You’re about to go on a hike and you have a pair of swim trunks. They’re lightweight, fit you perfectly, look stylish, and can get wet. Just imagine how good your swim trunks will look in photos. You have also seen some other hikers wear swim trunks on your past hikes. Is it okay to wear swim trunks on your next hike?
While unconventional, you can hike in swim trunks. Swim trunks provide airflow to your legs, are lightweight, and dry quickly if they get wet. However, the material, the extra netting, and lack of flexibility of swim trunks can cause for an uncomfortable hike on longer hikes.
You can technically get away with hiking in swim trunks, however the drawbacks can outweigh the pros. If you are hiking with swim trunks test them out with a shorter hike since the drawbacks can make for a very uncomfortable time on a long hike. While the idea of hiking in swim trunks can be fun, we recommend not hiking with them on hikes over five miles. I have hiked in swim trunks before on short trails in Hawaii and other coastal trails, but would regret the choice on longer hikes.
Pros and Cons of Hiking in Swim Trunks
Swim trunks are designed great for swimming, they are lightweight and very comfortable. Swim trunks also have the netting for the groin area. This is good for underwear to support your groin area, but can cause problems when hiking. This extra netting is not needed for hiking and can create a lot of discomfort. As you swim you are moving your legs side by side or in circles so you probably don’t think much about the netting.
Once you start trying to walk long distances in swim trunks you will begin to notice the netting. It will be rubbing against your inner thighs and groin area. Over a short distance, the rubbing might feel negligible, but extrapolate that over more than four miles and you might be in for a day of chafing on your inner thighs. This will be a very uncomfortable experience. This is why I highly recommend testing out your swim trunks on a short one mile hike before committing to a longer hike.
Swim trunks are slim and not bulky which makes them attractive to wear instead of normal shorts. However they are not designed to be sweat in and be used to be walked in over a long distance. Although they will allow airflow to your legs from the leg openings, they aren’t exactly breathable. As you sweat the moisture will be trapped. Swim trunks also do not have moisture-wicking design so the sweat will stay in the same areas. Combine the lack of breathability, the sweat getting trapped, and the potential chafing will leave your legs rubbed raw by the end of a longer hike.
Since swim trunks aren’t breathable you can also feel your legs feeling very warm as you hike. This heat will generate even more sweat and the cycle feeds into itself the further you get into your hike. On the few hikes I’ve been on where I wore swim trunks, my thighs felt very hot and quickly became sweaty. I would avoid them on a hot day and a long hike.
Swim trunks are made to get wet, but that doesn’t mean they should get wet during your hike. As you sweat the material will absorb your sweat and create a barrier to block airflow. The material of swim trunks is also not water proof, so if it rains then your swim trunks will act as a giant sponge. The cold water will make your legs cold and could leave to shiver. While swim trunks can dry quickly, you want to avoid getting them wet in the first place. You will be very uncomfortable once your swim trunks get wet and soggy.
You should be fine to hike in your swim trunks if the forecast calls for sunny or cloudy skies with no rain. If you have any streams or rivers to cross or if you know your hike has a lake or body of water to jump into then swim trunks are the perfect choice. You’ll be able to cross or enter the body of water and then quickly squeeze the water out of your pants. Just be mindful of having a long hike back if you go swimming in your swim trunks. The swim trunks won’t dry fast enough for a long return hike.
Hiking in swim trunks is technically possible, there is no rules against it but knowing when you should and shouldn’t use them is important. If you decide to hike in swim trunks there are a few additional things you should bring on your hike to protect your legs and body.
What Else Should You Bring If You Hike in Swim Trunks?
The first thing you should throw in your pack is bug spray. While swim trunks can protect your legs when you are under wear and protect your thighs, bugs will come swarming for your knees and lower legs. Nothing is worst than coming home and feeling like your legs have been feasted on by bugs after a hike. A quick spray of bug repellent on your pants and legs should keep the pests away.
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Another quick addition to your pack should be some good old sun block. Your swimming trunks will block your thighs from the sun, but your knees and shins will be completely exposed. If you are hiking at high altitude then you will be closer to the sun and the suns rays will be stronger, so the chances of getting sun burn are much greater. Applying at the start of your hike and reapplying after a few hours should get the job done. Don’t forget the back of your legs too as they will be exposed to the sun as you make your way back.
The next item you should pack is a rain poncho. While swim trunks can get wet and dry relatively quickly you should still bring a rain poncho to keep your body dry in the event of unexpected rain. Being unprepared and caught in rain can be very unpleasant. If you are at high altitude and have a long hike then your cold wet body could potentially lead to hypothermia. Having a rain poncho is the first line of defense to keep your body and legs dry.
After you got your pack ready and your swim trunks set aside for your hike, you might be thinking to hike in your standard gym socks. This is a big mistake. You want to make sure the socks you are hiking in are not made of cotton. Cotton is the worst material to use when hiking since it absorbs water and stays wet. Wearing cotton socks traps heat, absorbs sweat and can lead to blisters on your feet.
To avoid this scenario you should bring a pair of wool hiking socks. Wool hiking socks help wick away moisture and have great breathability. The moisture wicking pushes sweat away from your feet and allows air to come in to help keep your feet relatively dry. Hiking socks also provide extra cushioning so that you don’t form hot spots on your feet during your hike. I used to hike in regular gym socks, but once I made the switch to hiking socks it was like night and day how much cooler and dry my feet felt.
Hiking in swim trunks is okay and it depends on how much discomfort you can put up with,they should really only be worn during short hikes under 3 miles. Now you know how the material of swim trunks, the extra netting, and the lack of flexibility can impact your hike. Wearing swim trunks is a matter of comfort and discomfort over the duration of the trail.
If you do decide to swear swim trunks to hike now you know to bring bug spray, sun block, a rain poncho, and some good hiking socks. These supplemental items can help protect your legs so you can go out and enjoy your hike. Enjoy your hike with your swimming trunks!