Base Layer Shorts with a Functioning Fly

I’m looking for something pretty specific and hope someone can help.
I’m searching for some shorts that can be worn under a drysuit.

• I would prefer Merino wool.
• I would Prefer a loose cut like casual shorts or swimming trunks but a snug would be OK.
• Length of the legs isn’t critical.
• Regarding the FUNCTIONAL_FLY: A zipper of some sort would be nice. Not sure what that would be but let’s not get hung up on that yet. A standard underwear fly would be OK so long as it doesn’t gap if you know what I mean.
• I want something that I could wear around launch or into a store and not look like a pervert.

Can anyone suggest something that actually exists and ticks those boxes? I’ve considered getting casual tights with a fly and cutting them off. I know that it’s a stretch to figure out something that keeps me from looking suspect on my very best day but I’m counting on you.

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Thanks Rookie. I have some of those. Great wool boxers but no disguising the fact that you are wearing your underwear. Great underwear but too high on the pervert scale when worn in public.

I wonder if you could have some custom made. Any tailors nearby?

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I’ll keep looking

As an alternative, just keep your sprayskirt on to conceal the pervy boxers on land (jk).

These SmartWools are wool blend lined with stretch poly outer layer and fly. Also on sale. SmartWool has some other version.

Also, this company has stretch canvas shorts made of 55% wool blend. VERY VERY pricey, though. That seems to be true of all wool stuff these days.

Price is right ($27.99) on these Romanian military issue wool trousers that you could cut down, but the product description of the material is priceless…
“Here’s a garment made from the material of the gods: A proper good pair of woolen pants just rough enough to exfoliate the excess dead skin from your legs and grow some hair on your chest. When trousers are as practical as this and so hardy yet somehow so pleasing, you shouldn’t wait for a second longer! Reach for the stars, and failing that, these pants.”

They’ve got these nice black merino boxer briefs. Only pervy if you are looking closely. Just wear long tailed shirts…

Just an observation: anyone staring at a guy’s bike shorts long enough to notice the fly arrangement is less likely to be offended than mildly interested,

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Wouldn’t be difficult to sew a couple of garment snaps on a pair of those Merino boxers.


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Or Velcro, though getting body hair caught in that stuff can be a pinching hazard, as I learned in my years as an impoverished college student when my one pair of jeans had the zipper blow out. Thought I was clever when I cut the teeth off and hand-stitched Velcro to the overlaps. Had to stop wearing bikini undies.

I admit I am wondering, is the need for the fly in the undergarment to allow access for peeing while wearing the dry suit,? Pardon my lack of experience in the mechanics of male execution of this function, but if that is the case, would you not want to avoid a zipper, even a nylon one, in that case and just have the soft flap gap style?

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Those Romanian Wool Military Pants…Perfectly described as I used to climb in them. They get a hard pass as I employ far too much torso rotation to tolerate their abrasive nature.

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Yup, back in my winter backpacking and mountaineering days of youthful poverty and creative outfitting I had many military surplus items, including the scratchy brown wool types and the softer but 1/2" thick button flap Navy bell bottoms. I had a side hustle for a while during the 1970’s XC ski boom finding those military trousers cheap at thrift stores and then cutting the lower legs off and using the fabric to make below knee bands with velcro tabs to create wool knickers to sell to fellow skiers. Took me about an hour to make a pair and I would clear $20 a pair, not bad back when I was making $5 an hour managing a wilderness outfitter shop. Also used to troll thrift stores for those vintage bright red wool Woolrich hunting pants and shirt jackets. The pants had double seats and knees, buttons for suspenders (which I also had) and knit of flapped cuffs with brass zippers on the fly and lower legs. I actually had an old pair in my cedar chest that I discovered last year while packing to move. Way too small for me now but I took them to my local indie outfitters where I sell my old gear on consignment, sort of as a joke. But the shop owner reported back 3 days later that a young woman came in and was so psyched to find the funky red bloomers that she shrieked with delight. Turned out she races sled dogs and those are perfect for kneeling in the snow to sort the traces and stay warm in the sled.

