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We have been buying and testing travel underwear for 3+ years, with the 10 most compelling pairs in our current review. 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 — starting with your 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.
The Smartwool Merino Boxer Brief wins top honors for its long-term premium performance. Not only does it get the job done by being comfortable, odor-resistant, and well-fitting, but 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 Merino/nylon blend throughout, our pair 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, these Smartwool skivvies are not impervious to bunching up (as virtually all underwear is), 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. These boxer briefs feel great, hold minimal odor, and hold up to the varying rigors of travel better than any other model we tested.
Polyester with no odor control has the potential to stink
Takes longer to dry than most
The REI Co-op Everyday Boxer Brief wins our value award for being seemingly indestructible, especially for the weight. But their toughness has a soft side, and we're confident you'll be glad to put these on for easy, all-day comfort. This is accomplished using a thin polyester fabric with tons of lycra added to allow you to move freely as you go about your day, whether running to catch the next subway train or running away from an impending lightning storm.
What the soft, stretchy polyester fabric takes, it also taketh away: polyester is reputed as a material that gets stinky quickly. These won't be any different, so you'll need to be on top of washing duties. But as a synthetic choice, these are some of the best pairs we've found, especially for the affordable price.
Material: 90% nylon, 10% elastane | Weight: 2.4 oz
REASONS TO BUY
Added antimicrobial treatment keeps body odor at bay
Super soft and stretchy fabric blend
Superb dry times thanks to the thin fabric
REASONS TO AVOID
Pilling, especially in the front
Not as durable as we like to see
The ExOfficio Give-N-Go Sport Mesh 2.0 — the lighter and sleeker version of its non-sport sibling — is superbly comfortable and breathable, drying out quicker than many other boxer briefs we've seen. We are also delighted to find that there's a non-toxic antimicrobial treatment in the fabric to help further keep these fresh and clean smelling even after a long and hot day of adventuring.
One negative characteristic of the lighter fabric is that it offers less durability. Pilling was apparent even with normal day-to-day use. Although not a deal-breaker, it does need to be called out as one of the few negatives to an otherwise solid pair of travel underwear. We removed the pilling by rubbing a pumice stone on the fabric and taking the rest of the little fuzzies off with packing tape. Wash these by hand and let them hang dry, and you'll wear them for many days to come.
When it seems that there's almost no relief on the hottest of summer days, look to the Saxx Hot Shot boxer briefs. Wear these when you'd rather not wear anything at all. The supreme breathability of the featherweight fabric is accomplished by utilizing a fabric with bands of meshy material interlaced with more substantial material to keep the underwear from simply blowing away. Dry times for these briefs are quick, meaning you're ready for action the next day after leaving these out to dry wherever you are.
It's not all roses, though — durability of the fabric is its greatest weakness. But take care of them, and they'll take care of you. That does mean forgoing the dryer — hang these up to dry to keep the embedded elastane from losing its magic. If you're looking for the next level of comfort in the hottest conditions — and some wildly fun patterns and colors to boot — these are a great choice.
The Icebreaker Anatomica Boxer at first blush could come off as a conventional pair of cotton boxer briefs. But that casual look belies the fact that the blend of wool, nylon, and elastane provides good breathability, odor control, durability, and stretch — far more than a cotton pair of undies. That's why these win our pick for more casual settings, like after the work conference where you want to feel confident networking. We enjoyed the classic look and happily indulged in how they felt and performed as travel underwear, breathing well and drying fast enough to be worn the next day.
The big downside we need to discuss with these is the seams, which appear bulkier than any other travel underwear we've tested. This is because the thread is wool, and wool filaments are generally thicker than synthetic material. Thankfully for you, the Anatomica are also much softer and should conform to your body without you even noticing. Still, using a pipe seam rather than a flatlock seam in areas is somewhat of a head-scratcher to us.
Why You Should Trust Us
We aim to conduct the most thorough, comprehensive, and objective reviews. We do this by using a rubric of measurable qualities and testing metrics, as well as 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 bottoms of canyons to bring you the most helpful information possible. We conduct timed tests to assess drying speed, weigh them all on our scales, and 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.
Our latest tests were led by Justin Simoni, an all-around self-powered mountain athlete and adventurer. Simoni spends many consecutive days booting it on the trail and sleeping in bivies above treeline during the summer and winter in the Colorado backcountry before finally coming into town for rest, refresh, and resupply. A good pair of underwear can really make the difference between a comfortable and carefree adventure and a surprisingly stinky and sweaty experience.
Ethan Newman, an AMGA certified climbing guide with a bachelor's in Adventure Education, also contributed extensively to this review. 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 testing, 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 this travel underwear both at bone-chillingly cold belays as well as running under the sun of Southern Utah.
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. We evaluated each pair for comfort, breathability, odor control, durability, and drying time to determine the best.
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. For a good entry-level pair, take a good look at the REI Everyday Boxer Brief for synthetics and the Meriwool Merino Wool 160 Boxer for natural fibers.
Materials play a large part in the price of all these pairs of underwear. The most expensive models are made out of Merino wool which is much finer than standard wool, making it softer. For base layers, we like it because it's soft, breathable, and minimizes body odor. However, Merino typically isn't cheap. That said, if you can swing it, the Smartwool Merino 150 Boxer Briefs and Icebreaker Anatomica Boxer are excellent products that you won't regret. The other boxer briefs in this review are made out of nylon, polyester, and viscose (a fabric that comes from processing cellulose-rich plants like bamboo). Synthetic and semi-synthetic fabrics are generally less expensive and dry faster but can get stinky faster and hold onto that odor. If this is worrisome to you, consider a pair that has an anti-odor treatment.
