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Reviews > Clothing > Underwear > SmartWool Mens Lightweight Wind Brief > Test Report by alex legg

SmartWool Lightweight Wind Brief
Test Series by Alex Legg
Initial Report April 17th, 2012
Field Report July 2nd, 2012
Long Term Report August 28th, 2012

Picture from
http://www.smartwool.com

Tester Information:

Name:  Alex Legg
Age:  30
Gender:  Male
Height:  6'4" (1.9 m)
Weight:  195 lb (88 kg)
Email address:  alexlegg2 AT yahoo DOT com
City, State, Country:  Tucson, Arizona, USA

I grew up backpacking in the Rockies.   I hike ranges throughout Arizona and Colorado year round.  I carry a light pack, mostly water.  I prefer a tarp shelter to my heavier 2-person tent.  I do many day hikes and I also spend as many as 5 days out at a time.  Temperatures range from below freezing to above 100 F (38 C), and elevations from 2,000 ft to 14,000 ft ( 610 m to 4, 300 m).  I bag a mountain almost every weekend, and I walk my dogs 4 miles daily through deep sand and overgrown mesquite trees in our local washes.

Initial Report:

Product Information and Specifications:

Manufacturer: SmartWool
Year of Manufacture: 2012
URL: http://www.smartwool.com
Listed Weight: Not listed
Measured Weight: 104 g (4 oz)
Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL
MSRP: US $55.00

Product Description and Initial Impressions:

These briefs are built for the athletically inclined.  The manufacturer claims that they perform on their own for moderate to active endeavors.  They feature a wind resistant polyester front panel for increased protection, while allowing only merino wool to touch my skin.  The waistband has the SmartWool logo embossed into the elastic.

The front panel is a little weird looking to me.  It kind of looks like some sort of protective shield or body armor.  It really stands out in looks and feel against the merino wool.  The polyester is slick and smooth; it makes a scratching noise when it rubs against things, while the merino wool is soft and comforting feeling.

Lots of Seams:


The briefs have flatlock seam construction that SmartWool claims will eliminate chafing.  I noticed right away that there are more seams on these briefs than my other briefs.  There are two seams that go from the waistband's front side, vertically down my inner leg and back up the back side to the waistband.  There are also two seams, one on either side of my hips that go horizontally to create a U shape on my outer thigh as they connect between the two vertical seams.  I found it odd that on the inside of the briefs these horizontal seams are stitched with a bright green color tread.  They are the only ones that have the bright green thread, and I don't know what the purpose is.  There is also a seam stitched around the circumference of my legs about an inch ( 3 cm) from the end of the briefs.

Tags and Material Information:

The briefs have the SmartWool logo printed in white on the inside just under the rear waistband.  The size L in my case is printed under the logo followed by "Made in Vietnam."  There is also a hanging tag that has already started to annoy me stitched about 2 in (5 cm) to the side of the printed information.  This tag looks like it will be bothersome as it is floppy and large and attached to a form fitting garment.  It says on the tag that the briefs are made from 100% merino wool and the front panel is made from 100% polyester.  I found this interesting because on the manufacturer's website the description states that the briefs have a nylon face and still keeps 100% merino wool next to my skin.  The briefs are to be washed on warm, gentle cycle.  They are not to be bleached.  It says to tumble dry them on low.  They can also be cool ironed and dry cleaned. 

Trying them out:

I noticed how stretchy and strong the briefs felt as I tugged on them and then I tried them on.  As I pulled them up I noticed that the floating tag I described above was right where I wanted to put my left thumb to pull.  I do not think I will want to keep this tag attached (it's too bad they couldn't have just printed its information like they did the logo and size information).  The briefs are a good fit, not overly tight, and definitely not too big.  The waistband feels extremely soft on my skin due to the merino wool that lines the inside of the briefs.  I have to say that these are some really soft and comfortable feeling briefs.  They make me feel like I am sitting in luxury. 