I was looking at some of that Finnish company’s other merino wool stuff – less than half the price of the US brands I have been looking at lately. I gather they are supplying Ukraine with such items for their military. I used to wear wool shirts and pants when I was an industrial construction electrician because it is so fire resistant and I was often working around welding sparks and even red-hot shavings from the unibits that I used to drill big holes in thick steel cabinets. I was wearing a polypro longsleeved undershirt one day and neglected to roll the wool sleeve down over it while standing inside a large piece of switchgear to drill a bunch of one inch holes for branch conduits. Shavings fell on the polypro and melted through it, sticking to my skin and causing some 2nd degree burns. The British Navy learned about the perils of polypro skivvies during the Falklands War when their sailors fared worse in the same way after Argentina fires on some of their ships.

I like the look of the Finn’s longer merino undershorts – would like something like them myself for under Goretex shell pants pants. Recently got a very pricey merino sports bra and it really is comfortable and does seem to be “stink proof” and almost self cleaning. But I suspect the fit on the men’s brief style would be a little weird on me.

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Bingo. The fly is for peeing and I admit to being hesitant to provide to much detail before but now that the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, here is more food for thought. I realize that female paddlers will have zero to little sympathy for what I am after and I accept that and acknowledge the many added difficulties that women face.

That said…here’s the deal…I carry a 14 oz Nalgene bottle in the cockpit to pee in. It is marked with a skull and crossbones lest I mistake it for my Crystal Light. The fabric of the shorts needs to be soft and breathable and provide just a bit of insulation. Not neoprene insulation but mid-weight wool or synthetic tight type material. Again, wool is my ideal. For whatever reason I find that my call to nature often occurs when the water is snotty and some bracing is required. It seems like it is always a one-handed operation with my other hand managing my paddle.

For that reason it is pretty important to me that the fly be centered (if possible) and unzip to a degree more than the front opening on most swimming or board shorts that are fly-positive. Having the fly centered reduces the amount of fumbling around and trying to stay upright at the same time. A deign problem with center flies and even many offset underwear-type flies is that they gap when you least want them to. You know, standing in line at McDonalds, sitting on your bumper changing clothes. A well offset fly has more overlap and is less apt to gap but harder to manage under duress with one hand.

Too much information. I’m sorry.

I am not squeamish. And appreciate the details, which were pretty much as expected any way. Having shared wilderness recreation of many kinds for over half a century, from mountaineering on roped up teams to spelunking to practicing rescues with a “victim” who had to stay lashed into a Stokes litter for hours, I’m well familiar with the various shenanigans that both genders must engage in to heed the calls of Nature as efficiently and discreetly as possible.

I recall back in the 70’s that we got some pretty well designed XC ski wear from Norway, including some of the early polypro from Lifa. They had unique and clever designs for both female and male underbritches. The men’s had a front panel that was a high transverse flap rather than side entry. It overlapped an inner flap and the fabric was stretchy enough that the user just had to reach down and extract upwards. I gave my beau at the time a pair and he really liked them – he was on crutches at the time due to losing all 10 toes to frostbite (after bivouacking all night just below the 22,000’ summit of Aconcagua in Argentina on a climbing trip) He reported the shorts made it easier to “drain the vein” one-handed while balancing on one crutch. Even like them better for peeing in the outdoors , since the outer flap supported the nozzle like a hammock at a good aiming angle, hands-free.

The women’s versions of the bottoms had a very long stretchy front to back overlapping opening so that one could squat, grab both sides and stretch out of the way for visits to the little girls’ tree. (kind of a more prosaic version of the infamous Frederick’s of Hollywood split crotch skivvies.) I wish I still had those polypro undies to use with my drop seat dry suit but they got melted long ago in an overly hot laundromat dryer.

Did a deep dive just now into Lifa’s current offerings and found that they don’t offer anything like that any more.