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Reviews > Clothing > Underwear > Woolx Merino Boxer Briefs > Test Report by Richard Lyon
Woolx Mens X-Lite Boxer Briefs
Test Series by Richard Lyon
Initial Report May 21, 2014
Field Report August 4, 2014
Long Term Report October 8, 2014
PERSONAL DETAILS and BACKPACKING BACKGROUND
Male, 68 years old
Height: 6' 4" (1.93 m)
Weight: 200 lb (89 kg)
Waist: 37 in (95 cm)
Email address: Montana DOT angler AT gmail DOT com
Home: Bozeman, Montana USA
I've been backpacking for nearly half a century, most often in the Rockies. I do at least one weeklong trip every summer, and often take three-day trips. I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 10000 ft (1500 - 3000 m). I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp. Recently I've been actively reducing my pack weight, though I still tend to include my favorite camp conveniences. I always sleep in a floored tent and like hot meals. Summer adventures are often on centered on fly fishing opportunities.
INITIAL REPORT - May 21, 2014
Their name says it best - these are a trim-cut boxer-style men's base layer made entirely of 17.5-micron Australian merino wool.
Manufacturer: Woolx, Endicott, New York USA
Dimensions, measured: Inseam 4.0 in (10.2 cm); outseam (from top to bottom along the side) 14.0 in (35.6 cm); waist 27.25 in (69 cm) lying flat.
Weight, measured: 3.1 oz (88 g) Though Woolx doesn't give a weight on its website, this is in line with the weight shown on its invoice.
Size: Large (L). Available in S-XXL. There's a sizing chart on the website.
Color: Your choice, as long as it's black.
MSRP: $35 US
The Woolx guarantee [not specific to any one product]: "Our sheep are so sure you'll love their wool simply return any item you're unhappy with at any time. They don't want you to have any item you're not 100% satisfied with."
Woolx lists the following features (Woolx's language in red), each shown with my comments:
170 g/m2 jersey construction - This weight is quite light for boxers. Jersey knits tend to be stretchier and softer to the touch than worsted, and these boxers bear that out.
Non pill / No Itch - Testing will tell. Check back for this reporter's results.
Our lightest weigt [sic] superfine merino wool - The boxers are indeed lightweight, weighing in at a lower weight than any other wool boxers I own (and I own several pairs, from several different manufacturers).
Inseam gusset for amazing comfortable fit - This means the inseam piece (between the short boxer legs) is a single piece of cloth running across, with no seam at the bottom. From prior experience with other boxers, an irritation-saving approach.
Flatlock-non chaffe [sic] seams - Flatlock all the seams are; I'll report on chafing.
Double panel fly - I like the fly construction. I'm not sure how well this can be seen in my photo or on the Woolx website, so I'll try to describe it in some detail. Below the one-inch (2.5 cm) waistband the fly consists of four separate pieces that taken together make an elongated U shape, 4.25 inches (10.8 cm) wide in the center, 3.25 inches (8.3 cm) at the top, and 3.75 inches (9.5 cm) before beginning a taper at the bottom. At the top is a one-inch (2.5 cm) high rectangular piece, at the bottom a semicircle 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) high at the midpoint. In between are two back-to-back roughly rectangular (actually with a slight bulge on either side) pieces. The inside piece has a curved access on the left, the outer on the right.
Contoured back rise - Not quite sure what this means, but the fit in the rear is comfortable and not as tight as I've found on other products. I appreciate this; in fact it's one reason I wear boxers rather than briefs.
None rub [sic] interior label - True enough for brand and size, which are embossed on the inside of the boxers. There's also a sewn-in care tag.
Washable and Dryable -- guaranteed - From a tag inside the boxers this means machine washable (cold) and dryable (low cycle). Another subject for testing, though with some trepidation. I normally air-dry wool products.
Fabric. I have been a merino devotee for many years. Nearly all of my athletic base layers are wool rather than synthetics, so naturally I'm inclined to favor a new (to me) supplier of merino underwear. Even from this perspective though I'm quite favorably impressed with Woolx's fabric. It's thin to the point of being translucent when held up to light (that's one layer in the "window" in the photo below), and the jersey knit, as noted above, is soft and a bit stretchy. Quite a soft hand, in rag trade parlance - no itching at all on the brief adventure described below.
