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Our women's travel underwear experts researched 50+ of the best options available today and bought 11 of the finest to test side-by-side. We've used these skivvies all over the west, from Yosemite Valley, California, to Indian Creek, Utah. We explored, hiked, climbed, trekked, went to the gym, and wore them while on planes, trains, and automobiles. A good pair of travel underpants fit well, are comfortable, and are easy to wash by hand. We evaluated each comparatively, paying close attention to their fabric and construction. If you're seeking a reliable pair of travel underwear to keep you comfortable, clean, and protected on any adventure, our hands-on review will help you find them.
The Icebreaker Siren Bikini received high scores in every metric and has been a favorite of our testing team for many years. The latest iteration does not disappoint, still featuring the incredibly soft core-spun 150 Merino wool along with nylon and elastane to offer a bit of stretch within the fabric. The fit is perfect, though we noticed that the latest version features a slim fit, more so than previous versions we've tested. The bikini cut still offers good coverage though, and the modest brushed elastic waistband gives these undies structure while in motion or while taking a dip in a local stream.
Our only real complaint about the Siren Bikini is the price tag, but after years of testing this bikini, we feel confident that you won't be disappointed in your investment. Though the fabric is ultralight and breathable, it remains durable and able to withstand many days of use. Merino wool is also naturally odor-resistant, never taking on a smell even when worn multiple times between washes. The Siren also dries relatively quickly and offers a fit that stays in place no matter what activity you pursue, feeling soft and cozy the whole time.
Material: 89% nylon, 11% elastane | Weight: 1.2 oz
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
Fit runs large
ExOfficio is a brand synonymous with outdoor travel, and the ExOfficio Give-N-Go 2.0 Bikini Brief is a great choice for your next extended trip. The affordable design hits all the marks — it's incredibly breathable and quick-drying, and the lightweight fabric feels good next to the skin. After years of testing previous iterations of this design, we are confident in the odor-resistant performance and durability of the flatlock seams.
One of our only complaints about these undies is that they run big, so if you are in between sizes, we recommend sizing down to achieve the best fit. And while we love the soft and stretchy waistband, the high cut of this bikini can move around during activity and require some adjusting. Overall, our testers were happy to hit the trails in the Give-N-Go 2.0, thanks to their silky soft fabric and breathable mesh design, available at a price that won't break the bank.
Our testers were excited to include the Ridge Merino Boy Shorts in our latest update. There is no question about the durability of this less-expensive Merino design, thanks to the flatlock seams and the 180g nylon core-spun Merino wool, known as Ridge's (m)Force technology. The premium ultra-fine 18.5-micron fibers feel super soft next to your skin, and the no-flip waistband provides structure without digging into your hips or sacrificing comfort.
The fit of the Boy Shorts is flattering and comfortable whether you're having a slow morning at home or getting after it during a long day on the trails or in a foreign city. We found the material to be breathable as well as naturally odor-free. While the extra material of the boy short construction prevented a super quick drying time during our tests, rolling the shorts in a towel before hanging them on the line will significantly decrease the drying time required. If you're looking for a versatile and full coverage option, these undies are a favorite of our testing team.
Why You Should Trust Us
For this review, we assembled a team of the most well-traveled, adventurous staffers and sent them all over the globe to put these undies to the test. We started this review by spending hours in stores and on the web researching the most popular, best-selling women's travel underwear models out there. We compared specs, investigated new products on the market, and eventually chose a line-up of undergarments for rigorous hands-on testing. We wore each pair nonstop for a week (with washes in between!) to see what they could handle. We ran, climbed, swam, slept, and traveled, getting to know the smallest details of each pair. After a few months of travel, we arrived home satisfied and confident that we had found the best products available. We offer this comparative assessment to make your shopping experience as easy as possible.
Our women's travel underwear testing is divided across five rating metrics:
Comfort and Fit (35% of total score weighting)
Breathability (20% weighting)
Odor Control (20% weighting)
Durability (15% weighting)
Drying Time (10% weighting)
Back in Oklahoma, lead tester Trish Matheny caught the attention of her co-workers when she was preparing for her first extended backpacking trip out west by researching a single pair of Merino underwear to accompany her. For this review, she took a whole pile of undies on multiple trail runs throughout the Tetons and the High Sierra, up vertical rock walls in Zion, Red Rock, Tuolumne Meadows, and into a very hot and humid Yosemite Valley. Needless to say, she knows a thing or twelve about traveling with underwear.
