Socks are essential to any outdoor kit. Poor fitting socks can lead to blisters, hot spots or other issues that can ultimately ruin a trip. Good socks keep feet warm, dry quickly and can make or break a trail run, hike or backpacking trip.
Cloudline apparel is a company based out of Seattle, Washington in the United States and currently offer one product, the Switchback Technical Hiker socks. Cloudline offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee. It is nice to see a company who stands behind their product.
The Switchback Technical Hiker is made from a mix of merino wool, nylon and spandex. The company claims that these socks will prevent blisters and the keep the wearer’s feet dry and cool. They additionally claim that these socks have long lasting softness and are antimicrobial. These are great claims but there is one way to prove it – testing.
Initial impressions are positive. They are very comfortable and warm. When pulled all the way up they come up to about mid-calf on me, but due to my large calves they don’t stay there long. The styling of the socks is nice. The main body of the sock is grey with colored ribbing at the top cuff, toe, and heel area along with the works “Cloudline” on the arch and a couple small colored peaks below the cuff. They offer various color options. The colors are stylish without being garish.
The fit of the socks are a bit on the big size. I asked for a large based on the Cloudline size chart which is for a men’s foot size 9 to 11.5. As a result the heel cup on the sock does not line up with my heel and actually sits at my Achilles area when I pull the socks all the way up. This is an area I will watch to see if I develop any issues because of the size.
I generally evaluate socks on two factors: durability and usefulness. These are the criteria I will use as I put miles on the socks over the next several months.
Thanks to Cloudline for providing the socks for the review.
Update 1: Dec 29, 2015
As I mentioned previously, socks can make or break a trip and so far I have put almost 70 miles on the Cloudline Switchback Socks while trail running, hiking and snowshoeing and they have performed admirably. The majority of my usage has taken place in the Tongass National Forest near Juneau Alaska. I have experienced temperatures in the 40’s F to the upper 20’s F and precipitation in the form of both rain and snow. Most of my use has been hiking, but I have used them on two long trail runs with my most recent run lasting 4 hours and climbing almost 3,000 feet of elevation while running on packed snow.
I mentioned two main characteristics that I evaluate socks on – durability and usefulness, however, there is a third characteristic that I think is important as well – fit. I will begin my discussion with durability. The durability of the Cloudline Switchback sock has been excellent so far. After 70 miles they still look almost brand new. There has been no pilling or broken stitches in the seams especially in heavy wear areas such as the toe, heel and cuff. The elastic in the cuff remains tight, but the socks do slide down off of my calves. I attribute this more to the size of my calves than the construction of the sock. Overall, I am pleased with the durability of the socks after the first month of use.
The second area I evaluate socks on is usefulness: basically do these socks perform in various conditions and do I want to wear them versus having to wear them because I am testing them. The answer is a resounding yes, I want to wear them. I have put the socks through a wide variety of weather here in Juneau – rain, snow, the occasional partly cloudy day with no precipitation and they have kept my feet warm and blister free. I am surprised by the blister free part, especially while trail running. I generally wear toe socks for longer runs to ensure that I don’t get blisters but I used the socks for two long trail runs of 3 to 4 hours and 12 to 15 miles with copious amounts of elevation gain and loss and I did not experience a single blister. The toe seam is flat and I never felt it at all even when flying downhill. The socks did a good job of wicking moisture from my feet and I could throw them in my gym locker at work after a hike or shorter trail run and put them on the next day for a run and they would be dry. Another factor under usefulness is the stink factor – can I wear them multiple times without having to wash them or look for a new running partner because my socks stink. The answer surprisingly is yes. I can go about a week of hard use before I need to wash the funk out of them. It is also important to note that egregious foot smell washes out. I attribute the lack of smell and the fact that it washes out to the wool material in the sock.
The final characteristic I look for is fit. I mentioned in my initial thoughts that I was at the lower end of Cloudline’s large size chart and that the heel pocket didn’t line up with my heel and there was some bunching in this area. I am happy to say that this has not been an issue. There is still some bunching, but it does not seem to affect me while wearing the sock.
Overall, I am very pleased with the Cloudline Switchback Sock and look forward to putting it through the paces over the next month playing in the Southeast Alaska Winter.
February 9, 2016
Over the past several months, I have used the Cloudline Switchback Technical socks hiking, snowshoeing, backpacking and trail running and put over 130 miles on them and I happy to say that they continue to look brand new. Please read on to hear my final comments on durability, usefulness, and fit.
Testing conditions over the past month or so have been challenging to say the least. We have entered a rain, snow, ice cycle that makes the trails turn into sheets of ice. However, I have persevered and spent as much time as possible on the trails getting ready for my first 100 mile race. The testing conditions have actually been a perfect mix to see how the sock really perform. I evaluate socks on three main criteria – durability, usefulness and fit. I will begin with durability.
I have put 130 miles on the socks and they continue to look brand new. I normally begin to wear through socks under the toe and in the heel and neither area shows any wear. I inspected the socks both inside and outside and there are no discernable wear spots. I am also impressed with the elasticity of the socks. They still hug my feet well and stay up as well as any other socks on my calves. The socks have not pilled either and the wool really does look like they are fresh from the package.
The second area I evaluate socks on are usefulness. Are they more than just “hiking socks?” The answer is a resounding yes. I have been happy with their performance for all of my outdoor adventures. They have kept my feet warm snowshoeing in wet slushy snow, trail running on hard packed snow and ice, and were comfortable wearing them with my work boots sitting at my cubicle. Stink has not been an issue even after wearing the socks multiple days without washing them. Definitely a win in the usefulness category.
The final area I evaluate socks on is fit. The socks still bunch up in the back a little bit, but it has not proved to be a problem. The main body of the sock hugs my foot well and wicks moisture well. I have still not had a blister or even a single hot spot while wearing the socks.
Overall, I have been very pleased with the Cloudline Switchback Technical socks and I will be adding another pair or two to my sock drawer. Thank you to 4alloutdoors and Cloudline for providing the socks to test.