EXPERT OPINION: Travel Underwear Out of Touch

The dedicated traveller is a demographic somewhat overlooked in the underwear industry. These hardscrabble men put extremely high demands on all their gear, as it needs to be sturdy enough to withstand whatever the voyage throws their way, yet lightweight enough not to burden an already overloaded backpack or suitcase. We found a seasoned traveller who approached this problem in a post at HubPages with the type of inquiry and expertise we at the Underwear Expert appreciate, and caught up with him for a few questions. We’ll be following up on this article with travel underwear options, so stay tuned.

Underwear Expert:  When you talk about travel underwear, do you mean underwear for hiking and backpacking in the woods, or for visiting other countries?

Traveller: I’m more of a traveler than an outdoorsy mountain climber, but the products are the same in either case. Both types of people need something moisture-wicking and fast-drying, so you can wear it all day, no matter how hot or cold it might be, then wash it in the sink or the rain and hang it up to dry overnight.

Underwear Expert: Where do you travel to most often?

Traveller: I’ve been to Eastern Europe pretty extensively, with shorter trips to South America, Asia, and Western Europe. The list of upcoming destinations seems to grow, rather than shrink. The more you travel, the more you realize there’s more out there to see.

Underwear Expert: Why do travelers need such high-performance underwear?

Traveller: After the first major foray into the world of international travel, which was in the dead of winter with woefully inadequate equipment due to inexperience and lack of funding (I was still a teenager at the time), I have since traveled with nothing more than a 15 pound daypack that fits in the overhead compartment on the plane, even on trips requiring summer and winter clothing, never with a need for anything more.

The only way to do this is to bring a bare minimum of clothing that can be hand washed, quickly and easily, and hung up to dry overnight. High-quality performance fabrics will also keep you cooler on a hot day, and summertime is when most people travel. It even helps in the winter too, when the fabric will speed the moisture away from your body and keep you from getting too cold.

Underwear Expert: What is the number one thing that bothers you about travel underwear as it is right now?

Traveller: Because of the high cost and relatively limited options, it’s hard to find The One. Proper fit is subjective, and if you try out half a dozen brands, you could easily spend over $100 on products that don’t work at all, and aren’t easy to return. Sometimes it’s the fabric, sometimes it’s the fit–certain companies look like they’re trying to get creative with the seam layout or whatever, ignoring human anatomy in the process.

Underwear Expert:  What would you like to see available in travel underwear?

Traveller: One weird thing about the outdoor industry is that they spend zero effort catering to ordinary people, particularly in terms of style. Travel or sport underwear is often unnecessarily styled in strange ways, eschewing tried and true patterns that companies have been selling for decades to pleasantly satisfied customers. Some designs feature seams in all the wrong places, and if you’re out in the woods with no other options, it gets irritating rather quickly.

Fit is subjective, of course, so I’d like to see far more options, both in terms of fit and fabric, at lower prices.

Underwear Expert: How would you rank the different kinds of fabric?

Traveller: There’s a huge amount of variety even among the same material, so one form of polyester might feel completely different from another, which is why it’s important to check it out in a store, or find free shipping. So far, a Brazilian company called Lupo makes the most comfortable fabric I can find.

Generally all of these products are made of some sort of polyester or nylon, and both work quite well, though I’ve found most outdoorsy brands tend to make products that look and feel rather synthetic. There have been new microfibers such as tencel and modal which are becoming increasingly common, so maybe we’ll see some new developments someday.

Underwear Expert: Is travel underwear suited for daily activities, or is it too specialized for that?

Traveller: I don’t understand why travel underwear isn’t more common. Who doesn’t want a fabric that keeps their temperature regulated and speeds bodily moisture away?

I think the issue is simply that people don’t really know or care about options besides cotton, or they have air conditioning. But any intense activity will be made easier by performance fabrics.

I think that with the recent popularization of fitness apparel as casual wear (Under Armour and Lululemon in particular), increasing numbers of people will become spoiled on high-performance fabrics, and the demand will grow for more affordable performance products appropriate for everyday use. This will have its own tangential benefit by reducing demand for cotton, which requires a disturbing, disproportionately high volume of water and pesticides. Plus we’ll all be more comfortable.

Underwear Expert: What do you wear most often?

Traveller: I cycle through a few pieces from Patagonia, Wickers, Arcteryx, Champion and others. I have yet to find something I find entirely flawless, but yearn for the day when I discover the perfect specimen, so I can buy two dozen pairs and throw out all the old ones.


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