Gear Watch: Down Socks from GooseFeet Gear

Keep your feet toasty on a cold winter's night with these ultra-warm, ultralight socks. When I go winter camping, I usually carry a pair of extra-warm socks dedicated for use in my sleeping bag. They keep my (often cold-blooded) feet cozy and comfortable through the night, which generally improves the quality of my sleep.

For years, I've been using a pair of Integral Designs Hot Socks ($45). These Primaloft-stuffed socks are very warm and have performed admirably for many a winter excursion, but they are rather bulky and moderately heavy (roughly 5 ounces per pair). So I'm intrigued by the down socks produced by the fledgling Atlanta-based company, GooseFeet Gear.

GooseFeet Gear offers a line of made-to-order down socks stuffed with 850-fill goose down. Depending on the size, the standard version ($65) weighs a meager 1.8 to 2.6 ounces per pair, thanks in part to the ultralight ripstop nylon used for the shell.

Because each pair is custom-made to order, you can also opt for extra down for extra warmth for only a few dollars more (25 percent more down, $4 extra; double the down, $13 extra). You can also select from 12 different color options, from black to yellow to green.

The advantages of down socks over synthetic-fill versions are lighter weight and extreme compressibility. (Though the site doesn't indicate stuffed size, I'm sure you could squish these down to the size of a racquetball, if not smaller.)

Moisture may be a concern with down socks, however. Your feet are the second sweatiest part of your body after your armpits, and all that foot sweat may start to compromise the insulating ability of the goose down, especially if you are out on a multi-night winter trip in sub-freezing temperatures with no opportunities to dry them out. You can probably minimize this by wearing a lightweight wool sock underneath the down socks to collect most of your foot sweat, though that somewhat defeats the weight-saving advantage of this system. So on this count at least, synthetic-fill versions are still a better option.

Also keep in mind that these socks are only meant for use inside your sleeping bag. There is no reinforcement underfoot and the thin fabric will surely be compromised if you walk around in them. To address this issue, GooseFeet Gear offers ultralight waterproof over-booties (1.7 to 2 ounces, $45) designed to slip over top of the down socks. The standard version is made with a silnylon upper and a reinforced Dyneema X sole, or you can choose a more durable Toughtek sole with better traction, though this roughly doubles the total weight.

 Learn more about winter camping gear:

Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.

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