SEALSKINZ WALKING MID SOCKS
TEST SERIES BY NANCY GRIFFITH
October 22, 2016
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Northern California, USA
5' 6" (1.68 m)
126 lb (57.20 kg)
My outdoor experience began in high school with a canoeing/camping group which made a 10-day voyage through the Quebec wilds. I've been backpacking since my college days in Pennsylvania. I have hiked all of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. My typical trip now is in the Sierra Nevada in California and is from a few days to a few weeks long. Over the past few years I have lowered my pack weight to a lightweight base weight of 15 lb (6.8 kg) while still using a tent, stove and quilt.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Sealskinz Ltd.
Year of Manufacture: 2016
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.sealskinz.com
MSRP: $50 US
Listed Weight: Not listed
Measured Weight: 3.4 oz (95 g) per pair
Color Tested: Grey Marl/Dark Grey
Other colors available: Grey Marl/Dark Grey/Purple or Olive Marl/Grey Marl
Size Tested: Unisex S
Other Sizes Available: M, L and XL
My shoe size: Women's 8.5 US
Made in Bulgaria
Sealskinz Walking Mid socks are a laminated multi-layer sock designed to provide a waterproof yet breathable sock which is claimed to also be windproof. The fabric is an outer layer made of 98% Polypropylene and 2% Elastane and an inner layer made of 51% Merino Wool, 30% Polyester, 15% Acrylic, 3% Elastodiene and 1% Elastane. Sandwiched between them is a hydrophilic membrane that is both waterproof and breathable. The wool inner lining is supposed to provide for moisture control and comfort. There is an elasticed section around the instep and another around the ankle for support and a good fit.
These particular socks are found on Sealskinz's website under the 'Spring/Summer Outdoors' category and are sold in Unisex sizes. On their thermal rating scale, they are a 2 out of 5 so they lean towards being a warmer weather sock.
My shoe size is typically a Women's 8-1/2 US which puts me squarely between a size S and M on the Sealskinz website sock sizing guide. I decided to try size Small.
INITIAL IMPRESSIONS & TRYING THEM OUT
Based on the website and the description of a mid-height sock made of multiple layers, I was expecting a thick substantial sock. I usually wear mid-cushion ankle-height socks for summer backpacking so I was expecting these to be something more like I'd wear in winter. I was pleasantly surprised that although they do seem durable, they feel reasonably lightweight.
|inside is black|
I immediately tried them on and could hear and feel the stiffer fabric of the waterproof liner. The socks felt like they were too small and tight on my toes causing them to want to curl up. The inner and outer sock is flexible and stretchy but the middle liner can be felt as a stiffer material and is a bit constraining. I continued to wear them around the house and concluded that the socks move and stretch while I'm walking so they seem to be just fine. As I mentioned, I was between sizes on the sizing guide and went with the smaller size. Trying to imagine a larger size than these doesn't seem that it would help since then the liner might feel too big.
I like the comfort of the fabric and the amount of cushion seems just right for backpacking. I'm not used to wearing a mid-height sock in summer but these only come up to just under my calf muscle and can be comfortably scrunched down if desired. The elasticized section around the instep helps to fit the sock nicely to my foot. I'm familiar with this on other socks and really appreciate it. There is also another elasticized section just below the ankle that I haven't seen before on other socks. It again helps to provide a great fit around the top of my foot and ankle. So with those two elasticized rings, my entire foot feels very nicely enveloped in the sock. There is elastic at the cuff to hold it in place.
I wanted to try out the waterproof feature and although it was raining, I needed deeper water than what I could find immediately outside. So, I waited for a sunny day and stepped into a bucket of water that came up above my ankles. I sloshed about carefully to ensure that no water was running down my leg into the top of the socks. What an incredibly weird sensation! My feet felt like they were getting soaking wet. I could feel the cold temperature of the water and the outer sock was immediately soaked. I honestly didn't know for sure whether my feet were wet or not. There was no water squishing between my toes but there was still a 'wet' sensation. I stepped out of the water bucket and my wet socks made wet footprints on the warm dry wooden deck. I sat down and carefully removed the socks trying to keep any wetness on the outside. The inside seemed totally dry and when I put my bare feet on the deck there wasn't a hint of dampness. Wow!
I'm interested in the windproof claim since there are times that my hiking shoes are so breathable that I can feel a cold wind coming through them. It'd be nice to have some socks to block that out.
As with any product with a waterproof liner, breathability is always a major factor. If I sweat profusely due to a liner not being breathable then it pretty much negates the value of it being waterproof since I'm soaked anyway. And socks seem even more subject that problem than something like rain gear. So, I'll be keen to see how these breathe especially in the warmer weather this summer.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
Care instructions were found on the website, on the product packaging and on the tag on the socks. They were consistent although the website had the most detail, the packaging had a little less and the small tag on the sock used primarily universal symbols. They stated a few key things:
1) Wash them inside out on hand or wool wash and in cool/cold water
2) Drip dry inside out at first and then finish right-side out
3) Do not iron, bleach or dry clean.
