The Outdoor Research Echo Boxer Brief is the underwear part of their popular Echo synthetic fabric line. They feel light and breezy, breathe well, and the polyester fabric is nice and soft. For a fabric so light there are a few trade-offs, like the tendency to roll a bit and a narrow waistband. We do wonder how well these will hold up in the longer term, given how thin they feel, but so far in the initial testing, they've held up well. All in all, the Echo briefs are a quality product at a price lower than most, earning our Best Buy Award.
Outdoor Research Echo Boxer Brief Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Inexpensive, breathable, layers well
Cons: thin waisband, legs roll up
Manufacturer: Outdoor Research
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Outdoor Research makes a line of products with the Echo fabric, all of which are very lightweight and inexpensive, and the Echo Boxer Briefs are no exception. We liked how light and breathable they felt, although the thinness of the echo fabric is always a bit concerning when it comes to durability. At 2.2 ounces, they were the lightest pair we tried, and they sure felt like it.
The Outdoor Research Echo fabric is about the lightest-weight synthetic fabric out there, and we are glad they applied it to underwear for this pair. The fabric is soft on both sides, and the thinness of the fabric makes the seams barely perceptible. Even the hem at the bottom of the legs laid flatter and less noticeably than most of the other pairs we tested. The lightness of the fabric perhaps made the legs roll a bit more than we liked, but we hardly noticed since it wasn't bulky even when folded in half. The fly was also likably low profile, yet easy to use.
Polyester fabric can be a toss-up, but we liked how soft the Echo fabric is. It doesn't feel plasticky or "catchy" as some synthetic materials do, and we never felt chafed when running or biking in these skivvies. The Echo fabric also gets softer (although pills up a bit) with wear. We like that Outdoor Research continues to use this fabric in baselayers.
We would like a slightly wider waistband, as thinner waistbands tend to chafe under pack belts and harnesses, and while this one wasn't too bad, after a long day of sweaty climbing we could feel the waistband a bit more than we would have liked. Because it's thinner, it has to be a bit tighter to support the briefs, and we think a wider one would reduce tightness and increase comfort somewhat, as well as reducing the slight "muffin top" effect. However, it isn't a bulky waistband, and it does layer well for cold weather activities.
Again, this is where the Echo fabric excels. The Echo Boxer Briefs wick sweat away quite well, and then dry quickly, leaving us feeling as breezy as could be for a pair of boxer briefs. While polyester usually doesn't breath quite as well as wool, this fabric is light enough that it seems to carry any moisture away quickly. We really liked this pair for hiking when it was hot out because of this. During our breathability test of running, we didn't notice any overly sweaty feeling, and they worked great under a pair of linerless running shorts.
The waistband was breathable, perhaps because it's thinner than most, but we wouldn't have minded a wider one. A wider waistband could reduce the tightness, which we think would even out in the breathability department.
Unfortunately, these didn't fare super well in the odor control department. They weren't the absolute worst, in fact, they scored the same as most other synthetic underwear, but we were hoping that the breezy fabric would reduce the amount of odor that hung on to the polyester. Any underwear that's chiefly made of polyester has a tendency to get funkier than George Clinton after a few days of wear in the backcountry. Swimming or letting them air out for a while can help, but only a solid washing can return these to a relative odor-free state after prolonged wear.
Outdoor Research's website touts the Echo Boxer Brief having ActiveFresh odor control technology, which is made in partnership with HeiQ and is fairly new, but we didn't notice a major difference between that and competitor's polygiene treatments for odor control. We hope that odor-resistant technology improves for synthetic fabrics in the future.
Because this fabric feels so dang thin, we do question the durability of the Echo fabric, although we've been surprised before by it. It held up well to our initial six week testing period, including repeated machine washing and drying cycles, as well as being worn for aerobic activities and layered under other clothing.
Other Echo fabric baselayers our testers have used in the past eventually get pilling on the fabric, but our six week testing period wasn't long enough for this to happen. Also, as far as polyester products go, pilling is something you'll probably deal with on any pair. So far, it's held up alright, but we're somewhat suspicious of the thinness.
These were hands down the fastest drying pair of underwear we tested, both on our indoor and outdoor tests. Perhaps due to the black color, they dried really fast in the sun, but they also dried quickly hung in a bathroom, especially after wringing them out in a towel. While drying on the faster side of things isn't an absolute imperative for travel underwear, it is really nice, especially when staying in a hostel-type situation where you don't really want to have to leave stuff hanging for hours and hours, especially underwear.
For the price, this is a good option for travel underwear, especially if you're going somewhere warm or plan on a lot of aerobic activity. This was one of the least expensive options we tested, and we think it's worth the money. While the durability remains to be seen on a longer timeline, this is a quality pair of underwear that feels good, stays breathable, and travels well.
While the design is fairly traditional for boxer briefs, we really liked the fit and fabric of the Outdoor Research Echo Boxer Brief. They stayed cool and breathed well even when running or hiking in the sun, and we liked how quickly they dried on our bodies and on the line. We would love to see a few minor design tweaks and better odor control, but for the price, we like them more than any other pair we have tested.
— Ethan Newman