After evading the issue quite for a bit, mostly owing to their limited usefulness for me, I have finally decided and gotten around to have a somewhat deeper look at pull-up pants. In fact the thing that tipped me over was the release of the Tena Men Active Fit all in dark blue earlier this year, which immediately piqued my interest. That’s why we also begin with their products. Again I shamelessly exploited my secret channels to Tena to get hold of enough sample packs to form a reasonably educated opinion on this, so thanks to them. Note that we will only be exploring products with a certain minimum amount of absorbency, so no paper-thin Discreet version here.
Before we get to the actual products, I feel it is necessary to reiterate some of the limitations and also my personal reservations why pull-ups are not necessarily ideal for quite a few usage scenarios. Let’s see what we have here.
- First and ultimately on top of the list is the lack of absorption volume. Even the best pull-ups barely come close to a capacity that would match even some low-level regular adult diaper products. This technically only makes them suitable for mild to medium cases of incontinence where you are suffering from a slight drip or occasional bursts (urge incontinence) where the product would offer act as a stop-gap measure until you reach the bathroom.
- Those pants are almost entirely unsuitable for nighttime use or other long-term situations. This is not only because of their limited capacity, but also due to factors like the actual shape and size of the absorbent pad. Most of them are specifically shaped for vertical flow situations while sitting or standing. In other positions the liquids will find a different way, bypassing the actual absorbent material.
- For similar reasons the products are of limited use with fecal incontinence issues. Because the pads are so small, there is literally nothing that would block the feces physically/ mechanically plus there is not enough volume to absorb any extensive moisture like when you have diarrhea. At best you could use pull-ups for situations with light soiling where you leave tread marks in your pants.
- There is an increased risk of leakage. Because quite intentionally pants have a very mesh-like structure, fluids may seep through. Additionally, leg seams and other parts may not sit as tightly as would be required. There’s only so much tension the tissue can exert.
- Using pants may not be hygienic. Yupp, that’s a harsh reality you need to accept. Getting rid of a used pull-up pant may cause unwanted contamination. You basically have two ways of getting it off your body: pulling it down or tearing open the sideways seams. In both cases you may inadvertently smear urine and poop onto previously clean regions, be that just by sliding down or the product moving on your skin as you struggle to rip it open.
- Pull-ups are hugely impractical for people with reduced mobility and agility. This shouldn’t be too hard to visualize – an elderly person that can barely bend forward would struggle terribly putting on one of those pants herself. Furthermore, even when being assisted by someone else, they may not be able to move as much as required e.g. due to a bad hip joint. And lest we forget – tearing open those seams would be difficult for a person with limited strength in their hands, too.
- Those pants often look ridiculous, especially on men. This has been one of my biggest peeves, but at least in case of Tena there are some attempts being made to get away from that “laced panties” look as you will find out later.
- Pants are expensive. Due to how they are manufactured they start out with a higher per piece price and then the number of them that you would need to get through the day can easily make this a very costly experience.
Now a lot of that of course almost sounds like these products are so quirky they probably shouldn’t even exist, but within the limitations they can still justify their existence. That would mean that if for instance you suffer from a mild post-bathroom trickle, tend to wee your pants when laughing or during sports activities or use them as a preemptive safeguard while otherwise intending to retain a normal toilet hygiene, then there’s nothing wrong with it. You just should never assume that it would come close to a conventional brief style diaper or even a large shaped insert.
With that out of the way, let’s have a look at the actual products from Tena in this category. For our purposes I solely focussed on products in size M because unlike with traditional diapers there is no way to creatively tweak and adapt the fit to make oversized products better, so there’s no realistic way for me to use a size L or even larger without it looking like an oversized Jute bag.
Tena Pants Original Normal
This is essentially the baseline “budget” product with the thinnest and smallest pad (at least in this article). This results in a somewhat odd, very loose fit because there’s not enough volume that would make the outer tissue’s resilience kick in. There’s very little pressure against your body, which I found irritating. You never feel safe and the pants slide down easily. I guess the conclusion here would have to be that you should aim at a smaller size if you really want to use this flavor.