For best results in keeping the socks from damage, it is recommended to keep toenails trimmed. Also, debris inside footwear such as stones or thorns can damage the waterproof membrane...and my feet!
There is also a Lifetime Warranty against manufacturing defects not caused by wear and tear.
Sealskinz Walking Mid-Height socks seem to be an excellent-quality pair of socks that are claimed to be waterproof, windproof and breathable. I can't wait to test them out!
Elasticized ankle and instep
Not sure if liner will stretch with movement or feel constraining
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I wore the Sealskinz on four backpacking trips, four dayhikes and a three-day boat camping trip for approximately 140 mi (225 km) of wearing the socks.
|Wet socks but dry feet!|
Pacific Crest Trail, Southern Sierra Nevada, California: 4 days, 53 mi (85 km); 5,264 to 8,009 ft (1,600 to 2,441 m) elevation; 41 to 85 F (5 to 29 C). Mostly clear with some breezes and some afternoon clouds. Wore the socks for 29 miles (47 km) of the trip.
Pacific Crest Trail, Northern Sierra Nevada, California: 4 days; 45 mi (72 km); 2,254 to 7,631 ft (687 to 2,326 m) elevation; 57 to 82 F (14 to 28 C). Clear sunny conditions. Wore the socks for 25 miles (40 km) of the trip. Water crossings with wet boots were plentiful on the last day.
South Fork Rubicon River, Sierra Nevada, California: overnight; 11 mi (18 km); 4,250 to 4,970 ft (1,295 to 1,515 m) elevation; 38 to 85 F (3 to 29 C).
Pacific Crest Trail, Cascade Range, California: 5 days; 65 mi (105 km); 4,355 to 6,684 ft ( 1,327 to 2,037 m) elevation; 31 to 64 F (-0.5 to 18 C). Conditions ranged from clear and sunny to cloudy with strong winds and light rain. No water crossings. Wore the socks for 55 mi (89 km) of the trip.
Loon Lake, Sierra Nevada, California: 3 days; 52 to 82 F (11 to 28 C); 6,327 ft (1,928 m) elevation; mostly sunny with afternoon breezes
Forni Lake, Desolation Wilderness, California: 11.5 mi (18.5 km); 6,480 to 8,080 ft (1,975 to 2,463 m) elevation; 52 to 67 F (11 to 19 C); early season hike with lots of water run-off, marshes, creek crossings and snow fields
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
As mentioned in the Initial Report, I continued to have that odd feeling when I pulled on the socks. The stiff liner and slightly tight fit on my toes was something that never gave me that 'aw I love these socks' feeling. However, as I wore them, I didn't notice any tightness or odd noises. So it just is a sensation when donning the socks.
For nearly every mile, I wore the socks with gaiters to keep debris out of my shoes to protect the waterproof liner.
PCT Southern Sierra Nevada: I hadn't been hiking much prior to the trip and it was a hot exposed section to start, so I wore my favorite wool socks for the first day of 14 mi (22 km). My feet were very hot during the day despite my airy hiking shoes. So on the second day I was hesitant to try the Sealskinz expecting them to be even hotter. But I tried them anyway and wore them on a day of 4,400 ft (1,340 m) of climbing and about the same of descending for 17 mi (27 km). It was warm and exposed but my feet seemed no hotter (and maybe a little cooler) than the day before with my wool socks. I was impressed! So on the third day I decided to wear the same pair of Sealskinz again to get some odor testing in. The morning consisted of a 6 mi (10 km) 2,900 ft (880 m) ascent followed by a 6 mi (10 km) 2,600 ft (790 m) descent. The descent killed me! I haven't had issues with my big toenails hitting the front of my shoes for many years, but this descent had me wincing with every step. My feet were apparently swollen more than usual since I'd worn the exact shoes for hiking the John Muir Trail with no issues. At the bottom, I took off the socks and soaked my feet in cold water which helped immensely. I didn't wear the Sealskinz socks for the rest of the trip and my feet were fine.
|hot downhill section|
Day Hike to Forni Lake: With lots of spring run-off, marshes and creek crossings, I quickly had wet shoes and outer socks but the Sealskinz kept my feet and the inner sock dry all day. At the lake there were still several feet (m) deep snowfields and with wet shoes and outer socks, my feet felt very cold standing on the snow. The air temperature at the lake was 53 F. The insulation of the inner sock wasn't enough with my wet shoes. My shoes and outer sock started to dry at some points during the day but mainly stayed wet with all of the water crossings. Feet were a bit clammy when I took the socks off but weren't wet. I had no problem with feet swelling at these lower temperatures. I took off the gaiters for better pictures of the socks but I wore gaiters for the hiking. My wet shoes developed a nasty funk that required lots of foot powder and airing out in the hot sun. I remember now why I hate to let my shoes get wet for extended periods of time.
