You know what they say… A rock climber is only as good as his underwear. Well, we’re sure someone has said that (maybe).
In all seriousness, however, we often underplay the importance of underwear. Whereas we love talking about things like the best rock climbing pants and other more obvious articles of clothing, the secret to sending is often in the skivvies. When’s the last time you sent a hard proj with a wedgie?
We’re here to deliver 11 great underwear options that will feel so comfortable, you won’t even notice if your butt misses the crashpad (well, maybe not). Recommendations are unbiased and the buying links are affiliate links—purchases made from them support our free content.
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The Best Fabrics for Your Fanny
Let’s just start by saying: FORGET COTTON. While organic cotton certainly has a place in the closet (albeit a minimal one, if you’re a rock climber), it doesn’t belong in your underwear. Not only does cotton absorb moisture and dry slowly, it chafes if it gets wet. In other words, definitely not something you want to be wearing when you’re sweating hard or attempting to redpoint an X-Rated trad route.
That leaves us three options: merino wool, synthetic fibers (i.e. nylon, polyester), and plant-based cellulose fibers (Lyocell and Modal). We’ll brief-ly cover the primary differences.
Merino Wool: Merino wool is great underwear due to its unmatched softness, better feel when it gets wet, and naturally odor-resistant properties. People tend to shy away from wool because they think it’s harder to wash. These days, however, with fabric blends being what they are, as long as you aren’t machine drying your undies at inferno-level temperatures, they’re no more difficult to wash than synthetics (and can go longer between washes). On the negative side, it’s less durable and more costly than other fibers.
Synthetic Fibers: Synthetics may not feel as nice as wool if they get wet, but they’ll certainly dry faster. Synthetics are great if you want something durable, technical, and attainable on a dirtbag budget. The biggest downside here is that they’re not odor-resistant, nor are they antimicrobial. Some synthetic undergarments are now treated with anti-odor agents, but these do tend to wash out over time. It’s worth remembering that polyester tends to be more odor-resistant than nylon.
Tencel Lyocell / Modal: A product of Austria’s Tencel company, Lyocell and Modal are the new kids on the booty block, and represent the latest in eco-friendly fabric technology. Tencel is just the company that makes them. They’re made of the wood pulp of specific types of trees (eucalyptus or bamboo, and beech, respectively). Oh, and unlike bamboo viscose, they’re made in an eco-friendly closed-loop process. This means they’re environmentally friendly and compostable at the end of life, but function just as well as (if not better than) petroleum-based synthetics. Plus they’re ultra-breathable, pill-resistant, and 50% more absorbent than cotton.
Boxers or Briefs? What Cut is Best?
Why choose just one? For climbers, the answer is almost always unilaterally boxer-briefs (though we’re not discounting the importance of personal preference on this one). Boxers are the least ideal, because they’re baggy and have the tendency to bunch up more under a harness. Few things are less pleasant than bunched boxers in your crotch at the crux.
Men tend to shy away from briefs in general, but from an active perspective, having elastic situated right at the groin can cause uncomfortable chafing and binding.
Boxer-briefs embody the bests of both these cuts, with longer legs that resist chafing and a snug fit that provides a much slimmer feel under pants. Just note that the legs of boxer-briefs can still ride up and bunch at the crotch, especially with climbers who are known to pretzel their bodies into inhuman positions. That’s why when looking for the best men’s underwear for rock climbers, we paid special attention to reviews on this.
Other Skivvies Specs to Look For:
- Flatlock seams: This stitching style prevents itching and chafing.
- Waistband bulk: Something wide, slim, and unnoticeable even when squeezed under a harness is ideal.
- Tag design/placement: Hopefully underwear companies have gotten the memo that we don’t want an ultra-long tag by now, but it’s also important to pay attention to where the tag is. Is it on the waistband? Will it tickle your crack while you’re climbing one? The best underwear for rock climbing are those with no tag at all, instead replaced with a print right on the fabric.
Material: 89% recycled nylon / 11% spandex mesh
Cuts: Boxer-Briefs (6”), Boxers
If the name doesn’t cue you in as to why these underwear are on our list, we’ll help you out. Made of an ultra-stretchy micromesh made of mostly recycled nylon, these underwear are as breathable as they come, which is especially key if you’re planning on climbing any desert towers this summer. Their anti-roll waistband and “stay-put” leg design promise they won’t ride up or get out of place no matter how high of a foot you try to use. Top that off with flatlock seams and a supportive countered pouch and you have a recipe for some seriously comfy undies.
