Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Twigs and Berries, a Conversation to Avoid Neglect



Yes, if I'm willing to have a multi-part series on the value of a good poop-scoop, then it's probably no surprise that I have no shame in addressing the value of good underwear too.



If you haven't been victimized by chaffing, you're really missing out on a wonderful experience of pain tolerance. Chaffing, specifically thigh-on-thigh chaffing is a very unpleasant experience. In fact, it can ruin a hike. Despite being armed with Hydropel and wearing ExOfficio boxer briefs which I thought were sufficient, a couple summers ago I got the pleasure of feeling what I described as being bit in the crotch by a rabid Rottweiler which took a couple weeks to heal. Simply, it hurt to walk and there was really no good way to deal with it other than by being patient and sitting quite patiently in an exposed and vulnerable position.


In the end, for my situation anyway, the most help I could gain to ensure it didn't happen again was to be more selective with my underwear choices. For this reason, I'm going to propose three solutions. First, as mentioned by Ray Jardine and others, simple spandex or polyester "biking" shorts can do double duty as both shorts and underwear. If you can find some treated with silver, you'll gain better anti-microbial properties. Second, as I mentioned in another blog, I've also had some luck wearing very wispy shorts with interior netting for support. The ventilation helps tremendously and as long as you can keep the fabric from bunching up it might just be a good option for you. That leads me to my third point, proper fitting underwear.



As I mentioned, in the past I used ExOfficio snug-fitting boxer briefs which are pretty common in hiking and traveling circles. For me, they simply didn't work well enough for me to keep using them. I then moved on to a pair of Under Armor boxer briefs which were far more robust, more snug fitting, and did their job better. The problem is they run $20-$30 per pair. Simply - this is ridiculous.

For quite a while I've been searching for something on par with Under Armor. About six months ago I stumbled across what I would later learn to be their replacement. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find them again until very recently and I elected not to blog about them until I was able to say they were still being made and could be found by my readers.






So here's the best option I could find...which I prefer over Under Armor. They are significantly cheaper, slightly lighter, and craftsmanship and materials are on par. Yes, and they do the job. Under the STARTER brand name and only available at Walmart, check out the Active-Pro Performance 6" Boxer Brief. They are just $8.88, come in a variety of sizes, and honestly, they are the best underwear I've owned for backpacking as they are just as robust as UA, but just slightly thinner which is helpful for quick drying. Here's the thing....you can't find them online and I've learned that some Walmart stores have them while others do not. Simply, you need to put in the time to try to find them. They exist. Some Walmart's have a huge section dedicated to them while others only have the cotton version.

Butt Paste, zinc, and other baby-related creams go a long way too, but that's for another discussion.  I even know of one hiker who dabs alcohol from cotton swabs onto the irritated area.  He claims it hurts tremendously, but quickly makes all the pain go away.

Happy trails.

16 comments:

James Bradburn said...

I have had similar experience and although I use UA boxer briefs for daily wear, I find they can chafe when there are miles of walking envolved. Chafing occurs for me either from skin to skin contact or fabric to skin contact. so the boxer briefs would gather in a crease and cause chafing. The system I use is UA loose boxers which are almost like basketball shorts. They can be worn as shorts or under hiking shorts. I prefer to wear a hiking short over them that is more snag resistant against brush and thorns. The fabric has enough weight to not ride up into the nether regions, which means there is only skin to skin contact. If any hot spots develop i then apply skin lube, or I start my day with some. I have used this for hiking the pct as well as marathons and other races and have been able to avoid chaffing.

Jolly Green Giant said...

@ James - Good point. On another blog I mentioned using loose fitting shorts with an interior netting which offered exellent ventilation and worked fine for me as long as the fabric didn't bunch up. I updated this post to reflect that experience. Thanks for mentioning it. I like your blog. Keep up the good work.

Stick's Blog said...

I am mostly one of the lucky ones. I have had some very slight chaffing, but never nothing seriously debilitating... I learned my lesson a while back before I started hiking about proper underwear for long distance walking, particularly in the heat! So, once I started backpacking (just a few short years ago) I decided that I didn't want to skimp on some good undies! So, I went with what seemed to be popular the Ex O Boxer Briefs. I found them to be fine but when I got my second pair (gotta change those things out on multi day hikes!) I decided to try some of the UA boxer briefs. In comparison, the UA's fit more comfy for me but they both seem to perform the same.

