We have been buying and testing travel underwear for 5+ years. After market research and thorough testing, our 2021 review puts 8 of the best pairs head to head. Our lead testers wore them road tripping, traveling, hiking, canyoneering, bike commuting, and rock and ice climbing to see how they performed in different temperatures and various activities. As any seasoned traveler knows, a clothing system should be versatile, functional, and comfortable. This starts with the underwear. Our tests favored real-world trials of odor retention, breathability, and comfort over marketing claims. The result is a comprehensive review based on our experiences over multiple months of wearing, washing, drying, and pushing these underpants to their limits.Related: Best Travel Underwear for Women of 2021
Best Travel Underwear for Men of 2021
|Price||Check Price at REI|
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|$40 List||$31.50 at Amazon|
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|$18.16 at Backcountry|
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|Check Price at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Durable, soft, good odor control||Loose comfort, durable, soft fabric, respectable odor control||Good fit, soft fabric, breathable||Lightweight, soft fabric, dries quickly||Inexpensive, very breathable, thin fabric, very fast drying|
|Cons||Heavy, extra thick waistband||Loose fit not for active use, bunches up under tight-fitting clothing||Piping is annoying, lots of seams at crotch, not incredibly durable||Odor control could be better, not as breathable as we'd like||Thin waisband, legs roll up|
|Bottom Line||The burly standby for travel underwear that continue to perform well over time||This is our favorite hangout underwear for their casual comfort. A bit loose for layering and high output activities, keep it urban with this pair and you'll love them||The Anatomica is a comfortable lightweight pair of boxer briefs, but it seems designed a bit more for looks than features||An affordable lightweight pair of performance boxer briefs at a reasonable price||These boxer briefs feel lightweight, cool, and breathable for fast-moving travel at an excellent price|
|Rating Categories||Smartwool Merino 15...||Duckworth Vapor Brief||Icebreaker Anatomic...||ExOfficio Give-N-Go...||Outdoor Research Ec...|
|Odor Control (20%)|
|Drying Time (10%)|
|Specs||Smartwool Merino 15...||Duckworth Vapor Brief||Icebreaker Anatomic...||ExOfficio Give-N-Go...||Outdoor Research Ec...|
|Material||87% Merino wool, 13% nylon core||50% Recycled polyester, 38% merino wool, 12% modal||83% Merino wool, 12% nylon, 5% Lycra corespun||89% Nylon, 11% elastane||100% Polyester|
|Inseam (inches)||6 in||6 in||4.5 in||6 in||6.4 in|
|Measured weight (ounces)||3.2 oz||3.1 oz||2.9 oz||2.7 oz||2.2 oz|
|Air Dry Test||2 hrs||2 hrs||1.25 hrs||1 hr||45 min|
|Dryer safe?||Yes, tumble dry low||No||No||Yes||Yes|
Best Overall Travel Underwear
Smartwool Merino 150 Boxer Brief
The Smartwool Merino 150 Boxer Brief wins top honors for its long-term premium performance. Not only does it get the job done of being comfortable, odor-resistant, and well-fitting underwear, they also keep going for far longer than the others. Smartwool did what it does best, making quality wool garments, and the Merino 150 Boxer Briefs are no exception. From the thick, burly waistband to the black merino wool, our pair of these briefs has held up better than any other underwear in the review and keeps performing well.
Since the waistband is twice as thick and half again as wide as nearly every other pair, the Smartwool skivvies are not impervious to bunching up (as virtually all underwear can), and we sometimes felt extra warm under the big band around our hips. However, this is the waistband holding up the best after over a year of use and abuse. They feel great, hold minimal odor, and hold up to the varying rigors of travel better than any model we tested.
Read review: Smartwool Merino 150 Boxer Brief
Best Bang for the Buck
ExOfficio Give-N-Go 2.0 Boxer Brief
The Exofficio Give-N-Go 2.0 Boxer Brief is a quality update to a classic pair of travel underwear. The texture of the nylon fabric allows for good wicking of sweat to keep your nether region fresh and dry. The nylon fabric, rather than polyester, allows for slightly better odor control, along with an odor-fighting coating that edges it above its synthetic competition. We also like the sleek feel of the underwear, reducing bunching and wedgies. So far, the Exofficio boxers have held up well to regular use and repeated machine washings, and we expect them to outlast most travel pairs in our line-up. These skivvies are the most durable for their price point, which increases their value over time.
Despite these qualities, it does suffer from the usual pitfalls of synthetic underwear. We wish that the odor control was better, and it does stretch out a bit after repeated days of wear. Still, we're impressed with the innovations from Exofficio, while keeping the excellent price point. For this, we think it's a great deal.
