While the ExOfficio Give-N-Go Boxer Brief isn't our favorite in the review, it did perform fairly well in most categories. It's definitely a step up from cotton underpants. We didn't love the material, but it is breathable and stretchy enough to not notice it while active. We did find both odor control and durability lacking in comparison to the competition. Even with the antimicrobial treatment, the Give-N-Go still eventually gained the synthetic stank all polypro clothing eventually gets, which is hard to eradicate. The fabric also began pilling and degrading after only two months of use. Still, it gets the job done, and does so at a favorable price, over $20 less than our Editors' Choice winner, the Outdoor Research Alpine Onset Boxer Brief.
ExOfficio Give-N-Go Boxer Brief Review
Compare prices at 4 resellers Pros: Inexpensive, supportive, breathable
Cons: Doesn't block odor well, not durable
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Give-N-Go Boxer Brief has been around a while, although they have tweaked the design recently. It was the only fully synthetic pair of boxer briefs we tested in the review. We didn't think the odor control worked as good as its wool competitors, and they showed more wear during the test than any other pair. Still, we found the Give-N-Go to be pretty comfortable, and the price is unbeatable. In fact, it's half the price of some of the other underwear in the review.
For a synthetic fabric, we found the mesh style to be smoother than we expected. Unlike some textured synthetics which can have a slightly velcro-like or staticky feel, the nylon on the Give-N-Go felt surprisingly silky when we put them on. We also liked the low profile waistband, the second thinnest in the review, which layers well under winter clothing. The lack of a seam at the crotch is also a nice touch, and the flatlock seams are pleasant and smooth against our skin.
While we do like how thin and stretchy the fabric was, it tends to roll up the leg, especially under thicker pants. We don't love that the fly is a bit small, but the stretch fabric mostly makes up for it. The fly also has a large amount of overlap, which adds some inconvenient maneuvering when nature called. We also found the fit a bit odd, as the crotch tended to be baggy but the legs oddly thin, which perhaps contributed to the fabric rolling up our legs.
We did like the baggy fit when we were lounging about on rest days, and we didn't notice the fit during everyday use, but they weren't as supportive as some of the other options when running or similarly active movements. We never got chafed, but wearing them on a longer backpacking trip or something similar we could see leading to rubbing issues.
The best way to make synthetic fabrics more breathable is to make them thinner, which appears to be the route ExOfficio took with the latest design of the Give-N-Go. This does make them more breathable than the pair our tester had ten years ago, but we still found the fabric a bit plasticky feeling, especially on the legs, when doing anything aerobic in warmer temperatures. The mesh does lift the fabric off the skin a bit, so we did like the texture more than some synthetics we've used in the past.
They did fare better when less layered, and we didn't notice a lack of breathability when layered under a thinner pair of pants or shorts, but when under several winter layers, we didn't think they regulated temperatures as well as other options. This is another downside to synthetic fabrics, as they are never quite as breathable as natural fibers.
You can spray synthetic fabrics with all kinds of antimicrobial coatings, but at the end of the day, synthetic fabric is still going to smell like a hockey locker room. Unfortunately, the Give-N-Go is no different. Coming out of the wash they were unscented, so perhaps the antimicrobial treatment keeps off the deepest of the stink, but after wearing them for any extended high-output activities or multi-day trips they smelled like what they were: nylon that's holding a bunch of sweat. For everyday use, and even for sweaty activities for one day, it's not noticeable, but after a few days of living in them, the odor is increasingly apparent.
Airing them out did help a bit, and perhaps could be a solution on longer backcountry trips, but probably the better bet would be quick but regular washing to stave off the harshest of the funk.
An unfortunate side effect of ExOfficio making the Give-N-Go mesh thinner appears to be a loss of durability. In the two months of testing the underwear, with machine washing and drying according to the instructions on the tag, the nylon mesh began pilling up and also now has small runs in the fabric.
They also seem to stretch out a bit over several days, although they mostly shrink back after washing. We have a hard time imagining these lasting for a long time if they are beginning to degrade after only two months of wear. The SmartWool Merino 150 struck us as the most durable among all models tested.
One nice thing about synthetic fabric is that the threads themselves don't absorb water, only the spaces between the threads do, so nylon and similar poly fabrics usually dry much quicker than something like merino wool. In just about an hour these skivvies went from soaking wet to bone dry while hanging in the sun, even during a winter day. So, even though the Give-N-Go tends to stink more quickly than some of the other pairs of underwear, you could quickly wash and dry to stave off the stench for another day.
For every day use, the Give-N-Go Boxer Brief works pretty well. This wouldn't be our first choice for a multi-day trip, but we did like them for daily use, and they were fairly comfortable to lounge in around airport terminals. If you're looking for the easiest to hand wash and line dry, this might be the best pair for that. They are also a good option for packing light on urban travel, where you could hand wash these in a sink regularly, and no need for a lot of support during highly mobile activities.
While we did find the Give-N-Go lacking in certain metrics, the price sure is hard to beat. Given that they are half the price of the Outdoor Research Alpine Onset Boxer Brief and the Stoic Merino Performance Boxer Brief, it's hard to argue against the value of the ExOfficio pair. If you're on a budget, this Best Buy-winning pair is a worthy choice.
Although the ExOfficio Give-N-Go Boxer Brief is the lowest scoring in the review, they're still a decent pair of underwear, and a noticeable improvement over non-performance models. Although they stink quicker than wool, they wick sweat better than the average pair of underwear, and they are quite easily washed and dried, no matter where you are. They won't last as long as some of the other boxer briefs in the review, but you can buy two of the ExOfficio pairs for the price of one of the Stoic of Outdoor Research skivvies. For a pair of underwear that will get the job done at an excellent price, we think that the Give-N-Go is worth looking into and worthy of our Best Buy Award.
— Ethan Newman