Soho in New York City is the last place you'd expect to find anyone remotely outdoorsy. However, this is far from the truth. It's becoming Manhattan's outdoor mecca. Within five square blocks there's an EMS, Patagonia, North Face, Icebreaker, and in the Fall, a three-story REI.
When the Icebreaker store first opened this Fall I was eager to give it a try. I have had my eye on the brand for a while, but after the Appalachian Trail Smartwool had always been my go to. I looked around the store and was immediately turned on by the showroom's personality, humor and curiosity. During its opening Icebreaker had a guy walking around with a giant ram's head and a big sign that read "get it on here" with an arrow pointing to the dressing rooms! Once inside the nice, large dressing room you see a wall covered by a scenic view of New Zealand (If you look close at the picture you'll notice a naked guy standing up with two legs popping out of a small bush!).
From the personality of the store to the kindness of the employees I decided to try on a bunch of gear to see what I thought. It was all soft, comfy and slim fitting, which was great. On the pricey side for sure, but I am willing to spend an extra $20 on something that will last forever. While my low-paying job couldn't handle a full Icebreaker set-up, I decided to put the most important merino piece to the test -- socks.
I opted for the lightweight hiker in grey, size large. I size between a 10.5-11, so the large fit me perfectly. While super cushiony for a lightweight sock, the first thing I noticed was the width. My foot is on the wider side, so some smartwools have been a little tight on my feet, but Icebreakers fit well. They have enough space to keep my feet comfy, but not so much for bunching to occur. Their lightweight nature keeps my foot dry without over heating, but still had enough material to keep my feet warm during the last NYC cold blast.
After my initial reactions I needed to fully test these socks. To assess them you must replicate what they'll go through in the backcountry- see how long they'll last before they become stiff and uncomfortable, or start to smell. The longer it goes before either of these factors, the better the sock.
So, to test these out the best I could in Manhattan I wore them without washing. After six days of use the smell became apparent, before any stiffness could occur. I would have been fine with this factor in the mountains, but in NYC I was forced to wash 'em! Who knows what they would have smelled like if I waited until they were uncomfortable...
The last factor to rating socks is their ability to regain form after heavy use and a wash. Surprisingly every time these guys come out of the dryer they get better- softer, fluffier, and more comfy!
My only issue is after six days they stretch and don't hug my feet as well as Smartwool. As soon their washed though, they regain original shape. Then I'm good for another six days. And let's be honest... who actually goes six days without washing socks?