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Gear Guy

Which briefs are best for chafe-free hiking?

I’ve always made do with cotton briefs when hiking, but I’m tired of the chafe factor and that ensuing wide-legged walk. I’m planning a trip into Montana’s Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness and need your recommendation for irritation-free hiking (especially since the well-known brands go for $25 a pair). Suggestions? Brian Billings, Montana


Hmmm. I was just checking the forecast for West Yellowstone, not too terribly far from where you’re going, and they expect snow next week! So I’m sure you’ll have a great trip, but as you no doubt know (being from Montana), it’s apt to be chilly.

Patagonia Active Boxer Briefs

Active Boxer Briefs

So, I’ll be brief: You need different briefs. I mean, cotton? They must never dry out when you’re hiking and sweating. I haven’t worn cotton underwear while doing anything except writing Gear Guy columns for years.

You can go into any outdoor or sporting goods store and choose from a wide array of undershorts in synthetic materials such as DuPont Coolmax or polypropylene. All will work well. But a few materials and designs stand out. Ex Officio’s Below the Belt Briefs ($18; are a trimly cut model made from nylon and Spandex that dry fast and are treated with an antimicrobial. Very nice. For something a little warmer, try REI’s Midweight MTS Briefs ($16;, which use a polyester fabric that wicks extremely well so you don’t chafe.

That hot design in men’s underwear, however, is the boxer brief. These are shaped like boxers, but are a little shorter and use stretchy materials so they hug the body. The result is a brief that has plenty of support and that does away with seams around any sensitive areas. Patagonia’s Active Boxer Briefs ($26; are an excellent example of this design. They’re very comfortable and fast-drying, maybe the perfect brief for a trip such as yours.

Check out this year’s more than 400 must-have gear items, including a comprehensive hiking section, in the 2006 Buyer’s Guide.

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Filed To: Base Layer
Lead Photo: courtesy, Patagonia