Mostly for kicks and giggles, I thought it would be interesting to experiment and conduct a wool sock comparison for travel to see which ones I should take on my next trip. Here at Jane Sees the World, we have been quite vocal about our love of all things Icebreaker. Their products have been a game changer for me when it comes to packing light.
Although I am a big fan of Icebreaker, I willingly wear other brands of wool as well. Thinking about those brands got me thinking about which socks I prefer to travel with…which led to this experiment to find out which wool sock could go the furthest on a trip.
Wool sock comparison for travel
I compared four brands: Icebreaker, Smartwool, Pendleton and Wigwam. (Note, no one paid me or gave me a free pair of socks to try out. I bought them all with my own dime.)
All claimed to be merino wool (I do not see this experiment going well with cotton socks). I find wool to be one of the best fabrics for travel. It regulates your body temperature, wicks moisture, dries fast, works equally well in hot and cold climates and can go longer between washings. This last point was the one I wanted to test out. How long could I actually go before I had to wash my socks?
I used my workouts to conduct the test—wearing the same pair of socks for multiple, continuous work outs. Basically, I wore them until they started to stink and then moved onto the next brand. Gross, I know. But it was all in the name of a better travel experience, which is my MO. The results?
Number of wears before the stink sets in:
- Icebreaker: 8 wears
- Smartwool: 6 wears
- Pendleton: 4 wears
- Wigwam: 3 wears
The actual numbers will be a little different for each person since we all sweat differently. However, the end result will probably be the same. You can go longer between washings with certain brands, which means you can pack less!
Brand comparison recap
Eight is great and my beloved brand really came through for me on this experiment. Now I prefer to wash my socks more often than an eight-wear cycle, but it is nice to know that in a pinch, these will really go the distance. I know I can pack a lot less socks and/or wash less often depending on the travel situation I find myself in.
Icebreaker makes socks in all colors, sizes and weights (i.e. lighter for warmer weather and thicker for colder weather). I have yet to be disappointed with this brand. The only downside is that they are on the pricey side. Do I think this brand is worth the cost? Absolutely. That does not necessarily make it easy to fork over the cash for it. Bright side! You can find sales and deals. Check out my post on where to find affordable travel gear and clothes for women.
Smartwool is a popular brand amongst travelers and outdoor enthusiasts, so I assumed it would perform well in my experiment. And it did. You can purchase of pair of these socks and get some decent wear out of them on your next trip. They too come in many colors, sizes and weights. Price is comparable to Icebreaker and thankfully, you can find sales and deals.
I love Pendleton. Their blankets are beautiful and I love that they are an old, family-owned business located in the Northwest. However, these socks disappointed me a bit. I assumed they would last as long as the Smartwool before starting to stink. They did not. The price on the other hand, is comparable to Smartwool and Icebreaker. So unfortunately, you will not get your money’s worth in terms of less washes with this sock if you decide to take them on a trip. However, they are beautiful so if that is your priority, you will be quite pleased with Pendleton’s sock offerings.
Wigwam is a brand I had never heard of but I decided to try a pair out. A local department store carried them and they were a lot more affordable than the brands listed above. However, it appears that these socks are a good example of “you get what you pay for.” They did not last much longer than a pair of plain old cotton socks. Three good wears before a washing is still respectable, but I would prefer to pay a little bit more and get a sock that could go longer if needed. You never know what situations you are going to encounter out there on the road and I like to be prepared just in case.
If all you pack are sandals and maybe a pair of Allbirds wool runners, you will not need a pair of socks. However, most of the time, socks are an important part of the packing list when traveling. You want your feet to be as comfortable as possible and your socks play a big role in that comfort. At the same time, no one wants a backpack full of socks! My advice is to get yourself a couple of merino wool ones. And invest in a brand that guarantees quality. You can get the wear you need from them and not have to worry (as much) about sweaty, stinky feet.