OK, I have to confess, this is an odd choice of things for me to review, but I am an odd guy and that is always a valid excuse!
Over the last year I have gotten increasingly interested in light travel and the concept of “One-bagging” which is ironic given my fixation on bags and luggage in general. My only defense is that I don’t want to own all bags, just the ones that are perfect…for whatever I happen to be doing at the moment.
One of the ideas that I have seen come up in this keenly minimalist subculture is light, hand washable clothes that dry quickly and nowhere is the passion more hotly discussed than underwear.
Yes, you read that right. Underwear.
It is somewhat odd to read someone waxing rhapsodic on the net about how wonderful a pair of briefs are, but I guess that is where I am bound (pun intended).
Because reviewing a single pair of underwear is too weird even for me I have opted to do a comparison review of three different pairs. The Exofficio Boxer, the Scottevest Travel Boxers and a pair of sports briefs from Wal-Mart. The last are in there as a control and because I just can’t believe that it is necessary to spend $20 on a pair of underwear.
All three of these products are quick drying, anti-microbial and are made of a blend of nylon or polyester and lycra/spandex. This makes them all dry quickly and pack into a very small space.
My preferred packing method for these is to fold them in thirds and then roll them around the waistband, making them roughly cigar sized and taking up very little room in luggage. The picture below is all three pairs packed in a small packing cube and you can see how little space they take up.
That might be a strong word. I basically wore the same underwear for multiple days in a row and hand washed it at the end of the day in the sink. Yeah, I know, kinda gross.
I wash them in a sink with hotel shampoo in water as hot as I could stand. Then I drain the sink fill it up with cool water and rinse them and repeat as necessary until the water stays clean.
Afterwards, I wring them out by hand and then roll them up in a hand towel to get the most moisture out possible. Then I hung them to dry, typically from a hanger with clips and checked them periodically to see when they were dry.
Walmart Starter Performance Boxer Briefs
The Walmart Starter briefs are not available online and have significantly more spandex, at 14%, than the other two brands. They are also made of polyester, not nylon They are really more of a sport type underwear, but I was trying not to spend big bucks on travel undies.
They have smoother finish than the other two pairs and have a ventilated crotch. Fit-wise they are boxer cut, but fit more like a brief, which I actually prefer.
They were comfortable but the waistband had a tendency to roll over that I found a bit annoying. These briefs took right at 8 hours to dry but would retain just a touch of moisture in the waistband and crotch. The moisture would quickly dry out after being worn for a short period.
Odor was not an issue and they smelled clean after several days of this.
Scottevest Travel Boxers
The Scottevest Travel Boxers have more of a traditional boxer fit and a button fly, and not a flap. They bill them as having the ability to fill in as shorts in a pinch. Don’t plan on doing this if your local exposure laws are very strong.
Of course, because they are Scottevest they also feature a pair of pockets. I would take a moment to indulge myself in some mockery here…but I actually found them useful.
The back pocket fits a passport nicely and is at the right height to not dig into your bum while sitting in a plane for hours at a time.
The front pocket bills itself as the right size for an iPhone or Droid, but come on! Do you really want to be arrested for looking like you are going to expose yourself when you need to get your phone out?
I did use that pocket to carry a spare credit card without any discomfort. I appreciated it even more on a recent international trip where I had to take a lot more cash than I normally carry. For me it was a better choice than a money belt.
The Scottevest boxers have a more textured feel than the Walmart briefs. Either this texturing or the fabric balance makes a difference on they quick dry front. They were completely dry within 6 and a half hours, and I had no issues with odor sticking to them. The Scottevest are a blend of 93% nylon and 7 percent spandex.
I did not have issues with the waistband rolling like on the Walmart briefs. One of the pairs I have did have an issue with the fabric pilling up.
The Scottevest boxers also came in a ziplock package that they suggest you reuse as a 3-1-1 container at the airport. It is a good deal more heavy-duty than a normal zip lock bag so this might be a benefit for you.
Exofficio Boxer Briefs
Exofficio is the kingpin in this marketplace and they have the marketing story to play to. If you have not seen their “17 countries, 1 pair of underwear ad” you can be forgiven, but it does sum up their approach.
They have several styles but I opted for the boxer briefs. They have a similar textured fabric as the Scottevest but have a fold over style fly. They actually have the lowest balance of spandex at 6 percent.
Although the balance of fabric is the similar to the Scottevest, they must have some magic in these briefs. They dried about 30 minutes faster and I had no issues with the waistband rolling. They also passed the smell test with flying colors.
Of course, they are also the most expensive of the three coming in at $25 on Exofficio’s site, although I was able to pick them up for less on Amazon. It is always worth checking their sale page as well.
The Scottevest are the second most expensive at $20 each but they do drop down to $15 if you buy them in sets of three.
The Walmart briefs are $8 a piece and herein lies their appeal.
If I was going to make the 17 country challenge and time at each stop was at a premium I would choose the Exofficio briefs as they do dry a touch quicker and I prefer the tighter fit. They really are as good as they advertise. They are the overall winner in the competition.
If a bit of flexibility is called for, those Scottevest Boxers are a no-brainer. You can press them into double duty (if you wear another pair of underwear beneath them!) and the pockets are actually far more useful than I expected them to be. If these were available in a brief fit, they would be the hands down winner for me. They take slightly longer to dry but in most instances this will not be an issue.
The Walmart briefs? At $8 a piece you can afford 2 to 3 pairs for each of the other companies product…but that is not the issue. If you are trying to do the hard-core 2 pairs of underwear kind of trip (I cannot in conscience recommend one pair in any instance!) either of the other pairs are a better bet. If you are trying to minimize what you take and the amount of space in your luggage is an issue the Walmart briefs may be your best choice but they don’t quite fit the bill as true, travel underwear. Not and epic fail, but a fail none the less.
Walmart Starter Performance Briefs $8 (no link available)