PCT Northern Sierra Nevada: I wore the socks on day 2 for 17 miles (27 km) and day 4 for 8 miles (13 km). They didn't cause swelling of my feet or any problems despite wearing them with the same shoes that I had worn on the first trip. One the last day there were multiple water crossings but my feet stayed completely dry. To this point there were no issues with durability or water ingress. I had been careful to not allow any debris to get inside my shoe by using gaiters which is what I normally do for comfort anyway. I also typically keep my toenails trimmed very short so that also helps with not damaging the sock liner.
|more water crossings|
I wore the socks for a couple of short day hikes with no water crossings and didn't test the waterproof nature until the following boat camping trip.
Boat Camp at Loon Lake: I had the first issue with a breach of the waterproof liner. While loading the boat into the lake my feet were under water but I was careful to not let water go over the tops. While boating across the lake, I pulled off my socks to examine how they did though my feet still felt dry. I turned socks inside-out to find a small amount of water droplets inside and could feel the wetness by pressing the socks to my face. Both socks had the same issue at the toes. Estimated mileage to this point was 85 mi (137 km).
From this point on, I wore only pair two.
PCT Cascade Range: I wore the socks for the entire trip except for the first day since I had packed them away in the bottom of my pack. They performed great in the cooler temperatures. There were no conditions to warrant getting my feet wet. The one major creek crossing had a large tree lying across which I opted for rather than getting wet feet. The creek was so deep that it would've meant much more than just wet feet and the air temperature was in the 30s (2 C). During the warmer part of the days, I pulled off my boots and socks to cool my feet. I noticed glistening of water vapor inside the Sealskinz but the inner sock never felt wet.
There were never any issues with odor despite wearing them for multiple long days between washings. On the last trip, this included four days and 55 mi (89 km) of hiking with 35 mi (56 km) covered in just two of those days. I did air them once per day while stopped for a break which my feet definitely appreciated. Despite wearing them for 4 days straight including one overnight, they never had any foul odor and I didn't mind putting them back on for another day.
Despite being a bit heavy given the inner and outer sock layers along with the waterproof liner, the socks were amazingly cool and breathable. I dreaded wearing them on that first trip given the desert-like conditions and warm temperatures. However, they were just as cool as my much shorter, much thinner wool socks that I love. I was truly impressed! There was some water/sweat vapor inside the socks when I took them off but it was pretty inconsequential.
|pair 1, pair 2, new|
The durability of the socks has been fantastic. The original pair which I wore for 85 mi (137 km) before getting a slight hole in the waterproof liner on both toes still look incredibly intact. There is some wear showing on the balls and heels and maybe just a little dirt staining that I haven't been able to wash out. The durability of the waterproof liner has also been very good. I wasn't really expecting that any liner could withstand the pounding of mile after mile on the trail. I keep my toenails very short, but it still seems that the toe section was the failure point. The breach of the liner is still minor and I would continue to wear these socks as a waterproof barrier. I wore gaiters nearly all of the time to keep debris out of my shoes. Little rocks and sand would certainly grind against the liner over time. The second pair was worn for 55 mi (87 km) with the waterproof liner remaining completely intact. The photo shows pair one and pair two along with a brand new pair. It's difficult to see much difference between them but there is some staining around the ankle area and some wear on the balls and heels.
Waterproof sock philosophy:
Overall, I have to admit that the socks certainly are waterproof and live up to their claims. My main problem with them is that I haven't figured out why or when I would prefer to have wet shoes and outer socks versus just wearing waterproof boots and keeping my socks entirely dry. One positive thing is that the socks are higher than most boot tops. But, I don't like to have completely wet shoes or boots because they always end up growing some nasty stinky funk that is impossible to get rid of on the trail. Having wet shoes and outer socks is cold on my feet in cooler conditions. And in warmer conditions, I would prefer to just wear water shoes or get my shoes and socks wet knowing that they'll dry quickly. I'm interested to try the socks for snowshoeing when although my boots are waterproof, I would have the security of knowing that any snow that gets inside and melts won't wet my feet.
The Sealskinz socks really are waterproof! At first, I didn't believe that waterproof socks were possible, but it turned out to be true.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.
Great odor resistance
Make my feet swell on hot sections (maybe?)
Odd noise and feeling from the liner
Still not sure when I'd prefer these instead of waterproof boots
This concludes my Long-Term Test Report and this test series. Thanks to Sealskinz and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to test these innovative socks!
Read more reviews of SealSkinz gear
Read more gear reviews by Nancy Griffith