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Womens Hiking Underwear:
How To Find The Best Options

By Diane Spicer

Hiking underwear needs to be moisture wicking, non chafing and comfortable. Hiking For Her gives you tips, #hikingunderwear #womenshikingclothing #femalehikers  #hikingforher

Drop down to Hiking For Her's womens hiking underwear recommendations!


Womens hiking underwear seems shrouded in mystery, based on the amount of email I get about this topic.

Let's cross that mysterious bridge together and get real about what to wear next to your skin on your next hike: the best hiking panties that work hard for you on the trail without being a bother.

Then you can hit the trail in comfort.

And confidence.

Female hiker and wooden bridge across a streamCross the bridge from regular underwear to the best womens hiking underwear for your trail plans


Womens hiking underwear: 
the bare truth

Here's the cold, hard truth about a hiking trail: it doesn't give a rip about your comfort.

Which is why women hikers have learned to dress in layers of protection against all the insults Mother Nature can hurl at us:

  • cold, heat, copious moisture of various temperatures, damaging ultraviolet rays from the sun, wind, abrasive surfaces, prickly vegetation, stinging insects, intrusive eyes - maybe all on the same hike!

That's why we need to layer up, beginning with a good base layer.

Is the idea of layering new to you? 

It's easy to build a layering system.


Your hiking panties are your first layer of defense and comfort, right?

If you make the wrong choice, it doesn't matter how great your pants, shorts or hiking skirts feel.

So let's take a close look at what really works on the trail for female hikers.


Why you should choose
high quality hiking underwear

So what's more fundamental than the fabric you pull on to cover your private areas?

Nothing!

Without a doubt, you can purchase cheap hiking underwear at your local big box store, and they will serve you well on a dry, warm, short, flat trail.

For awhile.

Until they fall apart in the dryer.

But once you gain an appetite for less straightforward hiking, you will need to invest some time and money in high performance undies that are durable, high quality and check all the hiking boxes (more below on that).

Gulp

Yes, that means an increase in cost from the bargain bin cheapie cotton or nylon undies you might wear to a yoga class or on a neighborhood walk.

But take heart!

Your investments of time, effort and money also buy you all of the essentials for comfort and safety in women's hiking panties:

  • good ventilation & breathability
  • absorption of sweat 
  • moisture wicking away from delicate skin
  • easy wash and wear (important on extended hiking trips)
  • fast drying fabric (no clammy feeling)
  • comfy fit
  • antimicrobial fabrics to avoid hiker's funk
  • absence of chafing seams
  • dependability over many seasons of usage.

So please don't sacrifice your safety and comfort by starting off your layering system with the wrong underwear!


Look for these three things
first in the best hiking underwear

You are seeking three important qualities in your high performance women's hiking underwear.

Let's take a look at each of them:

  • the right fabrics
  • comfort
  • correct fit

Top notch fabric picks

  • Natural materials made by Mother Nature, such as silk and Merino wool, but not cotton.
  • Human made fabrics such as nylon, polyester, polypropylene and other obviously made up words.

Comfort

Look for a bit of spandex or elastane added to the fabric to enhance stretch.

Seek out a "no seam" style (cut from one piece of material rather than sown together) so it won't bind or chafe you.

Anti chafing tip: Use BodyGlide on delicate areas, even when wearing the best womens hiking underwear.

Best fit

Some women like thong underwear for daily life, but on the trail, think about how many steps you are going to be taking.

  • And whether or not you want to deal with migrating fabric (toward the middle, if you get my meaning) frequently.

boy short cut might not play well with your choice of hiking pants.

hipster panty (not a trendy flannel shirt wearer, but a pair of hiking underwear that sits on your hips) gives you enough coverage to keep your pants, shorts or skirt in place - but doesn't bind or constrict you at the waist.

Guess which one I recommend?


Get real about
womens hiking underwear rules

Luckily, there are just a few hiking rules to follow when selecting the best womens hiking underwear for your hiking plans.

And they come directly from that list we just looked at!

No cotton

If you've heard veteran outdoors women say "cotton kills", read this for an explanationand some best practices to avoid trouble like hypothermia on a hiking trail.

(Hint: Cotton is not just a problem on a winter hike. Don't wear cotton anywhere on your body as a serious hiker unless you are dayhiking in extreme desert heat.)

No binding

You want free movements around your joints in order to stay safe and balanced while navigating the trail. 

No blood flow restrictions to your big muscles groups, either.

And why get crabby because your underwear is too tight? Size up!

This "no binding" rule becomes even more important when going off trail.

And don't think you will never have to go off trail.

