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Reviews > Clothing > Socks > Fox River Country Crew Sock > Test Report by Ernie Elkins


Personal Information

Name: Ernie Elkins
Age: 34
Gender: Male
Height: 5'9" (1.75 m)
Weight: 130 lb (59 kg)
Shoe Size: 9.5/10 US
E-Mail Address: ernie.elkins@yahoo.com
City, State, Country: Denver, North Carolina, USA

Background

I've been an avid hiker and backpacker since the late 80s. I try to get out at least once a month, and most of my trips are two to three days in duration. I prefer solitude, so I usually hike alone. I also prefer a light and simple gear kit -- my base pack weight (excluding consumables) averages about 8 lb (3.6 kg) in summer and 12 lb (5.4 kg) in winter. I usually rely on a tarp and/or bivy for shelter.


Product PhotoProduct Specifications

Manufacturer: Fox River
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturerís Website: www.foxsox.com
Listed Weight: N/A
Weight as Delivered: 2.7 oz/77 g (pair)
Size: Large
Color: Charcoal
MSRP: $12.99 US

Product Description

On the product package, Fox River labels the Country Crew socks as ďoutdoorĒ socks and emphasizes their superior moisture management and breathability. As part of their Good Earth collection, the Country Crews are made in part from a newly developed, corn-based fiber called Ingeo. Fox River refers to Ingeo as a renewable and biodegradable alternative to petroleum-based synthetic fibers that, according to the product package, ďcombines the best performance features of natural and synthetic fibers into an Earth-Friendly fabric.Ē Ingeo makes up 65% of the socksí total material content, followed by nylon (33%) and Spandex (2%). The Country Crews have straightforward care instructions: machine wash warm, inside out; no bleach; tumble dry low.

Initial Observations

These are definitely lightweight socks, and thereís a noteworthy emphasis on ventilation: there are open-weave, mesh vents on the forefeet and along each side of the socksí uppers, as well as a series of stretchy, semi-transparent black stripes on top of the feet that are noticeably thinner that than the rest of the uppers. The weave in all of these areas is open enough that, when I look closely, my skin is clearly visible through the fabric.

The cushioned soles, heel and toe areas are all noticeably thicker than the socksí uppers. The inner face of the cushioned areas is very soft and comfortable and includes raised loops that are springy to the touch. As advertised, the toe seam is smooth and flat. Furthermore, the Ingeo fiber doesnít feel noticeably different than other sock fibers Ė itís soft, smooth, and comfortable.

My shoe size is near the low end of the spectrum for the size large socks, and I was initially concerned about the fit: when I pulled the sock on, the heel section was on the back of my foot near my ankle. However, when I pulled the heel down into place, I was surprised by how neatly the sock contracted to fit my foot Ė there was no slack material and no indication that the fit was anything other than exact. The socks are calf-height, and theyíre topped by a 1.25 in (3.2 cm) elastic cuff that feels secure but not constricting. Overall, the fit is comfortable Ė neither too tight nor too loose.

Sock on Foot

Test Plan

In the coming months, Iíll wear the Country Crew socks primarily while hiking and backpacking in western North Carolina. My goal will be to evaluate their overall performance with an emphasis on the following elements:

  • Fit Ė My initial impression is that the socks fit well, but will this continue to be true after back-to-back days on the trail and repeated washings?
  • Comfort Ė I'll evaluate the effectiveness of the cushioned heels and soles, whether or not the "smooth, flat toe seam" is well executed, and how the Ingeo PLA fiber feels in action.
  • Moisture Management & Breathability Ė With their ďWick DryĒ design and emphasis on ventilation, I have high expectations of how well the Country Crews will manage moisture. Will they live up to Fox Riverís claims?
  • Durability Ė Will Ingeo prove to be as durable as traditional sock fibers, both on my feet and in the washer/dryer?

Summary

While my initial assessment of the Fox River Country Crew socks is favorable, I wonít be able to reach any concrete conclusions until Iíve evaluated their performance on the trail. Therefore, please check back in early November for my field report.


Field Report
December 11, 2007

Test Locations and Conditions

Over the last two months, Iíve logged about 50 miles (80 km) in the Country Crew socks in four North and South Carolina state parks: Lake Norman State Park, South Mountains State Park, Crowderís Mountain State Park, and Kingís Mountain State Park. Elevations ranged from about 600 feet (183 m) at Lake Norman to about 3,000 feet (914 m) at South Mountains, and the trails at all four locations were well established and offered relatively even footing.

Up to this point, Iíve worn the Country Crew socks exclusively with my Montrail Namche hiking boots, a mid-cut trail runner/light hiker hybrid with a snug fit and extensive ventilation. Furthermore, for the first time in recent memory, I havenít worn lightweight liner socks. This combination has proven to be ideal for the weather conditions: dry and mild, with morning temperatures in the upper 40ís F (8-9.5 C) and afternoon highs in the upper 50ís (13.5-15 C) and lower 60ís F (16-17.5 C).

Observations

So far, Iíve been very happy with the Country Crew socksí performance in the field. For starters, the fit has proven to be very good. Despite the fact that Iím on the lower end of the spectrum for the size large, the socks really mold well to the shape of my foot. A few adjustments are necessary to achieve this fit, though, since the socks are designed to stretch to fit larger feet. As I mentioned in my initial report, I do have to pull the heel back down into place each time I put the socks on my feet. Once Iíve done that, I can quickly smooth out the wrinkles on the bottom -- the fabric takes up the slack very effectively, and Iíve had no problems with bunching or loose fabric. I do have to be careful when I put my boots on, though, so that I donít inadvertently pull the heel section out of place again.