I wore them for a day and a half before I threw them in the wash.  I didn't notice anything uncomfortable during this time, but I wore them only on one walk of about 4 miles (6 km).  I washed the briefs on a gentle cycle in cold water with an all natural detergent that I use to wash baby diapers.  The briefs came out looking as nice as ever.  I then hung them on the line to dry which took about twenty minutes in the southern Arizona sun.  Then they were ready to go again.

Summary:

So far I like these briefs a lot.  They are far more comfortable against my skin than my other briefs, and they fit very nicely.  I have not found any defects in craftsmanship, and they feel very strong.  I look forward to hiking a lot of miles (km) in these over the next four months. 

Things I like:

1.  Merino wool is very soft
2.  Comfortable fit

Things I don't like:

1.  Hanging tag in the rear is annoying
2.  Front panel is a little weird looking at first

Field Report:

Field Conditions:

Over the course of the field testing period I wore the SmartWool Wind Briefs on at least ten trips.  They became a daily use item as well as a backpacking item.  A few of the trips I have done are outlined below:

I wore the wind briefs during a 3-day 2-night trip in Coconino National Forest in northern Arizona.  The elevation ranged from 8,400 ft to 12,637 ft (2,560 m to 3,866 m) and temperatures ranged from 32 F to 65 F (0 C to 18 C).

I also wore the briefs for a 3-day 2-night trip in the Rincon Mountain district of Saguaro National Park.  The elevation ranged from 4,240 ft to 8,482 ft (1,292 m to 2,585 m) and the temperature ranged from 32 F to 80 F (0 C to 27 C)

The wind briefs came with me on a 2-day 1-night trip in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson, Arizona.  The elevation ranged from 5,400 ft to 9,453 ft (1,646 m to 2,909 m) and the temperatures ranged from the low 50s F to the mid 70s F (low 10s C to mid 20s C).

Customer Service:

Unfortunately the first pair of briefs I received had a defect that appeared early on in my testing period.  They began to fray in the middle of the rear portion, directly underneath the elastic seam.  Before long, a hole the size of a quarter had appeared and I ended up sending them back to the manufacturer.  I was disappointed because other than sitting on the couch for a few days and a couple of dog walks, they were brand new.

I sent an email to customer service and received a response within 24 hours.  The representative was apologetic and instructed me to simply send the defective product back with a note of what happened, and they would honor their warranty.  I was happy to see the replacement pair in a few short business days from the time I sent the defective pair.

Performance in the field:

The new pair of briefs has not failed as of this report.  I like the fact that they stay somewhat comfortable in the heat, and that they are not totally disgusting after a few days of steady hiking.  It's now summertime in Tucson and the temperatures are above 100 F (38 C) regularly, often remaining high well into the night.  These briefs breathe better than my regular cheap name brand briefs, but not near as well as a pair of boxer shorts.  It has been nice to have a breathable pair of underwear while trucking down the trail.

I have worn the briefs under many pairs of shorts as well as many pairs of pants.  I like to wear them under workout shorts while running on a trail or while in the gym.  I also like wearing them under lightweight hiking pants while backpacking.  I have noticed that there is little to no friction against my legs while walking long distances.  I have not felt any chafing or had any hot spots from lack of air flow and hot weather.  It seems that if I wear heavy work jeans or sturdy cargo shorts, the briefs still remain comfortable. 

I have to admit I have never put as much thought into a pair of underwear as I have these, and now that I have, I notice some real advantages to the SmartWool.  Aside from being smooth, stretchy and comfortable, the briefs have held their shape and integrity thus far in the testing period.

Summary:

So far I have no complaints with the replacement pair.  I was very pleased with the customer service at SmartWool, and happy for a painless transaction.  The briefs are very comfortable and breathable, and I am very satisfied with them.

Things I like:

1.  Breathable
2.  Soft and stretchy
3.  Good customer service

Things I don't like:

Nothing at this time.

Long Term Report:

Field Conditions:

I didn't get to hike in the SmartWool Wind Briefs as much as I had hoped during the long term testing period.  An injury to my left foot forced me to cancel my Grand Canyon trip, and forest closures in Colorado attributed to the limited use I was able to get while out there.  Luckily I had the chance to do some hiking in the northern part of Colorado before coming back to Arizona. 

