Guest - Not logged in 

Reviews > Clothing > Socks > SmartWool PhD Outdoor Light Socks > Test Report by Andrea Murland

SmartWool PhD Outdoor Light Socks (Women’s)
Test Series by Andrea Murland

Initial Report - June 9, 2011
Field Report - August 16, 2011
Long Term Report - October 5, 2011

Tester Information

Name: Andrea Murland
Email: amurland AT shaw DOT ca
Age: 25
Location: Elkford & Rossland, British Columbia, Canada
Gender: Female
Height: 5 ft 2 in (1.57 m)
Weight: 125 lb (57 kg)
Shoe Size: US Women’s 6-6.5

I began hiking frequently in 2006 and have since hiked in Western Canada, Australia, and spent 2 months backpacking in the Alps. I spend most weekends either day-hiking or on 2-3 day backpacking trips, with some longer trips when I can manage them. I also snowshoe and ski in the winter, but don’t have a lot of experience with winter in the backcountry yet. Elevation is typically 500-3,000 m (1,600-10,000 ft), in the Canadian Rockies and the Selkirk, Purcell, and Monashee ranges. I try for a light pack, but I don’t consider myself a lightweight backpacker.

Initial Report – June 9, 2011

Image Courtesy of SmartWool
SmartWool PhD Outdoor Light

Product Information

Manufacturer: SmartWool Corporation
Manufacturer's URL:
Year of Manufacture: 2011
MSRP: US $19.95
Colour Reviewed: Gray/Blue
Other Colours Available: Charcoal/Willow, Taupe/Amethyst, Lavender, Oatmeal/Melon
Size Reviewed: S/M (US 4-6.5 Women’s / UK 2-4.5 / EU 34-37)
Other Sizes Available: Medium, Large
Listed Weight: None
Measured Weight: 62 g (2.2 oz) for the pair
Measured Height: 21 cm (8.3 in) (heel to top of sock)
Material: 69% Wool, 29% Nylon, 2% Elastane
Care Instructions: Machine wash and machine dry. Use warm water and tumble dry low. Turn inside out.
No fabric softener required. Do not bleach. Do not iron. Do not dry clean.

Packaging & Socks

Description & Initial Impressions

I received the SmartWool PhD Outdoor Light socks in cardboard packaging which describes the features of the sock material, the specific design features of the sock, the satisfaction guarantee, the care instructions, and indicates that the socks are made in the USA from New Zealand wool.

The PhD Outdoor Light socks are a light cushion, crew height hiking sock. The top of the sock has a double-layer cuff and then a section of single-layer material. Around the heel, toe, and under the metatarsal area is a layer of thicker material, which the packaging tells me is SmartWool’s WOW Technology of higher density wool in the impact zones of the socks. The top of the foot has mesh-like zones, which the information indicates is for increased ventilation. There is also information provided about the 4 Degree Fit System, which consists of the Ankle Band, Arch Band, Upper Instep Band, Lower Instep Band, and Contour Flex Zone, all of which are apparent on the socks. The construction of the socks appears to be excellent. There are no loose threads or other areas of concern.

The socks are mostly gray, with blue highlights. The cuff has a bright blue band at the top, light blue flowers, and a dark blue SmartWool logo. On the inside of the cuff (which is bright blue) are woven the text “W SM” and “FEELS GOOD”. The thicker areas of the sock are outlined in dark and light blue lines, and “SmartWool” is woven across the toe in dark blue. The mesh zones are a lighter gray than the rest of the sock.

The website gave me a good idea of what to expect from these socks. The website describes the material of the socks, the SmartWool technology in the socks (WOW and 4 Degree Fit), and shows the colours. There were no surprises when the socks showed up at my door. Trying them on

Trying Them Out

Naturally, as soon as I got the socks I had to try them on! I have other pairs of SmartWool socks so I was not surprised to find that the socks fit me snugly and were very comfortable. They have lighter cushioning than my other hiking socks so I am interested to see how that performs for me when I’m hiking. The socks felt soft and not scratchy at all on my feet.


The SmartWool PhD Outdoor Light Socks are a hiking sock with a light cushion. They are comfortable, appear to be very well constructed, and fit well. I can’t wait to get out on the trail and start testing the way they perform!