Read review: Exofficio Give-N-Go 2.0 Boxer Brief
Great Value for Athletic Ventures
Outdoor Research Echo Boxer Brief
The Outdoor Research Echo Boxer Brief is the ultralight backpackers' answer to travel underwear. It's lightweight (both in fabric and in actual weight), breathable, and doesn't have extra unnecessary features. For a fully polyester pair of underwear, we were surprised at how breathable they felt and liked them for warmer weather. They layered well in the cold, too. For travel plans that include fast-moving activities, we recommend this athletic and less expensive pair.
Like most synthetic garments, the odor control leaves something to be desired, but they're the fastest to dry out of all the pairs we tried, so they're easy for a quick wash-up. Lastly, and perhaps most noticeable, they're less expensive than nearly any pair we've tested. They're priced similarly to some of the other inexpensive underwear in this roundup. Still, paired with their excellent breathability and comfort, the Echo Boxer Briefs excel beyond the price tag.
Read review: Outdoor Research Echo Boxer Brief
Best for Urban Travel
Duckworth Vapor Brief
The Duckworth Vapor Brief offers the best comfort in any urban or casual setting. We generally prefer a pair of travel underwear that's not only comfortable on the plane but also sits well under a harness and long underwear. Relaxed yet adequately containing all necessary parts, this pair focuses only on the former, but it nails it. The fit lands somewhere between the boxer brief and the boxer. Using a blend of merino wool and synthetic fibers, its odor control is sufficient if you need to wear them back to back days and not have your partner notice. This pair is not only great for travel but also everyday use.
With a focus on casual, work, and travel use, this pair simply isn't well-suited to layer underneath tighter clothing or equipment. We found the fabric to bunch up when we tried, which was less than comfortable and negatively affected breathability, which isn't exceptional, to begin with. However, within city limits, this is an excellent pair of travel underwear, or just underwear, to be wearing.
Read review: Duckworth Vapor Brief
Why You Should Trust Us
Our test panel for this review was led by Ethan Newman, an AMGA certified climbing guide with a bachelor's in Adventure Education. He's traveled extensively around the American West, especially the southwest, and spent over a thousand days climbing in the US, Mexico, Canada, and Argentina. During the test period, he adventured all over the American southwest, from ice climbing in slot canyons to climbing big walls in Zion, to cross country skiing in the La Sal mountains, to hiking through Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico. He made sure to test them both at bone-chillingly cold belays as well as running under the sun of Southern Utah. Our other tester is Ross Robinson, a Senior Review Editor at OutdoorGearLab. He has been backpacking and hiking the world for over a decade and testing gear with us since 2014. He has lived on four continents, including teaching in both Germany and Thailand, and travels regularly. Ross is an expert gear tester, having done extensive evaluations of everything from hiking boots to camping pillows.
We aim to conduct the most thorough, comprehensive, and objective reviews. We do this by using a rubric of testing measurable qualities and metrics and long-term field testing in a wide variety of situations. We independently purchase all our equipment and clothing to stay objective. We've hiked these pairs of underwear to the tops of mountains and the bottom of canyons to create the best reviews possible. We conduct timed tests to assess drying speed, weigh them all on our scales, and always continue wearing each pair well beyond our standard testing period to report back on durability. Yes, we stuffed them all in travel packs and hit the road and airways with them, too.
Related: How We Tested Travel Underwears
Analysis and Test Results
While there are plenty of options for men's underwear, we narrowed the scope of our review for the sake of focus and optimal comparison. We specifically focused on boxer briefs, as they are more adaptable and less chafe-inducing than boxers or briefs. They are also the most popular cut among our testers and friends. However, many of these products also come in brief or boxer style. If that's you're preferred style, this review will still be helpful.
We also ignored any underwear made out of cotton, as cotton holds up to 27 times its weight in water. In contrast, wool, cellulosic fabrics, and synthetic fibers absorb substantially less and insulate when wet. All the underwear we tested is made of wicking fabrics. To determine the best underwear, we evaluated each pair for comfort, breathability, odor control, durability, and drying time.
Related: Buying Advice for Travel Underwears
At first glance, you might think that some of these prices for a single pair of underwear are insane, especially when a standard three-pack of cotton boxers is 15 bucks or less. But for underwear, as in most things, you get what you pay for. Sure, you might not need the super spendy wool skivvies for the average day, but if you're looking to keep chafing, odor, and "swampiness" down, your cotton underpants won't help you. Instead, go with the Smartwool Merino 150 Boxer Briefs. For a compromise between performance and price, we recommend the Exofficio Give-N-Go 2.0 for great durability or the Outdoor Research Echo for great breathability.
