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Reviews > Clothing > Base Layers and Undies > SmartWool Mens Lightweight Wind Brief > Test Report by David Wilkes

Test series by David Wilkes

SmartWool Lightweight Wind Brief

Initial Report - Apr 14 2012
Field Report - June 3 2012
Long Term Report - Aug 28 2012

Tester Information

Name: David Wilkes
Age: 46
Location: Yakima Washington USA
Gender: M
Height: 5'11" (1.80 m)
Weight: 197 lb (89.40 kg)


34" (86 cm)


I started backpacking in 1995 when I moved to Washington State. Since then, I have backpacked in all seasons and conditions.  I prefer trips on rugged trails with plenty of elevation gain. While I continuously strive to lighten my load, comfort and safety are most important to me. I have finally managed to get my basic cold weather pack weight, not including consumables, to under 30 lbs (14 kg).

Product Information



Year of Manufacture:


Manufacturer’s Website:



Measured Weight:

3.7 oz (105 g)

Product image
Image courtesy of Smartwool

Product Description:

The SmartWool Lightweight Wind Brief is advertized as being for athletes. They are 100% Merino wool against the skin with a wind resistant nylon panel in the front.

Initial Report

Apr 14 2012
WaistbandThe SmartWool Lightweight Wind Brief is offered in (S, M, L,XL, XXL). According to the sizing chart on the SmartWool web page they fits waist sizes ranging from 29-44” (73.6-112 cm). My waist size puts me at the high end of the medium according to the sizing chart on the SmartWool website. I prefer my base layers not be overly restrictive or binding so I chose to go with the size L.

Inside StitchingWhen the product arrived I inspected them for any signs of defects, I found none. They seem very well made.

The first thing I noticed was the nylon panel in the front. It is a very thin and soft tightly woven nylon material with virtually no stretch. The elastic waistband has “SmartWool” pressed into it. All of the seams are flat stitched in black thread that matches the material of the briefs except for one crescent shaped seam either side (see photo). These two have green thread on the inside. The wool material that comprises the main body of the briefs is very soft and quite thin, with considerable stretch. If it were not for the label (and web site) stating that the material is 100% wool I would have assumed it to be a blend of cotton (due to the soft feel) and something like spandex (for the stretch). Inside is stitched a garment tag, with care instructions, and printed below the waistband is the SmartWool name/logo and “L” along with “Made in Vietnam.”

Front VeiwI tried the briefs on and found them to be a good fit. They are formfitting but not constrictive and the waistband fit snug but does not dig in.

The only thing about these that I can identify as a possible negative at this time is that they do not have a fly. A fly is a convenience that I appreciate in poor weather as it helps minimize exposure. I am interested to see if the wind resistant feature is sufficient to compensate for the absence of a fly.

I am looking forward to using these over the next 4 months. A comfortable base layer that manages moisture, resists odor, and as a bonus helps block wind, sounds like something that I could appreciate on most of my outdoor adventures. I am just sad I did not receive these in time to try them for Nordic Skiing.

Field Report

June 3 2012
  • 2 day (one night) backpacking trip Umtanum Creek Central Washington State- 
  • 2 Day hikes Umtanum ridge
  • 2 day (one night) backpacking trip William O Douglas trail
  • 2 5k (3 mi) races
  • Assorted runs (2-4 miles / 3-6 km)
  • Assorted daily wear

Wool underwear?!?! No matter how many times I say it to myself it just sounds wrong. Wool is supposed to be thick, heavy, and most of all scratchy. I am having trouble getting beyond the memories of the dress blue uniform I wore in the navy.  The idea of wearing wool directly against my skin, not to mention while involved in activities like hiking and running, I will say it again, it just sounds WRONG! What is completely incompatible with what my brain keeps telling me is how this garment  feels, and the fact that it has become my preferred base layer for hikes, backpacking and even running.

As we progress into the summer months it at first seemed like getting opportunities to wear this would be limited, here again I was wrong, but I am getting ahead of myself.

I wore the garment on a 2-day backpacking trip with my daughter. Being that she is 10 and does not backpack with me much, I had her carry very little (her sleeping bag and some clothing) while I carried all the rest of the gear including a few luxury items (important when hiking with kids) as well as a new solar charger I was just dying to try out. So I had a slightly heavier than normal pack. The weather turned out to be the first warm weekend of the season and as such the short hike in to our camp was kind of hot, while the night was very pleasant. After setting up camp we did spend a few hours exploring some of the trails and side canyons before calling it a day. As I expect from a good base layer it was only remarkable in that I had to keep reminding myself that I was testing it. I had no discomfort at all, no riding up, no moisture issues and no rubbing or chafing. It was not too hot during the day and was comfortable to sleep in. I could not ask for more.