I like the look of those Starter undies though. I will have too look for them next time I hit up Wally world. However, how long are the leggings? I believe that the Ex O's and the UA's I have are 6" and I don't think I would want any that are any shorter than that.

Thanks for the heads up though!

jephoto said...

http://krudmeister.blogspot.com/2010/10/chafe.html

Jolly Green Giant said...

@ Stick - Yup, 6". If you blow up the one picture of the box, you'll see it written on the front. They're a really great buy and honestly I can't tell the difference between UA. Good luck.

velohobo.com said...

Chafing is a common problem biking as well. I usually carry a little travel size container of Gold Bond or similar talc. On longer hikes and rides, keeping shorts and undies laundered and dried is important to kill bacteria. I’ll carry a tiny bit of biodegradable soap to hand wash clothes if I’m out for more than a few days.

Great post and an important topic!

Jack

Hendrik Morkel said...

I also belong to the lucky ones who haven't experienced this problem. I use (on overnighters) Bamboo boxers from a Finnish Brand, which do the job. On longer trips, I wear a pair of Finisterre Merino boxers, which are absolutely perfect but very expensive (as is common with Merino garments).

Starter was a very popular brand back in Germany as I was young, they made all those hip jackets from NBA, NHL and Baseball Teams and every kid aspired to get one of them (after working many weekends and saving for what felt like ages, I also was able to afford one - I wonder if it is still in my cupboard in Germany =)

Jolly Green Giant said...

@ Hendrik - I wouldn't say Starter has the best following in the US. It's essentially a Walmart brand and I can't say many people I know wear Starter for anything more than gym outfits. I was surprised, and impressed with the underwear. So far so good.

The efficacy of bamboo is something I think needs long term study as it is really enticing and definitely as a spot in the backpacking community.

Jolly Green Giant said...

@ Jack - Good point about Gold Bond. I believe that's a tip in Mike Clelland's Ultralight Backpackin' Tips books. On Friday I actually looked for a travel size, but didn't find it. Course, I'd just repackage it anyway. I should give that thought a shot. Thanks for stopping by and I like the photos on your site.

Keith said...

Last year I was able to buy Starter polypro long baselayer for hiking. It was about $10USD a piece and works great. I have a couple of their tight and loose poly shirts that I like hiking in. I have been looking for something summer weight, but have not seen the boxer briefs. I will keep an eye out. Thanks.

Philip Werner said...

Hydropel burns when you put it on severely chafed skin. I prefer zinc oxide for chafing (and monkey butt). 200 million babies can't be wrong. Yep zinc oxide is one of my 11 essentials, and under armor boxers shorts.

Jolly Green Giant said...

@ Philip - Got to agree with you there. In the spring I made the switch to zinc, Monkey Butt actually as we were given quite a few tubes when my kids were born and they barely used any of it. The Zinc is much cheaper anyway, goes on a little thicker, and can be used for other things too. I haven't done a lot of backpacking this summer (bum knee, surgery Friday), so for me I'll need to realy jump in with it later this year.

Danielle said...

Just joined your blog and wanted to say: my husband got a few pair of those same starter 'shorts' for a 6 day A.T. hike a few years ago and now they are his go-to pair for any hiking and cycling he does! He got lucky though because they were the first brand he tried.

Triple F said...

I'm an ultra runner as well as a hiker . . . and as you can guess I have gotten a 'real-world' PhD on chafing! Seriously!

After using a wide variety of solutions I have found one that I now use as both a preventative AND to relieve the pain of chafing when it does occur. The magic answer is Desitin . . . that's right the baby diaper stuff. Don't leave home without it!

Tim Pettigrew said...

I've looked everywhere I can't find these underwear I own them but all of them are starting to develop holes in the thigh area. These are the only underwear that ever seemed to fit perfect around every area. If i order underarmour they do not fit right on the butt. This material on the starter underwear is the stretchiest and most comfortable underwear I have ever owned I AM SO angry I can't find them anymore.

If anybody knows where to look please let me know!

Jolly Green Giant said...

@ Tim - I'm completely with you. I've been looking for them for quite some time. As best as I can tell, they're gone. Starter won't return my emails either.