Analysis and Test Results
We determined five crucial metrics to judge each pair of travel underwear throughout our many weeks of testing. We'll describe each metric below, including what we did to measure each category to reach objective conclusions. Because undies are a personal purchase, you may find that certain metrics are more important to you personally than what we gave them credit for. As you read each description below, make a note of anything that sounds particularly important to you, as you'll be able to look for the products with the highest scores in that area.
The products in our review vary quite a bit in price, and we understand that even the most inexpensive undergarment may not be in the budget for some. We consider value to be the intersection of price and performance. Sometimes, a product performs to such a high degree we can justify the higher price. Other times, a product at the lower end of the price spectrum works just fine.
In so many outdoor categories, higher prices allow for more luxurious materials and better construction, and this review is no different. We are confident that you will be satisfied with your investment if you choose to dish out for the Icebreaker Siren Bikini. It's more expensive than some of its competitors but gave a knockout performance in all of our testing categories. For a more affordable price tag, the Give-N-Go 2.0 Bikini is a well-rounded and comfortable option with excellent breathability and a fast drying time. As one of the most affordable garments we tested, they are a great buy for shoppers on a tighter budget who don't want to sacrifice performance.
Comfort and Fit
If you've spent multiple days in the same pair of underwear or explored the trails in a hot and humid locale, you know that comfort and fit are two of the most important factors when it comes to underwear performance. Because underwear makes such a high level of skin contact and sits at the base of everything layered over the top, comfort is paramount. Fit is also a huge consideration, as it doesn't really matter how comfortable the material is if the fit is completely distracting. To properly evaluate this, we looked less at the materials and more at the cut and seams of each design. To be consistent, we generally chose bikini or hipster models, though many of these products have sister models in other shapes and cuts.
The first thing we noticed and evaluated about each pair of undies was the softness of the material. This may seem like a no-brainer, but after trying multiple pairs, we realized that there's a wide range of material textures, and each product has its own unique feel. In general, we prefer the silky, thinner models to the more textured, thicker ones, as the thickness of each product contributes significantly to its breathability. Another significant factor of comfort is the tag. Most travel undies come with an obnoxious tag that provides the size, country of origin, etc. Removing this tag will greatly increase comfort and reduce itch.
The Siren Bikini and Ridge Merino Boy Shorts were top scorers in this metric. They feel quite different but feature a smooth, primarily wool construction, often made more durable and stretchy by including a blend of nylon and elastane along with comfortable yet minimalist waistbands. While we prefer the Ridge's no-flip waistband a bit more, the Siren is right up there in performance and comfort with its modest, brushed elastic and reinforced flatlock seams. Perhaps the greatest compliment here is that once we were dressed and headed out the door in either pair, we never thought about them again throughout the entire day — which is what you want from your undies.
The Icebreaker Sprite Hot Pant was a close runner-up when considering the full coverage and boy short options. It fits like a glove, with a solid elastic waistband that is bigger and thicker than most other models we tested. We consider it closer to the style of men's underwear, with great coverage and a snug fit that hugs curves. Like the Siren Bikini, it features a blend of Merino wool, nylon, and elastane that allows for some stretch without losing structure. We also love the offset seams that run diagonally across the front, which helped to increase comfort.
It is worth mentioning that while evaluating comfort and fit, we dealt with an unfortunately high number of wedgies and learned quickly that this was an instant deal-breaker. We don't know why all wedgies happen, but there is a strong correlation between the fit of the leg openings and the likelihood this will happen. The Patagonia Active Hipster Brief and Patagonia Barely Hipster, for example, have tighter leg openings that do a great job at keeping the garment in place. On the other hand, the Under Armour Pure Stretch Hipster and the Icebreaker Merino Queens High Cut Brief feature very loose leg openings that often caused wedgies and required constant frustrating adjustments. That said, the Queens High Cut is a very soft and sexy garment, but it is completely impractical for travel.
