Blether about gear is a rare thing for this website, but I keep coming back to this little idea while on a longer or tougher trip. It’s also a loaner from a few other people (Roger in particular) because of course there are no original ideas except the ones you have yourself…
I review gear regularly for Outdoor Enthusiast, a fact which people seem to miss so I’ll holler about it now. I think we do OK on that front - the reviews are straight up but informed (we have thousands of quality mountain days to draw on within our small team) and we don’t only review brands that advertise with us (you might be surprised how common that is) so we have complete autonomy to thrash the kit on the hill and write what we think. Most of the brands get that (you might also be surprised how many do want an honest opinion). So far, so good.
Peak Stuff in the Age of Austerity is deeply weird, but despite the heavy irony of having several pairs of trail shoes in the house for test while others visit food banks or drown off the coast, I enjoy the magazine review process. The admin sucks, but group testing means you find out what’s fit for purpose - not just brand to brand, but design and materials.
There’s another way to find this out, though, and that’s what this irregular gear feature will be about. Heavy, long term use - something that the mags struggle to do. I also want to focus on items which aren’t necessarily ‘sexy’ but give great value as well as high functionality. So that’s the idea with this.
So, without further ado (I promise they’ll be less ado in future), I give you my starter for 10 - the Paramo Cambia Brief.
My mate Andy tipped me off about these, and they are great, especially for when you know you will be working hard, it’ll be warm, or wet, or all 3. As you can see, they are not remotely sexy, (just to be clear I never wear briefs at home, where I am a paragon of macho chic at all times) but they do an A1 job of keeping you tucked in on the hill without any excess material.
I used to be all about merino, but I’ve gone the other way now and pretty much just use synthetic undies (not including socks) on longer trips. In my experience, pure Merino pants don’t last, and don’t give enough support long term. The wool boxers I have are now full of holes in the gusset and get used for day outings only. They also take an age to dry and there's a tonne of unused fabric, which if you are sitting in a soggy packraft or slogging up your 3rd hill of the day, doesn’t serve any purpose at all other than to keep you hot and damp. Quite why you’d want to subject your nuts to excess heat when evolution has spent a good deal of time and effort keeping them at room temperature I don’t know.
The fabric in the Cambia is Parameta T+, which is, y’know, gobbledygook (but hey they have to call these things something!), but does work better than anything else I own to wick sweat away from your soft parts. It’s a polyester which pulls out the damp and then spreads out the moisture across the face fabric to speed up evaporation. You can reverse the pants for warmer and cooler conditions, although I usually just reverse them after a few days to try and keep things as fresh as possible - I can’t say I’ve noticed a big difference in performance between one side and another. Seams are flat and stay out of the way, especially between rucksack, trousers and the undies themselves. The Cambia have a little stretch to them but are fairly structured compared to a lot of other undies. They are also very durable, and my 1 pair are still as good as new after 4 years over multiple missions. It’s worth sizing up by 1 size - mine came up small.
Synthetic can mean a high pong factor, but not excessively so here - I don't make a habit of sniffing my own pants, but on the rare occasion when I have gone in for a closer inspection, it 's been manageable. Less fabric means your legs are breathing more, which means less sweat. In my experience, providing you are hydrating enough and aren't caught short in a bathroom emergency, you can wear these for 5 or 6 days if you have to. Don't tell mother, though. They dry fast, so as and when you are in a position to wash them, you can get them back on yo' ass or in your pack within a few hours.
These aren’t so much for winter, although I have worn them in the cold… but you might want to look at something a bit more coverage (I also rate Underarmour boxers) and there is a women’s version too. I've not tried the Cambia boxers (either!).