Best travel underwear – bras, briefs, boxers and socks
What makes the best travel underwear, socks or bras? Decades of international travel experience guides the choices we make and it comes down to comfort, quick-dry, anti-stink, and durability — especially with socks.
What makes the best travel underwear? Yeah, we’re talking skivvies, such as bras, briefs, panties, boxers and socks — the ultimate foundation for any comfortable travel outfit. Your travel comfort can disappear in a flash if you choose travel underwear poorly. Like the time Michael desperately raced into a store bathroom in Germany to shed his lightweight merino wool undies to cool down in 90-degree temps with 80-percent humidity (Therese did frown on him ripping off his pants on the square). Or the time Therese slipped off her bra under a (non-see-through) shirt in hot weather because the seamless nylon felt like she was swaddled in plastic wrap!
But aren’t your everyday underthings enough? Nope, not really. As with other travel clothes, comfort is No. 1, followed closely by quick-drying and durability. Cotton? Not really.
No matter how good your travel socks and underwear are, if your travel pants pinch or bind, comfort will be fleeting. Be sure to read Best travel pants – What we wear and why
Best travel underwear
If there is one thing everybody is going to wear every day when on the road (well, most of us!), it’s your undies on the bottom half – be that boxers, briefs, or panties. Meaning what you choose to pack and wear as travel underwear will be essential to your travel comfort when sitting, walking, running, adventuring or relaxing. Your undie choice needs to be something that is so comfortable you could live in it for days – because you very well might be, especially if your luggage decides to vacation somewhere other than where you end up.
The ideal travel underwear needs to dry so fast – think mesh or thin synthetics — you only need one to wear and one to pack (or maybe two to pack for that veritable just-in-case). Forget about thick or wide elastic bands, cotton, or double layers – that won’t help the need to dry. And your underwear choice better not cut or bind or ride up! Like with shoes, wear them a couple of times before packing to determine if comfort reigns supreme.
Style is a personal choice. Men, you can have it all in either briefs or boxers, although less material may dry quicker. Women, you have a myriad of travel underwear styles from briefs to thongs to bikinis. Those who love thongs for their lack of the dreaded VPL (Visible Panty Line), remember, if you are sitting a lot that fabric up the backside may be an irritant. ‘Nuf said. If you are going casual, a regular bikini or brief may be fine. If you are dressing up or have tight duds, you can toss in a thong for those times when VPL could be an issue (not that there aren’t bigger issues in life!).
In fact, we love our “best travel underwear choices” so much, our drawer at home is filled with them for everyday wear!
Michael practically lives in ExOfficio boxers when he is traveling and yes, they do wash and dry very quickly meaning two to three pair for a two-week adventure is plenty. Therese also loves ExOfficio briefs for travel.
Still sleeping in your undies? There is a better way. Be sure to read Best travel underwear – bras, briefs, boxers and socks
Best travel bras
Most women find a bra of some sort a necessary travel undergarment (some may consider it a necessary evil). Like with any good bra, you want a bra that fits like a glove without feeling like you’re putting on body armor. Therese tends toward seamless, pull-on, athletic bras, even for everyday wear, since then they can serve multiple purposes and cut down on gear to pack. A racerback option keeps straps from flopping down too. However, what you find best will also depend on your size, activity and clothing style.
Basic needs in a great travel bra are of course comfort without riding up, irritating or binding, enough support for your preference, and no unnecessary seams, fabric, elastic or bands that will cut or cause slow drying (thus, the pull-over type that eliminates extra layers at the back). That means padding is not necessarily a great idea, although Therese does have a couple where you can remove a pad, which usually does not have to be washed so often. Moisture-wicking is a plus (so you don’t have to suffocate in the “plastic wrap” Therese did once!).
A fine merino wool is also a positive since it can be worn many times before washing is needed due to natural odor protection. Or consider products with silver ions for antimicrobial protection.
And there are a few products these days with pockets in the front or sides that can come in very handy for ID, cash or keys.
Then there is the Northern Playground bra from Norway, which is in a category to itself. Made of wool, it is an athletic bra with a short zipper on each side so you can actually take it off from under your shirt. Imagine you are skiing, hiking or running and you get wet from sweat, you can avoid getting chilled by switching out bras without stripping down!!! (Therese is swooning from delight.)
Best travel socks
If one thing normally gets a beating on travel, it is your feet. Be kind and choose your socks carefully. Packing the wrong socks could mean your feet will end up too hot, too cold, wet or, even worse, blistered and sore. Like with the best travel underwear choices, you need to choose socks that will help to wick moisture away from your feet, provide a comfy feel, not bunch up, wash easily, and dry quickly. Odor control is a plus. Realize that any sock brand that claims odor control is doing so because either it is using silver ion or some other chemical in its fibers, or it is relying on natural odor control through natural fibers such as merino wool. NO sock prevents foot odor. It only means it lessens the chance you end up with stinky socks and thus stinky shoes.
For socks, we would advise staying away from cotton as a fabric. It is not a durable fiber in socks, holds onto moisture, bunches up when wet, and does not dry quickly after washing. Synthetic fibers, such as nylon and polyester, are often treated to be resistant to stink by fighting the growth of mold and fungus (yeah, we know, iccckkk). And they do wick sweat away pretty well. But a sock made entirely of synthetic material is usually not very insulating, thus may not be great for cold climes. Wool, especially merino wool, provides a very durable sock, but keep in mind a thicker style of any material may not dry quickly or overnight once wet – and may be too warm in the heat. (A hair dryer has been our best friend on a few trips to dry the last bit of moisture from socks.). Drying ability, of course, depends on the climate at your travel destination.No matter how thick your chosen socks are though, if you are staying in one place for a few days at a time (and packed a couple extra with you), and you plan carefully, you can wash any socks and give them 2-3 days to dry.
WrightSock is another brand in a category to itself, being a patented double-layer sock. Thus, its blister protection and comfort are quite high, and Therese loves that, while drying time for the thicker versions is longer. Michael finds the socks too bulky.
There are certain brands we find supremely comfortable (Balega or FITS, for example,) but due to loops, weave or thickness for extra cush, they do need longer to dry. Our favorite sock brand overall for travel? Darn Tough hands down! We both LOVE the Darn Tough Microcrew and Ultralight Cushion socks which are thin, made of merion wool, supremely comfortable and durable, and quick-drying.
Experiment at home with different brands before you head out and figure out what the travel socks you bought are not comfortable.