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Jan 02

Sock Choices: Kirkland, Smartwool, Fox River, Military Issue

Good socks are a key component to keeping one’s feet in good working order, thus maintaining both comfort and morale.  If your feet fail you misery soon follows, I’ve seen many a strong body crippled by a few quarter sized blisters.  In a practical sense if you want to be that prepper who is able to carry a pack for 10 to 20 miles good socks go a long way in making this task possible.  Even if you are only going for a weekend backpacking trip it’s essential to know which socks are worth shodding your feet with, they can definitely make life better when out on the trail.

My Feet Are Not Your Feet

All feet are different and I’m not just referring to shape, although that does matter.  My feet don’t sweat that much but I know some people who have clammy and sweaty (gross) feet.  I know where I develop hotspots and what to look for with respect to padding or seams in socks to mitigate that, your foot and experiences may or may not be different.  So I suppose what I mean is that my experiences might not necessarily reflect yours, take that into consideration.

The Test Conditions

It’s one thing to wear socks on a trip to REI to look for gadgets and interact with staff who may or may not have taken a shower that day, or for a 2 hour jaunt on the local nature trail.  It’s another thing entirely to put socks to the test under somewhat extreme conditions.  In the past year I’ve had a chance to evaluate these socks under normal daily operations, during weekend hikes and under field trials for extended periods which included long movements under less than ideal conditions.  That stated let’s get to the players and my review.

Kirkland Signature Men’s Outdoor Trail Sock

Kirkland Wool Trail Sock Review

Kirkland Wool Trail Sock

Where to Buy: Amazon.com, Costco when in stock.

Price Point: $22 for a 4 pack.

Composition: 70% merino wool, 18% nylon, 10% polyester & 2% spandex.

Pro’s:  Affordable, sturdy, plenty of cushioning.

Con’s:  Can be hard to find in stock, somewhat short for a boot sock.

Summary:  If you can find your size these socks might be the best combination of affordability and durability for wool socks.  They don’t exactly scream lavish comfort when on your feet but do feel good and hold up well under long periods of use.  As stated they can be short for full length boots, what I mean by that is that because of their size they won’t come up over the calf and be taller than the top of a boot.  Some people like to fold their socks over the top of the boot, if you are one of those people this sock won’t do it for you.  I’ve been impressed with these socks and still defer to them for daily use most of the time, you really cannot go wrong with the Kirkland Outdoor Trail socks.

SmartWool Light Hiker Sock

SmartWool Wool Hiker Sock

SmartWool Wool Hiker Sock

Where to Buy: REI.com and other outdoor stores.

Price Point: $18 for ONE pair.

Composition:  73% merino wool, 22% nylon, 5% elastic.

Pro’s:  Very sturdy, very comfortable, work well when wet.

Con’s:  Pricey!

Summary:  Once you pull a pair of SmartWool socks over your feet you will immediately know why they are $18/pair.  These socks feel GOOD!   Not only that, they work well under adverse conditions and hold their composition after being washed week after week, month after month.  As with the Kirkland they are a bit short for tall boots but for use with normal hiking shoots / short boots they fare well.  If I could afford to have 20 pair of SmartWool socks I would but I don’t fancy spending $400 on socks anytime soon.  You really can’t go wrong with these socks, maybe purchase one pair a month and stock up that way.

Fox River Military Boot Sock

Fox River Boot Sock Review

Fox River Boot Sock

Where to Buy:  Foxsox.com or other outlet sources.

Price Point:  $12 per pair, might be cheaper on Amazon.

Composition:  70% polypropylene, 28% nylon, 2% spandex.

Pro’s:  Good price point for, contoured to fit feet well, tall enough to fold over military type boots.

Con’s:  No wool, heels can wear out faster than other socks (my experience).

Summary:  Don’t let the absence of wool deter you from these socks, they have served me well under pretty bad conditions and I would not hesitate to go to them again in the future.  A decent price point and good availability make these a nice choice, I just wonder about their durability over longer periods of time.  I’ve had the portion above the heel wear out on a couple pair of these socks…but if you aren’t moving longer distances under load for days on end I wouldn’t worry about that happening.

Military Issue OD Green Sock

OD Green Milspec Socks

OD Green Milspec Socks

Where to Buy:  Sportsman’s Guide, Surplus Stores etc.

Price Point:  $22 for 12 pair.

Composition:  50% Wool, 30% Cotton, 20% Nylon.

Pro’s:  Super cheap which means once they wear out they are easily replaceable. Tall enough to wear with milspec boots, somewhat durable.

Con’s:  You get what you pay for, contrary to popular belief these do not wear like iron.  Over time they really show their age and quality of materials / assembly.

Summary:  Are these better than white gym socks?  Absolutely, but not by much.  If you love these socks you probably think that, in 2015, jungle boots are the best thing going.  The good news is that you can buy a large pack of these for $20 and just throw them away and buy more.  I will tell you that although I have a drawer full of these I rarely reach for them.

Final Thoughts

If you only take one thing away from this review it should be this:  you must have good quality socks on your feet if you expect to persevere in adverse conditions.  My thoughts are that the Kirkland socks are probably the best combo of affordability and comfort out there, but if money was no object the SmartWool would be at the top of my list.  OD Green Milspec socks are better than cotton white socks but barely so, I’d go to them if I happened to lose every other pair of socks that I own.  Fox River socks haven’t let me down yet but their lack of wool construction gives me room for pause.  At the end of the day only you can choose and I hope you choose wisely.

