11 Best Underwear For Hiking 2024 | Merino Vs Synthetic Pants

Last Updated on 27/08/2023

top 10 best hiking underwear for men

In this guide to the best underwear for hiking, we share the most comfortable and chafe-free boxer briefs for men. You will learn how the length of your underwear can help when hiking and how the different brands/materials perform when really put to the test. If you are looking for the best hiking underwear, then you are in the right place.

Anyone who has done any kind of strenuous hiking in warm weather will know how hot and sweaty things can get down there. When you get hot, your clothing can start to chafe in the most annoying places, and the repetitive motion of walking can soon turn into torture in the latter stages of the day.

Choosing your hiking underwear carefully should prevent this from happening by reducing friction and creating a protective barrier to your skin. High-quality underwear specifically designed for hiking will also improve personal hygiene thanks to antimicrobial fibers and moisture-wicking technology, which in turn leads to better comfort.

11 Best Underwear For Hiking


SAXX Men’s Underwear Boxer Briefs

Saxx Underwear Men's Boxer Briefs - Daytripper Boxer Briefs with Built-in Ballpark Pouch Support – Pack of 2, Black/City Blue Heather, Medium

  • MATERIAL: 97% Polyester, 3% Elastane
  • DESIGN: Boxer Briefs
  • PROS: Unmatched support and comfort, no chafing, no riding up, no wedgies when hiking, breathable, moisture wicking, and fast drying
  • CONS: Expensive

The SAXX Men’s Underwear Boxer Briefs are my new favorite underwear for hiking in and just wearing full stop. They are so comfortable that they make you want to throw all your other boxers away and just use these. One day I will do that, but until I’m a millionaire, I will make do with my two pairs.

The material is soft, stretchy, breathable, and all the other things you want from your underwear material. The fit is tight but not compression pants tight. This eliminates any thigh chafing, while the ballpark pouch makes sure that your boxers never get twisted or end up wedgying you. I noticed a significant drop in the need to rearrange things when hiking with hip belts from a backpack.

OVERALL: The Men’s Underwear Boxer Briefs from SAXX are something you really have to try for yourself to truly appreciate. The comfort is next level as an everyday boxer brief but when you are hiking, the performance excels even further beyond other options. Every man should own a pair, and no doubt will end up buying more.

Outdoor Gear Reviews

 


Arcteryx Satoro AR Merino Boxers – Best Merino Underwear For Hiking

Arcteryx Satoro AR Merino Boxers
  • MATERIAL: Nucliex™ STR – 180 Nylon Core Spun Merino – 81% Merino wool/12% nylon/7% elastane
  • DESIGN: Boxer Briefs
  • PROS: Super soft and comfortable, excellent for everyday use as well as any outdoor expedition the world has to offer
  • CONS: Expensive for a single pair

The Arcteryx Satoro AR Boxer Briefs take merino wool blends to the next level.

Merino wool fibers are wrapped around a nylon filament which boasts all the benefits of merino wool with a highly durable nylon core. The science behind this shows that the core-spun material is up to 20% stronger in burst tests and up to 50% more resistant to abrasions. The added elastane in the material makes these boxers super soft and stretchy, which leaves you feeling cool and unrestricted on summer hikes.

The fit of the Satoro’s is very close, although because the fabric is so light and stretchy, they don’t feel tight at all, and we found that the length was just right on the leg. A gusseted crotch allows for extra freedom of movement, and the elasticated waistband offers the best next-to-skin comfort of all the underpants we tested.

OVERALL: The Arcteryx Satoro ARs are quite possibly the best boxer briefs for hiking we have ever tested, but for the price, we would expect so! If you are going on a lightweight trip and can only afford to carry minimal gear, then these would be our top pick, and if money isn’t an issue, then you could get a pair in every color.

Outdoor Gear Reviews

 


Outdoor Research Alpine Onset Merino Boxer Briefs

Outdoor Research Alpine Onset Merino Boxer Briefs
  • MATERIAL: 83% merino wool/12% nylon/5% spandex
  • DESIGN: Boxer Briefs
  • PROS: Highly breathable with excellent moisture wicking and fast dry time
  • CONS: Seams on the gusseted crotch are fairly pronounced

The Outdoor Research Alpine Onset Merino Boxer Briefs are a very close second, and whilst they perform as well as the Satoro’s, they are just slightly shorter on the leg.

