Unbound Merino Boxer Briefs: The perfect underwear for your travel adventures?

Unbound Merino boxer briefs

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Need some comfortable, lightweight and quick-drying undies for your next trip? Whether it’s a multi-day hike, a business trip or exploring the world, sustainable merino underwear should be on your shortlist. Sandra and I have tested different underwear brands over the years – from technical underwear (ExOfficio) to those made from natural fibres like Lyocell and Merino (Icebreaker and Macpac). Boxer briefs from Unbound Merino are now my underwear of choice after first trialling them in 2021. Here is my full unbiased review.

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Who is Unbound Merino?

Unbound Merino is a private Toronto/Canada-based clothing brand, designing and selling merino garments for men and women. Their clothing has no flashy brand labels. Instead, words and phrases like simple, high-performance, versatile, pack and own less as well as freedom through simplicity describe the essence of the brand.

In 2016, united in their love for travel and noticing a gap in the market, the Unbound Merino founders started making merino products for everyday use

In 2016, united in their love for travel and noticing a gap in the market, the Unbound Merino founders started making merino products for travel and everyday use

What’s so special about Merino wool, and where does Unbound Merino’s wool come from?

Merino wool (naturally) has hypoallergenic properties, is breathable, moisture-wicking and odour-resistant. Which makes it suitable for all seasons and a variety of uses.

Unbound Merino co-founder Dan Demsky reportedly once wore one of their Merino Crew Neck T-shirts for 46 days straight – to work, hot yoga and dining out. That’s 6 1/2 weeks of wear without a single wash. Not that we would recommend it though, especially not with underwear.

Merino wool comes from Merino sheep. This breed of sheep produces one of the softest and finest wools in the world (more on that below). They are also extremely hardy. Merino sheep live in the freezing backcountry of the South Island of New Zealand and the harsh extremes of Australia (where Unbound Merino sources its wool from).

Disclaimer

Being regular users and big advocates of Merino clothing, Unbound Merino approached us in 2021 and offered several garments for me to try (without requesting a review in return). The pack we received included a T-shirt, Boxer Briefs, All Season Crew Socks and All Season Ankle Socks. All were replacements for items on my packing list that had reached their end of life. While we received these items free of charge, as with all our reviews: Our opinion can’t be bought.

Merino Sheep

Merino wool comes from hardy Merino sheep and has great natural properties

Are there differences in Merino wool?

Yes, there are. Merino wool is differentiated by micron size (the smaller the number the softer the fibre):

Wool TypeMeasurement (in Microns)
Extra Ultrafine16.0 and under
Ultrafine16.1 to 17.5
Superfine17.6 to 18.5
Fine18.6 to 19.5
Fine-Medium Wool19.6 to 20.5
Medium20.6 to 22.5
Strong22.6 upwards

Each type is used for different purposes:

  • (Extra) Ultrafine wools are usually blended with silk and cashmere to create fabrics for the high-end fashion market.
  • (Super) Fine to Medium wools are those you’ll find in most merino knitwear – including Unbound Merino’s boxer briefs.
  • Strong wools are harder wearing and thus generally blended with polyester and/or acrylic fibres to produce commercial mid-weight jersey wool.
Unbound Merino Boxer Briefs

Unbound Merino boxer briefs are made from 18.5-micron superfine merino wool

What to look out for when buying Merino products?

Before buying a merino product, review the following checklist:

  • Is the merino wool traceable to its source?
  • Does the wool fibre come from mulesing-free wool farms?
  • Are there regular audits of supply chain practices?
  • Can you readily access information about the practices and audits?
  • Are there care instructions on the clothing label?

The more positive answers and transparent disclosure, the more confident you can be in buying a sustainable and ethically made product.

How sustainably and ethically made are Unbound Merino’s products?

According to Unbound Merino, the company works hard to choose reputable business partners who are committed to ethical standards and business practices compatible with those of the brand. Unbound Merino’s suppliers are Woolmark®, RWS (Responsible Wool Standard), WRAP (Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production) and ISO 9001 certified to ensure inclusive, safe and healthy working conditions and environmental responsibility throughout the supply chain:

  • Beyond being a sign of product quality confirmed by rigorous lab testing, Woolmark®-certified products have a unique batch number, enabling consumers to trace an item to the garment manufacturer. Unfortunately, Unbound Merino does not (yet) display that batch number on its garments.
  • The RWS (Responsible Wool Standard) certification program ensures that the supply chain meets specific requirements for land management as well as animal and social welfare. Mulesing for example - a surgical procedure that removes wool-bearing skin around the breech of a sheep to prevent flystrike (a parasitic infection) - is strictly prohibited on farms that are RWS-certified.
  • WRAP (Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production) certification requires compliance with 12 principles aimed at ensuring that apparel and footwear products are made ethically, under safe, humane and lawful conditions.

