The WildeBeat

The audio journal about getting into the wilderness.


The WildeBeat edition 93: Wool-Blend Socks

This is a supplementary transcript of our audio program. CLICK HERE to listen to the original program, and see the associated show notes.

Do you ever think much about socks? Probably not, until you find yourself wishing you had different ones. This week on The WildeBeat; Wool-Blend Socks.

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News from the Wildebeat, the audio journal about getting into the wilderness.

This is program number ninety three, made possible by your support and membership donations.

I'm Steve Sergeant.

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STEVE: You know, for years, wool socks were thick and itchy things that we only wore inside heavy boots. Then for a while, synthetic socks were popular, becuase they could be made thinner and lighter than wool, and they dry quickly. But synthetic fibers collect odors more easily, and never feel quite as soft as natural fibers. Now, some of the new wool-blend socks promise the feel of cotton, the warmth and wicking of wool, and the quick-drying and durability of synthetics. Four volunteer testers from Backpack Gear Test dot ORG recently completed reviews of wool-blend socks. Andrew Buskov is from Madisonville, Kentucky.

ANDREW BUSKOV: I tested the Bridgedale X-Hale socks. They are a merino wool sock. They're short ankle socks. The pair that I have are red, black, and gray, and they're stitched in such a way that there's actually three different thicknesses throughout the sock. The heel and toe area have the most thickness, while the arch has a real thin stretchy layer. The manufacturer advertises them as being trail runner socks. Initially, when I tried the socks, I was very eager to get them on. They were extremely comfortable. I used them in my North face hiking boots. I used them in my New Balance shoes. I even used them in a pair of Merrels; the Mesa Vent Twos. They're a low-rise, between a trail runner and a backpacking shoe. Because of the way the sock is sewn, you have a number of different materials all in one sock. Well, each time the material touches another material there's going to be some overlapping threads. And I was getting a lot threads that were pulling out, and that was kinda bothersome to me. I think these socks would be ideal for a lightweight backpacker. I did test them both during lightweight, and with a pack that weighed in excess of forty/fifty pounds, and they didn't provide enough cushion when I was carrying heavy weights. Day hikers would find these socks wonderful. I don't think this would be an appropriate product for the long-haul hiker. The merino wool beats out everything that I've used. It's so much cooler, it dries so much quicker. It's just all-around better-feeling sock.

STEVE: Pam Wyant is from West Virginia.

PAM WYANT: I tested the DeFeet Blaze socks, which are a blended wool and nylon sock. The blaze are a crew-length sock. They have about a four inch cuff. The Blaze socks come in the hot pink for women, they also come in a charcoal gray color. The socks are advertised as a performance trail sock, and they do have what appears to be a lot of technical features. The sock is constructed differently in different areas of the foot. The top of the sock has a compression area, and it has a different weave. There are also some compression bands visible in the top of the sock. The heel and the toe appear to be constructed a little bit differently, perhaps with a little closer weave. The bottom of the foot has a plainer weave, and then the ankle section of the foot has a rib weave that appears to be a double section. My plan was basically just to wear them as much as possible throughout the test period, put a lot of miles on the socks. I did wear the socks with a variety of shoes. In my conclusion, I felt that they were very comfortable, and even at times that my feet became wet, they stayed warm. Because of the cushiness and thickness of the socks I never did feel the need to wear them with a liner, so I always wore just these socks alone. These socks would be a good choice for any light to mid-weight hiker, wearing trail shoes to mid-height boots. They would probably not be a good choice for anybody wearing taller boots, ski boots, or mountaineering boots just because of the height of the socks.

STEVE: Kevin Hollingsworth is from Williamsburg, Virginia.

KEVIN HOLLINGSWORTH: I tested the Defeet Classico socks. They gear it towards cycling, running, hiking, and active people. The socks are made from wool, a Coolmax Fresh-FX nylon, and Lycra Spandex. One of the unique features of these socks is that they have a area of mesh around the heels and on top of it. It allows the air to flow through. The sock is ankle-high, and the ones I tested comes in gray and white, and also black. My first impression of the product was that they were really a thin sock. My testing plan was that I was going to wear them as much as I could, both hiking in the mountains on multi-day trips, and just local day-hiking. I also wanted to see how well they handled washings and dryings. I normally wore them with leather hiking boots. The boots normally come up to the ankle areas. They're water-proof type boots. In my long-term report, I found that they were extremely durable. I put hundreds of miles on them and there's no holes, there's no threads coming undone. I would say that they're ideal for almost everyone. The person who I would think that would not be able to use these socks very well would be skiers who need a thicker socks because of the way the boots fit.

STEVE: Ray Estrella is from Huntington Beach, California.

RAY ESTRELLA: The Wigwam Wool/Silk Hiker is a multi-fiber blend socks, aimed at the hiking and backpacking crowd. It is constructed of sixty-five percent merino wool, twenty percent nylon, ten percent silk, and five percent spandex. They have a nine inch high leg. The socks are woven with what Wigwam calls a mock rib filet stitch, that has the look of the true ribbed wool socks of my younger days. At the top is a one-inch band that they call an extra-stretch Morpul top. It has some very durable elastic inside of it. The toe has what what Wigwam says is an ultra-smooth Lin-toe closure. I cannot feel the seam at all when I am wearing them. The heels are reinforced by increasing the density of the weave. I have over two hundred miles of backpacking with pack weights up to forty five pounds and on some very steep, rough trails, and these socks still look like new. I've machine-washed and machine-dried them along with my other laundry, and they have not shrunk or stretched out of shape. The company says that they provide superior wicking, but I got a blister using them without a liner on a twenty-mile day hike. The next week I did a twenty six miler with the same boots, but wearing a liner, and had no problem. I've been very happy with the Wool/Silk Hikers. I think that these socks would be the ideal product for the three-season backpacker. Someone looking for a higher-cut sock that cushions and insulates, and are looking for good durability out of their sock. I think that they probably would not work too well for someone who was doing a lot of trail running.

STEVE: My thanks to Andrew Buskov, Pam Wyant, Kevin Hollingsworth, Ray Estrella, and the editors at Backpack Gear Test, for making this edition possible. Please remember that these opinions are those of the individual contributors, and don't necessarily reflect those of Backpack Gear Test, or of The WildeBeat. If you want to read the original text reviews of these products, please follow the links on our web site. We'd like to hear your opinion about these reviews, and about your experience with these and similar products. You can call our toll free comment line at 866-590-7373. Backpack Gear Test is looking for qualified testers. To get qualified, you start out by writing reviews of gear you already own. After that, you could be offered free gear to review. Find out more at our web site.

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Our official website is WWW dot WILDEBEAT (that's W-I-L-D-E-B-E-A-T) dot NET. You can help assure future editions of this free service; could you please click on our support link and become a member? The WildeBeat is produced by Steve Sergeant, with help from Jean Higham, as a nonprofit educational project of Earth Island Insitute.

This has been The WildeBeat, program number ninety three. Thank you for listening.

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Next time -- hungry bears.

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