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Reviews > Clothing > Socks > Swiftwick Four Merino Hiking Socks > Test Report by Ryan Lane Christensen

Swiftwick logo
courtesy of swiftwick.com

Swiftwick

Four Merino Socks

Test Series by
Ryan Christensen

Last Update - August 3, 2010

Swiftwick Stack

ACCESS MAIN REPORT SECTIONS VIA THESE LINKS:

INITIAL REPORT
March 23, 2010

FIELD REPORT
June 1, 2010

LONG-TERM REPORT
August 3, 2010

INITIAL REPORT
March 23, 2010

Reviewer Information

Backpacking Background

Name:  Ryan L. Christensen
Age:  45
Gender:  Male
Height:  6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight:  235 lb (107 kg)
Email:  bigdawgryan(at)yahoo(dot)com
City, State, Country:   Idaho Falls, Idaho, USA

I began backpacking at twelve, continuing until 25. After an extended hiatus, due in part to a bad back, I resumed cycling, hiking, and backpacking several years ago. I also began snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. I share my love for backpacking and these sports with my children. I am a midweight backpacker, but carry a full array of necessary gear.
 

Product Information:

The information below came from Swiftwick's
product packaging and website.

Four Merino Socks
Manufacturer: Swiftwick International, LLC
Manufacturer website: http://www.swiftwick.com
Place of Manufacture: Tennessee, USA
Year Manufactured: 2009 (assumed)
Materials: 67% merino wool; 29% nylon; 4% lycra [per packaging]
60% merino wool; 30% nylon; 10% lycra [per website]
Colors Available: Black
Heather
Sizes Available:
Small/Medium
Large/X-Large

7.5 - 10 US (36 - 44 EU) [per website]
10 - 14 US (44 - 48.5 EU) [per website]
Men's 10 - 13 US; Women's 10.5 - 14 US (43 - 46 EU) [per packaging]
Warranty:

"THE BEST SOCK YOU'LL EVER WEAR - GUARANTEED"

"Our product will perform to your satisfaction, or we will replace it--even if you request a competitor's product."
MSRP: $16.95 US [per website]

Product Specifications
Manufacturer's Specifications  
Cuff Height: 4 in (10.2 cm)
Sits at 3/4 calf
Weight: Not Listed
Tester's Actual Measurements  
Cuff Height: 4.5 in (11.4 cm)
Weight: 1.2 oz (34 g) each, or
2.4 oz (68 g) for the pair
Style Tested: Heather [Large]

Product Description:

details The Four Merino socks, hereafter referred to as "socks" are one of the merino wool socks Swiftwick manufactures. These are medium-weight socks. "Swiftwick uses a 18-gauge New Zealand Merino Wool with 3-inch minimum staple length strands for its soft finish, no-itch feel, and durability." Swiftwick uses 200-needle construction to yield a fine-gauge, tightly woven knit fabric. The fabric itself feels smooth to the touch.

The arch area of the foot is slightly elasticized for additional support. The "cushion" is located in the toe and footbed. On the footbed, near the toe is an embroidered L (for Large). The top of the foot is significantly thinner, with thirteen channels running longitudinally. Along the toe seam, there is a mesh-like section with the word "Swiftwick" embroidered inside it. At the other end, there is a similar mesh-like section around the ankle. The Swiftwick logo is embroidered on each side of the ankle.

The leg section consists of a fine-gauge material with no ribbing. There is no noticeable cuff because the entire leg section is in fact, the cuff. This cuff is approximately 4.5 in (11.4 cm) in length. Near the top of each sock, on the backside, there is an embroidered Swiftwick logo.

Swiftwick says these socks sit at 3/4 calf. The socks measure approximately 8 in (20 cm) from the bottom of the heel to the top of the cuff. The cuff is elasticized to provide compression to "prevent unnecessary movement, making the sock the most form fitting on the market. It also promotes blood flow to the feet, actually improving your circulation in the lower part of your legs, thus increasing performance. Improved vascular performance and blood flow also means reduced leg fatigue, which speeds recovery."

In fact, these socks provide graduated compression to the 60 joints, 200 ligaments, and 35 muscles in the foot; "with the support of engineered performance in mechanical construction, fiber, and compression technologies."

The product packaging was minimal, which I like. The packaging included marketing information, material composition, and laundering instructions.

