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Having a solid collection of underwear that packs up small is the foundation of an excellent travel wardrobe. With seven months of traveling – from the South American Andes to Scandinavia – firmly behind me, I’ve learned a thing or two about packing efficiently and for maximum comfort.
While most of my advice for packing changes depending on your age, profession, length of travel, and style, the advice that follows is universal, whether you’re a 19-year-old backpacker or a 65-year-old wine-worshipper. (Though, yes, this is directed toward people who do own boobs and don’t consider turning their underwear inside out for a second wear an option.)
So if you’re staring at your underwear drawer and suitcase and back again, wondering where to start, don’t get your knickers in a twist (sorry, had to) I’ve got the five rules of what underwear to pack right here:
1. Natural fabrics. Always.
You might be tempted to get something cute or fun in a sheer mesh fabric. Don’t. I have a couple things like this with me and they are the last things left before laundry day, because whether in hot, sticky weather, or on a long plane ride, or curling up with a book next to a wood-burning fireplace somewhere in the mountains, polyester underwear is just never the right choice. Your booty wants to be swathed in organic cotton, bamboo, or lyocell.
Plus, as I wrote for Refinery29, synthetic (polyester) and certain semi-synthetic (rayon, viscose) textiles are more apt to pick up and hold a funky smell from down there. While at home you might have quick access to a drawer full of undies and a washing machine, having odor-wicking undies becomes twice as important when you’re traveling, can’t change your clothes for a solid 20 hours, and need to hang dry your delicates on your balcony.
2. Nudes and black.
Speaking of hang-drying on the balcony, undies in neutrals and blacks are less likely to attract attention than pink-and-yellow polka dot undies swaying in the breeze. (Or blown to the ground in the hotel courtyard, yikes!) You can bundle white and black undies in with the socks and preclude some awkward moments when the other AirBnB guest is trying not to notice your fancy pants peeking out of the bundle in your hands.
But on an even more practical level, when you have a limited amount of space, you want your underwear and bras to be as versatile as possible. Stick to mostly nudes, which you can wear under literally any outfit – sheer-ish dress, white blouse, jeans – then definitely something matching black for when you find yourself in a hammock with a cute South African backpacker. Or, like me, when you want to remind your partner that you still have a sexy, mysterious side, even after they took care of you when you ate that ill-advised street food.
Have my standards dropped for what qualifies as sexy? Yes, but boning and thigh highs are not in the cards right now.
I have the above left and right undies with me on this trip. They are the bomb.
3. Low-cut and seamless.
I really got into high-waisted undies last year, and I decided I wanted to wear them, like, every day. But I’ve found myself never wearing the two pairs I brought along. That’s because not all of my pants and skirts are high-waisted. Instead, go for low-cut underwear that is as seamless as possible, so that you don’t find yourself trying to tuck your underwear into your jeans, like I’ve been doing. (I’m nothing if not elegant.)
4. Supportive but not stiff.
I like using a small stuff sack for my underwear, so the more stuff-able my undies are, the better. Bralettes and thongs excel in this area, though I thoroughly enjoy the ongoing support that the boning in my White Rabbit bra gives me. It’s a balance, since that boning means the bra won’t stretch out and will last a lot longer than a bralette. What I’m definitely not ever going to pack is a bra with padded cups. That is way too much volume…for my boobs or my suitcase. That’s just me, though. The padded bra (center above) is great because the pads slip right out if you find you don’t like them!
5. 8 undies and 3 bras.
The underwear and bras pictured above are all you need!
You don’t need to wash your bras everyday, so only bring three everyday bras (excluding sports bras, of course). Also, if you feel comfortable going braless, you absolutely should, especially in the tropics. It’s a great feeling. If you don’t feel comfortable, then invest in a convertible strapless bra, like the one pictured above, for your tanks and sundress.
As far as undies, eight pairs should do ya. Any less, and you might find yourself desperately fanning a few dry in a humid jungle. But eight is enough to see you through a week and give you time to wash a few in case you can’t find a washing machine in the meantime.
Any other tips you would share about packing undies for a trip or two? Please share in the comments!