Cotton underwear. Seriously, that is the topic of this week’s column. But these boxer shorts, made by Longworth Industries Inc. of North Carolina, are not knitted with your run-of-the-mill white fluff. Marketed as “performance underwear,” the company’s Polarmax AYG line of men’s and women’s boxers and briefs feature a special cotton type branded as TransDRY.
The quick summary of TransDRY is that it is a fabric that looks and feels like normal cotton, but it breathes like a synthetic. The secret is in a chemical treatment applied to the threads that helps disperse moisture that might otherwise get caught up in the fine filaments on each cotton strand.
In my use, the TransDRY treatment seems to work. I have worn the boxer shorts on long hikes and on backpacking trips that last a couple days. (No, I did not change my underwear the whole trip!) The TransDRY fabric is indeed a neat product, as it creates a comfortable, non-clammy environment inside boxer shorts that otherwise might act like normal Fruit of the Looms.
A bonus is the underwear’s anti-microbial treatment, which is necessary for trips where your skivvies might do duty for a couple days in a row. The treatment helps with odor and “enhanced comfort and hygiene,” as the company puts it.
The feel of TransDRY is that of a thin cotton fabric, comfortable and light. On the underwear, a strong elastic waistband keeps them in place, and an athletic cut allows for free motion.
Sizing runs large in the AYG line. I recommend down-sizing for a true tight athletic fit. I wear size large underwear in many brands, but with AYG a medium is fine and in fact even verging on too big.
What about the old “cotton kills” adage? That common saying in outdoors spheres refers to cotton’s propensity to hold moisture and stay cold when wet against the skin. Hypothermia is the fear, especially if you get caught in wet, cold cotton outdoors in the winter months.
With the TransDRY fabric, less moisture is retained and the fabric dries much quicker than traditional cotton. But in my test the TransDRY fabric still retained water, and it felt cold on the skin. The lesson? While an improvement, I will not use AYG products for extended wilderness trips most times of the year.
But for warmer summer trips and for casual wear, the comfortable, neo-cotton undies are a new favorite in my dresser drawer. More info on the AYG line is on www.polarmax.com. Depending on the model, the underwear costs $25 to $35 a pair.
–Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of www.gearjunkie.com.