factor to give more weightage to, read the buying advice section after the in-depth reviews.
|Smartwool Merino 150 Bikini Underwear||Bikini||87% merino wool, 13% nylon||Yes||Inherent||$$$|
|Icebreaker Siren Bikini Underwear||Hipster Bikini||83% merino wool, 12% nylon, 5% Elastane||Yes||Inherent||$$$|
|REI Co-op Active Hipster Underwear||Brief||86% polyester, 14% spandex mesh||Yes||Yes||$|
|ExOfficio Give-N-Go 2.0 Bikini Briefs||Bikini Brief||89% nylon, 11% elastane||Yes||Yes||$|
|Patagonia Barely Hipster Underwear||Hipster||90% polyester (76% recycled), 10% spandex||Yes||Yes||$$|
|Patagonia Active Briefs||Brief||88% nylon (55% recycled), 12% spandex jersey||Yes||Yes||$$|
|Thinx Air Hiphugger||Period Panty||body – 78% polyamide, 22% elastane (gusset – 95% cotton, 5% elastane; middle breathable PUL)||No||No||$$$|
Best Underwear for Hiking (Women) – Reviews 2021
Determining what underwear to wear depends a lot on personal preference. That’s why, even though all the underwear listed here can easily qualify for the title of the best women’s underwear for hiking, which one to opt for will depend entirely on what type, cut, and material you prefer.
That is why I recommend reading the reviews of all the women hiking underwear below before you zero down on your favourite one. It will also protect you from wasting money on underwear that doesn’t match your taste but can’t exchange!
Primary Fabric: Merino wool
Type: Bikini Underwear
Pros: Super comfortable, lightweight, breathable, great fit for almost all body types
Cons: Bit expensive, less durable
If you have read my list of favorite camping gear, you already know how much I love Smartwool products for base layers. Therefore, it is hardly a surprise that one of my most preferred underwear for hiking is the Smartwool Merino 150 Bikini.
Merino wool, in itself, is a fabric that complements hiking thanks to its inherent moisture-wicking and odor-resistant properties. Merino also dries pretty quickly and is a great fabric to save space in your backpack on longer hikes.
However, when it comes to underwear, the type of fabric alone does not determine its comfort level.
This is where Smartwool Merino 150 scores. The fit of the Merino 150 suits almost all body types. The bikini cut keeps the underwear below the waist. This means that the fabric does not bunch up or crease on coming with other layers or the backpack. The underwear uses a soft elastic band that stays flat across the waist and inner thighs, causing no chaffing whatsoever.
Also, because this underwear employs merino, it stays miraculously dry in almost all weather conditions. You won’t feel sweaty and uncomfortable in the Merino 150 (not even in hot conditions).
Overall, the Merino 150 is the best underwear to prevent chafing and keep you feeling nice and dry while hiking. It’s definitely more expensive than other underwear on this list, but its superior comfort totally justifies the price.
Primary Fabric: Merino wool
Type: Bikini Underwear
Pros: Lightweight, breathable, suitable for hiking in wet conditions
Cons: Bit expensive, not too comfortable for broader women
The Icebreaker Siren Bikini Underwear is similar to the Smartwool underwear above in terms of its primary fabric. Therefore, even this underwear is lightweight and breathable. The design of the Icebreaker Siren also ensures that only merino makes contact with your body at all times.
Thus, for wet or humid conditions, if you are looking for the best wicking underwear for hiking, this underwear is ideal for you. The smart use of spandex also makes this underwear feel very secure when worn for other outdoor activities like rafting or kayaking.
One word of caution – the underwear runs small. So order a bigger size than your regular one. Also, the recent change in design has shortened the crotch height and has also made the crotch narrower, and the bikini cut a bit deeper. Broader women may find this cut uncomfortable, especially for long hours of walking or climbing. However, this cut seems particularly suited for women with smaller hips or women with a triangle-shaped bodies.
Primary Fabric: Polyester
Type: Bikini Brief
Pros: Quick-drying, super breathable, comfortable, affordable, great fit
Cons: Not as soft as merino or other natural fabrics.
The REI Co-op Active Hipster Underwear uses polyester as its primary fabric. Synthetic fabrics like polyester are inherently lighter than wool. As a result, the REI Active Hipster also feels much lighter than other underwear. So if you are someone who prefers ‘barely there’ underwear, this underwear will work well for you.
Moreover, what I love about the design of this underwear is the placement of its seams. The side seams have been brought to the front. This reduces the possibility of friction with other top layers and makes these the best anti-chafing underwear for hiking.
The seams on the top end of this hipster also stay flat against the waist and cut down chances of friction with the backpack.
These lightweight underwear proves to be a great choice for multiple-day hikes as they dry fast and hardly take up any space in the backpack.
Overall, the REI Active Hipster delivers adequate comfort and comes equipped with features that make it a great choice for hiking and other uses.
