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Reviews > Clothing > Socks > Bridgedale Ventum Light Hiker Socks > Test Report by Curt Peterson
Bridgedale Ventum Light Hiker Socks
Report Series by Curt Peterson
Initial Report - December 2007
Field Report - February 2008
Long Term Report - April 2008
Tester Background and Contact Information
Name: Curt Peterson
Height: 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Weight: 270 lb (122 kg)
Shoe Size: 13 Wide
Email address: curt<at>boopants<dot>com
Location: North Bend, Washington, USA
I live in the Cascade foothills, just 20 mi (32 km) from the Pacific Crest Trail via trails leading right from my backyard. My outdoor time in Washington is spent dayhiking, backpacking, climbing, and skiing everywhere from the Olympic coast to rainforests to Cascade volcanoes to dry steppe. I played football in college and often evaluate products from a big guy perspective. My typical pack load ranges from 11 - 20 lbs (5 - 9 kg) and usually includes plenty of wet weather gear.
Over the past five years I have completely abandoned wool socks. I usually liked wool socks when they were new - that's why I bought them - but was inevitably frustrated with them as time went on. I really had four complaints. First, the fit changed. They all seemed to shrink and it was most noticeable in the toes. After a few hikes and wash cycles the toes always seemed to be very tight - exactly what I didn't want in a trail sock. Second, they all seemed to compress. By compress I mean that the material - particularly under the foot - would become a dense, almost stiff fabric that provided no cushioning and wasn't very comfortable to wear. Third, they smelled. Not the polyester funk that can happen with synthetic materials, but more of a wet dog (or wet sheep?) smell. Finally, they were just plain hot. Even in winter my feet would overheat. I moved to very breathable trail hikers years ago and my feet are much more comfortable. The last thing I wanted to do was stick a thick, heavy, hot wool sock in these shoes and negate all the cool breathable benefits I was looking for.
It looks as though wool socks have come quite a way since then. Case in point are the Bridgedale Ventum Light Hiker socks. A hybrid wool/synthetic sock, they have breathability and venting as their primary function. They come with a three-year guarantee for durability and an anti-microbial and anti-fungal treatment to control stink.
I received one pair of Bridgedale Ventum Light Hiker socks for testing. They appeared pretty much exactly as they did on the Bridgedale website. I will use them as my primary socks for the next four months. While they are supposed to be a warm weather sock, my feet are rarely cold - especially when moving - and I'm always in search of a well-ventilated sock. In that regard they are exactly what I'm looking for.
There are two unique features to the Ventum socks. The first is that they are foot specific. There is a right sock and a left sock. To keep them on the correct foot Bridgedale has sewn in a small foot picture that indicates which foot they go on to. This matters because of the second unique feature - ventilation "panels" on each foot to enhance breathability. The panels cover the upper sock, instep, and top edge of the foot (the grey sections in the picture above). I've worn the socks one time already and they definitely seem to vent well. It was on a cold day and the wind was blowing. With my ventilated trail shoes I could feel the breeze in my shoes. It wasn't uncomfortable, but this isn't a footwear setup for frigid conditions, that's for sure!
initial fit is good. Most socks I look at tend to top out at US
size 12. As a size 13, this is frustrating. As a wide-foot,
it's really frustrating. The Ventum's are sized at 13+ and they
fit very well right now. As I noted earlier, I've had trouble
with shrinking in previous wool socks, so this is something I will
watch closely. To mitigate this I will follow the washing instructions
exactly. Bridgedale says that "for best results wash inside out. Wash dark colours separately.Do not
use fabric conditioner. Wash at 40°C [104°F] wool cycle. Do not bleach. Do not
iron. Tumble dry on LOW heat. Do not dry clean."
Initial Report Summary
Initially the Bridgedale Ventum Light Hikers appear to address almost all of my major concerns with wool socks. I'm eager to put them to the test and see how they perform in the real world. The ventilation panels, foot specific design, and hybrid material construction combine to make an interesting sock!
Bridgedale Ventum Light Hiker Field Report
The Bridgedale Ventum Light Hiker socks have seen plenty of use so far. As my test consists of one pair (other Ventum testers received 3 pair - see their reviews for more experiences with the Ventums), they have been the only sock on my feet while hiking the past two months. The majority of my hiking time has been with my 5-year-old, so the miles have been low but the outings have been many. The Bridgedale socks have been worn on-trail at least once per week during the test period so far. I estimate they've been used at least 12 days already. Elevations have been primarily between 1000' and 1500' (305 m and 460 m), although we've been up at Snoqualmie Pass at 3000' (915 m) as well. The main challenge for the Ventums has been the conditions. Early in the test period they saw a lot of rain. Following the rainy period they saw a few weeks of mud, and lately have seen a lot of snow.
So far, they have proven to be very durable, virtually stink free, and extremely comfortable.
