Application to test Vermont Darn Tough socks
Name: Roger Caffin
Shoe size: 8 (UK), 42 (Euro), 9 (US)
Email address: r dot caffin at acm dot org
Location: Sydney, NSW, Australia
I started bushwalking (the Australian term) when I was about 14 years old and took up rock climbing and remote
exploration walking at University with the girl who became my wife. Later on we took up ski touring and canyoning. These
days all our trips involve just the two of us. Over the last few years we have become converted to the concept of
ultra-lightweight walking, and we have been cutting our total pack weights down from 18 - 20 kg (40 - 45 lb) to about 12
kg (26 lb) for week-long trips. That's not counting climbing rope or extra water for a dry camp - both happen. Our
preferred walking trips in Australia are long ones: about a week in the general Blue Mts (east coast of Australia) and
Snowy Mts (alpine region), and up to two months long in Europe and the UK. Ski touring trips would also typically last
up to a week. We favour fairly hard trips of some length and prefer to travel fast and light. Many of our trips are
exploratory in wild country which sees few other walkers. In between these long trips we do some day walks, often
exploring the start of longer trips. On average, we would spend at least two days per week walking or ski touring. In
addition, I spend a lot of time designing and making ultralightweight gear for Australian conditions.
I am the maintainer of the Australian aus.bushwalking FAQ web site
>www.bushwalking.org.au/FAQ/. I am also the web master for the Confederation of
Bushwalking Clubs NSW and the Editor for the Confederation's quarterly magazine The Bushwalker. I have written reviews
for a couple of outdoors magazines ('Wild' in Australia and BackpackingLight in America).
I am currently a Test Monitor, an Owner Review Editor and a Mentor with BGT.
I have had a number of Owner Reviews accepted, with the most recent ones being:
Bozeman Lazr Hi-Vis Titanium Tent Stakes
Coleman PowerMax Xtreme stove
I have completed a number of Tests, with the most recent ones being:
Ullfrotte Sport socks
Katadyn Hiker Water Filter
Hot Chillys Geothermals
I am currently involved in the following Tests
Orikaso Picnic Set
Bozeman Cocoon (not arrived yet, and greatly postponed)
Benchmade 530 (not yet received)
I am monitoring the following Tests
EMS Ridgeline pack
I have organised the following Tests
Atsko Sports Wash & Permanent Waterguard
Wilderness Wear socks (6 styles, yet to appear)
My reports and reviews can be accessed via <http://www.backpackgeartest.org/tester_reviews/rcaffin
Survival Guide, Agreement
I have read the Survival Guide V1202 and will comply fully with all the requirements. Shane received my signed Agreement
a couple of years ago.
Notes to Moderators
I am used to writing reports. I believe I can handle the reporting requirements for up to half a dozen Tests and the
Monitor/Editor tasks as well quite easily. I have the time these days.
Background for this Application
As the test call says, I have feet and needs must wear socks for survival. In fact, I regard socks as a very serious
item of gear as they are all that stands between me and the soles of my generally ultralight shoes, and they spend a lot
of time pounding along.
In the distant past I wore various socks, chosen at random and usually made just from wool. They were never very
satisfactory. Then I discovered the Thorlo socks at my local gear shop. Well, actually, the owner of the shop rubbed my
nose in them and told me to buy some. After the inevitable sticker shock I decided to give one pair a try - and found
that you can 'engineer' good walking socks, and that it is worth paying the extra money for good socks. Since then I
have used Thorlo, Ultimax, Ulfrotte and Wilderness Wear socks. The Ulfrotte were a BGT Test item; the Wilderness Wear
ones will be. I like the engineering approach to sock design, with reinforced padding under the ball of the foot and
under the heel and a bit less thickness under the arch. In fact, I find that differential adds to my comfort.
Both my wife and I have swung between pure synthetic and wool several times. The wool socks can smell a bit, even after
being 'washed' (well, rinsed?) while walking, and they take a long time to dry. However, they seem to keep their
fluffiness better. We oscillate.
However, I don't believe the final word has been written yet on socks, and I am always willing to try another good
brand. The Vermont Boot Full Cushion Sock looks interesting.
Go walking, of course! A mix of day walks and longer walks, over the Spring/Summer/Autumn period, and over a range of
terrain from tracks to very rough rock country. Some walks will be easy, while some will be very technical. Some will be
loacl in our sandstone Blue mountains, while others will be in our Alpine country.
Local terrain is from sea level to about 1000 m (3300'); some of it (up top) is harsh and rocky while other bits can be
wet rainforest (valley bottom). Temperatures will range from near zero to very hot. Our Alpine terrain is up to 2200 m
(7,200'), typical alpine soils, and can range from sub zero (even in mid-summer!) to quite warm.
As I mentioned above, we are usually out walking every week. Sometimes it is a hard day walk in rough country; other
times it is an extended walk lasting up to a week. On the day walks I only take one pair of socks, but on the extended
walks I usually take 2 or 3 pairs with me. They are light enough, after all. This allows me to wash one pair each day
and dry them on the back of my pack in the day and in the tent overnight. This way the socks seem to remain more
comnfortable. But it means I need several pairs of suitable socks: lots of testing opportunity.
I will be evaluating at least the following (no special order):
* Overall comfort: do my feet feel as good at the end of the day
* Grip: do the socks slide around in my shoes, which is risky
* Sweating (I do!): do my feet get very hot
* Lace pressure: can I feel the shoe laces through the top pad
* Bunching: does the ribbing keep the sock from creasing around my feet
* Felting: does it happen over time
* Smell: how fast does this accumulate, how well does it wash out
* Washing recovery: how well does the loop pile inside recover when washed in a stream and when washed at home properly
(with fabric conditioner)
* Toes: how well do the tips of the toes last (yes, I cut my toenails)
* Cuff: does it stay up reasonably well
* Life: how well do the socks last overall
Details of sock requested: full cushion, large size, colour not important.