Gear Review: Point6 Wool Socks…

Point6 Merino Wool Socks

 SockOff2011 kicks off with an up-close and personal look at the Point6 Hiking Tech 100% Merino Wool Sock!  I tested my Point6′s in Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve on a 9+ mile round trip hike to Thompson Peak.  This hike took me through mostly loose, rocky terrain littered with cacti, dry brush and sharp rock.  The socks took the abuse better than I did…

Point6 Price and availability

Point6 Merino Wool SocksThe entire line of Point6 socks have a very competitive price point compared to the rest of the market.  The hiking tech medium mini crew  is priced at $17.95 which is right in the middle of the $16-$20 range for most wool/wool-blend hiking socks.  Point6 socks are not widely available as of yet (though they seem to be expanding their market).  I was not able to find any retail locations in the Phoenix area and only two or three locations in the Houston area that carried the product.  Even the places in Houston I found that carried Point6 socks, only had two or three options in the store.  However, Point6 has a fantastic website and makes shopping for the right sock and ordering the sock extremely easy.  Order processing and shipping is very fast.

Point6 Comfort and Fit

As soon as my Point6 socks showed up in the mail, I put them on.  The fit is amazing and they are extremely comfortable to wear.  The toe doesn’t twist or bunch, the heal drops right in place and the top fits snug and secure.  I have tried a lot of different socks and the wool socks are not as soft, typically, as the wool-blends but these wool socks were not rough or abrasive (as most people expect from 100% wool products).

Point6 Padding and Support

Point6 has a very comprehensive padding and support system designed into their socks.  From the ultra-smooth toe seem to the arch support to the ankle bracing, these socks fit the bill for versatile, supportive sock structure.  I have very high arches and some chronic ankle problems so finding a sock that can support my foot usually means looking for a very technically designed sock.  My new Point6′s seemed to provide support in all the right places and padding where I needed it.  I don’t look for a ton of padding from my socks (I expect my insoles to do their work).  The “sport-specific” cushioning in these socks did it’s job.

Point6 Durability

Point6 Merino Wool SocksWe really didn’t test these socks long enough to judge durability properly, I will say this though: After one 9 mile hike in the dusty, rocky desert terrain I was in these socks looked exactly the same as they did when they arrived in the mail.  Amazingly, I was sweaty, dusty, dirty, scraped and sunburned and the socks were dry, clean and unaffected.

See durability follow up here.

Point6 Overall Performance on the trail

My overall impression of the 100% Merino Wool Point6 Hiking Tech socks is that they are great outdoor socks.  They provided me with everything I look for in a hard-use outdoor sock.  They are relatively lightweight, they seem (time will tell) very durable, the fit and function is flawless.  I would highly recommend these socks to anyone who is hard on their outdoor gear.

Don’t forget to visit Hiking the Trail and Diary of a Day hiker for their own comprehensive reviews of the Point6 hiking socks for SockOff2011!

Stay tuned for my next SockOff2011 review featuring the  Thorlo-CoolMax Synthetic trail running sock.

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To see the follow up post after MUCH more experience with these socks, click here…

Message in a bottle…

September 12th was my father’s birthday.  Since he passed away in 2005, I have always done something special to commemorate his birthday.  It’s a ritual that really is more for me than anyone else.  It used to be that I would simply go to his favorite restaurant in town and have lunch, usually with a friend.  We’d toast to his birthday and I would have my chance to reflect on the friend I lost.  A couple years ago, that restaurant closed.  I’ve struggled to find a new ritual to fill this void.

This year, I traveled to Houston to see my fiance during the week of my dad’s birthday.  My trip there was scheduled to overlap with a visit from her parents (my future in-laws!).  We visited, we traveled, we had a good time.  Funny thing is, I had such a good time with her and her family that I nearly forgot about my annual ritual to honor my dad.  Perhaps the ritual I needed all along was to spend the day enjoying time with the family that I still have and the new family I am gaining.

My father and I traveled together as often as we could in my adulthood.  We hiked, biked, rafted and camped everywhere.  We would spend months planning the next excursion.  Our greatest adventure was in 1998 when we both went to Peru together for nearly a month of hiking, rafting and exploring.  The trip culminated in a hike across the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.  On that hike, there was only one small village along the trail, high in the Andes, that had a store….a store that carried BEER!  My dad and I shared an amazing beer together somewhere around 10,000 ft along the Inca Trail.  That beer was a bottle of a Peruvian beer called Cristal.  I’ve never seen it anywhere other than Peru.

