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Reviews > Clothing > Socks > Alpacas of Montana Ext Warmth Socks > Owner Review by Richard Lyon

Alpacas of Montana Extreme Warmth Winter Socks
Owner Review by Richard Lyon
May 18, 2015
Alpaca socks


PERSONAL DETAILS and BACKPACKING BACKGROUND


Male, 68 years old
Height: 6' 4" (1.93 m)
Weight: 200 lb (89 kg)
Shoe size: Men’s US 13 (EUR 47 or 48)
Email address: Montana DOT angler AT gmail DOT com
Home: Bozeman, Montana USA

I've been backpacking for nearly half a century, most often in the Rockies.  I do at least one weeklong trip every summer, and often take three-day trips.  I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 10000 ft (1500 - 3000 m).  I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp.  Though always looking to reduce pack weight, I still tend to include my favorite camp conveniences.  I always sleep in a floored tent and like hot meals.  Winter activities often involve telemark or touring skis.

THE PRODUCT

Alpacas of Montana Extreme Warmth Winter Socks were known as Tall Boot Socks when I purchased mine. Complicating things somewhat, their manufacturer still uses that latter term for the version I purchased, but it now refers to length rather than product name.  However named, these are winter-weight socks made primarily of alpaca yarn.  The version I own is just tall enough to top the cuffs of full-length ski boots. On a thickness scale I rank them as “heavyweight.” [Alpacas of Montana might not, though, as among its products is a “Maximum Alpaca Sock." I received a pair of these as a Christmas present in 2014 and can verify that they are heavier than the socks I'm reviewing here.]

Manufacturer: Alpacas of Montana, Inc, alpacasofmontana.com
Weight, measured:  2.25 oz/ 64 g per sock
Materials: 75% alpaca, 23% elastic, and 2% nylon
Size: Men’s [U.S.] size 10.5-14. Available in two other Men’s sizes and two Women’s sizes, all based upon US shoe sizes.
MSRP: $31 US for tall, $24 US for mid-calf, $21 US for Low Cut
Country of origin:  USA – “Born, Shorn and Worn in Bozeman, Montana.” A few of the alpacas are shown in the photo at the bottom.
Availability: Alpacas of Montana has increased the number of outlets around Montana where its products are available, but if you're not a Montanan the manufacturer's website is the only place to buy this company's products.

FIELD CONDITIONS

Winter 2013-2014. I wore these socks often last winter for resort skiing, backcountry skiing, cross-country skiing, skate skiing, day hiking, walking my dog, and performing winter chores outside the house.  South central Montana suffered a brutal winter – three weeklong spells of temperatures consistently below -20F (-29 C) and plenty of snow, making for great skiing and chilly days outdoors.  

My notes indicate a total of nine days and five nights of backpacking, all near Bozeman or Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, and about one dozen day trips on touring skis, telemark skis (using skins to ascend), snowshoes, or hiking cleats, all in the Bridger, Bangtail, or Gallatin Mountains near my home.  Temperatures from -15 F (-26 C) to 25 F (-4 C), and from clear and sunny to whiteout snow squalls.

Many more days I wore these socks when resort skiing at nearby ski resorts, skate or classic Nordic laps, and homebound outdoor chores and dog walks.  Temperatures from -30 F (-34 C) to freezing.  I estimate at least fifty days' use between December and April.

Winter 2014-2015. It started early in Montana, with five days below -10 F (-23 C) in late October and another one early in December that at one point hit -22 F (-30 C) at my house and -30 F (-34 C) in nearby West Yellowstone, where I'd gone to cross-country ski.  In between things were relatively temperate until mid-January, when temperatures rarely dropped much below freezing during the day. I've worn the Alpacas four times when skiing, often followed by outdoor chores.  

footgearFootgear, some of which are pictured to the left, depended on the mode of transportation: leather touring boots for cross-country skiing, similar boots for skate skiing, plastic telemark boots for resort skiing and ski touring, leather hiking boots for snowshoeing and a few day hikes.  For chores outside the house I wore shearling-lined boots a few times but usually it was my hiking boots or the boots I was wearing when I returned home.  On one occasion only I added a second pair of socks (my sleep socks on the last day of a three-day backpack), but otherwise it was just the Alpacas.

PERFORMANCE

These are WARM socks! Over many years I've worn many different socks, from many different makers, and The Extreme Warmth socks provide more protection from the cold than any others. Other than designated sleep socks made with down or neoprene socks designed for fishing, these are the first socks I've owned that are too warm to wear for hiking year-round.  In warmer temperatures, including high summer, I'm usually willing to tolerate warmer feet in return for the additional padding that heavier socks provide my skinny ankles, but after one outing at 70 F (21 C) I have limited the socks' spring and summer duty to sleepwear if the hiking temperature is expected to rise above 60 F (17 C).  In that service they are terrific in the chilly Rocky Mountain evenings and mornings around camp, even when worn with sandals.  They are thick enough easily to repel heavy condensation and, as noted below, the alpaca blend is oh-so-soft and comfortable.

But it is for use as cold weather socks that I bought the Extreme Warmths. They haven't disappointed in that capacity.  The fact that I've only once had to resort to a second pair of socks, even when the mercury dipped under -20 F (-29 C), attests to that.  At the colder temperatures at which I've worn them for outdoor activities they wick exceptionally well; I do not recall feeling sweaty feet even after a steep uphill skin trek.  This wicking ability also reduces odor, which it markedly less than other wool socks I've worn, particularly after use over a weekend.  To me alpaca (like cashmere) has always signified luxury, but these socks concede no functionality as athletic wear.

When it comes to comfort, alpaca is true luxury.  The Extreme Warmths are as soft as any athletic socks I've ever worn; indeed the only socks of any genre that might surpass them for softness have a high cashmere content and are too fragile for hiking use.  These socks' softness is apparent throughout the day, even after heavy activity, again testifying to their wicking ability.

My highest marks, however, I have reserved for durability.  After a long, cold winter of very frequent use they appear to be as thick as when new.  Certainly I can detect no worn spots.  The heel and toe are separately sewn in, and the very slight stretch given by the elastic in the blend and a perfect fit have curbed slippage.  That meant no blisters but also I believe contributed to reduced wear and tear.  

Pampered treatment may have helped in this category as well.  After a few days' use I consign them to a wool-specific wash in my front-loading washer, cold water, gentle cycle, with a non-detergent soap.  When I had the good sense to think about it I'd air-dry these socks, but I'm sure that every now and then they were tossed into the dryer with the rest of the load for drying on low heat.  I note that Alpacas of Montana now proclaims on its website that "Perhaps best of all, unlike most other heavy wool socks or alpaca socks, they were created to be Machine Washable!"

the source

WHAT I LIKE


Warm, warm, warm

Soft and cozy, cozy enough for home wear

Remarkably durable

WHAT I DON'T

Not one thing. Yes, they are expensive, but in my opinion worth every cent.

SUMMARY

This is easy – the best cold weather athletic socks I have ever owned.



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Reviews > Clothing > Socks > Alpacas of Montana Ext Warmth Socks > Owner Review by Richard Lyon



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