The Best Men’s Underwear: Staff Picks

The last thing you want when you’re miles from home is underperforming underwear.

Updated October 25, 2023

9 reviews with an average rating of 4.0 out of 5 stars
A product shot of men's underwear on a wood background.

Your underwear is the first piece of apparel you put on and the last piece you take off, so it gets more next-to-skin time than most other garments in your closet. And when you add in complexities like pack hipbelts and sweat, it may be worth investing in something that’s more technical than your standard triple-pack of cotton undies. Not only will it feel more comfortable—think about the first time you tried high-thread-count sheets—but the moisture-management features will change your life.

In the market? Start here, with our staff and members’ favorites. Whether you need a pair for travelingworking out, layering under base layers or tackling warm-weather adventures, we’ve got you covered. 

Staff Picks

Find our quick recommendations here or read on for our staff and members' favorite men's underwear.

Those who have been co-op members long enough may remember a time when the men’s underwear section essentially only had one choice, and it was the OG version of the ExOfficio Give-N-Go boxer briefs. The undies have evolved over the years, but the DNA remains the same as ever: slightly stretchy gridded polyester with a wide waistband and fly. It’s a can’t-go-wrong design that stays comfy and fresh on the long haul. ExOfficio claims two pairs of the Give-N-Go can cover a six-week international trip, and we believe it. As one customer reviewer notes, “It’s true to its claim. You only need two pairs. These are comfortable, durable and breathable. Whenever I travel, I always bring these.”

The 2.0, updated with a fabric blend of 89% nylon and 11% elastane, breathes well and wicks moisture efficiently, but our staff’s hands-down favorite feature is the rapid dry time, which we put to the test on a spring road trip. To care for our underwear on the go, we simply rinsed (tip: add a wash like this to your travel kit), wrung out the extra water and put the shorts through a manual dryer. We did this by folding a bath towel in half lengthwise, laying the underpants flat on the towel, rolling them up, sitting on the rolled-up towel for about 30 seconds, and then hanging them to dry. Using this technique, the pairs were dry by morning. No, the Give-N-Gos weren’t quite as fresh as something that came out of the washer at home, but they were more than passable.

The fabric blend retains its shape well, even after going days between washes while backcountry skiing or fly fishing. The simple structure also pairs nicely with technical apparel. One catch: The fly opening is a double layer of fabric that overlaps itself by 3 inches, and that can make navigation difficult especially when wearing gloves in winter. Buy here.

“If boxer briefs were sports cars, this would be the one with the platinum trim high-end package,” one Expert Advice staffer declares. Indeed, the Icebreaker Anatomica Cool-Lite boxer briefs perform leagues beyond the boxer shorts of our youth, thanks to their ultrasmooth, wicking merino wool fabric blend. TENCEL lyocell (a wood pulp known for the sustainable way it’s harvested) keeps these undies super soft and helps eliminate the slight itchiness typical with many pure merino products. “I think you can tell a good pair of boxers when you forget you’re wearing them, and these do just that,” a customer reviewer notes. A touch of spandex and a gusseted crotch (unique for men’s underwear) allow for a comfortable range of motion without the loosey-goosey feel. The Anatomica Cool-Lite is secure enough for running.

In addition to earning high marks for comfort, the Cool-Lite scores well when it comes to moisture management—a quality we appreciate during high-output activities in both hot and cool weather. “I wore these on an overnight backcountry ski trip in Alaska’s Chugach National Forest with temps below zero,” one member tester says. “I arrived at camp completely dry, despite the hefty trek in.” The high merino content means these skivvies wick sweat well.

Designers wrapped the merino wool around a nylon core for additional durability, and so far, neither our staffers nor our member-testers have seen signs of pilling or wear. (To extend the life of your underwear, avoid the dryer and line-dry whenever possible.) Bummer: pretty pricey. Buy here.

One might think the SAXX Hot Shot boxer briefs are so-named for their eye-catching jersey and mesh panels. But some digging (and testing) reveals the Hot Shot is all about keeping the wearer cool in warm weather. Indeed, these are our staff’s top choice for adventuring in double- and triple-digit temps, thanks to the breathable recycled poly that’s peppered with thousands of visible mesh holes (there are even some in the waistband). The design promotes airflow and draws moisture away from your skin, where it can quickly evaporate, leaving you dry and comfortable. “Testing in early spring was fine, but I knew these were my new favorites once we hit desert season,” explains one member-tester. “I wore only this pair for five days straight in Escalante National Monument, and I swear I was legitimately cooler than if I had worn my typical pair.”

The Hot Shot comes with a front pouch that offers support with minimal friction during high-output activities. Of this tech, one customer reviewer writes, “I really love this underwear for more active days like hiking, camping and bicycling as they can easily make it through without … bunching up or causing chafing.” Tip: Our staffers recommend selecting breathable pants or shorts to take advantage of this thoughtful technology. Buy here.