With regards to the absorbency behavior and overall volume of course this won’t win a prize. This is the very definition of a product only ever intended for minor dripping accidents and/or a complimentary minimum safeguard under your regular underpants. This translates to the amount of pee it can hold being pretty exactly a mug of coffee, or in other words something like 200 ml. I only ever used them at home in those short periods where I’m running around my flat half-dressed, half-naked between preparing dinner, my evening shower and slumping my body lazily on my bed.
Tena Pants Plus | Super | Maxi
This is the main product line for the plain “medical” pants in all white. A direct comparison with the previous version quickly reveals the main difference being the pad, which is considerably larger here. Most notably it also includes an explicitly shaped bum part instead of just being rectangular. This also means that simply due to the increased volume the fit is much better. The larger front area also makes it much safer to “just let it rip” when needed, making the products suitable for urge incontinence where you may not be able to hold it even a considerable amount of urine.
The naming conventions are the same like with the Tena Slip products, but one mustn’t be fooled by this. They effective absolute values for absorbency are still lower. By my estimate the relation is about one-third of the Slip products, skewering toward a one to two ratio with higher levels, which means that only the Maxi version of the pants would come anywhere near the region of a Tena Slip Super, if at all. More to the point to me it feels like the absorbency is always falling into the gap between those other products where the practical use is concerned. This in part of course has to do with the different physics, but also perhaps not pushing the usage limits as much for safety reasons.
Anyway, I would consider these products a safe choice for your daily needs as long as you can control the duration of how long you would need to wear them without being able to freshen up and change the product. In my case this means that I would e.g. wear a Maxi for those two hours where I’m off for physical therapy and I even might get by with a Super, but I wouldn’t really go on longer trips, things being that I only use public transport. The added complication here is of course that I have to make sure to go to the bathroom beforehand and empty out my guts to minimize the risk of poop accidents.
That suspicious-looking tag on the back is meant to hold things together when you roll up your used product, by the way. It’s only present on this particular product line as well.
Tena Men Protective Underwear Level 4
While the name is a mouthful, this product has been around for a few years already and could be seen as Tena‘s first foray in producing “manly” pants. Interestingly enough, they went the full mile and designed a specific shape from the ground up for both the pad and the outer shell. This is apparent in the pad reaching rather far up in the front so as to cater for full coverage on a man’s private parts. When put on, the product also feels more like short men briefs because it’s overall a bit more triangular and not as long/ high in the hip and waist region.
In our little selection of products this one is also unique in that its upper section (with the stripes printed on) uses a material different from the others. It’s much more tensile and thus gives a very good, snug fit, making this my favorite product here. It comes closest to the feeling of a tautly put on conventional diaper like I prefer it. The pad more or less equals the one in the Pants Super when it comes to shape, capacity and how it feels on your body. Minor, but interesting and funny detail: It has even a fake clothing tag/ label on the inside. That’s what I call commitment!
Tena Men Active Fit
Finally the product triggered this article in the first place. Admittedly, it didn’t turn out as exciting as I had hoped. If you look closely, this looks like an odd hybrid between the Original Normal (overall shape and shape of the pad) and the Super pants (thickness of the pad). Logically it thus shares some of the properties of both variants. That refers to the somewhat flabby fit, but also to the acceptable absorption. Weird? Definitely!
While it’s perhaps not a real product test, I hope this little overview can still be useful in determining which of the pull-up pants you might want to get for your own perusal. For my own needs, if this should ever become relevant, I’d only get the striped Protective Underwear flavor simply because it fits best. The others are okay, but actually didn’t really do much to convince me. Despite always having been aware of the limitations, the gap towards “real” diapers is too big to make this worthwhile for me. The only real advantage is that these products are widely available in supermarkets and drugstores, so in a pinch you don’t have to look too far to find them.