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Reviews > Clothing > Socks > Balega Blister Resist Crew socks > Test Report by Richard Lyon
BALEGA BLISTER RESIST CREW SOCKS
Test Series by Richard Lyon
Initial Report - May 19, 2017
Long Term Report September 22, 2017
PERSONAL DETAILS and BACKPACKING BACKGROUND
Male, 71 years old
Height: 6' 4" (1.93 m)
Weight: 205 lb (91 kg)
Shoe size: 13 US; 47 European
Email address: Montana DOT angler AT gmail DOT com
Home: Outside Bozeman, Montana USA, in the Bridger Mountains
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 for ways to reduce my pack weight, I still tend to include my favorite camp conveniences. I always sleep in a floored tent and like hot meals. Summer adventures are often on centered on fly fishing opportunities; winter on ski or ski touring.
INITIAL REPORT - May 19, 2017
The Balega Blister Resist Crew socks have four parts that are sewn together. From top to bottom: a crow's foot-stitched cuff, 2.1 in [5.3 cm] high; a ribbed section 5.3 in [13.5 cm] long below the cuff; a tightly-knitted piece that extends from over the toes to the top of the heel; and a piece that covers the top of the foot that is crow's-foot stitched at the edges with a stretchy insert with the brand in the middle. The sections are more easily seen in the inside-out sock at the top of the photo at left. Also as shown in the photo the largest piece, which covers most of the foot, is reinforced with extra stitching.
Balega describes these crew-length [over-the-ankle] socks as "medium weight." While thinner than the socks I usually wear when hiking, I think this description is accurate. There's enough heft to each section to surpass that of a liner or gossamer running sock.
Manufacturer: Implus LLC, balega.com
Weight, measured: 2.6 oz [74 g] per pair
Materials: Mohair and Dynamix, the latter a proprietary fabric used for wicking.
Color: Charcoal. Also available in Black/Red.
Size: Unisex XL; also available in S, M, and L. The website [and packaging, should you need help when shopping in person] has a sizing chart based upon American Men's and Women's and European shoe sizes.
MSRP: $18 US
Related products: The Blister Resist is also available in liner ("No Show") and quarter lengths.
Country of origin: South Africa
TRYING THEM ON
I wore the socks all day the other day amid wonderful Montana spring weather - rain turning to heavy wet snow that resulted in accumulation of more than a foot (30 cm) of slop. I wore them with low-cut trail runners or clogs, on dog walks, a trip to town, and outdoor chores prompted by the surprise storm.
The size XL fitted perfectly, my heel seated in the heel cup with no extra length to tuck under my toes. After plenty of walking and other activity, stellar performance from the socks, which not once slid around or slipped down. I scarcely noticed them. When putting them on I did notice the mohair, however, soft and silky on my feet. Not enough time to evaluate blister protection but a very good start.
Balega sent me three pairs of the socks. I shall use two over the next four months for hiking, fishing, and general use, reserving the third pair for comparison at the conclusion of the test. I'm looking forward to this - I like sock tests. I have skinny ankles and usually wear thick socks as part of my blister preventative. I want to see (among other things) how well these thinner (for me) socks with their special yarn blend will wick and prevent blisters.
LONG TERM REPORT - September 22, 2017
Let's go straight to the bottom line - the Balega Blister Resist Crew Socks are excellent footwear. They are comfortable, durable, and - for me at least - have lived up to their Blister Resist name. Read on for details.
I have worn one of the two testing pairs of these socks at least once a week since filing my Initial Report. I began by wearing them without a liner sock, and after early success in avoiding blisters, continued that custom throughout the past four months. Shoe or boot choice depended upon use, activity, and convenience. For day hikes I usually wore low-cut trail runners. On a couple of overnighters and weekend trips I'd go heavier, with over-the-ankle boots. I normally wore hiking sandals for fishing excursions, sometimes adding socks for the journey to the stream and sometimes waiting until I switched to fishing gear - either waders or just the sandals, with the socks for warmth.
