Gear Guy

Active Hipster     Photo: courtesy, Patagonia

Q:

Which underwear performs best for active women?

I’m headed out to Quetico for little over a week, and I need women's underwear that will last a long time, limit chafing, dry fast, and rinse well. Any suggestions? Nicole Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin

A:Sounds lovely. Quetico, as many readers know, is a provincial park in Ontario that borders Minnesota’s famous Boundary Waters. It offers great canoeing and fishing in a beautiful setting. And it’s also sort of humid and buggy. So you want underwear that’s light, dries fast, washes easily, and is comfortable (Wait! That’s exactly what you said, isn’t it?).

I’d probably start with Patagonia’s Capilene 1 (formerly Silkweight). I’ve found that it’s an excellent warm-weather material, as it’s made from recycled polyester that is exceptionally soft and comfortable, manages sweat well, and dries quickly. Something such as the Capilene 1 Tank Top ($32) would be a good start, along with a Capilene Mesh Bra ($35), which doesn’t look out of place worn as a top on warm days. Add to that the Patagonia Active Hipster ($20) and you’re all set.

A lot of the chafing from traditional underwear bottoms comes from the leg bands. To avoid that altogether, try a boy-short style. Smarty Pants, for example, sit comfortably below the waistline and come down over the tops of your thighs, eliminating the often-chafing leg bands in that oh-so-sensitive area. This design also means they stay put during active pursuits. Like much outdoors clothing, Smarty Pants wick sweat, resist odor, and dry quickly.

Other makers also are turning out top-flight, warm-weather underwear. REI’s Lightweight MTS V-Neck ($24), designed for women, is made from polyester (a material that doesn’t absorb much moisture) so it dries fast and wicks well. And it has an SPF factor of 50, so the sun can’t get to you. For something a little more stylish (no reason not to look good!) take a look at the Isis First Class Tank ($34), a lightweight tank with a touch of stretch in its polyester material that comes in solid colors as well as some nice prints. Isis also makes some very fine undergarments, such as the Peony Bra ($28), with chafe-free construction and a special finish that helps transfer moisture

Whatever you choose, get two sets—one to wear, one to have drying after a wash.

Have a great trip!

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