The laundering instructions are simple:

  • Machine Wash Cold
  • Tumble Dry Low
  • No Bleach or Iron

Initial Impression:

As I pulled the socks from the box, I immediately noticed how "soft" the socks felt. They were similar to other merino wool socks that I own. I really like how they felt to the touch. I personally like shorter crew or ankle socks--these seem to fit within that range. I also like the fact that they are made in America. Swiftwick has an impressive guarantee as well. Swiftwick claims theirs to be "THE BEST SOCK YOU'LL EVER WEAR - GUARANTEED." Furthermore, the claim "Our product will perform to your satisfaction, or we will replace it--even if you request a competitor's product." Now that's confidence in one's product. I can't wait to see whether these socks really are the best socks I've ever worn.

Swiftwick merino wool socks come in different sizes. The size is based upon the sock's leg height. However, I was slightly confused as to how many sizes Swiftwick makes. The website lists sizes zero, one, four, seven, and twelve. However, the packaging on the socks I received also lists a size two. So, there are either five or six different sizes of merino wool socks. Swiftwick also manufactures Olefin socks in the same sizes.

In addition to size, the website and product packaging differ as to the material blend. The website lists the material as 60% merino wool; 30% nylon; 10% lycra. However, the packaging list it as being 67% merino wool; 29% nylon; 4% lycra. Although neither the size nor material blend differences are major things, it would be nice to have consistency between the information on the website and that on the product packaging.

Initial Testing:

After taking them from the box, I removed the socks from the cardboard container that held them. I inspected them on the outside and the inside. I only found one pulled thread on the footbed of one of the socks. I did not see any other loose threads, errors in the weave, or faulty seams anywhere. Inside the socks, I found something I consider very significant; a narrow, tight toe seam. I personally do not like bulky toe seams that ultimately rub the tops of my toes. After a thorough inspection of the socks, I pulled them on. The cuff sits lower than 3/4 calf on my legs, which is not bad in my opinion. With the socks on my feet, I was impressed by three additional things. First, I liked how snugly the socks fit my feet. There was no slop anywhere, yet they were not overly constrictive either. Second, they fit snugly on my legs. In the past, I have not liked tight-fitting socks. I will pay particular attention to this during the test series. Finally, I liked how soft the socks felt against my skin.

Initial Likes:

Initial Dislikes:

  • quality of workmanship
  • feel of fabric
  • toe seam
  • cushion
  • question the snug fitting leg section

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FIELD REPORT
June 1, 2010

Summary:

So far, I really like these merino wool socks. During this phase of the test series, I estimate that I wore the socks 16 days. Included among these days of wear were three overnight outings. The socks are exceptionally comfortable, and have performed well thus far.

Likes Dislikes
  • quality of workmanship
  • feel of fabric
  • toe seam
  • cushion
  • snug fit
  • beginning to pill unfortunately

Field Locations and Test Conditions:

I wore the socks on three overnight outings. Two were Boy Scouts of America (BSA) overnight outings in Blackfoot, Idaho. Blackfoot has an elevation of 4,498 ft (1,371 m) above sea level. On the first Blackfoot outing, I attended our local BSA council Jamboral--celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America. I estimate that I walked approximately 5 mi (8 km) each day. The sky was overcast, winds calm, and the overnight low temperature was 18 F (-8 C). The second Blackfoot outing was for a BSA National Youth Leadership Training staff meeting. Skies were partly cloudy and the overnight low temperature was 29 F (-2 C). This was primarily a car-camping experience and my walking was between the pavilion, the sports field, and the camp area. However, I estimate I walked about 3 mi (4.8 km) at this outing.

The third overnighter was a father-son campout on Lookout Mountain, located in Kelly Canyon approximately 36 mi (58 km) east of Idaho Falls, Idaho. The elevation was approximately 6,600 ft (2,012 m). This site provided a scenic view of the South Fork of the Snake River below. The overnight low temperature in nearby Idaho Falls was 35 F (2 C) that night. However, I estimate the low where we were camped was at least 10 degrees colder or approximately 25 F (-4 C). The sky was cloudy; it rained / snowed most of the night. In fact, there was slush on my tent the next morning. I did a fair amount of walking in the wet grasses and brush in camp and to and from the location where we were shooting trap and other targets. I estimate walking about 3 mi (5 km) in the socks each of the two days of this outing.

