The Definitive Test of Men’s Athletic Underwear
We focused on comfort, stretch, and how well they fought off sweat and stink
Having tested over 50 pairs of men’s performance undies for Outside’s Buyer’s Guide as well as this column, I can confidently say that we are in a golden era of junk-hugging athletic underwear. The mixture of support, comfort, and stretch in today’s models is unparalleled. But naturally, I wanted to find out which pair does it all.
To parse the subtleties of comfort between five very similar pairs of boxers and briefs, I swapped them in and out for daily wear over the past month. Then I wore each pair on a three-mile trail called Bandersnatch near my house in Ashland, Oregon, to gauge how well they supported and moved with me as I hiked. I also wore each pair for one four-mile run and my twice-weekly circuit workout in my garage, which consists of four sets of 500-meter rows, 15 squats, 15 push-ups, and 15 burpees. And to test how well they staved off funk, I wore each pair for 48 straight hours—during which time I worked up a sweat exercising—and then took a big whiff of them.
Winner: Saxx Quest 2.0 ($34)
Moisture Wicking: 5/5
Odor Mitigation: 4/5
The Quest’s nylon-spandex blend was gossamer thin, to the point of being almost see-through, which made it hyper breathable and wicking. On top of being stretchy and lightweight, the fabric felt nice and cool and smooth to the touch—it is one of the most comfortable synthetics I have tested. Support comes in the form of Saxx’s signature mesh BallPark Pouch, which is a cupping layer of fabric built into the crotch of its undies. And the eight-inch inseam could have been annoying, but the Quest never rode up or down during squats or burpees or as I ascended Bandersnatch. That extra length even helped prevent leg chafing from my shorts. Plus, after two days of wear, the Quest smelled fresh as a daisy.
2. Patagonia Sender Briefs ($30)
Moisture Wicking: 5/5
Odor Mitigation: 2.5/5
The Sender was neck and neck with the Quest throughout most of the test but got edged out since it wasn’t as supportive and odor clung to it. The briefs collected too much of that marinated workout stank for my liking, and while there was enough compression to stymie unwanted jarring during the run and circuit workout, it didn’t have the reassuring cupping fabric or feel of the Saxx. Though like the Quest, the Sender was see-through and didn’t trap sweat—it was almost dry half an hour after I soaked it through doing circuits. And it didn’t ride up at all during any exercise, regardless of how vigorous.
3. Kitsbow Trail Boxer ($55)
Moisture Wicking: 4.75/5
Odor Mitigation: 3/5
Being a cycling brand, Kitsbow makes a great pair of everyday boxers. The Trail came in exceptionally close to the Sender and might even have a leg up in cold weather (it’s thicker than the two models above). Despite that thickness, sweat evaporated only 20 minutes after I’d fully drenched the Trail during my circuit training. Credit the Polartec Power Dry it was constructed from, which has serious wicking chops. The fabric’s four-way stretch also made the undies disappear in a good way—it did a fine job of keeping everything where it needed to be while not pulling against me as I banged out squats and burpees. Where the Trail suffered most was in the odor-mitigation department: I managed to get them exceptionally stinky over 48 hours.
4. Tasc BamBare Pimaluxe Boxer Brief ($38)
Moisture Wicking: 2/5
Odor Mitigation: 2.5/5
The first time I pulled on Tasc’s BamBare Pimaluxe, it was so comfortable that I let out an audible “ooooooh!” But the suppleness of the bamboo-cotton blend couldn’t overshadow some drawbacks. The boxer brief had a tendency to hold on to moisture, which resulted in clamminess on the hike, run, and throughout the circuit exercises. Plus, the legs rode up and bunched on me during burpees and the run, leaving the BamBare tied for last on this list in the movement category. That said, it stretched plenty well during the hike and everyday tasks, and the sweat buildup wouldn’t have been an issue if I hadn’t turned up the activity level.
5. Stance Wholester Boxer Briefs ($33)
Moisture Wicking: 1.5/5
Odor Mitigation: 2/5
Like the Tasc boxer briefs, the Wholester performed better in the more casual tests but suffered when it came to moisture wicking and movement. Its cotton construction felt luxurious on my skin, and the touch of elastane gave it enough stretch to not feel onerous while walking, standing, or sitting. But that same cotton held onto moisture like it was its job. The Wholester still felt wet an hour after my run as well as after my post-circuit workout. That, coupled with a lack of odor-fighting prowess, left a particular pungence 48 hours later. I would have liked more stretch, too. But it’s worth noting that if you don’t enjoy the feel of synthetic fabrics, the Wholester does deliver all the comfort of high-end cotton, with a ton of support from an internal pouch.