By Jason B.
Underwear – everyone, well most everyone, wears it but we don’t often talk about what we are wearing. However, make the wrong choice in underwear and it can ruin a hike or run. Columbia thinks they have the answer with their new performance line of underwear. I have the good fortune to review their new line of Performance Stretch Boxer Briefs.
Underwear is a personal choice. I generally choose briefs made of performance fabrics for hiking and backpacking, but for running I prefer to use running shorts that have built in underwear. For the next several months though, I am making a change and taking a chance on Columbia’s new Performance Stretch Boxer Briefs.
The Boxer Briefs come in various sizes. I am a size 36” waist which is a large in Columbia’s size chart. The fabric is 88% polyester and 12% spandex. The boxers feel very comfortable next to the skin. They have a nice wide waistband that is smooth and seems like it will stay in place nicely under my clothing.
Overall I think the initial fit is pretty good and comfortable. They are boxer briefs and basically feel like they are lightweight compression shorts. They come about halfway down my thigh and have a little bit of compression but not too much. They are comfortable in the crotch and seem to hold everything in place.
Care instructions seem to be fairly simple. Machine wash cold with similar colors on a gentle cycle and tumble dry low. They can also be ironed on cool if needed.
I generally evaluate underwear on several characteristics. Number one is comfort – are they comfortable to wear? Do I want to wear them or do I have to wear them? The second characteristic is durability. How well do they last? Can I wear them several days without seeing any undue wear? Do they lose any elasticity over time? Third is smell. This is pretty major drawback for synthetic fabrics in general. Can I wear them for multiple days without chasing off my hiking partners?
Thanks for reading my initial thoughts, check back in about a month or so for my update.
Update April 6, 2017
I have done my best to break the Columbia Performance Stretch Boxer Briefs over the past two months with over 125 miles of backpacking, running and general wear. They have been supremely comfortable, continue to look brand new, and for the most part are funk free for the first couple days of continuous use.
Since receiving the boxer briefs in January, I have used them on a 5 day backpacking trip on the Pinhoti Trail in Central Alabama, overnight camping trips at Fontainebleau State Park, backpacking in the Black Creek Wilderness in Mississippi, hiking at the Woodlands Conservancy, the Mississippi River Levy, and other assorted hikes and runs in the south. Overall, I have worn them for 125 miles with most trips being multiday trips. Temperatures have ranged from the 50s to the upper 80s, and I hiked in the rain and thunderstorms on the Pinhoti but most days were clear and sunny.
As I mentioned in my initial thoughts, I evaluate underwear on three main criteria: comfort, durability, and smell. I am happy to report that the Columbia briefs have performed well in all three criteria. Comfort is my number one criteria, because if I don’t like the way that something feels I am not going to want to wear it. The Columbia briefs are amazingly comfortable. I was really surprised because I am a briefs guys and have tried other types of underwear but never found anything I liked as much as briefs. Well, I am a convert now. They are comfortable against my skin, even in really hot conditions, they breathe well and securely hold everything in place. It was in the 70s which is really hot for hiking the Pinhoti in January, and I was a sweaty mess but still comfortable wearing the Columbia briefs. I also want to point out that they do a good job preventing chaffing. The material is smooth and slid nicely under my hiking shorts. I even liked wearing them for my day to day activities. I wear dress slacks for work events sometimes and I found that I preferred to wear the Columbia briefs over regular briefs because they were more comfortable.
Durability is my second criteria, and again the Columbia briefs have performed well. They look brand new even with all the abuse I have put them through. I just pulled them out of the wash after a hard, one night, 20 plus mile backpacking trip and I cannot tell the difference between the pair I have worn and a pair of brand new underwear that I kept as my control pair for comparison. There is no wear on the waist band or any of the seams. I am pleasantly surprised with the durability of the underwear.
My third criteria is smell. The Columbia briefs did better than most and staved off any real stink for the first 24 hours or so. However, after 24 hours of continuous wear, they definitely began to stink. I do think they do a better job than most, but they are definitely not stink free underwear, especially after 5 days of continuous wear. However, I can report that the smell washes out every time. Along those lines, I have done nothing out of the ordinary for care of the underwear. I toss them in the laundry with my other gear and wash in the washing machine and dry them in the dryer and have had no ill effects.
Overall, I am very pleased with the Columbia Performance Stretch Boxer Briefs and they receive high marks for comfort and durability and better than average marks for smell. I will continue to use these for a few more weeks for long term durability and post a final report.
Final Update July 31, 2017
Tested tough is Columbia’s slogan, I can say after 240 miles of running, hiking and backpacking that the new Performance Stretch Boxer Briefs are tough. They show no wear, remain super comfortable The only nitpick is that they get funky when wearing them for multiple days.
Since my last update, I have used the boxers while hiking at Trap Pond State Park in Delaware, hiking and camping at Buccaneer State Park in Mississippi, hiking and camping at Fontainebleau State Park in Louisiana, running for training and shorter races like 5ks, and a 40 mile 2 day backpacking trip on the Black Creek trail in Mississippi. All this to say, I have put the boxers through the wringer. Weather has been fairly nice with the exception of the heat we have had the last couple months in southern Louisiana where it has been in the 90s with 100% humidity.
My three main criteria are comfort, durability, and smell, and the Performance Stretch Boxer Briefs knocked it out of the park in the comfort and durability categories and performed about average in the smell category. The boxer briefs have been super comfortable. The wide waist band is nice and does not bunch. The lycra gives the underwear a bit of stretch so that they cling gently to my skin and more importantly mostly stay in place. The legs would creep a bit up my thighs but the groin material stayed put. As the summer progressed, I wondered if they would continue to keep my chafe free. I am happy to report that they have. I have been running at 4 in the afternoon with some friends for about 4 miles, crazy heat training, and I can report that I did not chafe on any of my runs. I can’t say the same for my friends.
Durability is my second criteria and I went a bit long between updates because I really wanted to see if I could break the boxers. However, they continue to perform the same as the first day. The waist band continues to hold shape and elasticity. The same with the rest of the material, it stretches and returns to shape without deformation. There have not been any tears or degradation of the fabric, even in high wear areas like the crotch. They are solid and I anticipate many more months of use out of them, which helps justify the cost.
My final criteria is smell. The boxers were smell free the first day, but after that they began to smell funky like other synthetic materials. This was highlighted more since the last update as temperatures began to soar, and I would begin to sweat just thinking about going outside. I think the durability and comfort outweigh the smell factor, but every user will have to decide for themselves.
I am a convert, I don’t think I can ever go back to plain cotton briefs again. I am very pleased with the underwear and their performance. You can find the Performance Stretch Boxer Briefs for sale at various retailers with a quick google search. This concludes my review.
Thanks to Columbia for providing the underwear for this review and to 4alloutdoors.org for allowing me to participate in this review.