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Reviews > Clothing > Socks > SmartWool PhD Outdoor Heavy Crew Socks > Test Report by jerry adams


INITIAL REPORT - December 10, 2013
LONG TERM REPORT - April 13, 2014


NAME: Jerry Adams
EMAIL: jerryaadamsatyahoodotcom
AGE: 60
LOCATION: Portland, Oregon, USA
HEIGHT: 6' 1" (1.85 m)
WEIGHT: 195 lb (88.50 kg)

I started hiking about 45 years ago. My first backpack was 40 years ago. I currently try to do one backpack trip of 1 to 5 nights every month (which can be tricky in the winter). Mostly I stay in the Western half of Oregon and Washington. In recent years I have shifted to lightweight - my pack weight without food and water is about 12 lb (6 kg). I make a lot of my own gear - silnylon tarp-tent, bivy, synthetic bag, simple bag style pack.



Manufacturer: SmartWool
Year of Manufacture: 2013
Manufacturer's Website:
Measured Weight: 3.43 oz (97 g) per pair of size L
Other details:

The SmartWool PhD Outdoor Heavy Crew socks are merino wool socks for outdoor use like hiking. They have heavy cushioning for more warmth and comfort.

I tested size L which is advertised for US Men's shoe size 9 - 11.5. I wear size 12 shoes, but I don't like loose socks so I got the size L.

The package my socks came in says they're:
78% Wool
20% Nylon
2% Elastane

On the website, it says they're:
86% Merino Wool
12% Nylon
2% Elastane

There's a little difference but probably not important.

The website says they use two types of elastics for greater stretch so it stays in place better. My testing will tell if they stay up good. The website says they use patented "ReliaWool" technology to provide longer life. I won't use these enough during the test to anywhere near wear out the socks, but I'll at least verify they don't wear out in an unusually short time. The website says they have mesh panels for better ventilation. I'll be testing the socks in colder weather so I should be able to evaluate breathability some, but not as much as in the summer. But, since these are heavy socks, they're probably better for the winter which is good because that's when I'll be testing them. The website says they have "4 Degree Elite Fit" - they bend at ankle, upper instep, lower instep, and arch. I have a hard time visualizing what that means while looking at the socks, but I'll find out how comfortable they are.

They come in two colors - Black and Chestnut (Brown). I got the Chestnut. There are some lighter and darker shades of brown with some Beige stripes. "SmartWool" is spelled out near the toe. The "SmartWool man" is on the ankle. These are both in only slightly contrasting color so it's hard to see them, definitely not obtrusive.

The socks are 8.5 inches (215 mm) high. When I measure the socks in my hands, the tops are 8.5 inches (215 mm) above the heel. When I put the socks on my feet which stretches them, I measure 10.5 inches (265mm) from floor to top of socks.

The socks have a complicated weaving pattern. The thickness is uniform on the ankle, except at the top it's a little different - there must be more elastic to keep them up. The socks are thicker on the heel and toe areas - this must be the "ReliaWool" heavy wear areas that are thicker to wear longer. The socks are thinner on top of the foot with several different areas - this must be the mesh panels to provide better ventilation.

They say to machine wash warm gentle, turn inside out, and dry on low. I usually forget to turn them inside out.

The socks are made in the U.S. of imported yarn.

Right and left side of socks on table:

Put on one sock:


The SmartWool socks feel very good in my hand. No loose threads or seams that seem like they might fail or be uncomfortable.

The socks feel good on my feet. I have size L which is advertised for US Men's shoe size 9 - 11.5. I wear size 12 shoes, but I don't like loose socks so I got the size L. They're fairly tight. Maybe next time I'll get a size XL.


The SmartWool PhD Heavy Crew socks are heavyweight, merino wool, outdoor socks. They also have some synthetic for stretch to keep them in place and to better hold up to wear.

They're fairly high on my ankle - 10.5 inches (265 mm) from the bottom of my feet to the top of the socks.

These are thicker socks than others I've tried. They should be good for winter.

They seem very well made, very comfortable to wear.



Dec 14, 2013 - 6 night backpack on Rogue River in Southern Oregon. 44 miles (71 km). 4500 feet (1400 m) elevation gain. 30 to 40 F (-1 to 4 C).

Wearing the SmartWool socks at a campsite on Rogue River:

Jan 15, 2014 - 6 night backpack on Herman Creek in North central Oregon. 40 miles (64 km). 7000 feet (2100 m) elevation gain. 26 to 45 F (-3 to 7 C).

Feb 23, 2014 - 4 night backpack on the Metolius River in central Oregon. 35 miles (56 km). 1600 feet (500 m) elevation gain. 30 to 45 F (-1 to 7 C). Rain, some snow on ground.

Checking out the socks on the Metolius River:


March 15, 2014 - 4 night backpack on Badger Creek in central Oregon. 38 miles (61 km). 2400 feet (700 m) elevation gain. 30 to 40 F (-1 to 4 C).

April 7, 2014 - 4 night car camp on Southern Washington coast. 20 miles (32 km). 40 to 55 F (4 to 13 C).


I used the SmartWool PHD socks for 20 nights of backpacking, 177 miles (285 km), and 15,500 feet (4700 m) elevation gain. This was in winter conditions 26 to 45 F (-3 to 7 C) with some rain and snow. I did a wide range of level trail, steep up and down, rocky, and snow.

Overall, I was very happy with the SmartWools. Very comfortable. I did get some blisters, but I think it was the boots, not the socks, because I got no blisters with another pair of boots.

At the end of the test, the socks show little sign of wear - maybe a little pilling, but still thick with no thin spots. I washed them about 6 times - warm water, regular detergent, in a machine, half the time I turned them inside out. I expect socks to last longer than this test, but I have had socks that show signs of wear at this point. Based on how they feel now, I think they'll last twice as long. Sometimes when I washed them, I turned them inside out, and sometimes I didn't. If I had been more careful about turning them inside out there would have been less pilling.

At the end of each day, I noticed there was a slight odor compared to other socks I've used, but I'm pretty sure this was because I used them with boots that weren't very breathable so the socks got more damp than normal. This dampness didn't otherwise affect the socks which testifies to their durability. I have had socks that, when they got wet, wore out quickly. I wore the socks on my last trip in more breathable boots and the socks weren't smelly.

The socks kept me warm, even though it got fairly cold during the testing. I wore them in my sleeping bag at night. I usually put insulated booties over them.

The socks were a little tight. According to SmartWool, size L is good up to shoe size 11.5, and XL is good for shoe size 12 and above. I have size 12, so I should have got size XL, but I got size L because I don't like loose socks. Next time, I'd get size XL like SmartWool recommends. This wasn't a big deal though, still comfortable.


I really like the SmartWool PHD socks.

Very comfortable over a wide range of conditions.

These socks are fairly thick which made them comfortable, and kept my feet warm.

The socks are very durable - pretty much like new at the end of my test.

The sizing recommendation was accurate - I used size L for my shoe size 12, but I should have used size XL like they recommended.

I will continue to use these socks for backpacking until they wear out or I test another pair of socks. I think these are tied with another brand of socks as my favorite, and a couple other brands are backup for when my favorites wear out.

Thanks to SmartWool and for letting me test these.

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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Reviews > Clothing > Socks > SmartWool PhD Outdoor Heavy Crew Socks > Test Report by jerry adams

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