I am asked quite often if my skirts have built in undershorts. My token response is that I make 'true skirts' to maximize airflow and ease of peeing. A true skirt also allows you to layer with whatever you want.
That being said chafing between the thighs is REAL for a lot of people, and when it does happen it can lead to an extremely uncomfortable experience. Different hiking climates and body types lend to more propensity to chafe. For those of you running into this issue, we do have some suggestions …
Let Airflow Do Its Thing: Why I stress airflow so much is that it can help reduce chafe. From my own experience I get the worst chafe when wet fabric rubs on my skin while hiking, whether that is with shorts between my legs or a tank top around the armpits. I sweat A LOT when I hike. When the sweat seeps into the fabric and isn't able to dry, I chafe. Wearing a skirt helps keep everything dry down there.
Allow for Some ‘Break In’ Time: In the beginning of the hiking season I will often chafe until my thighs develop something of a callous. Think of it like breaking in a hiking shoe — it takes some time for your body to adapt.
Keep Your Skin Clean: It's not just the thigh rub that causes chafe, the salt in the sweat is what causes a lot of irritability. Keeping your skin clean will help with irritation, whether that is a swim in a lake or wiping down at the end of the day. For the latter, you can definitely use baby wipes, or there are any number of other wipe products available.
Lube Your Skin: Running anti-chafe lube onto your skin (between your thighs, or anywhere you chafe or blister) can help A LOT! Body Glide is a popular option among hikers. Garage Grown Gear Co-Founder Amy Hatch’s personal favorite is GurneyGoo, which was developed by an adventure racer in New Zealand and uses tea tree oil. I've also had good luck with Uberlube. It's technically sold as a sex lubricant, but it works great on trail too! It doesn't get sticky like other brands and lasts for a long time. And a multi-use item on trail is always a good thing ; )
Layer with Compression Shorts: When airflow and lube just aren't enough, some people prefer to wear compression shorts to ward off chafe. With a tight fitting short you won't have the fabric moving between your legs, and depending on the fabric type you can still get a decent amount of airflow.
When wearing a compression short, the skirt gives you a certain amount of modesty for those of us who don't like wearing tightfitting clothing. Some women refer to the skirt as their 'tool belt' so it's more than just a garment.
These are compression shorts that have been recommended by my customers:
Body type and proportions has so much to do with irritation and chafe on trail. I remember when I was pregnant and my partner and I did a 4-day backpacking trip in Grand Staircase, Utah. My body changed A LOT during pregnancy (and left me with a new one). I chafed so damn bad on that trip I would've scoffed at the idea of airflow solving my chafe. My thighs rubbed so much I was so ready to burn my skirt, but I was the biggest I'd ever been and carrying weight really low around my belly and hips. It was totally new for me.
Similarly, body type can change from season to season. Amy Hatch says she chafes when coming off of ski season because of the thigh muscles that have built up during the course of the winter. But by the end of the summer, it’s no longer an issue.
I’ve always hoped that my skirts encourage people of all body types and all walks of life to get out into wild places. In a way, that’s actually a big reason why I don’t have built-in compression shorts in my hiking skirts — fitting all body types could become complicated and possibly end up limiting who the skirts work for.
We hope these ideas help. If you have anything to add to this list, leave a comment below.