The material itself uses a merino heavy blend with nylon and spandex to increase abrasion resistance and stretchiness. This gives them a nice close-to-the-skin fit without feeling tight, which also prevents them from rolling up at the thigh. The low-profile waistband is designed to be anti-roll to stop it from bunching up under the hip belts of a backpack.

The best thing about the Alpine Onset boxers, aside from the fit, is the moisture-wicking abilities which were second to none and make them feel incredibly breathable. Not forgetting all the other benefits of merino wool, including being super lightweight, quick-drying, and anti-odor.

OVERALL: These really are designed for hiking, but they are so comfortable you will want to wear them all the time. Performing well in both hot and cold conditions, these hiking boxers are the perfect all-rounder for people who prefer a shorter cut but still want the best breathability and quality.

Outdoor Gear Reviews

 


Arcteryx Phase SL Boxers – Best Synthetic Underwear For Hiking

Arcteryx Phase SL Boxers
  • MATERIAL: Next-generation Phasic™ SL polyester
  • PROS: Lightweight, silky smooth, and very stretchy, excellent moisture wicking and drying times
  • CONS: Expensive

If we had to pick any boxer briefs for an intense run, hike, or climb, then the Arcteryx Phase SL Boxers would be number one. They are made from a silk-weight polyester that rapidly wicks moisture away from your body and dries incredibly fast – they really don’t hold hardly any moisture.

Breathability is also top of the range, and if you are wearing shorts when you hike, you can still feel a breeze. The fabric is stretchy in every direction and has a slim fit that moves with your body to improve comfort and mobility.

OVERALL: Whether you prefer merino wool vs synthetic underwear for high-output activities, there is no denying that these premium undies are designed for the job. They are a good length, super comfy, lightweight, and will prevent any thigh friction but they are very pricey for a single pair.

Outdoor Gear Reviews

 


Meriwool Merino Boxer Brief

Meriwool Merino Boxer Brief
  • MATERIAL: 100% all-natural ultrafine 17.5-micron Merino wool
  • PROS: Super soft, good value for money, well made, and backed by guarantees
  • CONS: Waistband is a little rough on the inside, longer cut adds extra grams to your pack weight (yes, some of us count grams!)

The Meriwool Merino Boxer Briefs are from another brand like Icebreaker that specializes in merino wool clothing for outdoor people, and so you can expect high-quality material. The silky smooth feel of these boxes makes them perfect for everyday wearing in all temperatures.

However, they really excel on cold days of strenuous activity. With the natural moisture-wicking and odor-resistant properties of the wool working to draw sweat away from your body and keep you feeling fresh, you really notice the Merino wool at work.

The highly breathable fabric dries fast but also doesn’t feel uncomfortable if you are wearing them as they dry. Meriwool offers a 90-day satisfaction guarantee, as well as a 1-year warranty which I am sure is part of the reason why hikers so highly rate these boxer briefs.

OVERALL: We really liked these underpants for their soft-on-the-skin comfort as well as the very reasonable price in comparison with other premium brands. If you prefer a slightly longer cut on your hiking boxers and having a fly is important, then these are a fine choice for any rambler.

Outdoor Gear Reviews

 


Outdoor Research Echo Boxer Briefs

Outdoor Research Echo Boxer Briefs
  • MATERIAL: Airvent™ 100% Polyester with ActiveFresh™ odor control technology (Polygiene®) and UPF 15 Sun protection
  • PROS: Super soft material is the comfiest we tested, tiny pack size, and they only weigh 2 ounces
  • CONS: Waistband can be a little tight

The Outdoor Research Echo Boxer Briefs are a great base layer to go underneath your hiking shorts in the summertime with excellent breathability and friction reduction.

You can get them in a dozen different color combinations, but this outdoor underwear performs just as well as they look. Outdoor Research uses a number of trademarked technologies in the fabric but all that aside, they are some of the softest hiking underwear we have tested, and they wick moisture incredibly well. While they are one of the lightest pairs of outdoor underwear on this list, they certainly aren’t lacking in durability.

