Duckworth Vapor Brief Review
Cons: Loose fit not for active use, bunches up under tight-fitting clothing
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Vapor Brief is like a summer barbecue: relaxed, feel-good casual, and made in the gosh darn U.S. of A. For those looking for a comfy, looser fitting boxer brief with some decent odor control, these are a good choice, especially if you want to spend your money on American-made products. We like the Duckworth briefs for casual and everyday wear more than backcountry and fitness usage, as the looser fit didn't layer well with tighter clothing.
There are two ways to think about the comfort of the Vapor Brief: on their own, and as a layer. On their own, they are the comfiest pair of underwear we've tested so far. The fabric is silky smooth and the casual fit is nice for lounging about but just tight enough to keep everything contained. It's a much looser fit than any other boxer briefs we tested so far, nudging its way toward more of a boxer fit. For sleeping in and lazy days, it is by far our favorite. It's also our favorite to wear while traveling under a pair of chinos or other casual pants. For not getting active in the outdoors, this pair provides top shelf comfort.
The Vapor Brief fits fine under casual and work pants, but under anything tighter fit or for multiple layers, they end up bunching up. The legs especially seem to bunch up a bit due to the longer inseam and loose fit. We didn't love using them in winter when trying to layer tights and shell pants over them, or for highly aerobic activities like running. For active use, we recommend other pairs ahead of these. Of course, these will still function in these uses, but others do it better.
The Vapor wool blend from Duckworth is their lightest blend, using a mix of 50% polyester, 38% merino wool, and 12% rayon. This combo breathed pretty well for us. We tend to favor all wool or mostly wool fabrics, but we actually liked the Vapor blend more than we thought we would. The underwear fabric never felt too hot or even too "wooly," but it didn't have the plasticky and sticky feel of some synthetic fabrics either.
The biggest barrier to the Vapor Brief scoring higher on breathability is the fact that they tend to bunch up when moving. Products that didn't bunch and remained spread tighter across our skin breathed better, as one would expect. The looser fit, however, did allow a bit more airflow from below the hem.
Although few things beat 100% wool for odor control, we found the 38% wool blend in the Vapor Briefs to work better than we expected. We tested odor control after our high output activity tests, as well as evaluating the smell after days of repeated use.
For casual use while traveling, you can definitely get away with wearing this pair for a few back-to-back days. This pair scored higher than any of the synthetic underwear we tested, and just under the all-woolies.
Maybe it's because they don't hug the legs so tight, but the Duckworth skivvies held up quite well to repeated machine washing and drying cycles, as well as daily use. With other, tighter-fitting models, we have often experienced that the greatest stress point is the seams below the perineum. This area flexes and stretches the most. This provides an advantage to the looser-fitting Duckworth model, which receives less stress to the fabric and seams in this area.
The wool is high quality, and the synthetic fibers seem to add flex without stretching out. The sewing is of good quality, and the waistband has been holding together nicely too. We think these will last for a while, although they might not be the absolute burliest pair we tested. We will continue wearing these until they run out and report back — we'd wager it will be a while.
The Vapor Brief, due to the wool content and the thicker weave, didn't dry out quite as fast as a fully synthetic pair. Wool fibers get saturated unlike their synthetic counterparts and can take a little longer to dry out. Still, they dried out in a reasonable amount of time with our towel trick, plenty fast for most travelers.
Although these are on the higher end of the pricing, for the right person, they could be worth the cost. If you specifically want a looser fit and a USA-made product, they might be just what you're looking for. However, we think that unless you're looking for that exact criteria, there are products out there that do the job for a better value.
The Duckworth Vapor Brief is a great pair of underwear that fits a niche that most other pairs we tested didn't. While many of us see recreation and travel in similar veins, this pair shows that they shouldn't be considered synonymous. We like the looser fit for casual days and wearing under less tight pants, plus the soft fabric. We also appreciated an American-made product constructed with quality Montana wool. The fit and synthetic fibers made the Vapor Brief less versatile than they might otherwise be, but for travel and casual use, these are about as good as we've ever worn.
— Ethan Newman
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