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Womens Hiking Underwear:
Even More Basic
Than Your Base Layer

by Diane Spicer

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.

Then you can hit the trail in comfort.

And confidence.

Female hiker and wooden bridge across a stream

Womens hiking underwear fundamentals

Women hikers need to dress in layers of protection against cold, moisture, ultraviolet rays from the sun, wind, abrasive surfaces, insects, intrusive eyes, and lots more on the trail.

Build a layering system around some hiking fundamentals.

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

1. No cotton. Read this for an explanation, and some best practices to avoid trouble in cold, wet weather.

2. No binding. You want free movements around your shoulders, elbows, hips, knees and ankles in order to stay safe and balanced while navigating the trail.
This 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 becomes a debris field.

3. Moisture wicking, breathable, fast drying fabrics are your friend. So finding women's wicking underwear is where we're headed next.

Choose quality hiking underwear

You can purchase cheap shirts and pants, and they will serve you well on a dry, warm, flat trail.

But once you gain an appetite for more rugged hiking, you will need to step up to investing in a hiking wardrobe.

Yes, that means an increase in cost.

But it also buys you good ventilation, absorption of sweat, easy wash and wear on extended trips, fast drying, and dependability over many seasons of usage.

Don't sacrifice your safety and comfort in these hiking clothes by starting off your layering system with the wrong underwear!

So what to look for as
quality indicators in
womens hiking underwear?

Don't start with price.

Often, more expensive isn't better, it just indicates that you're brand loyal.

So rather than seeking out the highest price point and assuming that it's got to be top of the line, here's what to do:

  • Stick with brands that other 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.

Here are the three things you are seeking in your perfect hiking underwear:

1. Moisture absorbing (wicking), breathable fabrics.

These come in two flavors:

  • Natural materials made by Mother Nature, such as silk. No cotton!!
  • Human made fabrics such as nylon, polyester, polypropylene and other obviously made up words.

2. Comfort.

Look for a bit of spandex added to enhance stretch, and no seams that will bind or chafe you.

3. Fit.

Some women like thong underwear, 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) every so often.

A 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.

Once you've met all 3 quality indicators, you can start hunting for the best price.

  • Look for bargains, most frequent at end of season sales and in bargain bins. Usually buying in bulk (3 or more pairs of hiking underwear at a time) gives the best cost savings.
  • On the other hand, if you're just starting out on your search for the best womens hiking  underwear, buy one pair at a time. Why make costly, non-returnable mistakes?

based on long trail time

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

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

For day hiking panties, consider the ones I rely upon.

Or look at these, which have been great on multi-day backpacking trips because they are comfortable, dry fast, and take up almost no room in a backpack.

I bring 3 pairs of these women's high cut briefs:

  • one to wear,
  • one to dry after washing them out, and
  • one as a back up pair to change into in case of trail emergencies (unexpected menstrual flow, unexpected soaking 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.

Need more hiking underwear ideas?

I'd be happy to answer any questions you have, just use the CONTACT link at the top left of this page.

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

Be proactive in your search for the best womens hiking underwear, and you'll never have to throw your sports bra or uncomfortable panties into a raging river (something Leave No Trace principles frowns upon heavily).

Let's get it sorted out! Send me an email and let's talk about the best womens hiking underwear for your hiking plans.

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