Without a doubt your feet are one of the most important parts of your body when you’re out touring. Screw up your feet and you’ve screwed up your tour, usually. Your feet are your mode of travel, so you had better treat them well. This includes not only the appropriate footwear (boots), but also, well, the appropriate sockwear. I tend to bring a change of socks or two even when I’m otherwise packing “fast and light,” so socks are one of my favorite backcountry “luxury” items.
A lot of high-end snowboard and ski socks are essentially the same, following in the steps of the famed manufacturer, smartwool, whose socks can be found everywhere from your neighborhood kitchy gear shop to the closest big-box REI. Now, brands like Teko and Point 6 produce high-end, supposedly soft and supple socks which are, frankly, tough to tell apart from the smartwool brand socks at first glance. So, as you might guess, when I picked up a pair of Teko’s Merino Snowboard Socks at the beggining of this last season, I thought I was in for the same old-same old. Nonetheless, I needed a pair of socks, so I was happy to give ’em a spin.
What drew me at first to the socks was the way they looked and felt. Clearly, these socks were soft. Otherwise, Teko’s Merino Snowboard Socks appear to be your standard midweight wool, padded sock. Fast forward to five moths later and my sock drawer now holds 8 pairs of the same sock (this also comes in handy, because it’s easier to make matching pairs when all the ones that come out of the dryer look the same.) When most high-end socks are created essentially equal, you might wonder what it was that set these socks appart. Honestly, for me, it wasn’t one main thing, instead it was a bunch of little details.
I received my first pair a few days after the opening of Crystal Mountain and I already had a few blisters from some early season tours, so I started out by slipping them on the night before I planned to wear them. The fit was promising: they seemed comfortable, and had extra padding in all the spots that I usually get hotspots. That thoughtful padding placement seemed like it could come in handy, so the next morning I put them on and headed out the door.
Checking out performance inbounds
Everyone was jumpy as we parked our car in the Crystal Mountain parking lot celebrating the foot of fresh snow that had fallen overnight. We were all in a rush to get first chair, so I put the socks on in the car beforehand, carefully guiding them over my blistered feet. Once in my snowboard boots I found the cushioning to be both thick and snug in the shins, heels, and toes but I worried about what 8 hours of riding might do to them. That day we rode hard, slashing every object we could and taking no prisoners and no breaks, conditions were far too epic for that. By the end of the day I was suprised to find that I hadn’t aggravated my hotspots, my socks were dry and my feet were still snuggly fit. It withstood a day of hard riding but I wondered how it would hold up in the backcountry.
The True Test: Multiday Tours
While the socks did well in the resort I didn’t want to get overly stoked before putting them through the true test, a full day of hiking in the elements, followed by a multiday tour. Anyone who tours will happily let you know, that if you don’t get your boots dialed, you’ll pay for your negligence in blisters. Anyone who has their boots dialed will tell you that over time you still end up with continuous microdamage and some hot spots. Like my feet, my socks usually wear out rather quickly in the heels and toes.
To start out, I went for a scenic hike up to Camp Muir in Mt. Rainier national park, skinning up 4,500 feet to test for hotspots. From car to car they preformed great being both comfortable and breathable and not causing my feet to sweat throughout the entire tour. Later on, I began wearing these socks on longer tours, including some remote multiday trips, such as the Bailey and Alpine Lakes Traverses. I literally used these socks daily switching back and forth between resort and backcountry riding for well over a hundred days and while there are a few worn-down spots, you’re gonna find that with any wool or wool blend high end snowboard sock. When packing for week long expeditions I choose the Teko socks for multiple reasons. They are comfortable, warm, breathable and on the occasion that I submerged my foot in a few creek crossing, they dried fast in the sun. The perfect blend of merino and synthetic (nearly all “100% wool” socks and garmets have some small measure of synthetic to keep them from falling to pieces) keeps them soft, comfy, and durable. While they were about the average price for high end socks (though you’ll often find them marketed at exactly a dollar less than the competition…a clever marketing ploy on behalf of Tek0), I find their performance to be the main factor I return to these socks trip after trip.