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Reviews > Clothing > Underwear > SmartWool Mens Lightweight Wind Brief > Test Report by Ralph Ditton
SmartWool Lightweight Wind Brief(Photo courtesy of SmartWool Corporation)
Test series by Ralph Ditton
Initial Report : 25th April, 2012
Field Report : 26th June, 2012
Long Term Report
My playgrounds are the Bibbulmun Track, the Coastal Plain Trail, Darling Scarp and Cape to Cape Track. I lead walks for my bushwalking club and they consist of day walks and overnighters. My pack weight for multi day trips including food and water, tends to hover around 18 kg (40 lb) but I am trying to get lighter. My trips range from overnighters to six days duration.
Removing the briefs from the box I was pleasantly surprised by the feel of the fabric. It certainly did not feel like wool. Holding the briefs up I was amazed at how many panels went to make up this garment. Someone has been busy with a sewing machine. I counted six panels. The web page sort of hints that there are many panels that make up the garment.
Next I tried them on for size. They fitted perfectly. I selected the "Medium" size. I could not feel the seams as they are done in the "flatlock" style.
Looking at the hang tags that were with the briefs I was drawn to the New Zealand one and I thought "You little beauty. Kiwi merino wool. That's good stuff". The tag gave no indication that New Zealand merino wool was used in the garment but based on the tag's presence I would assume that is the case. Further examination of the garment revealed that it was constructed in Vietnam. What a well travelled New Zealand Merino Wool clip. All in all, I was impressed with what I had received.
The Wind Brief features 100% Merino wool but has a nylon face front panel covering the crotch to the waistband. It is advertised as wind resistant.
It is prominent in the top photo.
The elasticized waist band is nice and stretchy. It feels comfortable against my skin as the inside of the waistband has the Merino wool stitched to it. The width of the band is 32 mm (1.25 in). At the rear inside of the waistband there is a sewn tag advising the contents that make up the garment. Body: 100% Merino Wool, Front Panel: 100% Polyester. There is another language also which looks like Spanish. On the rear of this tag are the washing instructions. The one interesting instruction is that it recommends that the garment be washed inside out for best appearance.
The length of the garment is 40 cm (15.7 in). I was apprehensive that the leg section of the boxers would show below my shorts, but they did not.
The crotch area is nice and wide, being some 8 cm (3 in) across. This makes for a comfortable fit as I found out when I took them on their first outing. No bunching up when moist with perspiration.
On the hip areas of the garment there is a section of fabric with a slightly crescent shape and the weave is more open than the legs and backside panels.
These two hip area panels have more stretch in them than the other panels. On the inside, these two hip panels are stitched to the other panels with a green elastic ribbon.
Trying it out
wearing the boxers
I wore the boxers on an overnight camping trip to the Coastal Plain Trail. The elevation is only 80 metres (263 ft) above sea level and the temperatures ranged from a low of 17 C (63 F) to a high of 29 C (84 F). As can be seen, the evening was very warm with hardly and breeze.
In fact, I was quite warm in the nether region and I commented on this to my walking mate. I was only wearing shorts over the top plus a lightweight short sleeved cotton top. When I went to bed I just wore the boxers along with socks inside the Selk' bag and I was very comfortable.
I wore the boxers till I got home later in the afternoon. I had worn them continuously for 26 hours. I then hand washed them inside out then hung them out to dry. They dried within an hour and a half in shade from a warm afternoon sun with a temperature of about 30 C (86 F).
I suspect, these boxers will become my favourite jocks during our winter months. I do love being warm down below especially when we hit our wet weather during the next few months.
During this phase I have worn the wind briefs on four occasions.
The first two were a repeat of the same terrain and location. The only variant was the weather.
The location was the Bibbulmun Track with an off track section heading north from Nerang to Mt. Cook campsite. This section of the track has the highest elevation in the Darling Scarp of 583 metres (1,912 ft). The base of Mt. Cook sits at an elevation of around 200 m (656 ft). There is a very steep climb up a granite face which is very exposed and slippery in the wet.
On the first walk, the temperature was overcast and cool reaching a maximum of 18 C (64 F). However, with the wind blowing at around 27 km/h (17 mph) the chill factor was around 12 C (54 F) when we stopped for morning tea. I had to pull my jacket out to keep warm as the perspiration was being chilled on my chest through my shirt.
However, my lower torso where the wind briefs covered was very warm. The wind did not penetrate through them but it did my trousers.