To properly assess the breathability of each garment, we got sweaty by creating an objective test: a one-hour trail run on the same trail in similar temperatures and humidity readings. Our testing grounds were in and around Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows in California, often pushing ourselves to break a sweat (and run away from the gnats) on the uphill and then assessing dryness as we picked up speed on the downhill. Even though some garments feature ultralight material, the waistband and inner thigh tend to collect the most sweat.
The Siren Bikini was our overall top choice for any adventure. It has a slightly thicker fabric around the stretchy waistband, so it can retain some moisture in that area. However, any trapped moisture was quickly released before discomfort became perceptible. Once we realized the thinner 150 core-spun Merino material became completely dry on the downhill, we noted this garment as one of our highest performers. While we were not overly impressed by the REI Co-op Active Bikini in terms of comfort, fit, or durability due to some unraveling seams and overall poor quality, we have to give it a shout-out in terms of breathability. The fabric is perforated with holes that effectively release moisture at a faster rate than its wool competitors.
Other notable garments that performed well during our hot and humid trail runs were the Give-N-Go 2.0 Bikini Brief, Patagonia Active Hipster, and Smartwool Merino Sport Seamless Bikini. The square pattern design of the Give-N-Go 2.0 allows for a silky smooth feel next to the skin. The modest waistband prevents moisture build-up, and the square pattern allows airflow even on hot days. The Sport Seamless Bikini has breathable mesh panels seamlessly incorporated into the construction to release moisture and enhance breathability. Whether on extended trail runs or climbing in the direct sun during the hottest months of the year, the seamless sport mesh panels didn't disappoint.
Thicker waistbands and more full coverage garments such as the Sprite Hot Pant and the Ridge Boy Short still held their own, but we would recommend these options as considerations for colder temperatures or spring skiing when long underwear is too hot, but you still want the coverage and warmth offered by a boy short.
First of all, you're welcome. We did the dirty work so you don't have to. For this smelly metric, we got sweaty, exhausted ourselves throughout our extensive three-month testing period, and took notes on the garments that performed the best (i.e., didn't retain any detectable odor). We'll just reiterate that while synthetic fabrics are often superior in terms of breathability and dry times, they can't hold a candle to the performance of Merino wool, which is naturally and consistently odor-free without the use of chemicals. Perhaps it is obvious at this point that the garments that are primarily constructed of Merino wool received higher scores. But just in case, here are just a few of our favorites.
The Siren Bikini is outstanding for odor control. We did our best to work up a sweat during our trail runs and rock climbs, often going for long periods of time between washes, and this bikini never registered any noticeable odors. The Queens High Cut is also impressive, as its 100% Merino wool construction would suggest. The thicker fabric retained more moisture than other Merino wool options that we tested, but these undies never retained any odor, even after moisture and sweat built up in the fabric between washes.
Other top performers include the Smartwool Merino 150 Bikini, Ridge Boy Shorts, and Sprite Hot Pant. These all feature a primarily wool construction, and we found no detectable odors even after vigorous activities and extended time between quick washes in the local streams. Great odor protection made the Sprite Hot Pant one of our top choices when considering several days of climbing on El Capitan in Yosemite. While our synthetic base layers retained more body odor than we're comfortable admitting, these Merino undies did not, and we remained odor free all the way to the summit. Perhaps the most note-worthy in this metric is the Give-N-Go 2.0, which features a synthetic nylon construction and an anti-odor treatment that our testing team found to actually work at effectively keeping the garment odor-free. Many synthetic garments claim to protect against any odor build-up, but the Give-N-Go 2.0 actually lived up to the anti-odor hype.
Thanks to consistent trail runs, multi-pitch rock climbs, and swimming in various streams and alpine lakes, our testers put each pair of undies to the ultimate test and found the most durable options available. We considered the stitching and noted which pairs started to unravel as well as which fabrics and textiles showed signs of wear. We questioned whether the seamless, flatlock, or bonded seams were the best in terms of long-lasting quality, and finally, we noted which garments were able to keep their shape after multiple swims and wash cycles without a dryer.