  • One good wind storm or downpour, and that reliable trail you remember fondly as "easy" becomes a debris field.
  • Making pit stops to do your business, also off trail.

Remain flexible about the cut and style of underwear that will work best for you on the trail.

You might be surprised that a bit more fabric gives you better performance!

High quality fabrics only
in womens hiking underwear, please

Let's call out the attributes of great hiking underwear again:

  • moisture wicking
  • breathable
  • fast drying
  • antimicrobial
  • soft against skin

These types of fabrics are your ally on the trail, day in and day out. So if the tag or description doesn't feature most (preferably all) of these words, move on.


Tips for success in finding
the best womens hiking underwear

You know exactly the type of fabric and fit you're looking for now.

But don't start your quest for the best women's hiking underwear by looking at price.

  • More expensive doesn't guarantee a good fit for your hiking plans (although there is no denying that it may indicate durability and other important factors.)
  • Less expensive should not be ruled out immediately if the quality indicators are all there.

Rather than seeking out the highest price point and assuming that it's got to be top of the line, here's how to find high quality choices:

  • Stick with brands that long time hiking women have found to be high performance. That's why you're reading this, right?
  • Try out each suggested brand and keep notes on what you liked or what didn't work for you on the trail. 
  • Sometimes the brand offers more than one style or cut, and you just need to figure out what works best for your shape and type of hiking. Don't abandon the brand right away.


But hey! What about the price?

Once you've met all 3 quality indicators (fabric, comfort and fit), then you can start hunting for the best price.

You might be in for a bit of sticker shock.

They don't give away high performance technical hiking underwear!

But rest assured, you'll be wearing these far less than your daily choices of underwear (i.e. will last longer), and they're built to take what the trail dishes out (i.e. durable).


Shopping tips

Look for bargains on brands you know work well for you. These are most frequent at end of season sales.

And always look in the bargain bins at REI Co-op's outlet. This is especially true if you are at one end of the sizing chart, as these sizes sell out last.

Usually buying in bulk (3 or more pairs of hiking underwear at a time) gives the best cost savings for shipping and final price.

  • On the other hand, if you're just starting out on your search for the best women's hiking underwear, buy one pair at a time and put them to the challenge of a hiking trail. 
  • Why make costly, non-returnable mistakes?


Hiking For Her recommendations
for the best hiking underwear
based on long trail time

I've been on the trail nearly fifty years (yes, I'm still at it, and loving every minute of it!) so I have a few tips for you in your quest for the best hiking underwear.

And I may be playing fast and loose with the definition of "underwear".

If you wear it under your clothing, that's underwear, right?

So let's include sports bras for hikers in our recommendations.

On top

For the best sports bra tips for hikers, read this.

  • I name some names, and give you reasons for considering them.

Currently, I'm enjoying this hiking sports bra, for its wide straps and full coverage. 

  • It's available in XS (30 - 32) - XXL (41 - 42).

If you need some tips on finding the best plus size hiking sports bras, read this.


On the bottom

Okay, this is solidly in the category of underwear, we can all agree.

For day hiking panties, consider the ones I use: New Balance seamless hipsters.

Or look at your options from ExOfficio, which have been great on multi-day backpacking trips.

They are comfortable, dry fast, and take up almost no room in a backpack.


Chafing a problem for you?
Take a look at Woxers

Some female hikers really struggle with groin and thigh chafing.

These women's boxer briefs are a great way to prevent this unpleasant, painful problem.

Woxers are made of 95% Modal/5% Elastene, and are available in sizes small - 3X.


Backpacking underwear tips

I bring 3 pairs of women's high cut briefs on my multi day trips:

  • one pair to wear (today)
  • one pair to dry after washing them out (tomorrow)
  • one as a back up pair to change into in case of trail emergencies (unexpected menstrual flow, soaked while crossing a stream, you get the idea).

The back up pair also serves as my clean underwear strategy for the last trail day, when I know I'm heading (reluctantly) back to civilization and want to feel fresh(er).

Keep a clean pair of leggings in your sleeping bag and don't wear your underwear.


Need even more great
women's hiking underwear ideas?

Nothing is more irritating on the trail than underwear that binds, chafes, migrates into unwanted areas, and leaves you a soggy mess at the end of the day.

Congratulations on your proactive search for the best womens day hiking and backpacking underwear.

  • You'll never have to throw your sports bra or uncomfortable hiking panties into a raging river (something Leave No Trace principles frowns upon heavily).

Now how are you doing on your sock quest? Hiking socks are another underestimated piece of hiking gear that come in a galaxy of choices.

  • Tips for choosing the best hiking socks here
  • New review of Branwyn Innerwear, both top and bottom, here


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Best Womens Hiking Underwear Choices


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