Unbound Merino asks that all suppliers pay above minimum wage (as per the laws of the country or the prevailing local industry wage) and that employees receive all legally mandated benefits. The Unbound Merino team also visits the factories (twice a year) to ensure they are close to the process and the people they work with.

Unbound Merino Boxer Briefs

Unbound Merino's suppliers are Woolmark®, RWS (Responsible Wool Standard), WRAP (Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production) and ISO 9001 certified

Where are Unbound Merino’s garments manufactured?

Unbound Merino’s garment production and manufacturing are completed in Jiaxing and Wuxi, China.

What has been my experience wearing Unbound Merino Boxer Briefs for almost three years?

Unbound Merino Boxer Briefs Review
Overall
4.8
  • Comfort
    (5)
  • Leg Length
    (4.5)
  • Moisture Control
    (5)
  • Durability
    (5)
  • Drying Time
    (5)
  • Sustainability
    (4.5)
  • Value for Money
    (4.5)

SUMMARY

Comfort

The Unbound Merino Boxer Briefs are very comfortable. Made from 18.5-micron superfine merino wool (plus 12% nylon and 4% spandex), they are soft yet firm without being restrictive (something I didn’t like about my Icebreaker briefs). The fabric is breathable, stretchy and light, but with enough support to hold everything in place. The crotch is supported top to bottom with a double layer for support, with the same reinforced stitching that is used in the Unbound Merino T-shirts.

Leg Length

Unbound Merino’s boxer briefs all have the same leg length. No matter what size you order, it’s always 14cm/5.5in (measured on the inside leg). While the leg length is fine for me, someone with a size S brief might find it a bit long. My ideal leg length would be 10cm/4in. Maybe one day, Unbound Merino makes the briefs in two different lengths: 10cm/4in for sizes S and M, and 14cm/5.5in for sizes L and up.

Moisture Control

I’ve worn these briefs in temperatures from -5 degrees Celsius/23 degrees Fahrenheit (in wintry Sapporo, Japan and Iceland) to 30 degrees Celsius/86 degrees Fahrenheit (hiking Mt Rinjani in Lombok, Indonesia) and am yet to have any issues with feeling sweaty in my nether regions.

Durability

With a fabric weight of 180gsm (grams per square meter), the Unbound Merino’s boxer briefs are slightly thicker than the Icebreaker Anatomica Boxers (150gsm). I’ve worn them now since May 2021, washing them once a week, and they have so far retained their shape and fit. No holes, nothing – now, that’s quality.

Drying Time

As men’s underwear marketed towards travellers, the Unbound Merino Boxer Briefs dry very quickly. The woven elastic waistband might be the last part of the briefs that dry. But in testing the drying time between the ExOfficio Give-N-Go Sport Mesh 3″ Boxers, the Icebreaker Anatomica Boxers and the Unbound Merino Boxer Briefs, the Unbound Merino Boxer Briefs still dried the fastest.

Sustainability

While there is no comprehensive sustainability policy on their website, Unbound Merino responded to our questions in detail (see above). The company appears to genuinely care about the sustainability and ethics of its supply chain. Greater transparency around their sustainability policy/supply chain due diligence and displaying the Woolmark batch number on its products would add credibility (and increase our rating).

Value for Money

Unbound Merino boxer briefs currently retail for USD45 for a single pair (the price has remained the same for the past three years). When you buy a 2-, 3-, 5- or 10-pack, the price per pair reduces (up to USD33.50 per pair). This is comparable with similar brands, especially if I take into account the value I place on the relative transparency and ethical nature of the company.

Pros

  • Naturally odour-resistant and antibacterial
  • Dries really fast
  • Tag-free
  • Comfortable all year round and in any climate
  • (Largely) biodegradable at end of life

Cons

  • More expensive than non-merino underwear
  • Leg length could be shorter for smaller sizes
  • Flyless underwear, thus may not suit everyone

When are Unbound Merino Boxer Briefs NOT suitable?

