Editor’s note on January 2, 2019: A successful adventure begins with the right base layers and underwear. As a result, we've updated our guide to the best men's underwear of 2018 and 2019. Some picks—like the Icebreaker Anatomica Boxer Briefs—remain top-rated favorites, while others—like the Saxx Quest 2.0—have been added to the list.
The last thing you want when you’re miles from nowhere is underperforming underwear. Your underwear should keep up with your active pursuits, delivering comfort and performance in hard-charging activities, extreme conditions and far-flung travel destinations.
Unless you want to exfoliate a layer of sensitive skin to chafing, endure swamp-like misery in hot weather or risk hypothermia with a damp undercarriage in cold weather, don’t even think about subjecting yourself to department-store-variety tighty whities. Today’s best underwear boasts durable, technical fabrics that wick away moisture, dry quickly, stretch, support, keep you cool when it’s hot (or warm when it’s cold), combat odors and breathe. Whew, breathe.
I gathered input from the greatest experts short of Captain Underpants: REI Product Manager Tim Brown and Megan Marvin, REI’s buyer for men’s fitness and underwear. Then, I sorted through reviews written by verified REI customers to bring you the following assortment of the best men’s underwear of 2019.
Best Synthetic Underwear
- MSRP: $32.95
- Fabric: 95% viscose/5% spandex
- Key Features: Made from soft, moisture-wicking fabrics with a slim, supportive fit for smooth, against-the-skin comfort.“They are the most comfortable pair of underwear I've ever worn and are great at keeping you from bouncing and chafing during exercise.” – REI customer Milo93
Best Wool Underwear
- MSRP: $45
- Fabric: 87% merino wool/13% nylon
- Key Features: Merino wool helps regulate body temperature, manage moisture and resist odor.“They are extremely comfortable and highly odor resistant. The odor of a pair of synthetic briefs after a long day of hiking will nearly knock you out, but these literally have no odor. An amazing product!” – REI customer tstair
Best Wool Underwear
- MSRP: $43
- Fabric: 83% merino wool/12% nylon/5% Lycra
- Key Features: Ideal for both everyday wear and active pursuits, with ultralight merino wool for warmth and all-day comfort.“They breathe, are warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and give me the degree of comfort I require for both my regular work week, and my more active weekends. They are the most comfortable underwear on the market. Period.” – Icebreaker customer Viper17
Best Underwear for Hike/Multisport
- MSRP: $32
- Fabric: 77% nylon/14% spandex/9% polyester
- Key Features: Pin-dot mesh fabric, anti-fold waistband, patented BallPark Pouch™ and odor-fighting antimicrobial technology make this ultralight and quick-drying underwear ideal for on-the-go wash and wear.
“This is my go to for travel, exercise and everyday life. The mesh fabric pulls and pushes moisture like I never thought fabric could. The 'ballpark' pouch gives excellent support, separation and really works for comfort and no chafing ever!” – REI customer John C
Best Underwear for Fitness
- MSRP: $37
- Fabric: 85% nylon/15% spandex
- Key features: Moisture-wicking and quick-drying performance and an all-around supportive fit for high-output activities.“I have two pairs of these I use for when I'm out hiking in the Cascades or going to the gym. The compression is right where you need it and they're breathable. Would absolutely recommend these.” – REI customer Evan
Best Underwear for Travel
- MSRP: $26
- Fabric: 94% nylon/6% Lycra spandex
- Key features: Breathable, quick-drying boxer briefs with ultralight mesh to keep you cool while traveling, cycling or trekking.“I am a U.S Marine and use this product for extended operations in the field where I may not have time to change. If I am sweating heavily or wading through deep water these shorts will be the first thing to dry. If I know there is going to be a lot of hiking then this is my first choice to wear. Strongly Recommended.” – REI customer Colt
Best Underwear Under $25
- MSRP: $18.95
- Fabric: 87% polyester/13% spandex (bluesign® approved)
- Key Features: A light and comfortable blend of polyester and spandex breathes well, moves moisture away from skin, dries quickly, offers 4-way stretch and resists odors with a Lava XL™ finish. “These are the most comfortable briefs I've had. They are great for travel—dry overnight when hand washed.” – REI customer Road Scholar
Types of Men's Underwear and Buying Advice
REI Product Manager Tim Brown favors lightweight synthetic/spandex blends that move well and manage moisture. “Synthetic versions offer wicking and quick-dry properties and are made with performance in mind, though they also work well for everyday wear and travel,” he says. Brown points out that this fabric blend is also great for washing and drying quickly when you’re traveling and camping.
Saxx is one of the current innovation leaders in synthetic men’s underwear. The patented BallPark Pouch™ offers comfortable, friction-free support, while Saxx’s modern 3D fit places the flat, soft sides of seams inward against your skin.
Brown says, “Many people like wool versions for the natural feel as well as natural anti-odor properties.” Merino wool is a top choice for its warmth, soft feel, itch-free comfort and natural resistance to odors. It also manages moisture and regulates temperature.
Smartwool and Icebreaker are at the top of their games for wool underwear. Smartwool’s Merino 150 fabric incorporates a nylon core to increase durability while keeping merino wool next to your skin. Icebreaker uses ultralight, core-spun merino wool fabric for durability and all-day comfort.
When it comes to cotton blends, it’s all about a cool, breathable, natural feel combined with moisture-managing and odor-controlling performance.
No matter which category you’re shopping for, REI Buyer Megan Marvin says key features to consider are a moisture-wicking, non-roll waistband, flat seams, anti-chafe and breathability.