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Reviews > Clothing > Socks > Wigwam Merino Silk Socks > Ben Mansfield > Test Report by Ben Mansfield
Wigwam Merino Wool / Silk Hiker Socks
Over the past 15 years or so, I've tried to average at least one weekend trip per month year round, primarily in PA, WV, and VA. During the last 8 years, I've tried to take a weeklong trip somewhere further, but still usually in the eastern US. I have hiked many sections of the AT, and am planning to backpack the 100 Mile Wilderness in Maine next year. I consider myself a mid-weight hiker, preferring some luxury to an ultralight load. I am also an avid fly fisherman, mountain biker, and snow skier, and enjoy sailing my homemade dinghy.
c Product Information
Available Sizes & Sizing Chart (Reproduced from product packaging)
The Wigwam Merino Wool / Silk Hiker Socks (hereafter called the Socks) are medium weight hiking socks, comprised of 65% Merino Wool, 20% Nylon, 10% Silk, and 5% Lycra Spandex. Two pairs of socks - one charcoal color and the other olive heather - arrived from the manufacturer in retail packaging. The socks also come in navy or grey. As with most wool socks, the fibers are not all dyed the same color, but rather multiple colors, giving the impression of the overall color.
The product packaging also provides Wigwam's "1-Year Comfort Guarantee":
If you are not completely satisfied with your Wigwam socks,
I have to admit that the first time I read this guarantee I wondered if the laundering requirement was in there from the start, or if that was added at a later date after some poor mail room employee unwrapped a particularly ripe pair of socks (which reminds me to check the stink-factor during my field use - see my test plan).
The Wigwam Merino Wool/Silk Hiker Socks include four key comfort features. These features are outlined on the product packaging, as well as Wigwam's website. The 1x1 extra-stitch Morpal top is an approximately 1" (2.5 cm) band around the top of the socks that is somewhat more elasticized than the rest of the socks and supposedly serves to keep the socks pulled up. The 6x2 mock rib filet stitch leg and instep is a method of stitching the material around the leg and on the top part of the foot that gives the appearance and function of ribbing, but without using so much elastic that your feet take the shape of the socks. An ultra-smooth Lin-Toe closure is, according to Wigwam, a method of closing the toe with a single piece of thread that minimizes or eliminates bulk at the toe. Finally, an elasticized arch panel provides a bit of elastic in the arch, hopefully ensuring a good smooth fit. On the arch is embroidered "Wigwam" in a dark yellow-ish color and outlined in black (this can be seen in the photo at the top).
Overall, I have to say that based on initial appearance and fit, these socks are pretty typical of what I would normally wear to hike, if anything a bit more technical. They appear to be properly padded in the correct spots (primarily the heel), and fit comfortably for now.
These socks are a bit different in several ways from my normal hiking socks. The most noticeable difference is the texture. These socks are very soft against my skin, and I assume this should be attributed to the silk content. The second largest difference is the closure at the toe. Different manufacturers resolve the "toe bulk" issue differently, and Wigwam's Lin-toe closure is probably the most interesting resolution I've seen. The toe has a very clean seam. The description indicates that a single thread is used to connect the loops where they meet. When I read this originally, I was a bit worried about the durability of this type of closure. Now that I've seen the seam up close, it appears to be much more robust than I originally thought. I will monitor it closely during the test period, however, to see if it shows any signs of coming apart.
Care instructions for the socks are included on the packaging, and are very straightforward. Turn them inside out, wash in warm water & tumble dry low. As a guy who's been in college and lived a few years afterward as a bachelor, I can say that it doesn't really get any easier than that. In fact, I'm pretty sure that's the only way I know to wash anything.
The test plan outlined in my application is reproduced below as a preview to the items I will be considering during the test period.
Do they keep my feet dry? Do they keep my feet warm? Merino Wool is an excellent insulator, maintaining most of its heat retention even when wet. Silk is another good insulator, due to its lack of ability to conduct heat. The Nylon and Spandex components are assumed to be used to improve durability and fit. My feet have an amazing ability to generate moisture when hiking, and if I hike with poor quality socks, I often have to change mid-day. Will these socks pass sweat out rather than trapping it in, and can I wear these socks for a full day of hiking?
