Hanz Chillblocker Waterproof Socks are great for walking in freezing snowmelt or standing in cold streams if you don’t have waterproof boots because they are insulated with warm Polartec fleece. In addition to being waterproof, they’re thin enough to fit into a pair of trail runners or low hiking shoes, so you don’t have to buy a larger pair of shoes to use them. I’ve been using them for the past few weeks for spring hiking and fly fishing and I’m quite pleased with the results.
But they do have limitations that you need to be aware of before you come away thinking that they’re the holy grail of wet weather hiking. Like all waterproof footware, they fill up with water if it comes in over the top cuff of the sock. Being waterproof, moisture that comes in this route will stay inside the sock since it can’t get out. While your body heat will warm it up eventually, the only way to get rid of it is to take the socks off and drip dry or tumble dry them. More on care instructions below.
Despite Hanz’s breathability claims, I haven’t found the Chillblocker socks to be that breathable. But in all fairness, I’ve been wearing them in wet conditions (that did seem to be the point) and being submersed almost continuously isn’t very conducive to drying out wet socks while you wear them. Instead, I’ve found that the Chillblocker Waterproof Socks act as vapor barriers around your feet (the equivalent of wearing plastic bags) and trap the sweat that your feet release when you walk. That amounts to a half cup of sweat per day for most people, so your feet will be damp and clammy when you take the socks off.
This can lead to maceration, the softening and breaking down of skin if you wear these socks every day in the wet, so something to be aware of for long distance hiking. Drying your feet out thoroughly at night can help mitigate this as can rubbing moisture retention creams into your skin like vaseline or Eucerin, my favorite. You can also reduce or eliminate foot sweat by applying antiperspirant to your feet, a mountaineers’ trick for keeping the interior of vapor barrier socks dry for winter hiking.
The drying time for the Chillblocker socks varies depending on how wet you get them. Dampness from foot sweat tends to dry overnight, but is dependent on humidity level. Saturated socks can take days to dry if not assisted by an external heat source. If you plan to hike in snowmelt for days, which does happen, I’d consider bringing multiple pairs if you decide you can’t live without them. People with Raynaud’s syndrome would benefit from this, so this isn’t so far fetched.
Hanz, the manufacturer, does not recommend ringing Chillblocker socks out, favoring drip drying them instead. This takes a fairly long time if they’re saturated. If you do machine wash them, “do so on low temperature and tumble dry on low, reversing the socks halfway through the dry cycle.” In other words, bring a lot of quarters along if you’re going to sit in a laundromat.
The crew-height Chillblocker socks are not as fitted as regular socks (see photo) although they have a sock-like shape. They also weigh a lot more: a size large US weighs 5.6 oz per pair. More when wet.
They have a seam that runs on the innermost layer of insulation in contact with your skin, behind your calf and down the centerline of the underfoot. You’d think this would rub when worn in a shoe but it doesn’t and quickly disappears from conscious notice. I’ve not had any chafing or blistering from it either. Despite their ungainly look, they feel pretty good when worn inside a trail runner, without any bunching, and don’t require a larger shoe size.
As someone who’s tried waterproof socks in the past, and all kinds of insulated booties so I can still wear trail runners for hiking in spring snow, I’m really quite impressed by these Hanz Chillblocker Waterproof socks. They’re comfortable to wear and fit inside my regular hiking trail runners worn directly over my feet. They do a great job keeping my feet warm and don’t let cold water enter the sock, as long as I don’t submerge the top cuff. They do trap some foot sweat when hiking in perpetually wet conditions over wet trails – unavoidable really – but just make the internal fleece layer damp, not gross. Drying time is problematic however, so they’re best used for day hikes or other wet weather activities like cycling, unless you’re willing to carry multiple pairs on longer trips.
Disclosure: Hanz provided the author with a sample pair of Chillblocker socks for this review.
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