What makes the best pair of travel underwear? What will cause you to reach for that same pair again and again, always the first pair to come off the stack of fresh laundry? We spent months testing a variety of underwear and comparing each in five metrics to help you make a great choice. Here's how we did it.
We spend weeks, initially, and months longer-term with each pair getting to know the ins and outs, meticulously evaluating each pair to make the best review possible. We tried to be as objective as possible, using specific qualitative and quantitative metrics to judge each product. Each product was used in a wide variety of field tests; we wore these pairs of underwear while boating, skiing, climbing, running, cycling, working, and canyoneering, to name just a few activities. We also want to be clear that we did not receive compensation from any of the manufacturers for this review and purchased every model for testing ourselves.
The most important metric for us is comfort. Sure, chainmail underwear would be breathable and durable (and odor-free!), but it certainly won't be very comfy! We tested each boxer brief by wearing it during various activities and temperatures, everything from 15°F to 105°F, and with a wide variety of layers. We took them traveling, climbing, hiking, biking, running, and used them for general everyday use. We noted whether they rolled, chafed, pinched, or otherwise felt uncomfortable for any reason.
Travel underwear is essentially like a warm-weather base layer and should breathe accordingly. Anybody who has sat on an airplane that's a bit too warm knows exactly the feeling we're looking to avoid. We wore all the briefs in our review through extensive field tests and compared each of them during an hour of running in moderate temps. The sweatier and swampier they felt, the worse they scored.
Travel underwear ideally can be worn for days without collecting offending odors, as traveling light requires wearing clothes for multiple days at a time. We tested this again with an hour of running at around 65°F after a day of regular wear, in addition to extensive field testing. We wore each pair during both regular and backcountry use and monitored the stench or lack thereof.
Compared to a three-pack of cotton skivvies at your local big box store, these pairs of underwear aren't cheap, so they better last a while. We wore each pair regularly, often for consecutive days, and while doing high output activities like running or biking, and washed each one according to the instructions on the tags. We looked for fabric wear, seam damage, runs, pilling, loss of stretch, and assessed the general shape. We also hold onto these models for long-term testing and update as necessary for a more comprehensive and current review.
Travel underwear should be field washable and line dry in a reasonable amount of time. We tested each pair for this by completely soaking the underwear, wringing it out inside a towel, then hanging it to dry. We actually did this test twice, once in the sun and once inside, to account for any inconsistencies.