The day after my dad’s birthday this year, I was feeling guilty about missing out on his celebrating his day.  I was feeling especially guilty about the fact that I was having such a good time with my future in-laws and fiance that I nearly forgot altogether that it was his birthday.  That next day at the grocery store as we browsed the beer isle looking for a favorite beer of mine I can only find when I go to Houston, I found a 6-pack of Cristal.  I’d never seen it at that store before, but there it was.  It hit me like a punch to the gut.  I know it sounds crazy but it felt like a message…to focus on what I have and not dwell on what I’ve lost.

As it turns out, the delay of doing something special for my dad allowed me to stumble on to something, possibly, much more meaningful.

 

Gear Review: Sanuk Footwear

You know when you finish a long, tough hike nothing feels better than slipping off those hiking boots and letting your poor, abused feet breath? For me, it was always a pair of sandals or just go barefoot to give my feet some relief.  Sandals aren’t always the best option, though.

Last year I discovered the joy of wearing Sanuks!  Sanuks are not shoes, but they’re not sandals either…they are a loose, casual, flexible shoe built on a sandal footbed.  The result is the comfort and feel of a sandal with the security and coverage of a shoe.  And they are FANTASTIC!  I originally bought my first pair (my awesome brown Chibas $65) in Reno because I needed a casual shoe I could wear around town.  I loved them so much I bought a second pair (my ever present Khaki Carpe DMs $60) just because.

Sanuks have now become my pre and post-hike shoe of choice.  They pack easily, weight very little and stand up to a lot of abuse.  Wear and tear just add character, so mine have been almost everywhere with me.  I wear them heading to the trail, take them with me if I plan to stop or camp, and slip them on as soon as I get off the trail.  When they get dirty they wash easily in a stream, lake, pool or a quick spin in the washing machine.  Couldn’t be easier!

I am looking forward to my next pair of Sanuks from their R.A.S.T.A. collection!  All RASTA Project products are made from recycled, low eco-impact materials and shipped in biodegradable bags.  Check out their website for details!

Many retailers carry Sanuk Products these days and there are A LOT of imitators out there.  Be sure to look for the SANUK signature green logo tag.

Follow Sanuk on Facebook or Twitter!

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Sock-Off 2011: Pre-Hike Rundown

The socks are in and we’re ready to put them to the test!  In this head-to-head comparison between 100% wool socks and synthetic socks, the plan is to keep the test conditions as consistent as possible.  @Day_Hiker, @HikingTheTrail and myself will be testing these socks about a week or so apart to avoid any effects of foot fatigue.  So, here’s the rundown for my test:

 

The Hike:

Thompson Peak via Bell Pass – Scottsdale, Arizona (9.2 mile RT 2,300 ft elevation gain)

The Gear:

Point6 Hiking Tech Light Mini Crew socks in Brooks Cascadia Trail Runners

The Test:

We will be rating the socks on these specific attributes:

  1. Price and availability
  2. Comfort and Fit
  3. Padding and Support
  4. Durability
  5. Overall Performance on the trail

All three of us will put our socks to similar tests and evaluate them individually, then compare them to see which challenger comes out on top in the ultimate sock showdown, SOCK-OFF 2011!

Follow hashtag #Sockoff2011 for information!

We admit that this is a relatively short test and don’t expect to really test the boundaries of what these socks have to offer.  Our test is meant to be a side-by-side comparison of the socks in an objective round of testing.  I plan to follow up with my review of each pair of socks after the winter hiking season in order to evaluate, in greater depth, the virtues or failings of each pair.

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Gear Review: FITS Sock Co.

Consider this a warm up for the upcoming Sock-Off 2011…

I began researching outdoor socks several months ago.  I had always worn Smartwool hiking socks or some off-the-shelf brand.  I wanted to start looking in to who was making top-notch wool or wool-blend outdoor socks.  As an avid hiker, especially in the desert, socks are very important to foot health – especially socks that can handle moisture (it get’s very sweaty at 100+ degrees!).

