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Bridgedale A.T. Boot Plus socks
[Originally written for BackpackGearTest.org, this review was current at the time it was written but should now be considered out-of-date. It is likely this product has been improved based on test results such as those reported here and experiences from other users. It is also possible that this product no longer exists or has been superseded by products produced at a later time. This page is included for historical purposes as an example of a gear testing report I had submitted.
Only minor updates such as email addresses, links, and formatting have been made as necessary to accommodate inclusion of an older report into this web site.]
Web site: : http://www.bridgedale.com/
I have been actively hiking and backpacking since 1989. I hike in the local Middlesex Fells Reservation just five miles north of Boston. On weekends, I often hike in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. On vacations, I love to travel and have been hiking in many areas including canyons of the desert southwest, the Olympics, Cascades, Norway, Alps, and Himalayas.
About the socks:
Bridgedales are modern socks with various types of weaving and padding in each type of sock depending on intended use. The A.T. Boot Plus is no exception. It has extra padding through the Achilles, under the ball, and heel of the sock, as well as providing supportive weaving through the arch.
The composition of the A.T. Boot Plus sock is:
In addition to recognizing that wool has excellent insulative properties, Bridgedale recognizes that "Although wool has excellent absorption properties, synthetic wicking fibres are best for moving moisture (perspiration) away from the skin. Therefore, Bridgedale's basic principal of MMS (Moisture Management System) is to layer a moisture conducting (synthetic) fibre next to the skin which transfers perspiration to an outer absorbent (natural fibre) layer. This enables feet to remain dry, blister-free and comfortable." (quoted from the Bridgedale web site)
This last feature is great for those of us with wool allergies. While most socks with wool content make me scratch quite a bit, Bridgedale wraps their Merino wool fibers in synthetic material so the wool is not directly against the skin. This helps make their Merino wool socks extremely soft and itch-free for allergy sufferers like myself.
The socks are ~4.25 oz. (120 g) for a pair of XL
Due to their tight weave, I find these socks fit quite well. They never stretch or bunch up while I'm wearing them, nor do they ever slip down into my boots or trail shoes. They always maintain their shape while I'm wearing them, including those times when I've been totally soaked due to heavy rain or deep water on the trails. I have never had a blister attributable to the socks. (You cannot blame the socks when the blisters are "between" the toes.)
These socks are the softest, most comfortable of the heavyweight hiking socks I have ever worn.
I "discovered" Bridgedales on my 1999 Appalachian Trail (AT) northbound thruhike. I bought the last two pairs of "AT Boot Plus" (a heavier sock) in Damascus, VA and wore primarily these two pairs of socks for the remaining 1,500 miles (2,400 km) of the Appalachian Trail.
Subsequent to my thruhike, I have used these socks on many shorter hikes, and in the winter while cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in New England.
The A.T. Boot Plus socks feel "thinner" than an equivalent pair of Thorlos or Smartwools, but because the weave is tighter, they hold their shape and don't compress nearly as much as other similar socks in your shoes.
I am still using those same two pairs that I bought on the AT though I have bought a couple more pairs just to have extras around. While my newer pairs are thicker than my original two pairs, this is only evident when stacking the socks and then examining the heel portions. Without the direct comparison, it would be impossible to tell these socks have the wear and tear of over 1,000 miles (1,600 km) each on them.
The packaging indicates how to wash the socks while at home. The web site indicates how best to deal with your socks while on the trail. I find these socks do not tend to mat and even after three years, come out of the wash feeling soft.
When I bought my first Bridgedales, they were warranteed for three years. A retailer I recently spoke with also mentioned this warrantee, but the warrantee is not mentioned on either their packaging or their web site. But, like I said, I've been wearing their socks for over three years now including the two pairs from my thruhike so I doubt many people would ever be able to take advantage of that warrantee.
I did a bit of research about the current warrantee and communicated both with the manufacturer in England and the American distributor. Here's the low down:
According to the manufacturer, the warrantee is based on the distributor and may not be worldwide. This has to do with the ability to keep up with legal practices worldwide. However, Bridgedale does guarantee their socks 100% but has such a miniscule rate of return that they investigate each return and replace any socks that are found to be defective.
I think it would be hard to improve on that.
An email from the current distributor, Garmont, confirmed that the three year warrantee is still in effect in the United States.
Thorlos Backpacker Crew (formerly Trekking) heel goes threadbare with less than 500 miles to a pair. Also, they are not as soft and are a slight bit itchier than the A.T. Boot Plus socks.
Smartwool socks (not sure of the style but of similar weight) in short period of time, they matted significantly to the point where washing does not restore loft and they are very itchy to this wool allergic hiker. I haven't worn them long enough to test durability.
Ultimax socks were matted and felt rough from their first washing. These, too, I haven't worn long enough to determine durability.
Ragwool socks over polypropylene liners are itchy, the liners slip down inside the socks, and the socks go threadbare in the heel quite rapidly.
Bridgedale A.T. Boot Plus socks are the softest, most durable socks I have ever worn.
In writing my reviews, I always try to present a balanced picture and include negative aspects of the gear I'm reviewing. In this case, I can't come up with a single complaint about the socks or even perceive of anyone else finding something negative about the experience I've had.
Quite possibly the worst part about Bridgedale is that they include no contact or customer service information on their web site. I found this information on the sock packaging. Their web site can also be a bit difficult to navigate, but with a bit of patience, you can find most of the information you might be looking for.
Last updated, July 10, 2010.
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