How fast do they dry once wet? If I get these socks wet by stepping in a creek, melting snow ingress, or purposely washing them in a stream, will they dry out hanging on the outside of my pack? On longer trips I often rinse out my socks in a stream or pond and allow them to dry by hanging from my pack for a day or so. Are these socks wearable a day after a complete soaking?
Do they stink? Let's face it, nobody likes to share a tent with a person who snores or a person whose feet are keeping the wildlife at bay. Hiking socks, particularly those with higher synthetic material content, can really start to stink after a few days of being stuck between sweaty feet and hiking boots. If they stink, does a freshwater rinse in a creek freshen them up, or is a proper washing required?
Do they last? Wigwam uses a Lin-Toe closure on these socks, which is a single thread joining the edges at the toe. While this serves to reduce bulk in the toe box and prevent a possible friction spot, how strong is this type of closure? Does it last, or do stresses caused by downhill hiking all day weaken or break this thread? In addition, how do the socks hold up to machine washing and drying?
Do they fit? With the Nylon and Spandex content of the socks, as well as the mock ribbing in the leg and instep and the elasticized ankle, these socks are designed to fit. The extra-stitch Morpal top should serve to keep the socks pulled up as high at the end of the day as they were at the beginning.
Are they comfortable? When I wear hiking socks all day, I usually can't wait to get them off at the end of the day, even when they're dry and my feet are happy. Do these socks keep my feet happy, and allow me to wear them late into the day, or will I have the urge to rip them off as soon as I pitch camp?
I had many days of very wet hiking in the CVNP. Although my boots do a pretty good job of keeping my feet dry, I did notice a positive difference between the Wigwam socks and some of the other socks in my collection. The Wigwam socks kept what moisture did get through my boots away from my feet, and did a great job of moving sweat away from my feet. As such, I have not had a wet foot that I can attribute to these socks. In addition, the Wigwam socks did a great job of keeping my feet warm while hiking in the ANF.
I have not had a chance to test the speed at which these socks will dry once soaked as of yet, although I have an upcoming weekend trip during which I will test to see if it is possible to wash the socks in a stream (and dry them by hanging on the outside of my pack for a reasonable amount of time (~1 day).
On the odor control front, I have noticed that these socks do make my feet stink, although no more than any other socks. In fact, the first time I wore them, they maintained their "new sock smell" that did not wear off for several consecutive days of wearing without washing in between. However, after many wash and dry cycles, the "new sock smell" has worn off and they do tend to smell like hiking socks after a day of hiking, but no more or less so than any other sock I have hiked in.
Thus far, these socks have proven to be quite durable. The Lin-Toe closure that I worried about in my test plan has proven to be a fantastic feature of the sock. There is no added bulk or friction point at the toe, and the closure has shown no signs of wear. I have laundered these socks probably over a dozen times, each time according to the manufacturer's recommendation. Again, the socks have shown no signs of wear, with the exception of one thread which is beginning to unravel on one of the socks. I will continue to monitor this, although it is not causing me any real concern or problem at this point.
These socks fit my feet very well. However, if there is one area for concern at all so far as a result of my testing, it is that they tend to stretch out a bit if I wear the socks on multiple days without washing and drying them in between. I haven't noticed this on any other socks, and it is not unusual for me to wear socks for several days while on an extended trip. For the duration of the testing period, I will continue to monitor and try to quantify this stretch with measurements and photographs.
Most hiking socks I own start the day as my best friend, and by the end of the day I'm ready to cut them off my feet and throw them into the campfire. Although the Wigwam socks are noticeably more comfortable than any other socks I own, I still want to take them off after 12 or 14 hours of continuous wear. I presume, however, that this is a personal issue rather than a product issue.
Long Term Summary
A month or so after I submitted my field test report, I took another backpacking trip to the Zaleski State Forest in Southern Ohio. The weather fluctuated wildly, with temperatures swinging from well below freezing with some snow late in the evening, through the night, and early in the morning, up to comfortable, almost Spring hiking through the middle part of the day. On top of an already wet ground this provided the full gambit of trail conditions (for Southern Ohio, anyway) with which to test these socks, all inside of a weekend long trip.
