Wednesday, 17 November 2010

First Look: Integral Designs Hot Socks

I've been trying a few different solutions to keeping my feet warm in camp these past two winters. I started with just wearing thicker socks (not warm enough), then two pairs of socks (restricted blood flow which lead to cold feet), fleece slippers (not warm enough), followed by Needle Sports's Pertex & pile over-socks (good at drying damp socks but terrible long, narrow fit), over-engineered synthetic filled arctic camp boots (far too heavy) and simple pile hunter's socks (again good at drying damp socks but lack insulation). So the search was on for something more suitable.

I first read about Integral Designs Hot Socks on Backpacking Light's genuinely brilliant three part guide to Lightweight Footwear Systems for Snow Travel. If you haven't read these articles then I strongly suggest you make time to sit down with a cuppa and give them a peruse. A subscription is required but these are the kind of articles I pay my BPL subscription for. In-depth and well researched. Part 1 deals with Principles and Techniques for Keeping Feet Dry and Warm. Then Part 2 looks at the Components of a Lightweight Footwear System and finally Part 3 shows various Model Lightweight Footwear Systems for Snow Hiking, Snowshoeing and Snow Camping. More recently Phil shared his thoughts on lightweight winter footwear here.

Design and construction:

The Hot Socks are constructed from a Pertex shell for water resistance and breathability. They have a Cordura sole for abrasion resistance and a stretchy fleece panel running down the back that makes putting them on and off a breeze. There is a soft fleece cuff and the lining is a nylon taffeta that glides easily over even the fuzziest old wool socks. Insulation is 4oz (113g) Primaloft Sport offering 1/2" or 12.7mm of loft.

Fit & weight:

Normally taking a 10.5UK size shoe and knowing I'll be wearing big fat wool socks in the depths of winter I went for the XL size and they fit great. One point I'll make here is that anyone over maybe size 12UK might find them a bit tight so you might want to look elsewhere. They weigh 148g for the pair.


Even on winter trips I often only use two pairs of socks. When I get to camp I'll slip off the socks I've been wearing all day and put them in a pocket close to my body to dry out as best they can. Then I'll simply slip on the other pair of wool socks that I've been drying in my pocket all day and layer the Hot Socks over the top. The Pertex shell and Cordura sole should offer enough water resistance for short trips outside the tent but I'll probably carry a pair of 30g Tyvek industrial shoe covers just in case. Lets hope the Hot Socks help keep my tootsies warm this winter.


Thomas W. Gauperaa said...

They look really nice and toasty - Iook forward to hearing more about them. Love the last photo!

Btw, have you considered goosefeet down socks?

Anonymous said...

I've used them for a while and I really like them. They are very efficient at keeping your feet warm in your tent. They are not great for walking around in but a pair of Tyvek protectors are a good idea.

Fraser said...

I have some of the Needle Sports booties you mention. I think you description of the fit is pretty accurate. I have had my eye on some PHD or Goosefeet boots, but haven't managed to pull the trigger just yet.

Joe Newton said...

Thomas - My bag is down, I like to have synthetic insulated clothes. It gives a good margin of error.

Robin - Good to hear they're working out for you. I'll have to put some silicone on the bottom of the Tyvek booties or I'll end up sliding all the way down the mountain again.

Fraser - The Needle Sports ones are great for 'shoulder season' use but the cut is awful as you know.

Nielsen Brown said...

My ID hotsocks (in Red) are my winter friend usually paired with a set of RBH VaprThrm Socks.

Joe Newton said...

Roger - hmmm, vapour barriers. I'm still on the fence with that sweaty hot potato. For every well respected opinion who rates them I find another that copes fine without.

Lightening up... said...

Last winter I found that warm camp footwear is really nice when it is cold and winter and all that stuff... For one week I draggeg a pair of Sorel boots in pulka with me. Nice, but insanely heavy for the use.

This winter I'll be testing down socks/booties. I am thinking about making an additional covers for them, even though they have waterproof shell fabric. I could also add thich CCF insole for the covers when standing and walking outside in the snow and then use the down socks by themself inside the tent. But I'll be testing theis system in Lapland in January and I'll estimate the need for boot covers.

My down socks are from Romanian Nahanny and they are really good. Weight for really roomy size 46 is 288g and they are warm! PHD stuff is also likely superb, but with a cost.

Nielsen Brown said...

Joe the RBH vprthrm is a little different to some of "silnylon like" vapor barriers that people suggest, I certainly don't find them sweaty and they have helped to reduce foot dampness in my quilt in the mornings.

Unknown said...

We used them in huts on the TMB (my chum called them brothel creepers which I found oddly, and repeatedly, amusing). The cordura base is surprisingly durable on hut floors and, in good weather, we even used them outside. They were nicely warm (not hugely but certainly enough) and relatively easy to walk in - slipping was not really that major an issue. The rip stop is good too as I cut mine but they held together.

As for VPL - Andrew Skurka primary argument, alongside moisture freezing of course, was knowing how much you were sweating meant you could regulate your hydration better - not with him on that one but the other arguments seem sensible. Odd thing is, I've never had a problem but I have yet to walk in worse than -10C (excluding windchill).