I don’t wear my Unbound Merino Boxer Briefs when I exercise and particularly when I run. There is just too much material for my liking. Instead, I use specialised running underwear as part of my running kit.

Are Unbound Merino Boxer Briefs the best travel undies?

After having worn (high-performance but synthetic) ExOfficio Give-N-Go Sport Boxers for nearly five years, I was happy to try underwear made from Merino wool. And I have… including Icebreaker Anatomica Boxers. However, over the past three years, I have only worn Unbound Merino boxer briefs, and I wouldn’t change a thing. While merino wool is naturally odour-resistant, I change my underwear daily. That said, if I was to do a multi-day hike and had to wear the same briefs the whole time, I’d feel comfortable doing so with these. So, yes, they are the best travel undies I have experienced to date.

Unbound Merino Boxer Briefs

Unbound Merino boxer briefs have no inside tags to prevent rubbing

In what sizes and colours can I buy Unbound Merino’s boxer briefs?

The Unbound Merino boxer briefs are available in sizes S, M, L, XL and XXL (true to size) and nine different colours, including black (the ones I have), charcoal, dusty teal, light grey, navy and brighter options like cardinal (red) and sky blue. As with underwear in general, for sanitary reasons, the boxer briefs cannot be returned or exchanged – so choose your colour and size wisely.

Unbound Merino Boxer Briefs

A minimalist design and stylist fit, the antibacterial, moisture-wicking Unbound Merino Boxer Briefs are designed to keep you cool and comfy.

Subscription Form - Minimalist Packing List

Download our Minimalist Travel Wardrobe and Carry-On Packing List

This list for women and men was created as a result of more than seven years of full-time travel around the world in all seasons with only carry-on luggage. This is the packing list we have used as we travel around Europe in 2024.

How to care for your Unbound Merino Boxer Briefs?

Look after your Unbound Merino boxer briefs, and they will last for years.

Machine Wash

Wash your boxer briefs in water temperatures less than 40 degrees Celcius / 105 degrees Fahrenheit or on a wool program. If possible, use wool-specific detergent. Do not use fabric softeners or products that contain bleach.

Hand Wash

Fill your basin with lukewarm water. Use wool-specific detergent if possible. Leave your boxer briefs soaking for 15 minutes. Agitate the clothing and rub lightly together if required. Squeeze out excess water, but do not twist or wring. Thoroughly rinse.

Drying

Whether you hand or machine wash, to extend the life of your boxer briefs, we do not recommend putting them into a clothes dryer. If you have to, tumble dry at a low temperature.

Unbound Merino Boxer Briefs

Wash your Unbound Merino boxers at cooler temperatures and line-dry them to keep them in good shape for longer

More recommended products from Unbound Merino

Below are the other Unbound Merino clothing items worn and recommended by the team from Minimalist Journeys. Check our full review of the Unbound Merino Crew Neck T-Shirt

  • Unbound Merino Beanie

    Unbound Merino Beanie

    $75.00
  • unbound merino t shirt

    Unbound Merino Crew Neck T-Shirt

    $88.00
  • unbound merino compact travel hoodie

    Unbound Merino Men’s Compact Travel Hoodie

    $175.00
  • Unbound Merino Men’s Merino Tank Top

    Unbound Merino Men’s Merino Tank Top

    $75.00
  • Unbound Merino Womens Merino V Neck T Shirt

    Unbound Merino Womens Merino V-Neck T-Shirt

    $85.00
  • Unbound Merino Womens Slim Merino Long Sleeve V Neck

    Unbound Merino Womens Slim Merino Long Sleeve V-Neck

    $95.00

What underwear do you wear (when you travel) and why?

What are your criteria when buying underwear? Is price a major factor? Or does it matter more how sustainably and ethically made an item is? And if you have worn merino underwear (whether Unbound Merino or another brand): what has been your experience?

Unbound Merino Boxer Briefs: The perfect underwear for your travel adventures?
Author: <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/paulryken/" target="_blank">Paul Ryken</a>

Author: Paul Ryken

Paul Ryken is a goal-setter and goal achiever, never tell him he can't do anything. kinda guy..a grandfather, a husband, and a practicing minimalist who makes sustainable, ethical purchasing decisions. He lives a values-based, quality over quantity lifestyle. For fitness and mental health, he runs six days a week and is on a mission to complete a marathon on every continent before the age of 60. As a digital nomad with carry-on luggage only, he chooses experiences over material items. He primarily writes about sports, travel finances and technology.