I did manage to get in an overnight trip in Roosevelt National Forest in northern Colorado.  The temperature ranged from 45 F (7 C) in the early morning to about 80 F (27 C) mid day.  The elevation ranged from 7,000 ft (2,134 m) to around 9,500 ft (2,896 m).

I also wore the briefs on few day hikes and an overnight trip in the Mount Baldy Wilderness in northern Arizona.  The temperatures ranged from the mid 40's F (4's C) to the mid 70's F (20's C) and the elevation ranged from 9,394 ft (2,862 m) to 11,414 ft (3,479 m).

I took the briefs on 2 overnight trips to the Mt Bigelow area of Coronado National Forest in southern Arizona.  The temperatures ranged from 60 F (16 C) to 85 F (29 C) and the elevation ranged from about 7,500 ft (2,286 m) to 8,000 ft (2,438 m).  I did not get the chance to summit the peak due to my foot injury, but I did get to enjoy the cool mountain air and even got a little bit wet!

I also wore the wind briefs over the course of multiple days working outside in the extreme Tucson heat.  Although this is unrelated to backpacking I feel it gave me good information in regards to this test.  Besides that, unless I'm getting paid, I'm not going to be out for long in the 100 F (38 C) plus heat that seems to not be ending here.

Performance in the Field:

To start off, I'd like to talk about wearing the briefs in the excessively hot temperatures while laboring in the Tucson summer.  Although this is unrelated to backpacking, the time spent was outside and for well over 40 hours.  My foot injury cancelled many of my desert hiking trips and I felt I needed to test the product in the heat. 

The briefs have been on me in temperatures up to 110 F (43 C) when the only breeze feels like a blast furnace of heat and is not a welcomed occurrence.  I was surprised to find that the briefs don't vent near as well as I would like.  I have long thought that the only underwear suitable for the summers in Tucson is a pair of cotton boxer shorts.  They are inexpensive and they breathe remarkably well, far better than the SmartWool briefs.  The polyester front panel I described in my Initial Report refuses to breath at all.  It seems to me like the most important spot to get some air, but it's not happening.  Polyester does not breathe well.  Working for years in the desert heat, I have learned this fact and I simply do not wear any clothes that are part or all polyester.  I was sweaty and clammy and unhappy.  I still think that the SmartWool Briefs breathe better than my conventional briefs, but not well at all compared to my old man looking boxer shorts.  In all fairness to SmartWool, I don't think humans should really be outside at all when the temperatures get above 100 F (38 C), but tell that to my clients!

Back on to backpacking, the briefs were on me for multiple days at a time throughout my testing period.  Not that I periodically indulge in smelling my underwear, but they seem to ward off the stink for a while.  Enough sweat can make most anything smell.  I have washed them numerous times with my all natural laundry detergent that we also use to clean diapers.  The briefs come out clean and fresh every time.  They are holding together well, they still look relatively new and they still have most of their elasticity. 

I think the merino wool is about the most comfortable fabric I have worn.  It is still soft and smooth, and it makes a great base layer in temperatures down into the 40's F (4's C).  I was able to wear lightweight athletic shorts on top of the SmartWool and stay comfortable as long as I was moving.  I slept in the briefs numerous nights and was also very comfortable.

Summary:

Although the SmartWool Wind Briefs don't breathe so well in the extreme heat, I have found them to be one of the most comfortable pairs of underwear I have owned.  I am happy that they seem to be holding up well after being worn and washed many, many times.  I plan to continue to use them on a regular basis.

What I like:

1.  Soft and comfortable.
2.  They still look practically new.


Concerns:

1. Not so great in heat over 100 F (38 C).


I would like to thank SmartWool and BackpackGeartTest.org for the chance to test this product!




Read more reviews of Smartwool gear
Read more gear reviews by alex legg

Reviews > Clothing > Underwear > SmartWool Mens Lightweight Wind Brief > Test Report by alex legg



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