OVERALL: These boxer briefs are super soft, slim-fitting, flexible, breathable, moisture-wicking, good-looking, and excellent value for money. If merino wool boxers are out of your budget for everyday wear, then these would be our top recommendation for your next hike.

Outdoor Gear Reviews

 


Icebreaker Anatomica Merino Boxers

Icebreaker Anatomica Merino Boxers
  • MATERIAL: 83% Merino Wool/12% Nylon/5% LYCRA®
  • PROS: Really high-quality merino boxers that are ideal for hiking and travel, look really good with different color options, really comfortable
  • CONS: Expensive, slightly loose fit compared to others

The Icebreaker Anatomica Merino Boxers are also made of a core-spun merino/nylon blend which incorporates Lycra into the material for a super soft and stretchy feel. Icebreaker is one of the worlds leading merino wool brands, and they specialize in base layers for outdoor sports enthusiasts.

The Anatomica boxer briefs are one of their best sellers. The contoured pouch and elasticated waistband give them a really comfortable fit, and the length is just right too. While the flatlock seams are designed to prevent chaffing on the inside, they do bobble out more than normal on the outside. This may be to add to the seam’s longevity or just to the visual appeal, but I am not sure how they would feel on a bike saddle all day.

OVERALL: Despite the heavy-duty stitching, the Icebreaker Anatomica’s are perfect for hiking as well as an everyday pair you can take traveling that will last a long time, and the anti-odor properties really work!

Outdoor Gear Reviews

 


Adidas Sport Performance ClimaCool Boxer Underwear

Adidas Sport Performance Climalite Boxer Brief
  • MATERIAL: 92% Polyester/8% Spandex
  • PROS: Breathable and lightweight with great friction resistance
  • CONS: Only available in packs of two, as with all synthetic clothing odor can become an issue

The Adidas Sport Performance ClimaCool Boxer Underwear are designed to keep your boys cool in hot weather, which is what you want when you are hiking in strenuous terrain in the sun.

The ClimaCool material instantly wicks moisture away from your skin and dries rapidly to provide comfort, especially when you are sweating. We really liked these sports boxer briefs to hike in because of their lightweight construction and breathable crotch, but their comfort is up there with the best of them too. The 9″ inseam on the leg is ample without going overboard, and the waistband is generous enough not to bunch up or dig in.

OVERALL: These are a solid pair of hiking underwear that really do what they say on the tin by keeping you as cool as possible with advanced moisture-wicking technology. They performed better than most sports underwear, and they come in packs of two which is ideal for a weekend away hiking and camping.

Outdoor Gear Reviews

 


New Balance Ice Boxer Brief

New Balance Mens Ice Boxer Brief
  • MATERIAL: 87% Nylon/13% Spandex
  • PROS: 10/10 Moisture wicking and dry time, snug fit with a lightweight feel
  • CONS: Holds a little more heat than other options

The New Balance Ice Boxer Brief supposedly has “sweat-activated cooling technology,” which sounds a bit exaggerated, but they do wick moisture tremendously well and are designed with breathability in mind.

The fit is slim and athletic with just a 6″ inseam which prevents them from riding up and causing a wedgie. An odor-resistant treatment helps to improve hygiene and cleanliness on a long-distance walk, and the mesh crotch gusset helps with airflow. The 360-degree stretch moves with your body for full flexibility, and the wide waistband adds to an already comfortable fit.

OVERALL: These are an excellent choice if you are looking for synthetic boxer briefs with a shorter cut and slim fit for hiking. They are lightweight and durable enough for hiking, but we found that they were not as cooling as we were hoping but still performed well.

Outdoor Gear Reviews

 


SmartWool Merino 150 Print Boxer Brief

SmartWool Merino 150 Print Boxer Brief
  • MATERIAL: 87% merino wool/13% nylon
  • PROS: Cool print design, flatlock seams, slim fit
  • CONS: Shorter cut may bother some people

The Smartwool Merino 150 Pattern Boxer Briefs stand out from your standard hiking underwear thanks to the geometric print but don’t let that fool you, these are serious contenders.

