A Family RTW Travel Adventure (2008-2009)
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Underneath It All


My girlfriends all want to know: How many pairs of underwear am I taking on our around-the-world journey?

In my whole life, including all the slumber parties I attended as a girl and lingerie-themed wedding showers over the years, I have never talked so much about panties as I have in the last month.

In making a packing list for the trip, I began to understand the obsession with underwear. We’ve got to pack light because we intend to carry our belongings onto the plane, so every item we can delete from the packing list is a bonus.

Plus, lugging big bundles of clothes, cameras, computers, and books up arduous hillside trails to get to the family hostels we’ve booked won’t be easy. (In my imagination, the accommodations are always up arduous hillside trails…)

All along, I hadn’t worried about underwear heavying up the load. A few handfuls wouldn’t take up that much room, right? And what could be more important than a clean foundation?

But seeing everything actually stacked up and laid out for packing is alarming. Even the tiny mountain of cotton briefs can’t be entirely justified. For help, I turned to what has become our travel guru — the BootsnAll website.

On the BootsnAll discussion boards expert travelers debate underwear strategy in detail: I read about favorite brands, the pros and cons of cotton, and whether to go with thongs (that’s a no) or a modest boxer style to make “quick, public changes of clothes go more smoothly.” (Yikes!)

I have learned that, as with technological leaps in electronics, there has been great progress in underwear technology. We are advised to avoid, for this kind of journey, our dungarees and cotton clothing that could take hours and hours to dry on makeshift laundry racks and clotheslines.

Instead, experienced travelers buy cleverly engineered cloth that wicks moisture (essential for those hot days), offers sun protection (not as critical in undergarments to be sure), has odor control (a definite plus), and is made from recycled fibers (gotta be green!).

The other day my friend Laura gave me the perfect gift, a product that makes the following pitch:

“Seasoned travelers save room by packing just one or two pairs of our underwear. They wash one at night and wear the other. Great fit and comfort in the most important layer you will put on.”


Call me old-fashioned: I’m opting for two!


1 Scribetrotter { 06.02.08 at 7:02 am }

I’ve traveled long-term with two pairs – one to wash, one to wear. That’s really all you need. Cotton. By Tilley, a Canadian firm. They dry quickly, and no amount of washing seems to destroy them.

2 shirley { 06.02.08 at 8:47 am }

That about covers it. Thanks, Dani!

3 pam { 06.02.08 at 9:51 am }

Hilarious! We had this conversation during our travels in Asia. I had five sets, all cotton, no “performance” fibers – I don’t like that stuff next to my skin. My current faves are the Jockey boy shorts + Jockey sports bras. I probably could have packed less, but I was glad I had the extras because sometimes, it was so hot that I wanted to change at the end of the day before going to dinner. One to wash one to wear is AWESOME, but for me, I think I’d go for three, minimum. Humidity is a killer.

I never had trouble with drying stuff and I tend to wash my unmentionables in the sink before going to bed or heading out for the day – even in humid places they were (almost) always dry by morning.

4 Lynn Cook { 06.02.08 at 12:08 pm }

OK, now that you’ve broached the topic, I’ve been wondering about a few things myself, like: what if you need a bikini wax in Bankok? a pedicure in Peking? a tampon Timbuktu? Are these questions keeping you up at night?

5 Dani { 06.02.08 at 2:32 pm }

Yeah, I think Craig might change his mind about how we’ll definitely have room to bring not one, but two laptops along when he sees how much room a one-year supply of tampons for two takes up in our packs! As for pedicures, I’m making sure my feet won’t be photographed. And I don’t even get a bikini wax in DC—ouch! Hello boxer-style travel undies!

6 highland place { 06.02.08 at 3:30 pm }

Just curious, will Craig be opting out of thongs as well?

7 Craig { 06.02.08 at 3:51 pm }

I’m not changing any underwear habits… going commando, like always.

8 Nomadic Matt { 06.03.08 at 9:57 am }

Excellent craig!!

I brought 5 pairs of boxers with me on my RTW trip.

Going commando works too…don’t forget bathing suits can double as underwear!

9 Dani { 06.03.08 at 6:40 pm }

And vice-versa!

10 eunice { 06.04.08 at 1:23 am }

Just one pair? But underwear is only a small piece of cloth…


11 Soultravelers3 { 06.04.08 at 10:33 pm }

Ha ha! Getting down to the nitty gritty, eh? I am with Scribetrotter….two pairs are all you need. I went with 2 Tilleys and hubby has 2 exofficio…..kidlet got a small handful. Of course we are usually in an RV, so light does not matter as much to us….although we do often take just a small daypack each for months of travel away from the RV. Light as possible is a good thing, less is more, fast drying is essential. 😉 Hand wash in the shower, primarily with your feet….makes things easy. These things become second nature very quickly & part of the joy of extended travel is finding out how little you really need.

12 Linda in Oregon { 06.06.08 at 11:26 am }

Dani, you crack me up! Pun intended!

13 Linda in Oregon { 06.06.08 at 11:35 am }

Oh shoot – why can’t I edit my own comments? I meant to say “No pun intended!” Ok – now I’m just cracking myself up! : )

14 WanderingSean { 06.06.08 at 9:37 pm }

I’ve been testing Ex officio over the last 6 months–great stuff. I like the sales slogan but really.. 1 pair? They dry fast but not that fast. What happens when you’re traveling in a damp/rainy climate and nothing dries?

I have two ex officio t-shirts and 4 pairs of boxers–they dry faster than cotton and hold up better too.

When someone recommends taking only 1 or 2 pairs to save on space and weight I wonder how big their butt is. Take as many pairs as you want. My wife took 10 pairs to start the trip and half of them have disappeared in the laundry.

The pack will get lighter one way or other.

15 Will { 06.07.08 at 11:17 pm }

Oh man….I could go on and on with the underwear stories.
I once wrote an article entitled “12 days – one underwear” about the time I had packed all my underwear in my “check on bag” – that was palletized for a flight to the West Antarctic Ice Sheet…the flight was delayed for 12 days – then I was finally reunited – ah, the small comforts!

Synthetics are great! I really like my underarmor boxer briefs – quick dry, comfy – they don’t seem to get too stinky

Great site BTW! Looking forward to reading about the trip.

16 chris { 06.09.08 at 3:22 pm }

Dani is underwary.

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