When considering what clothing to take on previous trips, travel-specific underwear was not top on my list of priorities. But, as anyone who has tried to dry their clothes in a stuffy, humid hostel room will attest, cotton is not the best material to use on the road. I decided to give travel underwear a go to see if they were as good as they were claimed to be.
Here in New Zealand, we don’t have the same level of access to travel apparel as our American and British cousins do. A few outdoor clothing companies stock items from Patagonia, North Face, PraNa etc, but the selection is limited. I couldn’t find any stores here stocking the popular Exofficio brand of underwear. What we do have is Icebreaker; a quality New Zealand brand of merino wool clothing that receives consistently excellent reviews. I already owned a couple of their products (a dress and leggings), so I knew their clothing was of a high calibre. I purchased the black Siren Botanical Hipkini (bikini briefs) , and the pink Siren Fern Hipkini with matching Tank.
Icebreaker’s Siren underwear range is made from some of their lightest weight merino – 150 Bodyfit, with 4% lycra for a close fit. This thin, yet strong and durable material is breathable and wicks moisture away from the skin, keeping you dry and comfortable in hot, humid conditions.
Merino wool is known for its anti-bacterial properties, so usually doesn’t hold odour. That being said, this is still underwear. Don’t expect to get the same multiple wears out of these like you can with other merino clothing. Thankfully though, merino is also pretty quick drying – especially in the lighter weights. Except perhaps in extreme climates, they should easily dry overnight after washing in the evening.
The Siren hipkinis are supremely comfortable. I’ll go so far as to say they’re the most comfortable underwear I’ve ever owned. They’re soft, they don’t itch at all and they stay right where they’re supposed to (if you know what I mean).
Beautifully soft on the skin, the Siren Fern Tank is lovely to wear underneath a shirt or dress for a pop of colour and added warmth. It also lives up to its odour-free claim, so you can get multiple wears out of it before it needs washing. As it’s currently Winter here in New Zealand’s chilly South Island, I wear mine most days, either to sleep in or to add core warmth during the day.
However, a common complaint with the lighter merino weights is that they are too sheer, particularly in the lighter colours. I certainly found this to be the case with the pink tank. While it’s nice to sleep in when at home or staying in a private room, don’t go wearing one in a dorm! When travelling light you want clothing that can be worn in a variety of situations, so a tank top that can only be worn in private or as an undershirt is just not good enough. Icebreaker themselves claim the top can be worn on its own, but I don’t feel this is an accurate statement.
In all fairness though, the Siren range is of high quality and is brilliant as an insulating under layer. If the sheerness isn’t a concern for you and you are looking for ultra-thin, thermal layers to wear at home or while travelling in extreme cold, then do check these out. The range also includes camis, t-shirts and long-sleeve shirts.
For light travellers, Icebreaker’s Tech Tank line would be a more practical option. They are made with 100% merino wool (no lycra), with a looser fit and are more opaque. They’re designed to be worn alone in the heat, or layered under heavier clothing, so I would suggest going for one of these instead. I hope to write a review on the Tech Tank later in the year once the summer line is released.
Are travel underwear worth your money?
At NZ$39.95/US$29.99 each, Icebreaker’s Siren underwear are certainly on the high side. But if you’ll be moving around frequently, or travelling to humid countries, you’ll need underwear that is quick drying, so do consider getting a couple pairs. Minimalists who want to travel as light as possible will love these.
What do you think of travel underwear? Do you think they’re worth it?