Brands like Icebreaker are known for their high-quality construction that often comes with a higher price tag, and our testing team truly believes it is worth the investment. Paying a higher price for designs like the Siren Bikini and the Sprite Hot Pant, which offer superior fabric and construction without noticeable limitations, is worth every penny. Reinforced flatlock seams increase comfort and tend to hold up better to all the wear and tear from outdoor adventures. This same durability can sometimes be achieved through a more affordable price tag too — the Ridge Merino Boy Short and the Give-N-Go 2.0 feature seams that resist failure and enough structure to offer support even after taking an afternoon dip in the river. Ridge features (m)Force technology, which enhances the design's strength and helps the wool resist abrasion in high-traffic areas.
Both Patagonia garments, the Barely Hipster and Active Hipster, offer newly updated fits that hold their shape better than previous versions. Though our testers didn't love the new, tighter fit of these undies, we did appreciate that they kept their shape even with a rather seamless and minimal design. We also love that these garments are Fair Trade Certified sewn, meaning those that work to create these undies were paid a fair premium in exchange for their efforts.
The time needed to air dry is an important factor in the overall score of each pair of travel underwear for two big reasons: sweat and washing. The ability of our base layers to dry quickly on the go is crucial to keeping us comfortable. Similarly, a quick wash in the sink or the river can be the perfect remedy when you're on the run from place to place or have a plane to catch. But if your undies take too long to dry, valuable time could be wasted.
To test this metric, we soaked all the undies in water and hung them to dry. We tried various methods, including wringing out the garments by hand and with a towel and found consistent results across the board. In general, the thinner the material, the quicker the drying time. No big surprise there. The Give-N-Go 2.0, Under Armour Pure Stretch, and REI Co-op Active Bikini received some of the highest scores in this category. A caveat to the thicker and more full coverage garments such as the Queens High Cut, Smartwool Seamless Bikini, and Ridge Boy Shorts is a longer drying time. For the thicker garments, we recommend wringing them in a towel prior to hanging them on the line, a technique we describe further below.
What's the Deal with Washing?
We've mentioned washing on the go as an integral part of long-term travel, so we thought we'd pause here to add a few tips. Washing your undies in the sink is a great travel option. It is often the case that we run out of underwear before it's time to wash the rest of our clothes. So while the sink may not work for your jeans and jackets, it will extend the time before you have to make a trip to the laundromat. First, find something to plug the drain. Fill the sink with hot water and let the garments soak until fully saturated. Pour in some detergent and scrub each garment, using its own material to scrub dirtier sections. While there are some convenient single-use laundry detergents out there, we prefer a more versatile product such as Dr. Bronner's soap, which can be used to wash your clothes and your body. When space is limited, finding products that have multiple purposes helps save room in your pack, especially when every ounce is accounted for.
One of our favorite drying methods is the towel-roll method. We used this consistently during our testing period. Lay your undies on a towel and roll it up. Then you can wring out the towel, forcing water from the fabric into the towel. Your garment will be considerably drier than if you just wrung it out by hand, cutting down on your drying time so you can get back to your adventures as soon as possible. We're also a fan of strapping our socks and undies to the outside of our pack while backpacking to utilize the fresh air and sunshine for drying on-the-go.
If you're going to wash your clothes in a stream or river, we recommend doing your research and using eco-friendly soaps. Ideally, you can use the water from a river to wash your clothes in a bag or bucket away from the water source itself. A dry bag works great for this purpose, and there are even some new "washing bags" on the market — basically dry bags with scrubby internal nodules. While we haven't tested them out ourselves, these could make for a great option if you're hitting the road for an extended period without weight as a concern. Additionally, we're often surprised by how well a quick rinse and scrub without detergent does to get the sweat out of a garment. No matter what method you choose, a quick drying time keeps you out there having fun, which is precisely why this metric was such an essential part of our testing process.
Fussing over your underwear might seem a little unnecessary, but after weeks on the road, we can tell you that comfortable travel undeniably starts with undies. From comfortable material to enough stretch to move, the construction of each pair is critical to its performance. Keeping dry and odor-free in various climates is just as important as drying quickly after a hand-wash in a stream. During weeks of testing throughout multiple seasons, we found a few stand-out performers in price, comfort, and odor-free construction. We hope our suggestions are helpful when deciding which garment is best for your next adventure!
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.