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Reviews > Clothing > Socks > Thorlo Experia Wool Silk Socks > Test Report by Derek Hansen

Thorlo - Experia Merino Wool/Silk

Test Series by Derek Hansen

Thorlo Experia Merino Wool/Silk Socks

TESTER INFORMATION

Me
NameDerek Hansen
Age33
GenderMale
Height5' 10" (1.78 m)
Weight165 lb (75 kg)
Shoe Size10 US (44 EU)
Email Address derek·dot·hansen·at·mac (without cheese)·dot·com
City, State, CountryFlagstaff, Arizona, USA

BACKPACKING BACKGROUND

I am a lightweight backpacker with a typical overnight pack weight of 15 lb (7 kg) and a multi-day weight of 20 lb (9 kg). Because I pack less than 20 lb (9 kg), I prefer lightweight trail-running shoes. I prefer backpacking with a hammock as part of my sleep system.


PRODUCT INFORMATION

Manufacturer THOR·LO, Inc. (Statesville, North Carolina, USA)
Year of Manufacture 2009
Manufacturer’s Website thorlo.com
MSRP N/A
Size Fits Men 8.5–10 US (42–44 EU) / Women 9.5–11.5 US (41–43 EU)
Color Gray
Listed Weight N/A
Measured Weight 1.4 oz (40 g) for the pair
Listed Features Experia is anatomically engineered for aero-dynamic fit and protection without weight. Designed for high-performance runners, cyclists, hikers, and fitness walkers who prefer a minimal amount of foot protection.


INITIAL REPORT

17 Nov 2009

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION

The Thorlo Experia® Merino Wool/Silk sock, hereafter referred to as ‘sock’ or ‘Experia,’ is a ‘micro mini-crew’ sock with thicker heel and toe pads made of Merino wool and silk, with a blend of polyester, nylon, and elastic everywhere else. The sock is listed to be used for “high-performance runners, cyclists, hikers, and fitness walkers who prefer a minimal amount of foot protection.”

As of this writing, the Experia Merino Wool/Silk sock is not listed on the Thorlo website. These socks are brand-new, and according to their marketing coordinator, demand has been so high on their other Experia socks, that it took some time before they could even build this Merino version for testing.

Thorolo is known for making activity-specific socks and provides an unconditional 30-day risk-free trial, stating, “Within 30 days of purchasing Thorlos, if you decide that your feet do not feel better in Thorlos than in your ordinary socks, we will refund the full retail price of your Thorlos.”

Sheer fabric

The entire Experia sock is made of very light fabric, except for extra padding around the heel and ball/toe of the foot. The socks are fairly tight-fitting around the arch and bridge of the foot.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

Mini crew size

I was eager to try the Experia sock because of the claimed comfort, performance, and weight. I don’t often wear short “ankle” socks when I hike, preferring a longer crew style, but the weight and performance claims tempted me to give them a try.

Heel and Ball padding

The first thing I noticed about these socks is that the padding and thick insulation is primarily on the heel and ball/toe are of the sock. I’ve had socks with an elastic section around the arch and bridge before, but the Experia sock seemed to be primarily a thinner silk-weight sock with only two padded areas; very minimalist! Portions of the fabric are very thin and sheer. Owing, no doubt, to the manufacturing process of combining sheer fabric to the thick wool, I noticed several threads bunching near where the different fabrics blended together. I felt no discomfort at all because of the threads, but it is visually distracting.

My natural worry—especially with the winter season coming—was wondering how warm these socks will be while hiking. Not one to shy away from a challenge, I decided to give these socks an initial test.

November 14 ~ Mount Elden, Coconino National Forest. The first snow of the season sprinkled a nice white powder on the mountains, and provided me with an irresistible temptation. I put together my pack, laced up my shoes, and decided to give the Experia socks a grueling test. My route took me a little over 4 miles (3 km) with 4000 ft (1220 m) of elevation change hiking and running up and down Mount Elden, a silicic lava dome mountain rising 2395 ft (730 m) to an elevation of 9297 ft (2834 m) above sea level. The mean temperature was around 42 F (6 C). This is one of the rockiest, steepest trails near my home; a real ankle crusher.

Climbing Mount Elden

I left my car for the trailhead wearing a few layers of warm running gear, but after about 30 minutes, I was down to shorts and my windbreaker as I built up steam. I was wearing brand-new trail runners, so I was really taking a risk for battered heels, toes, and blisters. The shoes were also highly vented, with the sidewalls made almost entirely of mesh. The combination, however, did not make my feet cold at all. In fact, my feet were quite comfortable. I felt no cold spots, except around my upper ankle, which was not used to being sock-less.

Resting on Mount Elden

I averaged 2 mph (3.2 kph) up hill, but for the return trip, I opted to run. This very dangerous (read: stupid) stunt was murder on my legs, but I kept very alert as I literally danced over rocks on the trail. More than once I brushed my lower ankle with my shoe, scraping the skin. Remarkably, my feet were fine: comfortable and warm; not even a hint of hot spots and absolutely no blisters.

This sock is well-made! It is light and sheer in places where it can be, and thickly padded where it should be. I have no complaints so far, and while my socks were perfectly warm and cozy during my trial run, I will keep a guarded lookout as I hike through this cold season to see how warm my feet run.

PRO—Super light! Comfortable and warm.

CON—None so far.


