Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Thrift Week 2015, Day 5: SmartWool socks

In addition to the birthday presents I got from friends and family this year, I bought one little present for myself. As I noted in last Thursday's entry, I'd used a Visa prepaid card that I'd gotten with survey points to treat myself to two new pairs of SmartWool socks. The two pairs of socks, with shipping, used up most of the $25 card, but my previous experiences with SmartWool convinced me that it would be money well spent. During the coldest days of the winter, my SmartWool socks are pretty much the only ones I wear. Even though they're machine washable, I've taken to washing them by hand and drying them on a rack so that I can get them back into circulation faster, rather than having to wait for laundry day. And even with this gambit, I sometimes run through the three pairs I have before they have time to dry. So I decided a couple pairs more, even at $12 each, would be a good investment.

When the socks arrived, I started to question that view, because they looked a lot thinner than the heavy hiking socks I was used to. Would they really be warm enough? I figured the only way to test that question was with a side-by-side comparison. So I put one of the new SmartWool socks on my left foot and one of my old wool-blend socks (not the SmartWool ones, but the lighter-weight ones I wear for milder days) on my right. Since I knew there was a possibility I'd want to return the new socks, I put on a "footie" underneath it—a sock made of thin, pantyhose fabric that covers only the foot. I made sure to put one on the right foot too, so the matchup would be on even ground.

It took less than half an hour of walking around with these mismatched socks to demonstrate that the new SmartWool ones were decidedly warmer than the light wool-blend ones. That was enough to convince me they were worth keeping, but I still didn't know how they would compare in warmth to my old SmartWool hiking socks. So I switched to one of those on my right foot (again, with the footie underneath) and walked around for another half hour.

I was guessing that the new socks would prove to be a good in-between weight—not as warm as the SmartWool hiking socks, but warmer than the blended ones. But to my surprise, I found the new, thinner SmartWool socks were every bit as warm as the heavy ones. They were also a lot less bulky and smoother-fitting (the heavy ones are a bit big and tend to slide around on my foot). So these new socks can take their place in the rotation alongside my three warmest pairs, and with their help, I should be able to make it through the whole winter in comfort.

The test was also helpful in one other way; it showed me just how much difference it made to wear those lightweight footies underneath my socks. The light sock with a thin footie underneath provided noticeably more warmth than I'm used to from the heavy socks worn by themselves. So I now have a secret weapon for the very coldest days; with a footie on under my SmartWool socks, old or new, I should be able to keep my feet warm no matter how frigid the weather. This will be helpful for walking around outdoors, of course, but also for lounging around the house in my stocking feet. I don't like to put my feet up on the couch with shoes on, but I often find they get too cold with just socks—so this added layer may be just the ticket.

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