Though underwear ads might lead one to think otherwise, it’s more important that our undergarments layer nicely under clothing than look good lounging around the house. A shorter inseam and snug fit mean the Smartwool Merino Sport 150 boxer briefs pair well with everything from base layers to tech denim to hiking shorts. “I like these shorts for layering under heavyweight winter long johns, lightweight Nordic ski layers—even bike shorts,” says one staffer. An extra-wide waistband lends comfort, especially when wearing the Sport 150 under a pack or kid carrier. (Note: The ExOfficio Give-N-Go also has a short inseam.)  

Another perk is that if you gravitate toward merino’s natural benefits but can’t quite justify the associated price point, the wool-and-poly blend of the Smartwool Merino Sport 150 is pretty much the next best thing. Some of our member-testers even prefer the blend to 100% merino options. “I don’t know how to explain it, this one simply feels softer on my skin,” reports one. “And underwear is clothing where I particularly don’t want something to feel woolly and itchy.” We concur.  

One caveat: Designers saved a few dollars by eliminating the fly. Our staffers also note that although the wicking seems just as effective as pure merino wool, the Sport 150 doesn’t stay quite as fresh during continuous wear in the backcountry. Buy here.


A stalwart everyday staple, the Patagonia Sender boxer briefs receive glowing reviews from our staff for their comfortable fit and sustainable materials list. “It’s so comfy and breathable,” one customer reviewer says. “No more swampy feeling after walking to work in the summer. I truly stopped buying other underwear.”

In addition to its near-frictionless fit, the Sender is spun from 79% recycled nylon. (Nylon is highly durable, making it great for gear but hard on the planet, so using recycled nylon helps keep things like fishing nets and plastic bottles out of landfills.) It also features 11% spandex for elasticity and mesh (not unlike the pores on the SAXX Hot Shot) for breathability.

Another bonus: The Sender’s longer 6-inch inseam provides a modicum of modesty when performing double-duty as swimwear. Patagonia also imbued the shorts with an antimicrobial treatment from HeiQ; our member-testers found this superior to synthetic garments that lacked a similar treatment, but noted that the Sender developed a funk after a couple days of continuous backcountry wear. Buy here.

Classic briefs may not be as popular as boxer briefs, but they maintain near-cult status among the diehards. “Why waste weight on a few extra inches of fabric to cover your upper thighs, which are already covered by shorts or pants? It makes no sense,” laments one such member-tester.

Our staffers like the buttery-soft 87% polyester blend of the REI Co-op Everyday Briefs, calling it “a vast improvement over the standard cotton of our youth.” They also note that the 13% spandex helps the underwear retain its shape after several days in the field. The other perk: When rolled up, the featherweight Everyday Briefs take about half the space of a traditional pair of boxer briefs, so gram-counting backpackers can justify bringing a third pair on multiday epics. Buy here.


Shop All Men's Underwear 

Buying Advice

When choosing men’s underwear, consider the fit, material, inseam length, amount of support and fly (or lack thereof).

  • Fit: Some folks prefer the free-flowing nature of boxers, while others prefer the svelte silhouette of briefs. Consider what pants or shorts you’ll wear, as snug pants can cause undergarments to bunch underneath.
  • Material: You’ll choose among synthetic materials (like nylon or polyester), wool fibers (like merino) or a hybrid. Synthetic materials tend to cost less than merino, which naturally fights odor, wicks moisture and helps manage your body temperature. Different additives and fabric constructs may help synthetic fibers achieve similar levels of performance. You’ll almost always want an element of stretch, indicated by the presence of spandex or elastane.  Not only are stretchy materials more comfortable during high-aerobic activities, but they can help the garment retain its shape after multiple days of wear. In this guide, we recommend four synthetic blends and two wool blends. The synthetics are the ExOfficio Give-N-Go 2.0 Boxer Briefs, SAXX Hot Shot Boxer Briefs, Patagonia Sender Boxer Briefs and the REI Co-op Everyday Briefs. The woolen options are the Icebreaker Anatomica Cool-Lite Boxer Briefs and the Smartwool Merino Sport 150 Boxer Briefs.
  • Inseam Length: Longer inseams may help prevent chafing of your inner thighs, especially on big mileage days, but they can bunch up uncomfortably under pants if the fit isn’t exactly right. The REI Co-op Everyday Briefs, of course, have no inseams. The longest inseams in this guide appear in the Patagonia Sender Boxer Briefs at 6 inches. Most boxer brief inseams are in the ballpark of 4–5 inches.
  • Amount of Support: More is not necessarily better, especially if you have multiple layers (as in with winter activities), as the extra material can cause things to get crowded. Prioritize support for activities like running.
  • Fly or No Fly: It’s a simple detail, but it makes a difference if you’re pulling down your waistband to use the restroom while wearing a heavy pack with a tightly cinched hipbelt.

Our Process

We asked our crew of co-op staffers and member-testers for their favorite men’s underwear sold at REI, then vetted their nominations against purchase-verified online member reviews. We then culled the list down to these six trusted favorites.

Article by Will Rochfort. Will Rochfort is a freelance writer and photographer based in Carbondale, Colorado. His hobbies include backpacking, bikepacking and skiing with his wife and daughter, but he is mainly known for his rare ability to double-fist milkshakes prior to meals. REI member since 1998.

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