When you are limited to the amount of clothing that you can bring on a trip, you want to make sure that you have the right stuff. Underwear, briefs, whitey-tighties, drawers, skivvies, chonies, butt huggers, the unmentionables – whatever you call them – are important to get right. I’m a dude, so I’m going to have input on underwear for men. Maybe some of the important points of the conversation will resonate with women as well (ie fabric type) but I have no idea as most of women’s clothing confuses me in general. So ladies, read this article at your own peril. There is a good chance it will have nothing to do with you. Know I love you.
The Right Fit
The problem area creating a battleground for most men is the inner thigh and quad. Men with muscular legs tend to deal with legs rubbing together creating fiction. Combine friction with sweat and 8 hours of hiking and you get chaffing. Serious chaffing.
I tend to go with boxer briefs in my civilian life, so I am planning on wearing something with a similar fit. Boxer briefs offer the support of a normal pair of briefs but extend the fabric lower like a pair of boxers. Ideally when wearing boxer briefs, skin should never touch skin.
If you are the kinda guy that still likes normal old fashioned briefs (I know you exist) or prefers to go commando (I’ve heard several accounts of free spirits on the PCT last year), then you should be very familiar with Bodyglide. Apply it in the morning before you take off and it will provide you with hours of comfortable hiking without chaffing.
Get The Material Right
Like I mentioned earlier, I’m planning on taking boxer briefs. Now its time to determine what kind of material to wear. Here are some of the most popular fabrics on the market:
- Cotton – Very breathable. Slow to dry. Becomes porous when wet. Anyone that has ran a marathon in a cotton shirt will tell you that the sweat turns the shirt into a cheese grater. Wanna spot a first time marathon runner? Look for the bloody nipples. Naturally hypoallergenic so you won’t have any allergic reactions.
- Polyester – popular material for workout gear. Supportive. Tends to hold on to odor. Traps heat and moisture in. Ultimately good for short term use like a gym session, but probably not best for long term wear.
- Merino Wool – wool has proven to be a great fabric for many active and outdoor pieces of clothing. It keeps you warm when it is cold out. It also keeps you cool when it is hot out.
- Viscose – I had to look this one up as I had never heard of it. Soft to touch, Viscose is a natural fiber made from purified wood pulp cellulose. It is lightweight and reported to draw away moisture easily.
The Perfect Pair of Underwear
On a recent trip to my local running store to buy my trail shoes, I was upsold a pair of SAXX underwear as a possible trail pair for the PCT. SAXX has a pretty unique design that has mesh panels between each inner leg. This eliminates friction from the top of the groin all the way down the quad. This first pair I bought was the Pro Elite Boxer which is made of 90% Polyester / 10% Spandex. While the fit and support is great, I knew it wouldn’t be the right material for the trail. I needed something that breathed quite a bit more.
Today I picked up several pairs of the SAXX Vibe made from 95% Viscose / 5% Spandex and while I haven’t worn them 2,650 miles yet I can tell they will be the perfect fit and material for the trail.