We hiked in under headlamps on Friday night, and the trail seemed quite hard underfoot, with the occasional puddle typical of late winter / early spring in Ohio. The Wigwam socks kept my feet warm in the sub-freezing temperatures, and prevented my feet from feeling wet after the occasional puddle encounter. Saturday morning brought a heavy layer of frost and a reluctance to get out of my sleeping bag. Once out, it was all I could do to pull on a fresh pair of socks, shove them into my boots, and make coffee. Because Saturday was potentially my last chance, I gave the pair I had hiked in on Friday night a thorough soaking, wrung them out with frozen hands, and lashed them to my backpack before setting off on the day's hike.
The morning ground was frozen hard, but in the light I could distinguish not the rocky ground I had assumed from the prior night's hike but rather bootprints frozen solid in the mud. This gave the trail an almost Western-mountain feel, with the frozen mud tempting me to roll an ankle, and occasionally breaking off or giving way to a slightly more thawed area of ground. The padding in the Wigwam Merino Wool/Silk Hiker Socks proved valuable here, as did the silk fibers, allowing my feet to shift slightly inside my boot without blistering.
As the day wore on, the ground thawed, the snow started to melt, and layers came off. The socks that were hanging on my pack in their drying test were cold and still quite wet. The frozen mud turned into... well, un-frozen mud. Not wanting to widen the trail by taking the dry path (and seeing a chance to get in some additional testing), I pushed on down the sodden trail. My boots and socks prevailed with a little help from a pair of gaiters that I thankfully brought along, and my feet remained dry. This had to have been a difficult feat, given the sweat from my feet trying to escape and the mud and water from the trail trying to sneak in.
By the day's end, the drying socks were still a bit damp. Not so much that I wouldn't have put them on in the summer, but wet enough that I wouldn't put them on my feet in the current freeze/thaw conditions. I suspect, however, that had the day remained warmer longer, they may have dried to the point of being wearable. I noticed something else important as the dinner water boiled and the stories (and the rum) started to be passed around the campfire. My boots were off, but my socks were on, and my feet were propped up enjoying the heat radiating from the fire. Looking at my feet I was immediately reminded of the hatred I expressed for hiking socks at the beginning of this test series, and how I can never stand to leave my socks on once I hit camp. I don't know if it was the cold air forcing me to keep my feet covered or the comfort of these socks, but they stayed on my feet all night.
Of all the wonderful things I can say about these socks, I can find only a few small issues that I feel need to be mentioned. The first is the thread that came loose early in testing on one sock out of four. I clipped the thread short to prevent it from catching on anything, but it has continued to loosen with subsequent washings & wear. I don't believe it is a major concern, however, and don't have any feelings that the socks will eventually come apart. The second minor issue is the socks' tendency to loose their elasticity around the ankle after a few consecutive days of wear. They do, however, return to their as-shipped size following a wash and dry cycle. This does make week-long or longer trips a little difficult with only one or two pairs of these socks. However, for a weekend trip, which is the majority of my backpacking, they're just right. My last nitpick is that these socks didn't dry in a day after being washed in a stream. To be fair, the conditions under which this was tested were wintry and cold, and although socks with a higher synthetic content do tend to dry quickly in pretty much any conditions, they also make my feet stink a lot more than the Wigwam Merino Wool/Silk Hiker socks. I'll choose a 2 day drying time (in winter) over socks that smell aweful after the first morning.
Overall, however, these socks have proven to be an excellent blend of comfort, function, and quality. Many of the concerns I had after initially considering these socks, such as the robustness of the Lin-Toe closure, have proven not to be an issue. These socks have seen many miles of trail in the relatively short time I've had the pleasure to try them in many different conditions. In addition, they have been used extensively around town and while working around the house. They have helped to keep my feet warm in near-frozen rivers during the Steelhead season. They even survived my ultimate test and made it through an entire day and night on my feet - no small feat (sadly, the pun is intended).
And the final test... I would absolutely (and likely will) purchase additional pairs of these socks for personal use, outside of BGT.
I would like to thank Wigwam Mills and BGT for the opportunity to test these fantastic socks.
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