The only area where I feel that it falls short compared with the merino options above is its overall feel against the skin. The polyester material is not as soft as the merino. Moreover, even though polished with odor resistance, it does not possess the natural moisture-wicking qualities of merino. Thus, when backpacking in humid conditions, this underwear can at times stick uncomfortably to your thighs.
Primary Fabric: Nylon
Pros: Super lightweight, breathable, quick-drying, suitable for versatile use
Cons: Not as suitable as merino for cold climate or wet conditions
The ExOfficio Give-N-Go 2.0 is fantastic underwear for those that hate woolen underwear and yet long for the softness and breathability of wool. The ExOfficio combines the benefits of synthetic underwear and woolen underwear by using breathable mesh fabric.
The fabric has diamond-shaped mesh that allows excellent airflow to keep you cool on challenging trails. It excels at wicking moisture. The anti-microbial layer also prevents the development of bad odor. Thus, overall, the underwear feels dry and fresh even after a long, tiring day.
The flatlock seams feel nearly non-existent when worn, improving the overall comfort. The coverage is also better than standard bikini underwear. This prevents rubbing off the pants against the hips, especially on hikes involving many steep inclines.
The best part about the ExOfficio, however, is its super-fast drying speed. The underwear dries in just a couple of hours. This means that you don’t have to carry multiple sets of underwear on longer trips.
Overall, the ExOfficio is a must-try underwear. It is durable and an excellent investment for regular hikers.
Primary Fabric: Polyester
Pros: Anti-chafe design, seamless construction, comfortable, lightweight, long-lasting
Cons: Sits slightly higher on the back and may not suit fans of the classic bikini-style underwear
The Patagonia Barely Hipster Underwear truly stays true to its name. Its fit is so light and comfortable that once you wear it, you barely even remember you’re wearing it.
What’s commendable is that the underwear doesn’t accumulate sweat even after hours of wearing it. Even if you wear it on harsh summer hikes, the underwear stays put comfortably. It does not ride up, nor does it start sticking to the inner thighs.
The material feels as soft as some of the best nylon underwear feel against your skin.
The most impressive aspect of this underwear is its seamless construction which prevents chafing completely. The seamless waistline also prevents friction when wearing multiple layers of clothing. In fact, the lightweight comfort feel of this underwear also supports versatile use, including trail running, rafting, climbing, etc.
It’s only the slightly high-waist, full coverage style of the hipster that can repel some women who are ardent fans of the classic low-waist bikini.
Primary Fabric: Nylon
Pros: Anti-chafe design, seamless construction, quick-drying, secure feel
Cons: New design is low-waist; inner tag can feel scratchy and may have to be removed
I have to be honest with you all. The new version of the Patagonia Active Briefs is not as awesome as the old version with the same name. This is because the cut has changed as the underwear sits lower on the waist than classic briefs, and the old printed brand tag has now been replaced with a sewn tag that does feel scratchy when squished inside multiple layers of clothing.
But even with these changes, the overall design of the Patagonia Active Briefs still appeals to avid hikers. The seamless construction offers supreme comfort on long hikes (you’ll have to remove that sewn tag, though!), and the material is super soft on the skin. The briefs take hardly any time to dry. Thus, the Active briefs are reliable for hardcore hikers.
What I also like about the Active Briefs is that the design, even though, cuts down its waist height, still feels more secure than other feather-weight underwear. The new cut also prevents the rubbing of the waistline with the backpack and keeps you feeling comfortable. So if you are looking for synthetic underwear with adequate coverage, seamless anti-chafe design, and a secure feel, the Patagonia Active Brief should work well for you.
Primary Fabric: Polyamide
Type: Period-proof underwear
Pros: Breathable, dries relatively faster than other period panties, lightweight, comfortable
Cons: Needs some time to get used to, suitable for hiking only when the flow is not too heavy.
Hiking on your period can be a hassle, especially if you believe in zero-footprint hiking, i.e., you don’t carry disposable pads or tampons. Likewise, some hikers even find hiking wearing a menstrual cup a bit of a challenge.
A great workaround is hiking in underwear specifically designed to absorb the flow, aka the Thinx period-proof underwear. The Air Hiphugger is crafted to absorb light flow, but Thinx also comes in variants that help during heavy and moderate flow days.
Now the specific reason why Thinx qualifies as the best underwear for women hiking on their period is that it not only has phenomenal period absorption but also uses a construction that supports hiking. Thus, it uses a highly breathable mesh fabric that keeps your skin feeling airy and dry.
Its polyamide base prevents sweat build-up. Moreover, the underwear dries much faster than other period underwear. Carrying a couple of these panties can prove to be a huge relief for long outings while on your period while also ensuring that you leave no disposables behind.
Buying Advice – How to choose the best women’s underwear for hiking?
As I said earlier, you need to spend enough time understanding the different types of hiking underwear to make the right choice. Comfortable pair of underwear can enhance your overall hiking experience to a great extent.
