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Reviews > Clothing > Socks > SmartWool PhD Outdoor Heavy Crew Socks > Test Report by Mark Thompson

April 25, 2014



NAME: Mark Thompson
EMAIL: markthompson 242 at gmail dot com
AGE: 49
LOCATION: Parker, Colorado, USA
HEIGHT: 6' 0" (2.10 m)
WEIGHT: 170 lb (77.10 kg)

Outdoor adventures started for me at an early age, my passions have grown to include backpacking, rock climbing, hiking, hunting, fishing, canoeing, cycling, skiing and snowshoeing. Most of my adventures presently take place in Colorado's amazing Rocky Mountains. For trail hikes, my pack typically weighs 15 lbs/7 kg (summer/fall), 25 lbs/11 kg (winter/spring) and trail speed ranges from 2.5 - 4 mph (4 - 6 km/h) depending on elevation gain. For backpack trips, my pack weighs 40 - 45 lbs (18 - 20 kg) and my trail speed drops to 1.5 - 3.0 mph (2 - 5 km/h).



Manufacturer: SmartWool
Year of Manufacture: 2013
Manufacturer's Website:
MSRP: US $25.00
Listed Weight: not listed
Measured Weight: 3.4 oz ( 96g) (pair - sz large)

Other details:
Tester shoe size: 11 US Mens
Size tested: Large
Colors available: Black, Chestnut
Color tested: Chestnut
Materials (per SmartWool's website):
- 86% Merino Wool
- 12% Nylon
- 2% Elastane

Photo courtesy of SmartWool

This new product from SmartWool incorporates their "ReliaWool Technology" and their "4-Degree Elite Fit System"


SmartWool's new PhD Outdoor Heavy Crew sock appears to be a well made, high quality product that boasts of some cool technologies that should make this a top-performing product. When I first tried on the socks, I found them to be very comfortable with an outstanding fit. The 4Degree Elite fit system seems to be "spot on." The ReliaWool sections of the sock are accentuated and cover the heel cup and toe box areas. I, like many, have experienced socks that either wear out in the heel and/or toe box while the remainder of the sock retains much of its original loft. I am quite hopeful that the ReliaWool technology will provide a higher level of durability.

Image courtesy of SmartWool

Using SmartWool's sizing chart, I selected the "large" based upon my US Mens 11 shoe size. Based upon the initial fit, this seems to be accurate.

I did notice, however, that these socks are not as thick as some of SmartWool's other "heavy crew" wool socks. I am curious to see how well these perform in terms of insulation during our colder winter climate.



My initial reaction is that this could be an awesome product. The sock was very comfortable without being too tight and seemed to provide a great level of support. I look forward to seeing how SmartWool's new technologies perform in the field.




I have enjoyed these wonderful socks on the following test outings (all within the USA):

Snowshoe, December 2013
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado (CO)
Fall River Road (closed to cars in the winter)
Distance traveled: 5 miles (8 km)
Temperature: 18 F (-8 C)
Total Elevation Gain: 1,000 feet (305 m)
Weather: Overcast with winds at 15 mph (24 kmph)
Skies were overcast and winds mild
The hike/snowshoe was an out and back, with a fair amount of elevation gain. The terrain was mild given the fact that we were on a dirt road, other than the sections where the road was washed out by the recent flooding.

Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
Loch Valle Trail
Distance traveled: 2 miles (3.2 km)
Temperature: 14 F (-10 C)
The skies were clear to the east, and appeared clear all around from lower elevations. However, when I reached the trailhead, conditions were much different. The wind was blowing at 20 mph (32 kmph) sustained with gusts to 35 mph (56 kmph). I ended up cutting this hike short due to the excessive winds and inadequate head and eye protection.

Roosevelt National Forest, Allenspark, CO
St Vrain Mountain Trail
Total Distance: 4 miles (6.4 km)
Total Elevation Gain: 600 feet (183 m)
Weather: Overcast with winds 25 to 40 mph (40 to 64 kmph)
Temperatures: 12 to 14 F (-11 to -10 C)
Skies were clear to the east, but the high winds caused a lot of snow to be picked up and present the illusion of an approaching storm.

Location: Castlewood Canyon State Park, near Franktown, CO
Event: Basic Mountaineering School Instructor Refresher Course
Total Distance: very little (maybe a mile or 1.6 km)
Total Elevation Gain: very little, 100 feet (30 meters)
Weather: Clear and sunny, but the previous 24 hours had brought a fair amount of snow
Temperatures: 28 to 56 F (- 2 to 13 C)

Location: Lincoln Falls, near Alma, CO
Event: Ice Climbing
Total Distance: very little, maybe two miles (3.3 km)
Total Elevation Gain: approximately 800 feet (244 meters)
Weather: Sunny and very windy!
Temperatures: 14 to 26 F (-10 to -3 C)

Location: Mt St Vrain, near Allenspark, CO
Event: Snowshoe Trip
Total Distance: approximately 8 miles (12.9 km)
Total Elevation Gain: 2,400 feet (732 meters)
Weather: Overcast, snowing and windy
Temperatures: 18 to 22 F (-8 to -5 C)

Location: St Charles Peak, near Rye, CO
Event: Snowshoe Trip
Total Distance: 9.4 miles (15 km)
Total Elevation Gain: 2,800 feet (853 meters)
Weather: Started clear and turned overcast with heavy snow showers and significant wind
Temperatures: Started near 45 F (7 C) then dropped to 28 F (-2 C) as the storm (and wind and snow) moved into the area.

Location: Arches National Park, near Moab, Utah (UT)
Event: Hiking and Exploring Trip
Total Distance: 4 to 6 miles (6 to 10 km)
Total Elevation Gain: minor overall
Weather: clear skies and sunny, some wind (but hey, it's Utah)
Temperatures: 56 to 68 F (13 to 20 C)


I have thoroughly enjoyed these socks, so much so that I have been wearing them as much as possible on my hike/walk/commute to work. My "commute" so to speak, is a little over a mile each way and I have found it to be much more enjoyable to walk than to drive, regardless of the weather. During these "walks" my sock of choice is hands down, the SmartWool Phd.

Throughout the test period, I was very pleased with how comfortable the socks were, regardless of the boots I was wearing. My boot selection ranged from rugged mountaineering boots (crampon compatible and very limited flexibility) to trail shoes (below the ankle cut and lots of flexibility) and things in between. Regardless of the boot type, the socks remained securely in place and were flawless in "bunch-free" performance.

The socks were warm enough for most of my trips, but on the very cold excursions, I found that they did not provide as much insulating capacity as other "heavy" rated socks. Even though these socks are "heavy" rated, I found them to be very comfortable during hikes in warmer temperatures. Yes, my feet did perspire, but they remained comfortable.

I was very pleased with the wear characteristics of these socks. With many socks, I find that a fair amount of lint (aka, sock material) ends up sticking to my skin which ultimately reduces insulating capacity and longevity. I was very pleased to find that these socks, despite being very comfortable, did not "shed" lint on my feet and seems to retain their insulating capability rather well.

As with all of my wool based clothing, I washed the socks in the washer with the temperature set to "cold/cold" and line dry. I try to never put any wool or synthetic clothing in the dryer.


The socks performed extremely well and more than met my expectations. Specifically:

- top marks for durability
- top marks for comfort
- awesome for not "bunching up"

- not quite as warm as other "heavy" rated socks

Not really a con, but I would have preferred that the socks come up slightly higher on the calf as they were pretty close to the top of my mountaineering boots (still above, but close).

A special thanks to SmartWool and for enabling this test!

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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