Design. This I consider the most noteworthy aspect of the boxers, at least on an out-of-the-box appraisal. Woolx has taken some care in designing these boxers for user comfort. I've already commented upon the fly, inseam gusset, and fit in the rear. Unlike many other lightweight boxers I've examined these have a band that encircles the bottom of the legs, one inch (2.5 cm) on each side, with flatlock double stitching across its top. This should inhibit fraying at the cuff and aid maintaining the shape of the leg, staving off two problems I've encountered often.
The overall fit is exactly what I like - comfortable, with a bit of "give" (flexibility) at the waist; not quite body-hugging at the cuff, to facilitate breathing; and no pinching anywhere. (By the way, I'm right in the middle of Woolx's range for size Large.) My chief complaint with briefs is pinching and folding, especially along the inseam and down the middle of the back; it's to avoid this that I wear boxer shorts in daily life as well as when on the trail. The Woolx Boxers are trimmer than the cotton boxers I wear in the front country - a good thing - but not constraining.
Woolx earns praise simply for including a fly. For reasons I have never been able to understand many top-notch base layer manufacturers don't. Whatever may be the fraction of an ounce saved by that omission is far outweighed by the inconvenience of fumbling around, especially when wearing a pack.
I wore the boxers yesterday on a short 2.5-mile (3.5 km) day. The boxers stayed in place, did not slip, and did not get scrunched up during my wading and hiking.
Both of these are durability issues and so arise from longtime experience with other merino base layers. There is nothing specific to this pair other than a stated lack of elastic that suggests to me that these problems will in fact come to pass.
I'm hoping that the waistband will not lose its stretchiness, causing the boxers to slip down from my waist. The stated 100% merino content triggers this worry. Other manufacturers have added a small bit of Spandex or similar synthetic to avoid this problem; Woolx says it has not, though there clearly is something stretchy in the waistband.
Machine drying is another killer of elastic bands in my experience; that's one reason why I normally air-dry wool garments other than socks, and boxers and long johns in particular. An email exchange with Woolx confirmed, however, that the company believes that machine drying on a low setting is safe. So that's what I shall do.
Enough of speculation and worry, it's time to try these boxers out in the field!
FIELD REPORT - August 4, 2014
A PROBLEM TO REPORT
About a week after filing my Initial Report, when retrieving my boxers from the dryer I discovered a quarter-sized hole in the back. I reported this by email to Woolx's product representative, stating that the cause could have been from the washing and drying or from a snag while handling them around the house. The rep said that the cause didn't matter; she would have a new pair shipped posthaste. I received the new pair within a week and have been using them interchangeably with the original since then. (The hole is small enough that I don't notice it when wearing the original pair.) I consider Woolx's response to be outstanding customer service.
I have worn one pair or the other on a five-day backpack service trip in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area, Montana; at least ten day hikes, varying from three to seven hours; perhaps a dozen days fishing; and on four day-long local backcountry service projects. On all but the fishing trips I wore the boxers under synthetic fabric shorts, trousers, or convertible trousers; when fishing it was under breathable GORE-TEX waders. Temperatures ranged from just below freezing at night in the Bob Marshall Wilderness to 86 F (30 C) during the day. While I've gone through a rain squall or two, nearly all use was in dry, wonderful Montana summer conditions. Three more day hikes took place on the Isle of Barra, Scotland, in two days of sun and 70 F (21 C) temperatures and the other in a slightly cooler steady drizzle.
Fit has been great. Not once can I recall the boxers scrunching up or slipping down below my waist, even when my backpack pushed down my belt and trousers a bit. As noted in my Initial Report, the fit is more like briefs than boxers. Normally I prefer the latter, but my reason for that - a sense of restricted movement - hasn't happened with the boxers. I scarcely notice that I'm wearing them, which is about the highest compliment I can pay a base layer. If I purchase another pair I might try the next size up, but that's personal preference not necessity.
The boxers also receive top marks for wicking ability. At no time have I experienced any chafing, nor have I felt damp under my trousers. Even after a day of trail work there has been no noticeable perspiration odor. The merino wool has done its work well and quickly.
