The 7 Best Men’s Underwear for Hiking the Appalachian Trail
In the few months it takes most people to complete the Appalachian Trail, there will undoubtedly be a lot of suffering. That goes without saying. Your feet are going to get blisters in your boots, your muscles will be sore, and you’ll probably get sunburn. There will be weeks between showers. The food won’t be so good. The list continues. Riding a trail like this is a game of trade-offs: how much can you handle? Which do you trade for the others?
But if there’s one place not to compromise, it’s your junk. Your underwear might not seem like the most critical piece of gear before you embark on a gear-intensive adventure. But believe me: after a few weeks without washing or changing your underwear, few things will seem more important. That’s why having the right pair of underwear is essential, whether you’re going on a multi-month hike or just mountain biking for a weekend. Choosing the right ones for you can go a long way in boosting your morale.
The case of wool
Much of it is made from the materials of any of your outerwear and outerwear. Your cotton underwear, while economical, is not designed to withstand sweat or moisture. They trap it, keep it close to your skin, and chill you. On top of that, allowing any item of clothing, especially your underwear, to retain moisture for a while when you’re not washing it is a recipe for funk. Polyester materials won’t cool you down if they get wet, and they’ll do a better job of wicking moisture away from your skin, making them nice for short-duration, high-output missions. But on long trips they can still get quite ripe.
Enter: wool. Don’t worry, wool has come a long way since the itchy sweater your grandma knitted you when you were a kid. Merino wool in particular is incredibly soft and comfortable against the skin, and it retains wool’s natural abilities to repel moisture and stink, making it the obvious choice for many outerwear layers like socks, but especially your underwear.
Apart from the materials composing your adventure underwear, pay close attention to features and fit of each pair you bring into the backcountry. After a thousand miles, you’ll notice a pair that doesn’t quite fit you. Also, keep your mind open to the idea that you might not need underwear at all. Consider shorts or pants that don’t require underwear. They can’t stink if you leave them at home. That said, commando isn’t for everyone, and underwear can go a long way in preventing chafing during long days of walking, so consider these options first.
Entry may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article. We only include products that have been independently selected by Input’s editorial team.
These Smartwools might be some of the most comfortable underwear to ever grace your bottoms. They use a blend of merino and polyester that maintains the durability of synthetics that can take you on a long journey, without sacrificing merino’s softness and natural goodness. You’ll get a little more support from the double front panel, the merino continues to the inside of the waistband for added comfort, and the seams are low profile and won’t chafe.
Saxx is doing something unique with their underwear. The big differentiating feature is what they call the “BallPark” pouch: a series of mesh panels that keep your jewelry securely in place and separated from your thighs. Admittedly, it’s not for everyone. But if you’re into it, there’s nothing more comfortable. It reduces chafing, sticking and the need for lots of adjustments. The sights in particular are wool for long missions, although they may be slightly warmer than some of the other undergarments on this list.
Okay, after all this wool talk, it’s perhaps surprising that we’re touting a pair of nylon and spandex underwear. But in particularly hot climates where you move a lot of moisture around and need something that dries quickly, you might want to sacrifice a bit of merino’s stink management. ExOfficio’s Men’s Give-N-Go 2.0 Boxers are also extremely durable: I’ve had the same pair for years.
The “Cool-Lite” fabric in these Men’s Ice Breaker Cool-Lite Anatomic Zone Boxers is a scientifically engineered blend of Merino, Tencel, Nylon and Lycra that does a fantastic job of wicking away moisture on warmer days while increasing flow of air to keep you cool. as you move. These underwear are also some of the lightest merino boxers out there, great for packing, but beware of their longevity compared to some of the others here.
Like I said, polyester has its flaws when it comes to next-to-skin layers, but if you need something that can dry quickly, it can’t be beat. Outdoor Research’s men’s Echo Boxers stay extremely cool, handle sweat easily, and you can hop in the lake near camp without worrying that they’re still wet by the time you crawl into your sleeping bag.
Sure, they’re comfortable, moisture-wicking, and tough, but these Patagonia Sender boxers are also kinder to the environment: They use recycled nylon to keep the tough material out of landfills. These aren’t necessarily the softest, fluffiest underwear on this list, but they’ll last a while and you may feel better about where they came from.
That little bit of extra fabric on your thighs can make a big difference for hikers, minimizing chafing. But if that’s not your style, traditional briefs can save a bit of weight and storage space: they compress about half the size of most boxers above. These REI Co-op everyday briefs are made from a blend of polyester and spandex so they stay comfortable, manage moisture, and don’t stretch where you don’t want them to.