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 different metrics to make sure you know which is the top of the bottoms. Here's how we did it.
We spent two months getting to know the ins and outs of each pair of underwear, 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 a few. 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 to us is comfort. Sure, chainmail underwear is breathable and durable (and sure, likely odor-free), but not the best for travel, in our opinion! We tested each of the boxer briefs by wearing them during a variety of 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 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 baselayer 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 tested this through extensive field testing, and by comparing each of them during an hour of running in around 65°F 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 from each.
As travel underwear isn't cheap, and abroad or in the backcountry is the last place you would want to deal with holes in your underwear, durability is an important factor in a decent pair of underwear. We wore each pair regularly, and while doing high output activities, and washed each according to the manufacturer's recommendations. We noted for a loss of elasticity in both the fabric and waistbands, wear at the seams, runs or damage in the fabric, and the general look of each garment. Lastly, we hold onto these models for extended testing. Most pairs have been covering our testers for over a year and a half. We add this extended testing insight into our durability assessments.
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.