The materials play a large part in the price of all these pairs of underwear. The most expensive models are made out of merino wool. Merino wool is much finer than typical wool, making it softer than standard woven wool. For base layers, we like merino wool because it's soft, breathable, and minimizes body odor. Unfortunately, merino wool isn't cheap. The other boxer briefs in this review are made out of nylon, like the ExOfficio Give-N-Go 2.0 and Patagonia Sender pairs, polyester like the Outdoor Research Echo, Marmot Performance, and viscose (a fabric that comes from processing cellulose-rich plants like bamboo), like the Saxx underwear. Synthetic and semi-synthetic fabrics are generally less expensive but have their unique tradeoffs, especially in odor buildup. They do tend to dry faster than their wool counterparts. Considering these trade-offs will help you find the best pair and the best deal.
If a pair of underwear isn't comfortable, first and foremost, there's no way you'll ever wear them. It won't matter how wicking or lightweight the underwear is if it feels like a sandpaper-coated trashbag (note — none we tested were that bad). To determine comfort, we field-tested each pair in a variety of settings. We considered attributes such as fabric softness, chafing (especially at seams), waistband feel, and how likely the legs are to roll up. Our ideal underwear is so comfy it's unnoticeable, and we don't think about them until we're flicking them into the hamper with our toes (shooting them with the waistband is also acceptable). All of the pairs we tested were reasonably comfortable, with a few standouts.
Aside from the fabric's feel, its construction plays a significant factor in comfort. Most of the boxer briefs we tested had flatlock seams everywhere but the hems, which lay flat on the skin. We also noticed when seams ran through the middle of the crotch or at other odd places, causing rubbing and chafing, especially under thicker pants or multiple layers. A few companies got creative with the seams, like the Smartwool Merino 150, which used flatlock seams everywhere that felt excellent, or the Icebreaker Anatomica that used piping for a more aesthetic but ultimately less comfortable pair.
Some of the most comfortable pairs we found are the Patagonia Sender and the Saxx Vibe Boxer Briefs. The Sender felt the most like a comfy pair of regular boxer briefs, with soft fabric and nice dimensions, and a thin waistband that didn't feel like overkill. For a slightly more athletic fit similar to the Sender, try the Outdoor Research Echo Boxer Briefs. They were quite comfortable, but a bit more snug. We found the Exofficio Give-N-Go 2.0 to be a mix between the two, an athletic fit on the legs but a baggier crotch, which made for a less flattering yet comfy compromise.
As it was the most supportive pair we tested, we also really liked the feel of the Saxx Vibe. The BallPark Pouch kept everything centered and chafe-free, and for how supportive and "cupping" it felt, it was quite pleasant. However, we also recognize that the support might be a bit much for some folks, especially if you enjoy riding side-saddle. We'd recommend either the Icebreaker Anatomica or the Smartwool Merino 150 if you want a very supportive pair of undies without the extra mesh of the Saxx.
The Duckworth Vapor Brief and Meriwool Merino Wool 160 Boxer Briefs take a markedly different approach to comfort than the other pairs we tested, which are tighter and fit well when deployed for active use. With a generous, soft fabric, this pair introduces a much more relaxed fit. From work to airports to just lounging, we loved the Duckworth skivvies. However, due to the looser fit, they tend to bunch up when worn under tight-fitting clothes, losing a lot of ground in comfort for athletic or other tight-fitting clothing.
One of the quickest ways for underwear to go from unnoticeable to making you squirm in your seat is poor breathability. Nobody wants the feeling of sitting in a swamp. That's why we weighted our breathability metric to count as 20% of the final score. We tested this by high-aerobic biking in each pair, as well as extended field testing. Each pair performed relatively well, with the merino wool models pulling ahead of most of the synthetic and semi-synthetic models.
The fabrics of the Icebreaker Anatomica and Smartwool Merino 150 Boxer Brief perform similarly, as they're all 150 fabric weight merino wool, although the Smartwool had a less breathable waistband. The Meriwool also did well but felt slightly thicker than other wool options. The Saxx Vibe would have gotten a lower score, as viscose isn't quite as wicking as wool or synthetic materials, but the BallPark Pouch keeps things separate and feeling less swampy than they otherwise might. Mainly due to being incredibly thin, the Outdoor Research Echo is the most breathable synthetic fabric we tested, making it an excellent option for athletic or fast-moving adventures.
When traveling, either in the backcountry or urban settings, we can go days before we can wash our clothes, so we aim for garments that can last a while without smelling too much. This is why we heavily weighted odor control. We should keep the funk to our dance moves, not our underwear. In addition to field testing, we also used our bike test (wear, ride, remove, whiff) in concert with our breathability metric to determine the scores in this category.
