Sock Testing with Ultra Long-Distance Walker Gregor Sieböck
Earlier this year, I was introduced via email to Austrian ultra long-distance walker, Gregor Sieböck. An interesting individual, an even more interesting pursuit; what exactly is ultra long-distance walking? I came to discover that it’s not a competitive sport, but more a way of life for Gregor and a vehicle to carry his message of sustainable living across the world, one (literal) step at a time. Inspired by the words of Mahatma Gandhi, Gregor has sought to “be the change you wish to see in the world,” a walking pilgrim and ambassador for Mother Earth, encouraging others to lead simpler, more sustainable lives. Having already walked the world once, from Austria to New Zealand via South America (15,000 km), and currently immersed on a new walking endeavor across Europe on ancient pilgrim trails, Gregor has been walking his talk.
[Gregor Sieböck takes a break in the Dolomites, South Tyrol, Italy. All Photos Gregor Sieböck Collection]
In a moment of serendipity, Patagonia’s Director of Product Testing and Development, Duncan Ferguson, happened to have received a stash of prototype Ultra Lightweight Hiking Crew Socks that same week which needed to be field-tested. So I put a couple pairs of socks in the mail to Gregor to begin an “ultra” field-test; all day long, day after day, for months on end. We got a lot of great feedback from a crew of field-testers; everyone spoke to the socks’ comfort on runs, wicking capabilities, and blister-free experiences, but only Gregor’s feedback came with validation gained from 1780km of non-stop abuse. He dropped us a line recently having concluded the sock test, and we’ve graciously shared his remarks and images here.
Sent on October 30th, 2008:
It is finally done. I finished the testing of the ultra lightweight hiking crew socks. It took a long time, but in fact this was due to the high quality of the socks. They just did not want to get holes and yesterday the first holes in the front part of the socks appeared (see photo) and that after 1780 kilometers of walking from Vienna/Austria to Chamonix at the foot of Mont Blanc.
This is truly awesome that the socks have lasted so long, thus they are much better quality than the lightweight hiking socks I have been using so far, which always got at least one big (!!!) hole at the heel of the socks (roughly a square inch of size) after only 1000 kilometers of walking. the ultra lightweight hiking crew socks did not show any holes at all at the heel (actually they still hold very well here as you can see on the next photographs, all taken this morning after 1780 km). Only on top of the toes and on one sock I got two little holes by the ankle (they appeared already after 600 km but did not get bigger and only appeared on one sock).
So that it was in terms of holes and durability. In terms of wearing them: fantastic. I did not get a single blister, I did hardly sweat and even now as it is already winter in Chamonix they are still warm and comfy. Simple: PERFECT socks.
If you have any more questions concerning the socks no problem at all. I wore them all the time since Vienna, just this pair, washed them in the evenings and they were mostly dry in the morning or just dried right on my feet after a few minutes. (I washed them on average every five days in the last 3 1/2 months so you get an idea how often).
Yesterday the winter came to Chamonix. It is fantastic here. This morning there were almost no clouds and it was sunny, the Mont Blanc shining in all the winter colors. Now I will walk on to Annecy to pass by Patagonia Europe and then head North West towards the Cathedral of Chartres and its famous labyrinth: which will be the final destination for this year.
[Photo: Mont Blanc in the morning.]
Next March I will take a container ship down to South America and then walk the entire length of Chile across I think 9 climate zones from the Atacama Desert to the ice fields of Patagonia. :) If you have anything else for testing I would be more than happy to try it out for you. It can be both a long term endurance and quality test like with the socks or also a testing how the equipment performs in different climates. Any time: just send the stuff you want to have been tested over to Austria, from where I will leave in March next year.
I wish you a nice winter time and send you my best regards from Chamonix,
[Camping in the Dolomites.]
[On the road again, in the Italian Alps near the town of Bormio.]
To learn more about Gregor, his current “Crossroads” campaign or upcoming treks, check out his website at www.globalchange.at or www.worldwanderer.org. Patagonia’s Ultra Lightweight Hiking Crew Sock will not be available until February 2009, but we do currently offer Ultra Lightweight Endurance Ankle Socks, and a wide variety of high-quality socks of all weights for all your bipedal pursuits.
Postscript: On November 18, Gregor sent a few more photos and this note: "I am walking across France now. It is getting colder and the Atlantic storms are blowing rain clouds over my trail, but it is still very nice and inspiring and I love walking ... hope you are well and I send you my best regards from Burgundy! Cheers, Gregor"