The core-spun yarns are made by wrapping superfine merino fibers (87%) around a nylon filament (13%) to increase the durability and blend synthetic with a natural performance. The fit is slim, and the cut is fairly high on the leg, but because the material is so stretchy, it follows your body’s contours and gives excellent freedom of movement without bunching up. The waistband is nice and wide, and the fly is functional, making them a great day-to-day lower base layer.

OVERALL: The Smartwool Merino 150 Pattern Boxer Briefs look and feel great to wear; however, we preferred the way the Arcteryx Santoro’s felt with the added elastane and length on the leg. These are a fine choice for backpacking trips and come in 3 color choices which may appeal to the younger crowd; however, we feel there are more technically superior options available for the same or less money.

Outdoor Gear Reviews

 


ExOfficio Give-N-Go Boxer Brief

ExOfficio Men's Give-N-Go Boxer Brief
  • MATERIAL: 94% Nylon / 6% Lycra® Spandex
  • PROS: Cheap option that is well-reviewed by athletes
  • CONS: Durability became an issue after not much rugged outdoor use

The Exofficio Give-N-Go boxer briefs are quite possibly the most popular underwear for sports and fitness in general which means they also perform well for hiking. They offer decent breathability, comfort, and stretch, but the material does not offer the same level of durability as most other options do.

They have a soft mesh style fabric which I assume is to increase breathability but may not be to everyone’s taste. These boxers offer great initial support but, after some intensive use, seemed to stretch out a bit as well as bobble where your rucksack sits. We included these in the list as we often hear ExOfficio get a lot of hype from joggers. Wearing them for an hour or so is one thing but wearing them all day and maybe for two days solid is another.

OVERALL: They are cheap and cheerful sports boxer shorts that will perform way better for hiking than regular underwear, but if you are serious about walking long distances, then you might be better with something with better durability.

Outdoor Gear Reviews

 


hiking underwear for older men

Merino Wool Vs Synthetic Underwear

The age-old debate of whether merino wool is better than synthetic material spreads across all base layers but underwear is your underwear is arguably a priority on a multi-day hike or trip.

There are benefits and downsides to both, and of course, everybody has different needs and preferences, but hopefully, if we can lay out the facts, then you can make your own mind up. We have also included equal amounts of synthetic hiking underwear to merino underwear in our recommendations to give you the widest choice.

MERINO WOOL – Merino wool is a natural fiber sheared from sheep that live in extreme climates like Australia and New Zealand, where you have both very hot and freezing cold temperatures at altitudes. This translates to wool that works as lightweight insulation and shows superior performance in the heat thanks to its natural moisture-wicking properties. The wool from these special merino sheep is incredibly fine and soft to the touch, which makes it ideal for base layers, and despite what you may think, it doesn’t itch like other wools.

You can learn more about the benefits of merino wool here or check out some of our articles on merino wool listed below.

SYNTHETIC MATERIALS – Synthetic underwear for hiking are maybe not quite as lightweight and don’t provide as much insulation in winter, but they do wick moisture very well. Synthetic blends often dry the quickest, and they are also very soft to the touch, but their anti-odor technology is no way near the par set by merino wool.

One thing we do like about synthetic walking underwear is its slightly tighter fit which anyone with wide thighs can appreciate as being fairly important to prevent thigh chafe. Another thing we like is that two different types of fabric can be used to create vented areas around the crotch, whereas, with merino products, people often want them to be 100% natural fibers or close to them.

WHICH IS BEST? Well, it is hard to say as I really love my merino boxers for any kind of multiday trip, but when prepping for day hikes, I always seem to gravitate to synthetic hiking briefs. This is mainly because of a preference for a slightly tighter fit which, in my opinion, handles friction better (what you can take from this is that it comes down to personal preference). You can read more of an unbiased breakdown in our buyer’s guide at the bottom of the page, or keep reading for our recommendations in the pants department!

mens hiking underwear for hot weather

Choosing The Best Hiking Underwear For Men

If you’ve ever been hiking in hot weather without considering your choice of underwear, then you may already be aware that cotton is not your friend. The main idea behind hiking underwear is to increase moisture-wicking, breathability, comfort, and durability while at the same time reducing chafing and overall weight.