The same was true for the day hikes and to my surprise even for the runs. I participated in two 5K (3 mi) races. The first was a fund raiser for the local Humane Society (See Spot Run) and the second was a community race I have been running every year for the past 8 years or so. For both runs the temperature was around 72 F (22 C) but the See Spot Run had to be one of the most difficult 5K’s (3 mi) I have ever done. We borrowed my friend's dogs and I let my daughter take the well behaved one while I took the other. The dog had no concept of pacing, and so the entire route involved me alternating between hanging on for dear life as he sprinted to very abrupt stops when he would find some interesting smell, both of which felt like he was going to pull my arm out of its socket. With the stop/go of the run and trying to avoid getting tangled by his (and other dogs') leashes, and two stops to pull remove thorns from his paws, my underwear luckily performed perfectly and I was glad to have worn them. One more thing, like chafing, could have pushed the event over the edge from challenging but fun, to downright unpleasant.

I have been fortunate in that I have been able to participate in the development and opening of a new trail, the William O Douglas. Trail Day 2012 was set to be the official opening. As the trail system will not be complete for at least a few more years (some sections of private property we still need to get permission to cross or find ways around) and some poor conditions (deep wet snow) in place of attempting to hike the entire proposed route, I chose to just backpack the portion we would be officially opening. It turned out to be a 26 mi (42 km) hike from start to finish (where I camped) and a 4 mile (6 km) hike out to where I could get picked up the next morning. In addition to the approximately 3000 feet (914 m) of climbing, it also rained off and on throughout the day. If I were to design ideal tests for undergarments this would be one of them, and these passed with flying colors. At no point did I have any trouble. I stayed as dry as could be expected anyway, and then dried out quickly, and had no discomfort what so ever.

Summer has been a bit slow to arrive here but it has been warming up and the temperature for my last few evening runs has been around 83 F (28 C). With a bit of humidity I found that this may be nearing the limit for me to run in these. They have still performed well, even resist chafing better that most other garments I have, but slightly warmer then I would prefer.

During most this period I have been hand washing the garment and hanging it to dry. In most cases I have found that I can wash them in the evening and they will be mostly or completely dry by morning. I have also put them into the wash with my other clothes and so far they are showing no signs of wear.

While emotionally I have had to struggle with getting beyond my own bias against wool as an undergarment, I have to say these have become a favorite. The lack of a fly has been only a slight inconvenience, and more than made up for by the garment's comfort.

I am looking forward to the rest of this testing period.

Long Term Report

Aug 28 2011
  • Mt Adams

Not long after the Field Report was complete our summer arrived in earnest, and with a vengeance.  We have had a few record hot days and many well above average ones. As a result wool shorts, no matter how much I like them were just not comfortable. I wore the shorts to work a few days and they were just a bit too warm. As such I did not get much use out of them since the Field Report. I did finally make time for a late season (later then I prefer) climb of Mt Adams. Overall conditions were excellent with the approach not as hot as it can be and more snow than expected. Despite that moisture management by my base layer was the key to comfort. The long drive to the trail head, a late start due to waiting on my hiking partner (a fellow Cascadian member asked to join me on this trip), and a warm sweaty hike up to our camp were no problem for these shorts. They were comfortable and did not ride up or chafe. They dried quickly making for a warm comfortable night and were good to go in the morning. Even after a second long day of climbing, glissading, and the drive home, I had no complaints about these shorts.
White Pass July 2012
I have mentioned how comfortable these shorts have been, and as the end of the testing has arrived I have examined the shorts again and am happy to say they are showing very little evidence of wear. They look almost new and I see no signs of pillingor stretching. All of the seams are in good condition with no loose threads. So I am quite happy with the durability.
Ongoing use? Last weekend my OEC (Outdoor Emergency Care) course started up at White Pass Ski Resort, part of my training for the Ski Patrol, and despite the heat, being up there has got me looking forward to snow. As part of the Ski Patrol I expect to be spending most of my weekends skiing this winter (sadly, I anticipate no time for backpacking before next spring), and am anticipating using these shorts often.

  • 100%  Merino wool where it touches the body
  • Form fitting but not constrictive
  • Wind resistant panel
  • Does not ride up
  • Manages moisture well
  • Soft against the skin with no chafing, binding, or rubbing
  • No fly

This concludes my  report. I would like to thank the folks at SmartWool and for the opportunity to test these briefs.


Read more reviews of Smartwool gear
Read more gear reviews by David Wilkes

Reviews > Clothing > Base Layers and Undies > SmartWool Mens Lightweight Wind Brief > Test Report by David Wilkes

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