Field Report – August 16, 2011

Field Conditions

Since June I have worn the SmartWool PhD Outdoor Light Socks every time I’ve had my hiking boots on. The first thing I used them for was a day of geocaching, which involved short hikes and some bushwhacking in the pouring rain, at temperatures around 10 C (50 F). I’ve had a full day Search & Rescue (SAR) training exercise in them, and also a full day SAR call, both of which involved bushwhacking in hilly terrain. I’ve also used the socks for four day-hikes, in everything from cold and pouring rain to 30 C (86 F) and sunny. The hikes were up to 15 km (9.3 mi) in length.

I have washed the socks 4 times in the washing machine with regular detergent and laid them out to dry each time. The care instructions say to turn them inside out, but I’ve only remembered to do that twice.

Hiking in the Kootenays


Wringing out my socks
Wet Socks
The PhD Outdoor Light Socks are very comfortable. I haven’t had any blisters while wearing them, even when they were sopping wet. My feet became a bit tired and sore on the bottoms on one hike, but they weren’t too bad, and was certainly no worse than in any other socks. The cushioning seems to be sufficient. The cuff of the socks is comfortable as well, not digging into my leg. The socks fit me perfectly. They are snug without being tight, and there is no bunched up fabric when I put my feet into my boots.

The socks manage moisture well. I have used wool socks to hike in for some years now, and these socks meet my expectations of wool hiking socks. On a warm day, they are slightly damp at the end up the day but at no point do they feel like they’re wet or impede my progress by becoming uncomfortable. On the day I was geocaching my boots leaked and I found that I could squish my toes in the water pooled in my boots, but the socks kept my feet fairly warm and weren’t uncomfortable beyond the squelching.

I haven’t noticed any particular odour from the socks, even after several days of hiking. Granted, I do air them out and let them dry between outings. They smell like wool hiking socks to me!

The socks have stood up well to use. There is no noticeable pilling or other deterioration of the material. I have noticed a bit of staining on the heel of the socks from dirt, and also a red stain on one sock from the ID band that I wear on one ankle when I hike (the band gives off dye when it gets wet).


I have been extremely pleased with the SmartWool PhD Outdoor Light Socks so far. They are comfortable, manage moisture and odour well, and have stood up well. No complaints at all! I’m looking forward to continuing to use them through the autumn months.

Long Term Report – October 5, 2011

Field Conditions

Hiking in the Monashees Over the past two months I have continued to enjoy wearing the SmartWool PhD Outdoor Light socks for all of my hiking activities. In addition to several days of geocaching, short walks, and berry picking, I have worn them on five day hikes in the Rocky and Monashee Mountains. These days have been hikes up to 26 km (16.2 mi) long and in mostly warm, dry conditions. The terrain has been dirt or rocky ground, with quite a bit of scree as well, and everything from flat to 20% grade to moderate scrambling.

I have only washed the socks three times during the long-term testing phase. I’ve stopped turning them inside out to wash because I find that they’re still covered in grass/sticks/burrs when I take them out of the wash if they’re inside out. I have continued to air dry them.


I don’t have a great deal to say about these socks that I didn’t say in my Field Report.
They are comfortable, have adequate cushioning, don’t dig into my calves, don’t bunch up in my boots, and fit me well. They also manage moisture well, leaving my feet dry and happy at the end of each day. I haven’t noticed any unpleasant odours from them, just the smell of damp wool at the end of a day of hiking. They are a bit stiff when I first put them on when they aren’t freshly washed, but rapidly warm up and conform to my feet. They have also stood up well to use. There is no noticeable deterioration of the material, just a bit of staining on the heels, and I expect them to last for a long time to come.


I have really enjoyed my testing of the SmartWool PhD Outdoor Light Socks. They are comfortable and functional.

Thumbs Up:
Moisture Management
Odour Management

Thumbs Down:

Thanks to SmartWool and for the chance to test these socks!

Read more reviews of Smartwool gear
Read more gear reviews by Andrea Murland

Reviews > Clothing > Socks > SmartWool PhD Outdoor Light Socks > Test Report by Andrea Murland

Product tested and reviewed in each Formal Test Report has been provided free of charge by the manufacturer to Upon completion of the Test Series the writer is permitted to keep the product. Owner Reviews are based on product owned by the reviewer personally unless otherwise noted.

All material on this site is the exclusive property of
BackpackGearTest software copyright David Anderson