The toughest choice you will have to make when choosing the correct underwear for your needs is the material that they are made from. Merino wool is one of the best natural fibers you can choose, while there are many different synthetic blends that do very similar things.

Function

The most important factor with outdoor gear is that it is functional for its intended use. With clothing, the material will often have the biggest impact on how well it performs, but the cut and fit are imperative to functionality as well. When it comes to hiking underwear for men, there isn’t much debate that close-fitting boxer briefs provide the best comfort and friction reduction.

There is, however, a strong argument for both sides of the synthetic vs merino underwear discussion as they both offer benefits to suit different needs. If you want some summer hiking boxers, then a good pair of synthetics would be our choice, but for any multiday hikes or backpacking trips, it’s merino hiking boxers all the way!

Comfort

As with any outdoor clothing that you wear next to your skin as a base layer, comfort is not just a priority but essential to its function. As you will be taking tens of thousands of steps during most hikes, your underwear should fit you well and cover your upper thigh to help reduce friction and chafing.

The major issue with underpants is that if they hold moisture, they get really uncomfortable by bunching up and causing skin irritation which is why your choice of fabrics is so important. Comfort is also affected by things like awkward seams and labels that can become annoying after repetitive movement, narrow waistbands that fold in on themselves and dig into your hips, or a baggy fit that turns into a wedgie every ten steps.

Moisture Wicking

For your body to regulate its temperature in heat, it needs to be able to sweat efficiently so that you feel the cooling effect of its evaporation. Clothing that enables and supports this process helps you stay cool when it’s hot and comfortable when you sweat. Unlike regular cotton-based underwear, which absorbs moisture and dries slowly, specialist hiking underwear made from Merino wool or polyester/nylon blends wicks moisture, and dries rapidly.

Clothing that holds moisture quickly becomes uncomfortable through chaffing and adding weight, and it also holds bacteria from sweat which in turn creates odors. Basically, don’t get cotton, and you should be fine.

Breathability

Breathability is important for all hot weather clothing, and thankfully, moisture-wicking fabric is breathable by nature, so as long as you choose a synthetic or merino wool construction and not cotton. That being said, some are more breathable than others, but in general, thinner materials will feel more breathable.

Most synthetic hiking underwear now comes with a gusseted mesh crotch as standard, which increases airflow and keeps everything in position to maximize the benefits of the mesh. Merino wool underwear doesn’t often have a ventilated crotch and is generally made from the same material all over, which, thankfully, is already thin and breathable.

Durability

As well as ticking all the other boxes about comfort, moisture-wicking, and ventilation, your outdoor undies should also be durable enough not to fall to pieces the first time you snag a rock. Merino wool is known for its longevity and toughness, and unlike other wools, it can be washed in a washing machine with all your other clothes. Synthetic boxers are also fairly tough, and they hold their shape very well, but they don’t have the same odor control or insulative properties in on a cold night camping.

Features

You may have a personal preference when it comes to things like the length of the thigh, and whether it has a functional fly or not, so we tried to include a mixture of simplistic and feature-rich products on this page. Wide waistbands and longer tight-fitting legs resist buckling or riding upon themselves, whereas shorter cuts will feel lighter and cooler but maybe not stop your thighs from rubbing.

Mesh panels help with ventilation, and a gusseted crotch allows better freedom of movement. Merino wool has natural odor-repellence, but if buying synthetic, then you should look out for signature materials that have antibacterial properties sewn in.

Conclusion

Don’t buy cotton underwear for hiking as it will absorb water and become uncomfortable after no time at all. Instead, get merino or synthetic blends, which wick moisture and dry fast, as well as feel way more comfortable when damp. Get a close-fitting style like boxer briefs that cover at least a third of your thigh to reduce friction and avoid the legs riding up into a wedgie. While a close fit is best, you don’t want it too tight, so always check the measurements before you order.

 


We hope you’ve enjoyed this list of the best underwear for hiking. Let us know in the comments, and like our Facebook page for updates and stuff.

Gear Assistant
Gear Assistant

This article has been written and/or edited by Andrew N. 20+ years of hiking, mountaineering, and camping experience, with access to all the latest outdoor gear.

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