Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Gear Closet: Thorlos Outdoor Athletic Socks Review

When it comes to keeping our feet happy on the trail, we always seem to focus heavily on the shoes or boots that we wear. Obviously the footwear the we take with us on an adventure is incredibly important, and the cornerstone for keeping our feet comfortable and protected. But, often times we overlook the socks we use, electing to just grab what ever is handy in the drawer. It turns out, having the right pair of socks plays a vital role in the health of our feet too.

Over the past couple of months I've been testing a new line of socks from Thorlos. These socks fall under the Adventure Series category for the company, and include options for hiking, backpacking, travel, and more intense activities like trail running. Made from a proprietary blend of materials, these socks are designed for comfort and performance, and after using them in a wide variety of activities, I can safely say the are now the socks I grab first when setting out on an active adventure.

As an outdoor gear reviewer, talking about socks isn't the sexiest of topics. Still, it is a very important one, having a deeper impact that most of us realize. With the in mind, let's take a look at the different models that Thorlos offers.

Outdoor Athlete ($16.99/Pair)
This is the sock that is directly aimed at trail runners, endurance athletes, obstacle course racers, or anyone who is looking to go fast on the trail. They feature a quarter-length cut that comes up to the ankle, and have an extra bit of reinforcement around the cuff to help keep dirt and debris out. Often times when we develop blisters or hotspots, it is because grit or small rocks have found their way inside our socks, rubbing the skin to irritation. But, these socks help to prevent that from happening, allowing athletes to simply forget about those issues altogether.

The Outdoor Athlete sock also features a design that is meant to provide support to the foot that can help it avoid issues like plantar fasciitis. The shape is also meant to cut down on fatigue and provide more energy return too. I'm not sure about the science of sock design, but I do know that they are very comfortable on my feet, feel great while I'm running, and have helped me to avoid undue wear and tear. I run as much as 40-45 miles per week, and these socks have performed the most consistently through a variety of conditions, ranging from cool and rainy, to hot and humid. So much so, that I actually lament the days that they are in the wash and I have to use something else.


Outdoor Fanatic ($19.99/Pair)
While the Outdoor Athlete is designed for more active, fast-moving pursuits, the Outdoor Fanatic sock is meant hiking and trekking. This sock shares some of the same features, but incorporates PrimaLoft merino wool to provide extra warmth, while still maintaining high levels of breathability and wicking. Thorlos has also embedded `copper-ion technology in the fabric as well, which provides anti-fungal and odor properties that go above and beyond those found in regular wools.

Much like the lightweight Outdoor Athlete, the Fanatic is incredibly comfortable to wear, while offering support that goes all the way up the calf. I've taken these socks with me on several trips into some wild backcountry environments, and they have performed great. In fact, on a recent four-day backpacking excursion, I only brought two pairs along with me, and could have easily gotten away with one. The remained clean, dry, and odor-free. They also didn't abuse my feet in any way, with now blisters, abrasions, or hotspots developing at all.

If you're a day hiker or short-distance backpacker, this is probably the perfect sock for you. That said however, these socks are also super versatile, and can be used for a lot of different activities. They're also perfect for active travel as well.

Outdoor Explorer ($17.99/Pair)
Thorlos' Outdoor Explorer socks were made specifically for use on the trail, with backpackers and campers in mind. While not quite as versatile as the Fanatic, they are still a great option for those who find themselves trekking through the backcountry on a  regular basis.

Also made from PrimaLoft merino, these socks offer I high level of moisture management and breathability. They are a bit more athletic in nature than the Fanatics, but offer a similar length and cut, coming well up the calf. They don't incorporate the same copper-ion technology to fight odor, but since merino is so good at that already, I never noticed much of an issue in this area anyway. They are a touch lighter in weight, but still offer great performance.

If your feet tend to get warm while on the trail, and you're not necessarily traveling longer distances or for extended periods, the Explorer is a fantastic option. They are a little less expensive than the Fanatics, but are also a little less versatile. I'd pack these for a weekend backpacking trip, and take the Fanatics with me on a Kilimanjaro climb or trek to Everest Base Camp instead.

Outdoor Traveler ($23.99/Pair)
Built for outdoor and adventure travel, where you may not be going at such a rapid pace, the Traveler is a lightweight sock that perfect for extended trip. These socks are made for use with more casual footwear, although they slip nicely into a pair of boots all the same. Extremely comfortable to wear, they are meant for lower-key activities at a less aggressive pace.

I found these socks to live up to their billing as a good travel companion. They are extremely comfortable, work nicely with just about any kind of shoe, and feel great on your feet. They also do a good job of managing odor, which means those of us who like to pack light don't need to bring too many pairs with when we hit the road. They also offer the perfect weight for active endeavors, although I'd still go with a pair of the Fanatics or Explorers if I were doing any serious trekking.

So there you have it, a complete rundown of the new adventure oriented socks from Thorlos. I will say that they are all a bit pricer than what many of us would normally pay for our socks, but they are also worth it. A couple of pairs of these will take care of all your needs, and since they are very durable, I suspect you won't need to buy new ones for quite some time. As I said above, socks aren't the sexiest pieces of gear that we can talk about, but you'll certainly be glad you have some good ones at your disposal when you need them.

Find out more at thorolo.com.

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