For various reasons, Merino wool doesn't hold body odor nearly as much as synthetic fabrics, and all the wool underwear in this test performed accordingly. While wool will eventually smell like the body part it is covering, the stink won't build up as much, reduce when aired out, and disappear with washing. This is because wool has a rough microscopic texture that discourages bacterial growth, and each wool fiber is naturally coated with lanolin, a waxy substance that is antimicrobial. If you want a pair of underwear that you can wear multiple days in a row without offense, aim for the merino wool pairs. These include the Smartwool Merino 150 Boxer Brief, Icebreaker Anatomica, Meriwool, and Duckworth Vapor Brief.
Synthetic fibers retain odor because of their oleophilic properties, which hold onto skin oil, and therefore hold onto body odor. Some fabrics use antimicrobial (usually silver, which can irritate skin for some) or other proprietary coatings to reduce odor buildup. However, the fact of the matter is that these eventually degrade with repeated use and washings and just aren't as effective as wool's natural anti-odor composition.
The Saxx Vibe is made out of viscose, a material made by chemically and mechanically processing bamboo that performs more similarly to synthetic fabrics than cotton or wool. The Saxx, Patagonia Sender, Outdoor Research Echo, and the ExOfficio Give-N-Go 2.0 pairs of underwear didn't manage odor as well as the merino underwear. The Sender boxer briefs did better than the others due to the proprietary odor control coating. Still, we would hesitate to wear any synthetic pairs for multiple days of active use unless we were far in the backcountry and further from our significant others.
If we are spending this much money on a single pair of underwear, and we plan on traveling with said underwear, it better last a while. After all, this isn't delicate lingerie. We spent two months cycling through our test products and repeated machine washing and drying to put as much wear on each pair as possible. One tester has had most of these pairs for over 18 months. The two things that make the biggest difference in durability are fabric and sewing quality. We looked for, and occasionally saw, runs in fabric, pilling, seams starting to fray, and waistbands wrinkle. Some of the pairs had waistbands better bonded to the interior elastic than others, and some had better craftsmanship around the stitching, which showed after extended use.
Often synthetic and semi-synthetic fabrics last longer than wool, but we didn't find that to be the case during the testing period. The ExOfficio Give-N-Go is fully synthetic but quickly developed pilling and runs in the nylon mesh. Two of the merino wool boxer briefs used "core-spun" wool, meaning the wool fibers are wrapped around a thread of nylon fabric to get the best of both worlds. The merino wool underwear generally held up well.
The Smartwool Merino 150 is the burliest pair we tested. The waistband is thick, and neither the band's elastic nor any of the flatlock seams showed any sign of wear during the entire testing period and many months beyond. After a year and a half, one tester still struggles to find any weak spots in this pair.
We are thoroughly impressed by the durability of the Exofficio Give-N-Go 2.0. They aren't impervious to pilling, but they hold up well to active, regular use, and indiscriminate machine washing. We expect this pair to last longer than almost any pair we've ever tested. The previous iteration of this boxer brief (before the "2.0") has been in one of our tester's drawers for years and is still going strong.
We like to travel light, and we like to go far. Sometimes, that means having only one or two pairs of underwear and being far away from the nearest washing machine. This means that we often end up hand washing our underwear and line drying it in a reasonable amount of time, whether in a hostel bathroom or at advance basecamp. We soaked each pair of boxer briefs in water, then wrung them out and hung them to test dry times. We did this test twice, once in the sun and once inside.
Taking around an hour in the sun, the Outdoor Research Echo, Patagonia Sender, and ExOfficio Give-N-Go 2.0 dried out faster than the other pairs due to nylon and polyester's lack of water absorption into the fiber itself. Close behind it was theIcebreaker Anatomica, as the thinner waistband dried quicker than the thicker bands of the Smartwool Merino 150 Boxer Brief and Duckworth Vapor Brief. The Saxx Vibe was the slowest to dry, but only by a bit. Any of these pairs would easily dry in a hotel bathroom overnight, and much quicker on a laundry line in the sun, so we only have this metric as 10% of the overall score.
Layering starts from the skin out, so a quality pair of underwear is the best place to start for high performance. We looked for skivvies that would be comfortable, durable, breathable, and able to be worn for a while without getting gross. We tested what we thought were the best and most comprehensive selection of men's travel underwear to provide you with an in-depth review. We hope this helps you with your decision-making because we know that while your car may take regular, your body deserves premium.
— Ethan Newman
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