My stated concern (in my Initial Report) about durability was rekindled with the hole in the seat. Post-replacement performance of both pairs, however, has brightened things considerably in this category. I wore these boxers without incident on a number of work days, and after what I rate as heavy use and several trips through the washer and dryer other than around the hole there's no loose thread on either pair. Neither waistband has lost any elasticity; the fit is as comfortable as the first time I wore them.
Each pair of the boxers has been washed several times, and each time I have followed the manufacturer's directions of using the dryer on low. In my house wool garments are not washed on a schedule. When there's enough stuff (wool and synthetic) to fill the washer, into the machine it goes, using a non-detergent or occasionally a wool-specific soap. After washing I retrieve all other merino tops and bottoms for hanging and air drying, but socks and the Woolx boxers go in the dryer. As noted, no harm done yet.
WHAT I LIKE
Snug but not constraining fit
WHAT I DON'T
The hole in the seat still has me worried about durability.
LONG TERM REPORT - October 8, 2014
With two pairs of Woolx boxers I've been able to wear one or the other on just about every outdoor activity during the past two months. These have included about one dozen day hikes, a separate dozen fishing days, and a two-day backpack. All of my use has been not far from my home, in generally good weather: sunny and mild days, with temperatures ranging from 50-85 F (10-30 C). The only exception was last week's backpack into the Slough Creek section of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, which our group started at 40 F (4 C) in a snow flurry. The snow continued, on and off, on the five-mile (8 km) hike to camp at 6600 feet (1900 m), with the weather finally breaking clear and cold, down to an estimated 15 F (-10 C) at night. The snow didn't stick at our altitude but you can see it on the mountains.
On the backpack trip I wore convertible trousers, though I never unzipped the lower portion, and heavyweight knee socks. On every other occasion I wore the boxers under hiking shorts, as the pleasant temperatures and warmer water allowed fishing without the need for waders.
Here I begin by generally repeating the observations in my Field Report about fit and wicking ability. Performance in these categories has continued to be excellent. The new news is that I have put the boxers to a further two months' good and frequent use without one single ground for complaint. The hole in the seat has not grown any larger, and neither pair has a loose thread or other deformity. Best of all the elastic (Is it elastic? See my Initial Report about fabric.) or whatever is used at the waist has not lost any give or stretch - the fit is as comfortable as out of the box. And this has occurred after four or five additional trips through the washer and dryer, bearing out Woolx's claim - unique among merino underwear manufacturers in my experience - that machine washing and drying will not damage the product. This may seem like a small advantage; after all it's not difficult to hang a set of boxers up to dry for a day or two. I think otherwise. Air drying takes time, and the ability to wash and dry my underwear immediately can mean a fresh set the next day, for me a pleasant psychological boost to a day on the river or on the trail.
One additional observation concerns the boxers' lightweight fabric. It isn't something I have measured, but even on the warmest or highest activity days I have not noticed any uncomfortable sweat accumulation. I suspect the lightweight fabric had something to do with this, or perhaps it was the body-hugging fit. Either way this is a design feature, and Woolx deserves the praise. The comfort has been much appreciated and yet another reason I shall definitely investigate other merino garments from this manufacturer.
Underwear is something that is performing well if I don't notice a problem. The relative brevity of this Test Report is a compliment, as I just haven't had many issues to complain about.
I think Woolx is selling a fine product in the X-Lite Boxers. Comfortable fit, accurate sizing, great wicking, light weight, easy care, real durability, and a very reasonable price - what's not to like? The boxers' stellar showing over four months has convinced me that I was to blame for the hole in the first pair, and I'm withdrawing my "What I Don't Like" comment from my Field Report. My only suggested design change reflects a longtime personal preference, not any drawback with the boxers. I'd like to try a pair in a more traditional boxer cut instead of, or perhaps as an alternative to, the boxer-brief style of the X-Lites. That way I could see if it's the fit or the fabric that aids the wicking. And since these boxers can be tossed into the washer and dryer, I could begin to use them for everyday wear.
My Test Report ends here, with thanks to Woolx and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test these boxers.
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