FIELD REPORT

26 Jan 2010

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

November 26–28 ~ Red Mountain/Snow Canyon, Southern Utah. For the Thanksgiving holiday, I did some car camping with the family. We took several of the cousins geocaching and hiked (bushwhacked) more than 5 mi (8 km) hunting for caches. Overnight low temperature was 30 F (-1 C) and rose to 63 F (17 C) during the day. We experienced light sprinkles of rain.

December 23 ~ Campbell Mesa, Coconino National Forest. I borrowed some snow shoes and went out for a few hours on the mesa and hiked a few miles/km in the snow. Temperature was around 30 F (-1 C).

January 9 ~ Campbell Mesa, Coconino National Forest. My older sons and I took off in the morning to explore the mesa and enjoyed lunch on the trail and relaxed in a hammock. We hiked a little over a mile (2 km). Elevation was 6800 ft (2072 m) and the outside temperature was 40 F (4 C).

January 15–16, 2010 ~ Fossil Creek Wilderness, Arizona. Went on an 8-mile (13 km) backpacking trip with my two oldest kids and followed the Fossil Springs Trail down to a beautiful riparian area. We all slept in hammocks. Overnight low was 30 F (-1 C). The trail begins at an elevation of 5680 ft (1731 m) and descends to 4280 ft (1305 m), an elevation change of 1400 ft (427 m) in 4 miles (6.4 km).

In addition to these few trips, I’ve worn the Experia socks on a few jogging trips totaling roughly 8 miles (13 km).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I’ve pushed the limit of my own comfort with these socks during this period because of the low winter temperatures. Remarkably, I’ve had good experiences keeping my feet warm with the Experia socks, even with the very ventilated shoes I’ve used.

Hiking near Snow Canyon, Utah

While geocaching around Snow Canyon, Utah, I hiked on a variety of terrain, including rock hopping around cryptobiotic soil and slogging through deep sand. I could feel the sand pouring in and out of my shoes and into my socks. I would occasionally shake my feet to get some of the sand out. Normally, I would have to remove my shoes to dump out the excess sand but for this trip, I took the sand in stride. My feet were pretty dirty at the end of the hike, but I didn't feel too much of the grit and sand while I hiked, which was nice.

Most of the dirt was around my toes. I expected the sides and top of my feet—where the socks are thinnest—to be dirtier, but they weren’t. I didn’t get any hot spots or blisters while hiking.

Snowshoeing on Campbell Mesa

Snowshoeing with light hikers and the mini crew socks was a new experience. It was actually one of my first opportunities to snowshoe, so I was really experimenting. The snow wasn't too deep and the snowshoes kept most of the snow off my feet—thankfully my feet kept warm during the few hours I was out in the cold. I'm amazed how well the socks insulate for being so thin. I'm also happy in how much padding the socks afford.

Mud on the Fossil Springs Trail

During my longer hike down into the Fossil Creek Wilderness, I supplemented my light hiking shoes and the mini crew socks with a pair of light hiking gaiters. The gaiters really helped my ankles feel warmer and more protected when I brushed my ankles with my shoes while hiking. The gaiters also helped keep water, dirt, and grime out of my socks.

I aired out the socks overnight and wore them for the entire trek. The socks didn’t seem to retain much odor and my feet stayed pretty clean with the help of the gaiters. I’m happy that these socks have kept my feet warm with moderate activity around camp when the temperatures are in the mid-30s F (≈1 C).

FIELD USE SUMMARY

The socks continue to impress me. They haven’t lost any padding or stretch. I’m still amazed that I can stretch the material around my feet; out of my drawer, the socks look so small! It’s also been hard for me to believe that my feet have stayed so warm with such light socks.

I’m still guarded about the cooler months during the next testing period. My mind keeps warning, “these socks won’t keep you warm,” but so far, I’ve been fine. I know a variety of factors influence my comfort level, including exertion, shoe insulation, etc., and so far I’ve been fine.


LONG TERM REPORT

30 Mar 2010

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I’ve worn the Experia socks on eight more hiking trips and one overnight camping trip. I’ve also used the socks on several more “around the town” adventures. For the most part, I’ve worn the same shoes for each outing — a pair of lightweight trail running shoes with excellent ventilation. Elevation has remained fairly constant at 6800 ft (2072 m). Total mileage worn is approximately 16 mi (26 km).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Heavy snowfall this winter has limited my use of these socks, but they have proven fairly warm during exercising. My well-ventilated shoes have also moderated the temperature of my feet.

I’ve noticed no real wear or thinning in the socks and the elastic and material has remained tight.

On the few occasions when I went snowshoeing with these socks, I often collected snow in my light hikers and my feet would get cold. I don’t recommend these light socks for regular winter exposure, but the few hours of recreational shoeing I did were tolerable.

FINAL SUMMARY

I’ve really enjoyed these socks. They are probably the smallest socks I’ve ever worn hiking, but they’ve proved up to the task. They’re comfortable, provide ample cushioning, and have not worn out in the abuse I have inflicted. I plan on using them more in the spring and early summer as the temperature mellows out and I don’t have to worry about the snow any longer.

PRO—Comfortable, durable, and breathe well.

CON—Probably a little light for heavy winter use.

I would like to thank THOR·LO, Inc. and BackpackGearTest.org for providing me with the opportunity to test this product.



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Reviews > Clothing > Socks > Thorlo Experia Wool Silk Socks > Test Report by Derek Hansen



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