Merino is all the rage these days for outdoors base and mid layers but alpaca is better in almost every respect, on paper at least.Merino seems to be the best choice for most garments: soft, doesn’t stink, warm when wet, sustainably produced. But alpaca is all that plus some.
Today’s review is all about Ausangate socks made with what might be the outdoor industry’s next big fibre: Alpaca fleece.
What is Alpacor
The Alpacor High Calf Hiking Sock from Ausungate aren’t made with only Alpaca fibre, it’s a blend with 80% Alpacor, 18% Nylon and 2% Spandex. Cool, but what’s Alpacor?
Alpacor yarn is a blend of natural and synthetic fibres, one of them being Tencel, a smooth, wicking wood-based fibre. Tencel is a very soft fibre, good at wicking and likely a little cheaper than Alpaca so it helps bring the cost down a bit. Icebreaker uses Tencel in their Cool-Lite fabric.
Benefits of Alpaca
With the Alpacor yarn you should get performance that can top wool.Hollow alpaca fleece fibre traps heat even better than fine wool strands without extra weight. This also contributes to the excellent wicking. Moisture is evaporated off the strands instead of reaching a saturation point like wool does.
Little barbs on wool cause the itchy factor. The merino produced today is so fine and the processes afterwards attempt to remove the barbs or fill in the gaps, creating a smoother strand. Alpaca doesn’t have these little barbs creating a very soft sock. The added Tencel to Alpacor is very smooth as well, often called softer than silk and used in cosmetic face masks.
Another irritant in wool is lanolin which is often removed through a chemical process. Alpaca is lanolin free naturally.
Merino wool is famous for it’s care and handling restrictions. Don’t dry it in the dryer or you’ll end up with a shirt 2 sizes to small. Alpacor socks can be washed and dried just like everything else. I did notice a slight shrinking when I accidentally dried one of mine. Nothing even noticeable out hiking though.
Some of the literature says Alpaca tensile strength is better as well, or the breaking strength when pulled from each end. There’s much debate about this online. Sounds like it depends on many other factors as to which ends up stronger in a sock so the jury’s still out on this one. If there’s any possibility I can get a stronger sock that doesn’t get holes in the heels then I’ll take it. I have to regularly replace my merino wool socks.
Likes for the Ausangate Alpacor Hiking Sock
Ok, so now we can finally get to the sock review.
These are technically winter socks on the website but I’ve been wearing them in a warm May. Every hike the last few weeks has been with the Alpaca socks and I’ve also warm them most days in my Blundstones to work and afterwards to get as much testing time in the socks as possible before writing this.
Soft and Comfortable.
The first thing you’ll notice is how soft the socks are. I don’t have a problem with merino wool but the softer the better in my mind. Comparing it side by side with a Hike+ Medium from Icebreaker there is a difference. Slight but noticeable.There aren’t any seams inside, just the LIN toe seam above the toes to close the end. It’s slightly raised which I think is just because of the thicker fabric around the toes hitting the thinner material on top of the foot. The only part of the sock that sticks out all inside is the Ausangate logo. I can’t feel it when I wear them though.
Stretchy “compression ribs” around the middle of the foot and just above the ankle are slightly tighter than the rest and keep the sock in place. I have yet to have it move around much on me.
Hiking in the heat and sitting in the office in leather boots, I was expecting my feet to overheat. I run pretty warm most of the time, especially if I’m moving quickly in warm weather. I brought extra thinner socks to change into. I didn’t have to. I didn’t even think about it. Comfortable all day.The breathable Alpacor with Tencel must be doing what it’s supposed to be. The thinner fabric on the top of the socks and front of the calf must help shed some of that heat as well.
Keeps shape and doesn’t shrink – much
The Alpacor is advertised as no shrink. Throw it in the washer and dryer just like everything else.
I accidentally tossed on of mine in the drier so I got a side-by-side test. Looks like just laying on top of one another the dried one is 1 centimetre shorter on the top. Not a big deal though, can’t even feel it when they’re on. Some of the merino garments will shrink inches in the drier. Seeing some of my own go through the drier, socks are less of an issue.
My only dislike out of all my testing so far is the tufts of thread around the Ausangate logo. I’m not sure if it’s just pilling there from wear or the extra thread from the logo creates the bumps. I’ve hardly noticed them at all yet. If you had a tight spot on your hiking boots just above your toes they might irritate the top of your foot. The rest of the sock is so comfortable and well-made, hopefully they can sort out the thread in the logo.
Will we see more alpaca?
Before looking into all the alpaca information for this review, I had no idea it was such a unique and high-performing material.The alpaca wool industry is not nearly as mature as the merino wool side of things. I’m very interested to see how it grows and spreads. I have a feeling we’ll all be wearing Alpaca base layers very soon.
Get a pair of Alpacor socks
The Alpacor socks are about the same price as merino at $19.99 (USD). Find them at Ausangate or Amazon.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the Alpacor Hiking Socks from Ausangate as coordinated by Deep Creek PR, an Outdoor Industry Public Relations Company, in consideration for review publication.
In other words, I get these items free to review. I use these connections to get more rad gear to test so you guys get more gear reviews. All opinions on the items are my own. Honest feedback about the products are in everyone’s best interest. Gear companies can make better gear and you can get straight recommendations on which is the best for you.