FITS Sock Co. came up as one of the manufacturers making great, wool-blend, American made product advertising “superior fit, feel & function”.  FITS is the brand name used by Crescent Sock Co. out of Tennessee.  They’ve been making socks since 1902.  They developed what they call F3 technology to address what they felt was an abundance of “ill-fitting” socks in the market.

I bought two different styles:

Ultra Light Hiker Low $15.99

Light Hiker Quarter $17.99

The FITS F3 technology makes them very fitted socks.  The wool blend (73% Merino Wool) is incredibly soft and comfortable.  The heel and toe padding is sufficient for light hikes (their heavier socks have more padding) without being bulky at all. Upon first putting these on I really, really liked them.

I wore the Light Hiker Quarters first on a light walk through the desert.  I was really disappointed to find that they snagged on EVERYTHING and left the exposed portion of the sock looking like it had been shredded.  I had never experienced this with other wool-blend socks I’ve warn.  I was fairly unhappy about the fact that my brand new, $18.00 socks were now a mess after only an hour or so in the desert.  On the up side, they were comfortable to wear and did retain their shape well.

Liking the features and fit of the socks I was still pretty excited about using the ultra-light hikers.  They cut low enough that nothing really snags on them since 99% of the sock is hidden in the shoe.  I have worn them on hikes, runs, at the gym and they are very comfortable, fit very well and keep their shape and fit through everything I’ve thrown at them.  They are still very soft and provide great padding and support for a quick trail run, or race.  I probably would not wear them for any long hikes but only because the ultra-lights don’t seem to be made for it.

At $16 -$18 a pair, they are nice socks and I do love the fit.  They just left me wishing they could hold up to more abusive environments.

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Gear Review: #SockOff2011

Wool Socks or Synthetic Socks?

That was the question of the day yesterday after a blog post over at Diary of a Day Hiker.  After a long discussion over Twitter between myself, @Day_Hiker, and @HikingTheTrail we created a joint Gear Review pitting Wool Socks against Synthetic Socks in the ultimate outdoor gear face-off… #SockOff2011!

We have chosen to face the Point6 Hiking Tech Light Mini Crew against the ever popular Thorlo-CoolMax Synthetic trail running sock.

Stay tuned for updates on how we plan to put these socks to the ultimate outdoor test!

Follow all of us on Twitter and watch (hashtag) #SockOff2011 for all the gritty details!

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Gear Review: Journey Bar

Journey BarsI heard about Journey Bars from the ORShow2011 coverage on Twitter.  This new trail bar that is “savory not sweet!” and would hold up to trail abuse.  I thought it sounded promising and interesting and I wanted some.  So I promptly followed them on Twitter and visited the website where I was able to order a sample pack with one of each flavor (they’ve since changed their website and only offer a variety pack with 3 of each flavor for $19).  Their 4 flavors are an interesting and, in the travel bar set, unique mix: Wasabi Ginger, Mesquite Barbecue, Parmesan Romano and Coconut Curry.  I was very excited to try these new and exciting flavors.

When they arrived I was preparing for a trip and planned to take them with me.  I couldn’t wait and had to try one before I left.  I chose to try the Parmesan Romano bar first.  Opening it up, it looks very plain and dry…like hard-tack or a very dry biscuit.  It tasted about the same.  I had trouble finishing the whole bar, even with a large glass of water.  It was very hard, very dry and was lacking in any discernible flavor.  It reminded me of chewing on dog treats (don’t ask me how I know this).

I really wanted to like these and admitted to myself that the Parmesan Romano was probably my least enticing option.  So I took them with me on my trip, hoping they would change my mind.  On the long drive out to the Alamo, around lunch time, I decided to try another one.  Coconut Curry actually sounded like a promising combination and I couldn’t imagine it would be nearly as dry and tasteless as the Parmesan Romano.  I was right, it was much more palatable and not nearly as dry.  The curry was subtle so as to not overpower the coconut and there were actual flakes of real coconut in the bar.  All in all, not too bad.

I didn’t get to try the Mesquite Barbecue bar but, based on the debris left on my living room floor, my faithful (and obnoxious) cattle-dog seemed to give it high marks.

I have not found them for sale at any stores.  But at $19 for a pack of 12, the price point is not bad and they do offer free shipping on orders over $35.  If you are tired of the sweet, sugary chocolate covered trail bars and like savory flavors…I would give these a try.  just make sure you have plenty of water to wash it down.

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