Iíve also noticed that the socks remember my foot size, so that I donít have to make adjustments when Iíve taken them off and put them back on. Washing the socks seems to reset them to some degree, though, so this doesnít seem to be a permanent effect.

The Country Crews have scored well on the comfort test, as well. The fabric is soft and feels nice against my skin, the ďsmooth, flat toe seamĒ is just that, and the uppers are snug enough to prevent slipping but not so snug that they feel at all restrictive. Furthermore, despite the absence of liner socks, Iíve had no problems with hot spots or blisters.

Iíve also been impressed with the Ingeo fabricís moisture management and breathability. My feet remained warm, comfortable, and almost completely dry at all times, even during a strenuous, seven-hour, 18-mile (29 km) hike at Kingís Mountain State Park. Nor have I noticed any odor build-up, even after back-to-back trips without a washing in between.

Finally, Iíve had no concerns regarding the durability of the Country Crew socks so far. Theyíve held up well on the trail and in the washing machine. I did notice quite a bit of pilling at the conclusion of my first outing, and theyíve continued to pill to a lesser degree in the time since. Thatís the only noteworthy sign of wear so far, though.

Pilling

Summary

Despite my initial satisfaction with the Fox River Country Crew socks, this is only the midpoint in the testing process. For my final conclusions, please check back in early February of 2008 for my long-term report.


Long Term Report
February 12, 2008

Test Locations and Conditions

Since posting my field report in early December, Iíve worn Fox Riverís Country Crew socks on two more day hikes in Lake Norman State Park and one overnight backpacking trip in the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area. The total distance for all three trips was approximately 40 miles (64 km), which brings the total mileage on my Country Crews to about 90 miles (145 km).

The Lake Shore Trail in Lake Norman State Park is roughly 600 ft (183 m) above sea level and winds along Lake Normanís gently rolling shoreline. In contrast, the Linville Gorge trails are rough, rocky, and include some very steep and lengthy climbs and descents. My trip there started out at 1700 ft (518 m) and topped out at approximately 3900 ft (1189 m) on Table Rock Mountain.

The weather for both day trips was pleasant and mild, with temperatures in the upper 50ís F (13.5 to 15 C). I hiked in temps ranging from the lower 20ís F (-6 to Ė4.5 C) to the lower 50ís F (10.5 to 12 C) while at Linville Gorge, although the high on day two of my trip didnít climb beyond the mid 30ís (1 to 2 C).

I continued to wear my Montrail Namche boots on day trips, but I switched to my Montrail Stratos boots for the backpacking trip. Unlike the thoroughly ventilated Namche boots, the Stratos boots have an outer Gore-Tex XCR waterproof/breathable membrane. However, I did continue to wear the socks alone rather than with liners.

Observations

Wearing Through?

Iíve continued to enjoy wearing the Country Crews while day hiking. They pair up well with my Namche boots Ė the combination is very comfortable in the mild weather that Iíve experienced, and Iíve continued to be happy with their excellent moisture management and snug (but not restrictive) fit.

I did, however, encounter some comfort issues while backpacking in my Stratos boots. The first was that my feet were very cold on the morning of day two, when I began the return leg of my trip in temps in the lower 20ís F (-6 to Ė4.5 C). Since the Country Crews are lightweight socks that emphasize ventilation over warmth, that wasnít surprising and certainly canít be considered a fault. Itís worth pointing out, though, that once the temperature climbed nearer the freezing mark and Iíd been active for a couple of hours, my feet warmed up and were quite comfortable. Given my experiences day hiking in the 40ís (5 to 9.5 C), Iím now willing to trust the Country Crews to keep my feet comfortable in temperatures as low as the upper 30ís (2.7 to 3.9 C). In the past, Iíve never ventured out in cooler weather without midweight wool socks with liners, so this was a pleasant surprise for me.

Pilling

A problem for which I am willing to fault the Country Crews was the chafing and hot spots that I experienced on the outside edge of my little toes. This became most noticeable on descents, especially on day two, and I checked my feet immediately after returning to my car for any signs of blisters or redness. While I didnít see any outward sign of irritation, I did notice dark spots on the outside edge of each sock that corresponded with the hot spots on my toes. I noticed a lot of piling around these spots, so I assume that the fibers have begun to wear excessively in those areas. Iíve had no previous problems of this nature in my Stratos boots, but Iíve also always worn liner socks. In this case, they might have mitigated the hot spots (but, presumably, not the pilling).

As for overall wear and tear, Iím continuing to see pilling, especially around the outside edges of the toes that I noted above. I worry that these areas will wear through in the near future, but I see no imminent holes at this point. Other high-wear areas of the socks, including the heels, appear to be holding up well.

Summary

Iíve been very impressed with the performance of Fox Riverís Ingeo-based Country Crew socks, especially with regard to moisture management. Unfortunately, though, the jury is still out on their overall durability. As I noted above, Iím beginning to see (and feel) a wear pattern that suggests that problems are just over the horizon. Nonetheless, Ingeo fiber clearly holds a lot of promise, and Iím happy to have had the opportunity to test the Country Crew socks.



Read more reviews of Fox River Mills gear
Read more gear reviews by Ernie Elkins

Reviews > Clothing > Socks > Fox River Country Crew Sock > Test Report by Ernie Elkins



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