Outdoor Research Enigma Boxer Briefs
Close-fitting as a boxer brief intended for active use should be, the Enigma Boxer Briefs feel good, wick extremely well, and appear to be durable. This is mostly-nylon with 12 percent merino wool. It's quite stretchy and performs more like nylon than wool. Though the fabric is thin, it seems like it should last. Mixing in wool helps blunt the odor factor, too.
- Durable (so far)
- Thin fabric, possible wear issue
HOW THEY FIT
The Enigma Boxer Brief is a relatively short (6 1/2 inch inseam) and stretchy boxer made from the same material as Outdoor Research's Enigma Half Zip Top and Enigma Bottom long johns, which I also reviewed. They're 88 percent nylon and 12 percent merino wool. The material is quite stretchy, so they fit kind of like a second skin. The "legs" don't ride up at all, and the waistband doesn't ride down.
Basically, they do what they are supposed to do for something intended for active use—it's a close-fitting athletic boxer/brief that will fit pretty much anyone. I felt this ran true to size. Outdoor Research sells it in sizes XS through XXL and the size chart was spot on for me.
It's worth noting these have a good waistband that's soft on the inside yet doesn't get deformed or roll over. That's an issue I have had with a few other brands.
Note that although Outdoor Research sells Enigma tops and bottoms for women, the company doesn't make a women's brief or boxer brief.
HOW THEY FEEL
For those who have concerns about skin irritation because these have some wool in them, fear not. These feel and wear much more like a synthetic layer than wool. For example, a long day in some wool boxer/briefs can leave the fabric somewhat damp and a bit stretched out, and some people find wool, even merino, to be itchy. I'm not one of those people, but these don't lose any stretch or cause any irritation, as far as I can tell. They also didn't bind, catch, bunch, or otherwise make any of my hikes unexpectedly...uncomfortable. It helps that the seams are flat, low-profile, so there aren't any obvious friction points.
The addition of a little wool helps, I think, because they feel a little softer than some of the all-nylon athletic boxer briefs I used for hiking.
Other basic features—these have a fly, which is useful, and the crotch is gusseted to allow better range of motion and probably durability. They're less likely to overstretch and rip.
This is where these boxers really shine, and that surprised me a little. Merino wool is a great material and wicks moisture nicely, but synthetic layers generally do a better job at not retaining moisture and getting it away from your skin. Perhaps due to the thin fabric or the relatively limited amount of wool, these are amazing at keeping things from getting damp and drying out quickly.
I took multiple hikes in the rain in these, wearing a waterproof/breathable shell over shorts or long johns. This can be a recipe for feeling sweaty. Instead, I found these kept me dry as well as any similar pair of briefs I have used. The same was true on numerous trail hikes and runs in a wide range of temperatures —these are just as good on a warm (high 50s) day as a chilly day.
For a pair of briefs, warmth isn't really what I look for. And these are made of very thin material, so don't expect them to add much warmth to whatever layering system you are using. I found the same was true of the top and bottom. This base layer primarily does well as a wicking layer, not as a layer that adds a lot of insulation.
It's worth thinking about durability in a pair of boxer briefs, because it is the main weakness for many of them. Reasonably tight, stretchy fabric is at a higher risk of failure, and given the obvious wear points, like between the legs, I look for pilling and small holes.
Over two to three months of steady wear, I see no wear points or fails so far. In the long run, the fact that these are mostly nylon should be a plus...and the fact they have some wool and are made from such thin material could result in some early wear, because merino wool boxer briefs almost invariably develop some holes and pills after a while.
I tended to launder them only occasionally to test their ability to ward off odor. For any clothing I own that's even part merino wool, I launder with everything else, damp dry for maybe 10-12 minutes, then hang them while they're still damp to let them air dry. Manufacturer's instructions say to line dry.
This is why Outdoor Research added a little wool. Nylon briefs can smell funky on a trip of any length. (I'm going polite). These will get there eventually, anything will, but it will take most people a solid week or two of wearing them without washing for them to smell not so great, and that assumes you never dunk them in a stream, wring them out, and let them hang dry, which they do very quickly. In this respect, it's exceptional for a mostly-nylon pair of boxers and comparable to fully synthetic layers. These dry quite a bit more quickly than boxers that are 80-95 percent merino. Most brands have some stretchy nylon in them these days, I think.
I wore these during cold weather months, so I typically saw temperatures from the low 20s to low 40s in the mid-Atlantic. However, I also wore them on a couple of hikes in the Middle East in December where the temps were in the mid-60s. It worked well throughout, so think of this boxer brief as a year-round option. I wouldn't say that about most merino wool, but this is super-light.
These also saw more than their fair share of rainy hikes, so I had a number of opportunities to hike along after getting my shorts and boxers wet; where I was going uphill at a good clip and generating a lot of heat and moisture; and wearing them under a layer or two to stay warm.
Depending on your preference, these might make a great pair of underwear for travel because they're comfortable, resist odor, and dry quickly. I tend to like a slightly looser fit for flights and airports. On the trip I took to the Middle East, I used them for hiking and walking around, in weather ranging from 40s and drenching rain to 70 and clear, and I found them equally good to wear regardless of the weather I saw.
It's really tough to find fault with Outdoor Research's Enigma Boxer Brief. I might lean toward all-wool boxer briefs in really cold weather, but otherwise, I really like the way these feel and perform.
Two to three months of regular use, primarily cooler/cold weather, for hiking.
Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps
(Sample for testing and review provided by Outdoor Research)
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Historic Range: $20.99-$34.00
3 oz / 85 g
6.5 in / 17 cm
driRelease 88% recycled polyester, 12% wool