Plus, the fact that these bear the bluesign® certification should put you at ease. It means that no harmful chemicals were used in fabric processing. We don’t know about you, but toxic chemicals are something we’d prefer to keep far away from our sensitive areas.
Cons for these underwear according to reviews are that they aren’t as durable as others on the list. The fabric is reported to get runs if it gets snagged.
EXOFFICIO GIVE-N-GO 2.0
Material: 94% nylon / 6% Lycra spandex
Cuts: Briefs, Boxer-Briefs (3”, 6”, 9”), Boxers
Based on reviews and best-selling status, the ExOfficio Give-N-Go series is a clear winner in terms of color and design, cut variety, and price point. It’s also available in two different options: a standard or Sport Mesh model. The latter offers a lighter and more breathable fabric blend at some sacrifice to durability.
Both varieties still feature a Stretch diamond-weave mesh fabric that’s highly stretchy, moisture-wicking, and fast-drying. On top of all that, it’s been treated with Silvadur odor-resistant treatment that appears to work well enough at keeping the funk out of your junk. While there may be some trade-off between durability and affordability, the ExOfficio Give-N-Go series is still a highly well-received and comfortable option perfect for rock climbing and outdoor endeavors of all kinds.
ARC’TERYX PHASE SL
Material: 100% polyester
Made of Arc’teryx’s silk-weight Phasic SL, these snug fit underwear feature a front flap-free design for greater support despite the scant fabric. Weighing 2.3 Oz, these underwear are the lightest, fastest drying, and most packable outdoor underwear on the market, making them the best suited for high output climbing and hot temps. Or, you know, if you like to pack a pair of extras just in case you pull a Jason Kruk (if you know, you know…)
While the pure polyester construction gives these boxer-briefs tons of stretch and ride-up resistance, they won’t possess much odor-blocking power. While they are treated with an antimicrobial coating, reviews note it tends to fade after repeated washing.
Material: 95% Tencel lyocell / 5% spandex
Cuts: Boxer-briefs (3”, 6”), Boxers
With an anti-roll waistband, contoured pouch, and flatlock seaming, Patagonia promises their Essential lightweight boxer briefs won’t pinch, change, or bind. The primary Tencel construction gives these a breathable cotton-like quality, with none of the downsides. That means these sustainable underwear are particularly suited for climbing in hot conditions.
SMARTWOOL MERINO 150
Material: 87% merino / 13% nylon
Cut: Boxer-briefs (4.75”), Boxers
If merino wool is favored by your fanny, you can’t go wrong with Smartwool’s Merino 150 boxer-briefs. These babies consistently find themselves atop “best underwear” lists and for good reason. Utilizing Smartwool’s lightest merino wool blend, these provide near unmatched next-to-skin comfort while also bearing anti-odor and temperature regulatory properties. Climbers and alpinists will appreciate the fully functional fly, flatlock seams, and a chafe-free smooth waistband. For colder climbing days or high output climbing activity in cold temps, these are by far the best option available.
For gents who prefer to hang a little looser, they also come in boxers that are flowy without being bunchy and baggy.
Alternatively, you can also try the Sport 150 version, which shrinks the wool percentage closer to a 50/50 blend by wrapping the wool around a synthetic core. This adds a bit more durability while still giving you all the natural benefits of merino.
Material: 95% Modal / 5% spandex
Cut: Boxer Briefs (3.5”, 6.5”, 8”)
If you’re looking for an option that’s both durable and breathable, try on a pair of BN3TH Classics bn3th your clothes. Made of highly absorbent and pill-resistant Modal with just a touch of spandex for stretch, these underwear are designed to move with the wearer, without compromising on the lifespan of the garment. A couple pairs of these could last a dirtbag for years and years.
The supportive MyPakage Technology™ provides all-day comfort and security, eliminating the need for adjustments. The design also includes a no-rub tag, 2-layer pucker panel design, seam-free crotch, and luxury knit 1.38 in. wide waistband you’ll hardly notice under a harness, let alone under your pants. Plus, these boxer-briefs come in so many fun colors and patterns that you may well want to take off more than your shirt when getting ready to send.
