The performance base layer and boxer brief space is a crowded one. A significant number of brands focus solely on those products, and do a good job at it. Brands like SAXX, for example. On the other hand, it seems every major outdoor apparel manufacturer offers their own take on performance briefs and base layers. Columbia has joined that list with a trio of boxer brief products promising the best wicking and cooling performance.
After sending us a few pairs of each to test out, here are our thoughts:
- Three Models- Diamond Mesh Omni-wick Trunks, Performance Cotton Stretch Omni-wick Briefs and the Omni-freeze Zero Cooling Boxer Brief.
- Materials- Columbia does not skimp on the materials used in their outer layer apparel, with the same holding true for their boxer briefs. Their Omnicool material, used on the Omni-Freeze Zero Cooling Brief, is particularly durable feeling and offers the most comfort.
- Cooling & Wicking- Considerable resources went into developing Columbia’s Omni-wick technology, which is found on a huge percentage of their products. The wicking effect is top notch, offering noticeably quick results when things start to heat up. The Omni-freeze technology is less noticeable for temperature regulation. Sure, it may help keep things a couple degrees cooler during peak physical activity, but it’s hardly enough to definitely say there was a meaningful temperature difference.
- Fit and Staying Power- And here’s where we run into problems. The Diamond Mesh materials tend to ride and bunch up almost immediately after putting them on all sizes we tested (large and mediums), rendering the trunks pretty much useless. The Omni-freeze material fared better, but still shifted position considerably after a full day of wear. The Performance Cotton material offered the best staying power of the three, but still falls far short of the staying power the SAXX and Champion in particular delivered.
- Price- Prices range from about $18 per pair for the Omni-freeze Zero Cooling Briefs to $28 for a two pack of the Performance Cotton Stretch Omni-wick Briefs.
Perhaps the worst offense Columbia has committed with their entrance into this product segment is a complete brand identity crisis for each base layer brief. If you look at any individual product from their chief competitors in this space, each product has a unique name and identity. Columbia’s approach has been to throw every technical item along with descriptive elements into a “name”. Performance Cotton Stretch Omni-wick Brief? Doesn’t roll off the tongue.
Poor naming conventions aside, Columbia’s offering in the performance base layer space is marginal at best. As stand-alone products, they’re not terrible, despite the poor fit and immediate bunching up seriously docking points from the scorecard. But with so many excellent alternatives to choose from in the same price range, Columbia will have to go back to the drawing board to seriously compete in the space.