In this section, I am going to pack in all the information on various factors that you should consider when buying the best women’s hiking underwear.
The single most important and key distinguishing factor when choosing hiking underwear is the primary fabric used in its making. Even though modern hiking underwear use composite fabrics, you must only take into consideration the predominant fabric used when making your decision.
Merino is an excellent fabric for hiking. The use of merino wool, by default, adds the following qualities to the underwear.
- super soft feel
- high comfort level
- breathability and effecting moisture wicking
- odour resistance
- temperature regulation
Thus, the fabric in itself guarantees supreme performance. Merino is particularly suitable when hiking in wet and cold conditions but can also be comfortable in moderate summers. Merino may feel a bit stuffy when worn in harsh summers, but overall, it still delivers superior comfort.
That said, wool, in itself, is prone to wear and tear, and merino underwear is no exception to it. It will show signs of deterioration much quicker and may prove to be price-intensive for budget backpackers.
But in most cases, my observation is that those who start using layers made from merino rarely switch to a different material.
For the sake of convenience, I am clubbing all synthetic fabrics like nylon, polyester, polyamide together as they exhibit similar traits such as
- Adequate breathability
- Moisture-wicking and
- Quick drying (Polyester dries a bit faster than nylon)
- Long-lasting use
However, someone who has worn both types of underwear will pick merino underwear for overall comfort and synthetic underwear for a lightweight feel.
The one fabric that you must avoid at all costs is cotton. Cotton absorbs sweat, gets wrinkled easily, and can make you feel skanky and wet after a day out hiking.
The next most important factor that can change your hiking experience is the drying speed of your underwear. River crossings, rafting, rains, or just a long day out spent hiking will require you to wash your underwear and hang it for air-drying.
Ideally, it would be best to buy underwear that dries super fast so that you don’t need to carry multiple pairs. Synthetic underwear, especially the ExOfficio Give-N-Go, excels at this. However, woolen underwear does not fall too far back on this.
Nevertheless, you should rely on this factor if you are hiking in wet conditions and do not need to bulk up your backpack with extra underwear.
The overall feel of backpacking is often directly associated with how clean, fresh, and dry your underwear stays after hours of toiling in the outdoors. In this department, merino wool is a clear winner as it possesses natural odour resistance properties.
However, the synthetic underwear listed above are also made odour-resistant using an anti-microbial coating. However, the performance of this coating in actually keeping bad odour away depends a lot on the quality of the underwear, the brand making the underwear, the type of use the underwear is put to, and how old the underwear is.
To be perfectly honest, the difference in performance is hardly noticeable when using synthetic underwear listed above as all are made by renowned outdoor brands. However, if this is a factor that you consider important, it is best to shell out a few extra bucks and opt for a Smartwool Merino 150 Bikini Underwear.
Besides the material of the underwear, the other key factor that you should consider when buying hiking underwear is its fit. The underwear should fit in such a way that it stays flat throughout your hiking and other outdoor activities.
The underwear shouldn’t be too loose on the waist or thighs that it gets bunched up. Likewise, underwear that’s too tight can cause chaffing no matter the material used.
To ensure that you get perfectly fitting underwear, it is best to study the size guide. You should check if the underwear suits your body type. Similarly, you should also check recent reviews to find out if the brand has made any changes to the design of the underwear without changing the style name. (As in the case of Patagonia Active Briefs mentioned above)
The durability of underwear is a huge factor that determines the value for money delivered by the underwear. Most underwear cost anywhere between 20 to 30 USD and therefore must not rip off within a few washes.
If you are someone who travels on a budget, synthetic underwear will suit you better. Synthetic underwear is not only cheaper than Merino underwear but also lasts much longer than Merino underwear.
As stated earlier in my reviews, the comfort provided by merino wool underwear is unparalleled. Even the most lightweight, breathable synthetic materials can hardly match up to the comfort of natural fabric. That said, comfort does not only depend on the material of the underwear. It also depends on the overall design. To ensure that your underwear feels comfortable, check for the following.
- seams must stay flat against your skin
- the waist height must be such that the top-end of the underwear does not rub against your backpack
- the inner seams should not be too tight or use thick elastic that pierces into your skin and cause chafing
Many hikers often make the mistake of buying larger size underwear in the hope of deriving better breathability. But oversized underwear can roll down on the waist or bunch up and negatively impact the overall feel. To enjoy optimal comfort, you must wear underwear that does not crease or move with activity.
Final Thoughts on Women’s Hiking Underwear
I hope that this guide has helped you gain clarity on the best hiking underwear. If you still feel a bit confused, here are my quick recommendations based on price:
Best women’s hiking underwear ($): Exofficio Give-N-Go 2.0 Bikini Briefs
Best women’s hiking underwear ($$): Patagonia Barely Hipster Underwear
Best women’s hiking underwear ($$$): Smartwool Merino 150 Bikini Underwear