The foot specific design has worked well for me. I'm not sure if it's the cut of the right and left socks or a more generous toe box in general, but I don't get the pinky toe crowding that I typically do with socks. I think there's a lot of merit to right and left socks - after all, I'd never consider general shoes that fit either foot - separate socks seems to make perfect sense, although this is my first pair. The correct foot primarily matters to the Ventums because of the ventilation panels. They line up with the instep and outstep of the foot when on the correct foot. The ventilation panels are far and away my favorite feature of the Ventums. They really work! If there's a breeze and I'm wearing my normal trail hikers, I can truly feel the wind on my feet. The trail shoes I normally wear are almost all mesh and that certainly makes a difference, but if the goal of these socks is to vent the foot, they most definitely do so. What's great about the wool/synthetic hybrid, however, is that even with the amazing ventilation my feet stay warm. On the rainy hikes my feet did not feel soaked and definitely didn't feel cold. In fact, after hiking in rain for a couple hours on Little Mount Si, the socks were surprisingly dry to the touch. They were wet for sure, but not sopping like I'd expected. Even more surprising was the Ventum's snow performance. I recently spent almost 3 hours completely in snow near the Hyak area of Snoqualmie Pass - no trail, no dirt, no pavement - with nothing on my feet except the Ventums and my mesh trail shoes. They got a little wet, but my feet didn't feel wet or cold at all. After 3 hours my hands were chilly and after the sun went behind the ridge my head and neck were cold, but through it all my feet were just fine. The Ventums provided all the insulation I need for temperatures in the mid 40s F (~7 C) on snow. I'll have full confidence in this combination for spring hiking on snowy trails.
The socks haven't shrunk at all - a first for me with wool socks. I was very careful about following the washing directions and I thought this was the reason for the size staying true and the general "new" look they retained. Unfortunately, I forgot to separate them from the hamper a few weeks ago and my wife tossed them in with a normal load. They went through a wash cycle and a hot-setting dry. They came through unscathed and while they looked a bit smaller afterwards, they quickly returned to their original shape. I continue to be appreciative of the larger sizing - squeezing my high-volume feet into size 12 socks is uncomfortable. Having one more size range (13-15) has made all the difference in comfortable toes.
Field Report Summary
The Bridgedale Ventum Light Hikers have proven to be durable, warm - even when wet, and exceptionally breathable. The foot-specific design is very comfortable and the socks have performed as well as I could have hoped to this point.
Long Term Report
Bridgedale Ventum Light Hiker Long Term Report
The Bridgedale socks have continued to be been worn on-trail at least once per week during the last couple months. I estimate they've been used about another dozen days since the Field Report. Elevations have remained between 1000' and 1500' (305 m and 460 m). The primary weather conditions for the Long Term testing has been rain - and lots of it!
I have not had any durability issues with the Ventums at all. They definitely look used, but there are no worn thin parts or holes. The elastic of the upper part of the sock looks a little saggy, but nothing that is out of the ordinary. I'm actually pretty impressed with the durability of the socks. I only tested a single pair so they have seen pretty much every day of my outdoor use in the last four months. During Long Term testing every use was in a trail shoe, but I did try them in my heavy climbing boots just to see how they fit. The foot itself was fine, but the upper part of the sock doesn't extend high enough to clear the boot in my case, so these would not be a good mountaineering sock for me. That's not really what the are intended for, so this isn't a real concern in my book.
Despite being the only pair of socks I've worn on the local trails in the last four months, they don't really stink at all. This is the opinion of my wife and kid as well and they're more than happy to point out when my footwear reeks. There is a wool smell to them, but nothing musty or unusual at all. For this reason alone the Ventums are a pretty big hit as far as I'm concerned.
This is far from the only good quality of the socks, however. The foot specific design has continued to be very comfortable and the venting panels continue to do their job. When it's raining hard - as it has been for the past couple months - they do let water in my porous shoes, but I never really got cold feet. I could tell they were wet and that's not particularly comfortable on its own, but at least my toes were not getting cold. Actually, if anything - despite the venting panels - I found the socks to be almost too toasty once temperatures got into the mid 60s F (~18 C). I didn't get hot feet to the point of discomfort, but they were noticeably warm. Based on my experience with the snow in the Field Report and a couple days of being on my feet all day in the mid 60s F (~18 C), I'd say the comfortable active range for me in the Ventum Light Hikers is from around freezing to the mid 60s F (~18 C). If I was in camp and not doing much I'd probably want a warmer sock in the colder temperatures and the higher temperatures could certainly be a little warmer, but this is a good range for my feet with these socks.
They have done amazingly well in wet conditions. Besides the constant rain we've been having - conditions where the Ventums have performed well - I recently pushed the socks well beyond their intentioned use. While fishing at a mountain lake just a few days ago I repeatedly stepped into the cold water until it was about halfway up my foot. I was wearing Crocs sandals,so obviously there was no barrier between the water and the socks. I knew I'd have soaking feet but I was trying to find out if they'd keep my toes warm enough for a couple hours of fishing. They most certainly did. It was a relatively warm day (about 60 F, 15 C) but the water was much colder. My toes were just fine and best of all they didn't feel soaked. Wet, yes, but not sopping wet. The wool really does a nice job of maintaining some insulating ability when wet - even extremely wet.Long Term Report Summary
The Bridgedale Ventum Light Hikers have been a pleasure to test. I'd have no problem grabbing them as my top pair of socks for almost any Northwest hiking trip.
The Bridgedale Ventum Light Hiker socks have made me re-think wool socks. I'd pretty much abandoned them because of fit, durability, and heat issues, but the Ventums appear to address all of my major concerns with these socks. They're tough, fit incredibly well due to the extended sizing and foot specific design, and incorporate super thin breathable panels to keep the temperature in my shoes reasonable. They handle wet weather very well and definitely control stink better than almost any sock I've ever used. There's a lot to like about these socks and I'm glad to have had the opportunity to test them!
My thanks to BackpackGearTest.org and Bridgedale for the opportunity to test the Ventum Light Hikers.
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