STANCE POLY BLEND
Material: 90% polyester / 10% elastane
Cut: Boxer-brief (7”)
For dirtbags on a budget (so all dirtbags, really) the Stance Poly Blend boxer-briefs are an excellent affordable option. At only $20 a pair, even the poorest of dirtbags can spring for a pair of these. Despite this low price point, they deliver a surprising level of active performance and are available in all sorts of bright and funky colors. “Comfortable and colorful” is Stance’s theme.
While they aren’t as breathable as the likes of the Arc’teryx Phasic SL or as odor-resistant as merino wool, they are incredibly fast drying and comfortable down to the wide, no-rub Core-flex waistband. They also feature a feather-seam system that doesn’t rub but may not hold up as well as other seam systems on this list.
Note that these are only available in a longer 7” inseam. While a glance at the reviews put any ride-up and bunching concerns to rest, longer inseams are definitely a more specific preference. But if you like thorough thigh support, Stance is the best brand available.
Material: Butter-blend™ milk protein fabric
Cut: Boxer brief (6”)
You might be wondering, “What the heck is milk protein fabric?!” Or better yet, “Do I want it anywhere near my privates?” Milk protein fiber is made by blending casein protein with acrylonitrile, which generates a fabric somewhere between a cellulosic one (i.e. Lyocell or Modal) and merino wool. That means it’s not quite as durable as synthetics, reviews note that these do pill over time between the thighs but they provide unmatched fit and comfort.
Combine that silky-soft Butter-blend™ fabric with a wedgie-proof seamless butt, Feather-Seam™ construction, exposed elastic Core-flex™ waistband, and inner holstering pouch, it’s no wonder reviewers claim these are the most comfortable underwear they’ve ever worn. Between the barely-there fit and feel and the fun patterns Stance is known for, these underwear have so many great things going on.
Material: 97% polyester / 3% elastane
Cut: Boxer-brief (5”)
Boulderers, this one is for you. The Saxx Daytripper, so named because they “strike a balance between active and casual wear,” is great for being active, but not overly active… so bouldering! Being just a touch less breathable than others on the list, these durable boxer-briefs excel in low to moderate output activities, while providing superb next-to-skin comfort all day and night.
The Saxx patented BallPark Pouch™ provides friction-free support without being overly tight and restrictive to your, um, ballpark. The design includes thoughtful features like a 3D fit and a 9-panel design sewn together with flatlock seams with the softer side pointed inwards. There’s also a fly for more convenient potty breaks in between bouldering crags where finding a spot to pee privately is challenging enough. Just ask your lady friends.
Material: 95% modal / 5% spandex
Cut: Boxer-brief (3”)
Whereas the comparable Stance Vibe underwear are made of primary viscose, these babies are made of Modal, which means they’re not only far more environmentally friendly to make, but much more comfortable to wear. As we mentioned above, Modal is an amazing fabric. It’s soft, light, moisture-wicking, and fast-drying. Now consider that the Saxx Platinum underwear are 95% of this fantastic fabric. The 5% spandex is just to add enough stretch to really move with you.
With a special knit moisture-wicking waistband, Three-D fit articulation, flatlock seams, and a roomy Ballpark Pouch front pouch complete with a fly, these outdoor underwear are comfortable, convenient, and suitable for all manner of outdoor activities. Since they’re available in either solid colors of Saxx’s famously flamboyant prints, there’s even a design to suit all fanny fashions.
ICEBREAKER BODYFIT ANATOMICA ZONE
Material: 50% merino wool / 33% Tencel / 12% nylon / 5% Lycra
Cut: Boxer Briefs (5.5” or 7”)
An upgrade to Icebreaker’s basic BodyFit 150 Ultralite Anatomicas, the Anatomic Zone skews the wool-to-synthetic ratio away from wool by using CoreSpun technology. This means they wrap wool fibers around a nylon core in order to add some durability. All while keeping enough wool to ensure these underwear are super soft to the touch, odor-resistant, and temperature regulatory. While the Tencel fabric blend already does a lot for sweat-wicking capabilities, they also bear mesh ventilation panels in high heat areas, like just above the crack. We like to keep our crack sweat limited to sweating on an actual crack route, thank you very much.
These high-performance boxer-briefs feature a seamless gusseted design, flatlock seams, and a contoured pouch that “gives plenty of room to your crown jewels.” What’s not to love about a company that embraces the humor of their own product?
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