 

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  1. Echo5Charlie

    Lol at jungle boots…It might be better to be bare foot. Those issued socks look nicer than issue when I was in. Look anyways.

  2. Brian

    http://covertthreads.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Store_Code=CT&Screen=PLST

    Covert Threads ICE or ROCK are the best socks I’ve ever worn humping. Expensive like your smartwool review above but fantastic overall.

    1. PJ

      Thanks for the link Brian, I’ll definitely check it out.

  3. The Maj

    Why the hate for jungle boots? In a temperate environment where your feet are going to get wet anyway they are a dang good option in the late spring/summer. 🙂

    Besides, I probably have ten pairs that i have never worn.

    1. PJ

      Maybe I’m not old school enough to appreciate the jungle boot (although I have owned several pairs). You make a great point but I still think that the 1960-ish design of the boot has been surpassed by modern day technology.

  4. Echo5Charlie

    In thinking about this article more, I wonder why we don’t buy the best socks to take care of our feet and we say our feet are so important. I know I’d buy a 400 dollar pistol in a heartbeat, probably another 250 for accessories for something I might need one day. Those 400 bucks worth of socks would be useful everyday though. Personally I have decent socks, but not as nice as what’s in the gun safes.

    1. PJ

      The argument of “how much is your ________ worth” has caused many people to spend quite a bit of money. I can remember discussions on motorcycle forums about helmets, that argument would be used to justify $1000 helmet purchases or putting new tires on every 6 months. Same can be said for pistols (as you described) or just about anything else. How much do you value your family? Better go out an get a Range Rover with the best safety rating vs that 10 year old minivan, what’s a little debt compared to someone’s life? etc etc

      Fortunately expensive socks really aren’t THAT expensive with respect to other purchases. Go spend $20/mo on a pair and in 1 year the sock drawer will be full of great socks. To your point I think socks are so far down on the list that many of us just roll with whatever has been in the drawer for the last 10-15 years, this combined with no real urgency to make the purchase. I’d almost guarantee that if we had to throw 50 lbs on our backs every weekend and take a nice 10 mile walk an investment in good boots/socks would be elevated to the top of the list. Since I don’t have to do that I can afford to take a slower approach. 🙂

  5. J

    something I will add to this in the near future: I know someone that sells socks and other clothing made of alpaca wool. they are supposed to be better than wool for warmth and none of the itch or allergy problems wool has. I have heard good things about them from others that have bought them and they have been on the back burner for a while. this gives me the excuse I need to pick a few up and try them

    1. PJ

      Definitely pick some up and keep us posted.

  6. Echo5Charlie

    J

    Let us know. I’m interested.

  7. NRP

    PJ

    A follow up on the socks.

    I picked up 8 pair for a test of the Kirtland Socks; well I’m an old fashion “white” sock kinda guy. And I must admit these things are beyond nice. Here is a short list of my Pro’s and Con’s
    .
    1. Extremely soft and comfortable, I like the weave on the inside
    2. Warm, almost excessively for use indoors
    3. They breath well
    4. Have worn and washed one single pair a dozen times, no physical ware that I can see so far
    5. They don’t “bunch up” at the heal or toes
    6. They don’t etch like the old “wool” socks used to
    7. They are a little short, but useable with “high top” boots
    8. A little snug for my size 12 foot, but again useable, would like to see a XL size
    9. They are extremely affordable at around 5 bucks
    10. Hell I even like the color…. LOL
    11. I have my doubts about summer use, unfortunately going to be a little too warm

    In conclusion I will be getting more and replacing my winter socks with these

    Thanks for the heads up on these

    NRP

    1. PJ

      Thanks for the update NRP! You might be a little surprised at the summer use, I’ve never had a problem with them. Glad you like the socks and I didn’t steer you wrong. 🙂

  8. J

    I finally managed to get some of the alpaca wool socks I had mentioned earlier. I must say, I am pretty impressed with them in cold weather. The pairs I got were middle weight of the 3 thicknesses that were offered. I put them on and wore them around the house like slippers for several hours and they were comfortable, did not fall down and kept my feet warm without itching as wool tends to do. It was in the low 20s and snowing last night and I had to get the snowblower out. I decided to put them to a pretty extreme test and wore them under a pair of old sneakers while I cleared the drive. I have to say, my feet, while wet, stayed comfortable and did not get cold at all, even with snow in my shoes.

    They were a bit expensive at around $20.00 a pair but they definitely did the trick. I would recommend them to anyone looking for a high quality cold weather sock.

    On a scale of 1-10, I would give them an 8 for cold weather. The only concern I really have is that they might be uncomfofrtable in the summer months as they insulate so well.

    I can post the website for them if anyone is interested. They also offer a range of clothing including hats, gloves, scarves and sweaters. They also have some blankets.

    1. Loclyokel

      J:
      I think you have to try to understand that “insulation” works both ways in my understanding. Keeps you warmer in the cold, but cooler in the heat. I purchased about 8 prs of the “Sams Club” version (I think they were field&stream or something like that) of the Kirkland socks. 80% merino wool so no itching at all. I am in Florida, and have worn them thru 2 summers-every day now in either 8 or 9 inch boots. My feet are definitely warm, but not uncomfortable at all. My daughter bought me a couple of pairs of the Smartwool socks from REI, and I think that I like the Sams Club socks better! I keep looking for the return of the “sock box” containing those socks, as I could kick myself for not buying the whole box when I had the chance!

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