"From the Cradle to the coffin underwear comes first!" (Bertold Brecht).
It’s the first thing we put on, but generally the last thing we think hard about. I’d put myself in that category until some years ago when something made me stop and think. I had all the kit…latest Gore-tex jacket, the best base layers on the market, new generation stretchy trousers and lightweight boots. I was on a round trip in Norway, working hard on the climbs and scrambles, when I noticed I was still dam and not that comfortable. How could this be possible as, we have just seen, I had the “best” kit out there? After doing a mental check of everything I was wearing, I couldn’t figure it out. Back at the hut, I was striping off for a shower when it became apparent what the source of the discomfort (in the form of wet clothing) was. My boxer shorts! Now, they wear a decent brand, the kind that fit snugly etc etc….but the bottom line (couldn't resist!) was they were COTTON! This got me thinking, and I realized that I had to change what I wore as underwear or else I’d be undoing a lot of the good work that the rest of the kit was doing.
I started off looking at what I had. Unfortunately, the only synthetic, fast drying type garment I had where Speedos! So, I tried these on some other walks, but found them uncomfortable to walk long distance in, and they tend to “dig in” so to speak. Binned them!
After some quick research, I found that there was basically not a whole load of options out there, and it came down to merino boxers or synthetic boxers (there was even less choice for the ladies!). I started experimenting with the options out there and found myself drawn to synthetic for pure performance (wicking ability/moisture management) and merino for comfort and multi day stuff. Since then, merino seems to have dominated the market, with it being by far the most popular choice. Talking to customers, friends and people on the hills (it’s not the first question I ask by the way!), I find that a lot of people still wear cotton briefs/boxers etc undoing all the good work that their more up-to-date kit is doing. So, here are a few pointers from us as to what we use for keeping that all important area as comfortable as possible.
For me, I’m still using, what I consider, the best (and OK, the most controversial looking!) underwear out there, the Brynje Super Thermo mesh boxers.
If you follow this blog, you’ll know the theory of the mesh…very simply it traps air to form an insulation cushion, while giving the best breathability possible to get ride of moisture. The other great feature on these boxers is the windproof cover. Now Brynje have been doing this for some time, but other brands are now following suit…but on their solid fabric models. The windproof cover obviously gives your nether regions more protection from cold, biting winds and these are a “must” for any cold weather expedition teams. They can cope with any weather you will encounter in Spring time, and keep you drier and warmer. They are Unisex.
These are from the new and updated Sprint range. Made from 51% Polyester and 49% Polyamide, they are very stretchy and comfortable, giving a very close, snug fit. Again, the synthetic fabrics perform very well in terms of moisture management, but also they are warm enough to cope with the aforementioned variety of Spring conditions.
They are cut quite long, thus giving some warmth to the thigh area also. Have been testing them for about six months and have now become the choice for climbing and scrambling. They are Unisex.
At 150g/m, these are a lightweight and thin merino brief, suited to warmer weather. Now, I’ll admit to knowing less about these than the others, but I’m told from our female tester that these are super comfortable, soft and one of her favorites.
I can, however, tell you about the Bergans Soleie Boxers! Again, at 150g/m, these are a lightweight and thin merino boxer, suited to warmer weather. They are shorter than some of the warmer version, which means they will not show when your shorts ride up scrambling etc.
Again, have to be included here due to their brilliant technical performance in hard conditions.
If you follow this blog, you’ll know the theory of the mesh….very simply it traps air to form an insulation cushion, while giving the best breathability possible to get ride of moisture. The other great feature on these boxers is the windproof.
The Granddaddy of winter boxers! Used on Arctic Expeditions and by a lot of people who work in cold climates. If you want to keep you “vitals” warm, then look no further. So, getting this often forgotten piece of kit right will make your days in the mountains that much more pleasant!