The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Smartwool Merino 150 Boxer Brief Review

The Smartwool briefs are the burly standby for travel underwear, and they continue to perform well over time.
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Price:  $45 List | $33.49 at REI
Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Durable, soft, good odor control
Cons:  Heavy, extra thick waistband
Manufacturer:   Smartwool
By Ethan Newman ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Feb 14, 2019
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75
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 6
  • Comfort - 35% 7
  • Breathability - 20% 7
  • Odor Control - 20% 8
  • Durability - 15% 9
  • Drying Time - 10% 7

Our Verdict

The Smartwool Merino 150 Boxer Brief is an excellent choice and a classic pair of merino wool underwear. The fit is good, the material is soft and comfortable, and the construction is quality. The waistband is burly, but perhaps a bit overkill, yet it also maintains its elasticity over time better than most models we have ever tested. Overall, though, the Merino 150 is a good pair of underwear that will last. The only model we liked slightly better is the Outdoor Research Alpine Onset, our Editors' Choice winner. The OR pair has advantages in comfort and breathability but can't match the Smartwool's longevity.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Smartwool Merino 150 Boxer Brief is like a mid-nineties Toyota; it may not have tons of bells and whistles, but it will far outlast the competition if taken care of. Although it was just edged out for the Editors' Choice Award, this is a great pair of underwear for travel, backcountry, or daily use.

Performance Comparison


The author crossing the Virgin River on a chilly day in January  sporting the warmest pair of boxer briefs in the review  the Smartwool 150.
The author crossing the Virgin River on a chilly day in January, sporting the warmest pair of boxer briefs in the review, the Smartwool 150.

Comfort


We thought that generally, the Smartwool Merino 150 was pretty comfortable as underwear goes. We liked the fit, not too baggy or tight, and a nice leg length. There are seams in the middle of the crotch, but not right in the center, so we didn't really notice them, which is good.

The fabric is a Core Woven merino wool, meaning the wool fibers have been wrapped around a nylon core to increase the durability. The fabric felt slightly less stretchy than the other wool underwear, but that could have been because of the burlier stitching. Otherwise, the fabric felt as soft as any merino normally does.

The Smartwool waistband is easily twice as thick as the Outdoor Research waistband.
The Smartwool waistband is easily twice as thick as the Outdoor Research waistband.

The one thing we didn't like quite as much was the waistband. It seemed a bit much for just a pair of underwear. It's twice as thick and wide as any of the other pairs we tested, and it was a little annoying when layering over it.

Breathability


Breathability is one of the things merino does surprisingly well, and the Smartwool boxer briefs are no exception. The wool breaths nicely and regulates temperatures well, never getting too hot or too cool, except around the gigantic waistband. Overall, they're pretty breathable.

The Smartwool Merino 150 Boxer Brief is the heaviest in the review. Being a bit thicker than the competition  it doesn't pack down as small as other models tested.
The Smartwool Merino 150 Boxer Brief is the heaviest in the review. Being a bit thicker than the competition, it doesn't pack down as small as other models tested.

Odor Control


Again, this is a category where merino wool excels. The rough texture of the wool fibers and the natural lanolin coating keeps the stink at bay. After running or cycling in them, they definitely smell used, but not out of the ordinary, and the smell reduced after airing them out for a bit.

The Merino 150 Boxer Brief dried the slowest of all the underwear we tested  but it would always be dry after hanging overnight.
The Merino 150 Boxer Brief dried the slowest of all the underwear we tested, but it would always be dry after hanging overnight.

Durability


These are by far the burliest pair of skivvies out of all models we tested. The flatlock seams are tight and burly, even at the hem where other pairs go with lighter stitching. The waistband seems to have enough elastic for a decent wrist rocket. Even the printed logos showed no sign of wear. We think that in the long run the Smartwool Merino 150 will far outlast the competition.

Drying Time


Due to the thick waistband and extra seams, these were one of the slowest pairs to dry. They dry a little quicker than some others in the sun, likely because of the black color absorbing more sunshine, but they still dry slowly. Still, they're plenty thin enough to dry overnight for a fresh pair the next day.

Best Applications


We think that the Merino 150 boxer briefs are an excellent choice for extended trips, or if you're looking for longevity first. We liked them both in the backcountry and urban environments. If you're looking for a classic pair of underwear for most situations, these are worth a look.

Value


At 45 dollars, they aren't the most expensive pair, but they're only four bucks cheaper than the Editors' Choice Award-winning Outdoor Research Alpine Onset, which was a little comfier but less durable. Still, they're a solid choice if you're willing to spend over $40 for a pair of underwear. Their long-term durability boosts this pair into being a strong value.

The full line up  from left to right: Smartwool Merino 150  Icebreaker Anatomica  OR Alpine Start  Exofficio Give-N-Go  Stoic Merino  and the Saxx Vibe.
The full line up, from left to right: Smartwool Merino 150, Icebreaker Anatomica, OR Alpine Start, Exofficio Give-N-Go, Stoic Merino, and the Saxx Vibe.

Conclusion


The Smartwool Merino 150 Boxer Briefs is a classic that stands the test of time. We think the high-quality construction, core woven fabric, and overbuilt waistband will keep you reaching for them again and again.


Ethan Newman