Definitely fishing placed the greatest strain on the socks. When worn with sandals they were exposed directly to the water; with waders they were enclosed in sewn-in neoprene socks. Many years ago waders were made entirely of neoprene, which is a wonderfully waterproof insulator but doesn't breathe at all. To spare anglers from bathing in perspiration from the chest down most modern waders substitute a waterproof-breathable fabric for all but the bottom, which is aptly named the stocking foot. While the sweat isn't noticeable when wading - trout live in cold water - it's quite apparent when waders are ditched at day's end. My socks are always damp, sometimes damp enough that I suspected a leak. This was particularly true during a week's fishing in Slovenia in June, during which the temperatures rose to 92 F [33 C] but the river water was cold enough to discourage wading wet - dispensing with waders in favor of sandals and socks. Even earlier this week, at 40 F (4 C), the socks were damp after six or seven hours of use.
This has been a summer test. Hiking temperatures have reached 90 F [32 C]. Most hiking occurred on established trails, i.e., hardpacked dirt and gravel, though I managed some bushwhacking and rock scrambling as well. Montana has had an exceptionally dry summer, so dust and pebbles were the principal hiking hazards to foot comfort, certainly more than rain. I don't like hiking with wet socks and shoes so I did not wade any streams when wearing the Balega socks, changing instead to camp shoes for water crossings. I did encounter some rain, damp trails, and cooler temperatures when hiking in the Orkney Islands, Scotland, in July.
I occasionally wore the socks around home and in town, usually with trail runners. A good bit of this was on the dirt roads in my neighborhood, in the mornings with my dog, and so was similar to day hiking, except that I didn't wear a pack. Temperatures ranged from 40-80 F [4-26 C], almost always in dry conditions.
Fit is terrific. This is usually a problem for me, as I'm right on the cusp between Large and Extra Large, therefore facing a choice between extra material in the body of the sock [too big] or slippage in the heel [too small]. Balega's sizing chart was spot-on for me. With the XL my heels were seated exactly, with not a smidgen of excess at the toe. I believe that this fit accounted for or at least contributed to remaining blister-free without the aid of a sock liner, even during use with a forty-pound [18 kg] pack. While the fabric has some stretch to it, weekly use and regular trips to the washer did not result in any loss of grip or permanent extension of the socks' body.
These socks also get top marks for comfort. The mohair gives a cozy, soft feel to my feet. This was probably most noticeable when I wore them for everyday use. It truly was a pleasure slipping them on. These socks may have a future as sleep socks for winter camping, they are so comfortable. Comfort has not adversely impacted athletic performance, however. When hiking [other than when inside waders] the socks wick very well indeed, a trait further illustrated by their drying rapidly after wader removal.
Until last week I lacked much chance to test these socks for warmth. A cold front, with snow, freezing rain, sleet, and slop [any combination of the foregoing] finally broke the summer heat, just as I had the opportunity to wear the socks while beta testing a weekend pack. Perhaps because of the larger load, perhaps because of the socks' fabric, I didn't get cold feet when the mercury dropped to freezing or just below.
DURABILITY and CARE
Balega's directions are to wash warm, tumble dry low, and avoid bleach, fabric softener, and dry cleaning. Happily these coincide with my regular practice, so I didn't need to give the socks any special treatment. Every ten days or so I'd run a load of socks, usually turned inside out, together with other wool items such as underwear and tee shirts, through a regular cycle [warm wash, cold rinse] on my top-loading but agitator-less washer. Merino shirts and underwear would be air-dried but socks including the Balegas went into the dryer on low heat. [As an aside, I did not keep the two pairs separate during washing; four socks went in and four out indiscriminately, without regard to which had been used with which. Both test pairs received roughly equal use during the past four months, and none of the four individual socks evidenced any extra deterioration.]
The photos above show one pair of test socks [on the left] against the control pair. A bit of pilling at the cuff and ankle, but no visible thinning on the heels or toes. Certainly I noticed no degradation of comfort or protection when hiking during the test period. The cuffs continue to grip above my ankles with no hint of a sag. These socks are as comfortable and functional as out of the box.
WHAT I LIKE
Last but by no means least, no blisters.
Nothing performance-related. I'd like a pair of these socks in an over-the-calf version.
My Test Report ends here. My thanks to Balega and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test these splendid socks.
Read more reviews of Implus LLC gear
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