The second hike was a carbon copy of the first leading a different group of people. This time they were Newbies having a look at our Walking Club. The only difference was the weather. It was cold and wet. The temperature reached a maximum of 9 C (48 F) with intermittent rain squalls.
The wind on the exposed part of the mountain was gusting up to 38 km/h (23 mph). This produced a chill factor of -2 C (28 F). I was wearing a rain jacket but it was next to useless as I was wet on the inside of it due to the perspiration not venting.
Despite this, I was still warm in the nether region due to the warm wool construction of the briefs. I must admit, I was not aware what effect the nylon face had in the performance. All that I know was that I was warm there even though the briefs were damp from a mixture of rain and perspiration.
The distance walked on both occasions was 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) but it took around 4 hours because of the climb up Mt. Cook. The descent was quite easy as it was a gradual descent.
The third occasion was a hike in Kitty's Gorge that was 15 kilometres (9. 3 miles) in length. The day was wet with storm fronts coming through and the winds reached speeds of up to 120 km/h (75 mph). The temperature hovered around 10 C (50 F). The chill factor was -3 C (26 F) when we were in the wind. Mostly we were protected from the wind as we were in tall timber country. This brought a new danger, crashing trees and big limbs. The briefs got a good workout on this hike. When we stopped for morning tea in a clearing, the wind had not started (it came after lunch and caused massive damage to Perth and surrounding districts with power blackouts and damaged homes) so all was still but damp from the earlier rain in the morning. I did not sit down as the ground, rocks and fallen logs were all wet. So I stood and ate my snacks. Lo and behold, I was attacked by Bull Ants that had scurried up the inside of both trouser legs and started to bite me. My meal was abandoned as I endeavoured to rid myself of the ants. There must have been around forty of them evenly spread on both legs. What I was leading up to was that the ants did not get inside the briefs as they were quite snug on my thighs. They got up to the bottom edge but no further. I am unsure if they got on the outside and went higher as I was busy brushing them off me but the briefs did protect the family jewels. At our lunch break I was quite wet from the river crossing that had taken place shortly before so I sat on a wet rock and had my lunch. I did not feel any discomfort from the wet briefs nor did I feel cold on my buttocks. At the end of the walk as I took my pack off I felt that the bottom of the pack was sopping wet, whereas the rest of the pack was just wet. I opened it up and found that a water bottle had lost its cap and most of the water had flowed out into the bottom of the pack and down my back. I found this out when I felt behind me. I was quite saturated on the tail of my shirt and the back of my trousers. Needless to say the briefs were sodden also. The funny thing was that I was quite unaware of the wetness as I was relatively warm when walking and brushing past rain laden bush. After the hike, we retired to the pub for a convivial drink around the fire. It was in a blackout due to the storm. I was still in my wet gear but I was still feeling relatively warm in the nether region.
The fourth was another day hike in the Mts Randall and Cuthbert region. This day was overcast, cool temperatures around 13 C (55 F) with a slight breeze on top of Mt Cuthbert. Whilst in the bush we were protected from the breeze so there was no effect from it on our bodies and clothing. The previous day had been raining so the vegetation was laden with moisture which wet our trouser legs from the knees down. This hike was approximately 14 kilometres (8.6 miles) in length and 99% was off track. At a rest stop well into the trip I sat down on a patch of vegetation and immediately regretted it. French was uttered conveying the meaning of "Good golly gosh, I now have a wet posterior". The moisture penetrated the brief so my buttocks were wet and cold. Once we got moving, my body heat neutralized the cold and started to wick the moisture from the briefs. I noticed a strange thing happening. I felt like I was overheating in the area covered by the briefs. I even contemplated stopping and taking them off because I was so hot from the climbing of the mountains. After a while the feeling of being too hot dissipated as the afternoon cooled down and I was much more comfortable.
The group tackled some challenges which raised our body temperatures.
This photo shows me squeezing between two granite boulders that were wet. Packs had to be taken off to fit through.
The below picture shows the terrain and route taken.
When I got home I examined the briefs and found them to be still slightly damp. It was vast improvement from when I sat in the wet vegetation. Obviously my body heat had assisted in their drying.
To date the briefs show no signs of fraying along the seams or any fabric damage from the many bottom scrapes on granite slopes and rocks whilst descending.