If a pair of underwear isn't comfortable, there's no way you'll ever wear them. It won't matter how wicking or lightweight they are if they feel 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 are so comfy as to be unnoticeable, where you won't notice them until you're flicking them into the hamper. 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 Icebreaker Anatomica, which 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 Hot Shot. The Sender feels the most like a comfy pair of regular boxer briefs, with soft fabric and nice dimensions, and a thin, just-right waistband. The Saxx Hot Shot's comfort comes mostly from how thin and stretchy the fabric is.
For a slightly more athletic fit similar to the Sender, try the Outdoor Research Echo Boxer Brief. They are quite comfortable but a bit more snug. We found the ExOfficio Give-N-Go Sport Mesh 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 they were the most supportive pairs we tested, we also really liked the feel of the Saxx Vibe and Saxx Hot Shot. The BallPark Pouch in both 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 Meriwool Merino Wool 160 takes a markedly different approach to comfort than the other pairs we tested, which are tighter and fit well when deployed for active use. This pair's generous, soft fabric introduces a much more relaxed fit. From work to airports to just lounging, we loved these 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. We tested this metric by high-aerobic biking in each pair, as well as through extended field testing. Again, each pair performed relatively well, with some notable outliers.
The Saxx Hot Shot reigns supreme here, mostly due to the banded ultralight mesh material that runs throughout the fabric, as well as a racing stripe of mesh fabric running through the middle of the butt. This mesh material doesn't give too much of the plot away while worn next to your skin, but held up to the light, you can really see just how permeable the fabric is.
The Outdoor Research Echo also features a lightweight, perforated fabric that performs well, dumping out excess heat to keep things cool. The fabrics of the Icebreaker Anatomica and Smartwool Merino perform similarly, as they're both 150 fabric weight Merino wool, although the Smartwool had a less breathable waistband. The Meriwool also did well but feels slightly thicker than other wool options.
When traveling, either in the backcountry or urban settings, days can pass before you're able to wash your clothes, so garments that can last a while without smelling too much are key. 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, reduces when aired out, and disappears with washing. This is because wool has a rough microscopic texture that discourages bacterial growth, and each wool fiber is naturally coated with lanolin, an antimicrobial waxy substance. If you want a pair of underwear that you can wear multiple days in a row without offense, aim for the Merino wool pairs. In our lineup, these include the Smartwool Merino Boxer Brief, Icebreaker Anatomica, and Meriwool.
Synthetic fibers retain odor because of their oleophilic properties, which hold onto skin oil and 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 is that these eventually degrade with repeated use and washings and just aren't as effective as wool's natural anti-odor composition.
That said, the ExOfficio Give-N-Go Sport Mesh 2.0 is one of the few pairs in our review that features a one-two punch to help with odor control: first they're made out of nylon rather than polyester, which is less of a breading ground for the microorganisms that cause stink; secondly they come treated with an antimicrobial coating which kills bacteria on contact. Same story with the ExOfficio Give-N-Go 2.0, although the fabric is a little thicker and, thus, less breathable.
The Saxx Vibe is made out of viscose, a material made by chemically and mechanically processing bamboo and that performs more similarly to synthetic fabrics than cotton or wool. The Vibe, Patagonia Sender, and Outdoor Research Echo didn't manage odor as well as the Merino contenders. The Sender boxer briefs did better than the others due to a proprietary odor control coating, but we would hesitate to wear any synthetic pair for multiple days of active use unless we were far in the backcountry and further from our significant others.
If you spend a good amount of money on a single pair of underwear and 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 wrinkled waistbands. 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 our testing period with the ExOfficio Sport Mesh 2.0. While these are fully synthetic, they quickly developed pilling and runs in the nylon mesh.
A better choice for synthetic is the REI Everyday Boxer Brief, which seemed to us to be absolutely bombproof in both the construction and fabric choice. Our abrasion tests that ripped other pairs to shreds barely affected the Everyday in any appreciable way.
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. Even without that, the Merino wool underwear generally held up well. The Smartwool Boxer Briefs are the burliest pair we tested. The waistband is thick, and neither the band's elastic nor any of the flatlock seams showed signs of wear during our 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 also thoroughly impressed by the durability of the ExOfficio Give-N-Go 2.0. They aren't impervious to pilling, but they held 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 we often end up hand washing our underwear and line drying it, whether in a hostel bathroom or at an 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 an hour or less in the sun, the fastest drying pairs in our lineup excelled thanks to their nylon and polyester materials. These fabrics don't absorb water as readily as natural fibers. The Icebreaker Anatomica and Meriwool, despite being mostly (or completely) made of Merino wool, weren't far behind, as the thinner waistband dries quicker than the thicker band on the Smartwool Merino. These distinctions aside, any of these pairs would easily dry in a hotel bathroom overnight and much quicker on a laundry line in the sun, so this metric doesn't weigh as heavily in each product's final score.
Never washed clothes in a sink before? It's a quick and easy alternative to visiting a laundromat while on the road. The washing is pretty straightforward. To dry them, place them flat on a towel, roll them up tightly, then walk on the towel or wring out. Repeat until damp-dry.
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.
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GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.