I also wore the socks on a 4 mi (6 km) day hike in Hell's Half Acre National Landmark just west of Idaho Falls, Idaho. The elevation is approximately 5,300 ft (1,615 m) above sea level. I also wore the socks on walks around my neighborhood. The temperature ranged between 22 F (-6 C) to 56 F (13 C).

Observations:

The socks have performed quite well thus far in terms of preventing blisters and keeping my feet warm; even in the wet, cold weather on my Kelly Canyon outing. I have especially liked the snug, compression fit of the socks. They seem to help my feet feel more energized. This was especially true at the Jamboral, where I was on my feet for approximately ten hours straight. However, that same snug, compression fit felt a bit unusual when I slept in them on my overnight outings.

The elasticized cuff has been extremely effective in keeping the socks in place. At first, I thought the snug fit would bother me. However, after wearing the socks for a few minutes, that sensation has quickly disappeared for me. I really like not having to constantly pull my socks up.

pilling_1 pilling_2 pilling_3

As evidenced in the photos above, with the use and laundering received during this phase of the test series, the socks are beginning to pill on the bottom. I had hoped they would resist pilling better than other merino wool socks I own. Additional testing will determine whether that is to be or not. Aside from the pilling, there have been no other issues relative to durability; no loose threads, etc. The socks have laundered well, and have not retained any malodor--even after wearing them for four days straight (purely for testing purposes).

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LONG TERM REPORT
August 3, 2010

Summary:

I really like the support and performance of these merino wool socks. During this final phase of the test series, I wore the socks 4 consecutive days on my week-long backpacking/hiking trip in the Wind River Range of Wyoming. The socks are exceptionally comfortable, and performed well.

Likes Dislikes
  • quality of workmanship
  • feel of fabric
  • toe seam
  • cushion
  • snug fit
  • some pilling

Field Locations and Test Conditions:

Popo Agie A week-long Boy Scouts of America (BSA) Venturing High Adventure consisting of backpacking/hiking/fishing in the Popo Agie wilderness in the Shoshone National Forest on the east side of the continental divide in the Wind River Range of Wyoming. At 8,840 ft (2,694 m) above sea level, the Worthen Meadows trailhead is approximately 13 mi (21 km) from Lander, Wyoming. Over the course of the week, we covered approximately 50 mi (80 km), with trail elevations up to 11,000 ft (2,694 m) above sea level. Temperatures ranged from highs in the low 90's F (32 - 35 C) to lows in the upper 40's F (4 - 7 C). Skies wear clear to partly cloudy with rain sprinkles a couple of times. I carried a 50 lb (23 kg) pack at the start of the trip and wore the Four Merino Sock in mid-cut Gore-Tex lined hiking boots.

Observations:

Pinto Park During this final test phase, I only wore the socks four days. However, they were four consecutive days in which I hiked approximately 25 mi (40 km) in them, plus untold mileage around camp, walking to the river to get water, etc. I did not choose the best boots to wear on this week-long backpacking trip in the Winds: the soles were thin and soft under the heavy load which caused me to feel much more of the rocky trails than I would have liked. I wore one pair of the Four Merino wools socks in these boots, and for three days I was blister free. However, given the nature of the boots, I should have worn a second pair as I developed three blisters on my right foot: one on the outside of my heel, one on my middle toe, and one just off the ball of my foot. On the fourth day, I donned a second pair of socks over the Swiftwicks and the blisters did not get any worse. I wore double socks the balance of the trip and the blisters remained unchanged.

Although the boots were a poor choice, the socks were the perfect choice. First, their snug fit; elasticized arch and cuff provided great support and I truly believe they helped reduce fatigue in my feet. The second reason I believe these socks were the perfect choice was because of how well they wicked moisture away from my skin. However, after four consecutive days, they were somewhat malodorous and there was a fair amount of dirt in the fine-gauge weave especially where the tops of my boots were. A simple laundering should remedy both. A third reason these socks performed so well for me was the fact that they stayed in place, no bunching in either the toe box or the heel cup on either the steep inclines or declines.

The pilling mentioned in my Field Report has not seemed to worsen with time. There are no fraying threads to speak of either. I am very impressed with these socks and will most likely purchase additional Swiftwick merino wool socks in the future.

This concludes my Four Merino Sock Test Series.
Thanks to Swiftwick and BackpackGearTest for allowing me to participate in this test.

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Read more gear reviews by Ryan Lane Christensen

Reviews > Clothing > Socks > Swiftwick Four Merino Hiking Socks > Test Report by Ryan Lane Christensen



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