To date I am extremely pleased with the performance of these briefs. They certainly keep my nether regions warm. At times too warm from the amount of physical effort in climbing and descending rocks when the temperature is only in the moderate range of 13 C to16 C (55 F to 61 F). My body temperature tends run on the hot side anyway. Just ask my wife. She reckons that I am like a hot water bottle. There is no bunching up of the fabric between my legs when they get damp or tuck themselves into the plumber's crack. To date I am very happy with their performance.
There is no change to my "Thumbs Up" and "Thumbs Down" at this stage.
Long Term Report
I have worn this garment on a further four occasions. Three times on a day walk in the Darling Scarp and once on an overnight camp in the Coastal Plains area. The weather was fine on all occasions with the temperature ranging from a low of 3 C (37 F) to a daytime high of 18 C (64 F).
I did my excursions during the daytime when temperatures ranged from 8 C (46 F) to 18 C (64 F).
The very low temperatures were experienced in camp late at night when moving around and finally going to bed because we had run out of wood and wine.
On the overnighter, I wore the garment for the two days and night.
I am a Walks Leader for people looking at joining our Bushwalking Club. I take them out on an Introductory Walk so that they can get a feel of what bushwalking is all about. I tend to have a mixture of people from overseas, Asians and Europeans. Not too many locals. I mix up the walk with off track and on track bushwalking with numerous elevation gains ranging from 200 m to 500 m (656 ft to 1640 ft). The reason for mentioning this is that my legs and buttocks are working hard, generating heat and perspiration whilst wearing the garment.
I arrived at the campsite with my walking companion around 2 pm and it was quite pleasant temperature wise. We did a little explore around the campsite and gathered fire wood. I felt a little warm in the region where the garment resides but I was not uncomfortable at all. When darkness fell, the temperature dropped quite quickly and I could see the dew falling in the light from my headlamp. At this stage I did not have any thermals on, just the wind briefs. I was aware that my chest was feeling colder than my nether region and that was because the wool in the garment was keeping my butt warm.
We got the fire going so that we could sit at the bush television after dinner and wash it down with a lovely red wine. I was feeling very warm from the radiant heat of the fire.
When the firewood and wine ran out it was time for bed. I changed into thermals still wearing the wind briefs. I was quite warm in my sleeping bag and the self inflating mat did its job in insulating me from the cold coming up through the floorboards. I had a warm, restful night's sleep.
In the morning, after taking the thermals off, but still wearing the wind briefs, I did chores around camp before packing up. As the sun got hotter around 11 am, I contemplated taking the wind briefs off as I was feeling too warm in that region. However, I persevered and kept them on till I got home. It was then that I took them off so that I could have a shower.
The briefs did not smell from my perspiration nor had they shown any signs of wear such as threads coming loose. I put them in the wash with my other bushwalking clothes and they came out without any mishap such as shrinkage or run of colour.
The day walks were all in the Mts Randall/Cuthbert region that I like to take Newbies through.
It is our winter time and the mornings when we set off are around the 6 to 8 C (43 to 46 F) mark. Jumpers (a knitted garment worn on the upper body) and jackets usually come off within a kilometre as our bodies warm up through the exercise of bushwalking at a rate of about 4 km/h (2.5 mph) gaining slight elevation of around 40 metres (131 ft) in the aforementioned distance. As I am testing the garment, I am aware of how warm I feel in my buttocks area and I do feel very warm. When I stop the group for a break, usually in an exposed area so that they can look out over the vista I really appreciate the garment as I cool down very quickly in the breeze that is always present in such exposed spots. My buttocks region always stays warm. If it is for say a morning tea/lunch break, then I have to put my jacket back on to ward off the chill of the morning air.
Parts of the walk have me sliding down on my bottom when descending Mt Randall. It is a granite outcrop with stunted, prickly vegetation. The garment has not suffered any damage through my pants from the friction of sliding down the granite, nor from the pricks from the spiky bushes.
sliding down Mt. Randall
This garment has become my favourite winter underwear for my bushwalking. There were times when I did feel a bit too warm and contemplated taking them off and going "commando" with just my trousers on. However, I persevered and took my mind off as to how warm I felt by concentrating on my navigation and chatting to the people directly behind me.
At no stage did I ever suffer any chafing from wearing the briefs or develop any rash from the wool. They were the most comfortable briefs that I have had the pleasure to wear. To date they have shown no signs of wear or loss of colour from the many washings in the front loader washing machine. Nor have they shrunk from washing in hot water.
There is no change to the Thumbs Up/Down since my Initial Report.
This concludes my testing of this item.
A big thank you to SmartWool Corporation and BackPackGearTest for providing this item for testing.
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