When it comes to hiking, a pair of good underwear makes a big difference in terms of comfort. So, when we got activewear from the British brand Isobaa for testing in the beginning of the year, I was happy to see that they also included Merino underwear. Isobaa specializes in activewear made of Merino wool. We have tested their products before, and we only had good experiences with them. Therefore, I couldn’t wait to test their Merino Boxers which are made of 180 g/m2 Merino wool and thus suitable for year-round use.
During the winter and spring, I regularly wore the Isobaa Merino Boxers for everyday use as well as on short hikes here in Denmark. In February I also thoroughly tested them on more demanding trails while I was on vacation in Slovenia; I wore them on the demanding Velika Planina trail as well as on a via ferrata trail. Below is what I learned about the Isobaa Merino Boxers.
The Isoba Merino Boxers are suitable for:
- Everyday use
The Isobaa Merino boxers are made of a 100% Merino wool fabric and when I unwrapped them, I was really surprised over the smoothness and softness of the fabric. The fabric is really pleasant to the touch which is important because the boxers are worn directly against the skin. Isobaa states that the boxers utilize 18.5-micron Merino wool (often labelled as Superfine Merino wool) which is the second highest grade of Merino wool. The density of the fabric is 180 g/m2 which is in my opinion just the right density for underwear to use year-round. The boxers are a bit thicker than lightweight merino t-shirts, probably for better durability as underwear is more exposed to rubbing (thigh area) than t-shirts. Nevertheless, they are not too thick, even for the hottest summer days.
So, when you are buying hiking underwear, you usually want a breathable, moisture-wicking, quick-drying and odor-resistant garment. These are in my opinion, in addition to comfort, the most important qualities when it comes to hiking underwear and that’s what I focused on while testing the Isobaa Merino boxers. I started wearing the boxers in winter and the first thing I noticed was that they are very breathable. I never had a feeling that they made me sweat, and the fabric also nicely pulled moisture from my skin. As the boxers are made of Merino wool, I also never got particularly cold during rest phases or after intensive stretches. Wet/moist Merino wool doesn’t feel as cold against the skin as other fabrics, due to the unique structure of the Merino fibers. You can read more about this in my Guide to Base Layer Materials.
The boxers also dry relatively fast. Of course not as fast as thin synthetic underwear but that is to be expected as Merino wool absorbs more moisture than polyester. I wore the Isobaa Merino Boxers on the Velika Planina trail where they got soaked with sweat while I was ascending to the peak. Nevertheless, within an hour after reaching the peak, they were already completely dry. I like to wear quick-drying underwear for hiking because hiking in wet underwear can quickly chafe your skin and is in general not comfortable. Learn more about this in my article Why should you wear quick drying clothes for hiking.
The Isobaa Merino boxers also perform well in terms of odor resistance. I often wore them on two hikes in a row without washing them in-between and they never became smelly. That is, however, not surprising because Merino wool is naturally antimicrobial, and I never had bad experiences with Merino wool apparel in terms of odor resistance. The fabric also seems adequately durable for hiking underwear and so far, I haven’t noticed any tears or other damages. In case I do, I will of course update this review.
Comfort, fit, sizing and functionality
The Isobaa Merino boxers have an inseam length of 12 cm (5 in.) and thus belong in the long leg boxer briefs category. I myself like to wear longer boxers for hiking and sports in general because they protect my thighs from chafing. Furthermore, the legs of shorter boxers also often ride up in my experience. The Isobaa Merino boxers fit snugly to the body and are very comfortable to wear. The material is not particularly stretchy, but I didn’t find this to be an issue. The boxers never restricted me in any way, and I haven’t encountered any chafing or other discomfort.
The boxers have flatlock seams, a fly and an elastic waistband. The waistband is made of comfortable elastic material with Isobaa’s sheep head logo on it and is not too tight nor too lose. The label with washing instructions is printed not to cause discomfort. Similarly, the tag with the Isobaa logo is stitched onto the outside of the boxers, just under the waistband.
I got the Isobaa Merino boxers in size L and when I unwrapped them, I was a bit scared that they would be too big for me. Nevertheless, when I put them on, I figured out that they fit me perfectly. My waist circumference is 92 cm (36 in.) and according to Isobaa’s size guide I should go for size XL. However, I asked for size L as all my other underwear is in size L. This was a good decision because the boxers indeed seem to run large.
Washing and drying
The Isobaa Merino boxers can be machine washed at 30 C without bleach or softeners. Like all other Merino clothes, they shouldn’t be tumble dried. Nevertheless, this is not a big problem because the boxers dry really fast. Furthermore, because they are odor resistant and antimicrobial, you don’t have to wash them as often as synthetic underwear which is especially great for multi-day hiking trips.
The Isobaa Merino boxers are a great option for outdoorsy activities and sports. I’m very satisfied with the fabric, which is soft, smooth and consequently very comfortable. The boxers are breathable, quick-drying and moisture-wicking. As they are made of Merino wool, they are also-odor resistant and antimicrobial. They fit me well and I haven’t encountered any chafing or other discomfort, not least because they have flatlock seams and a printed label. However, do remember to go for a size smaller than the size guide recommends as the boxers do run a bit large.
If you have any questions about this product, drop me a line in the comments below.