Royal Robbins Bug Barrier Venture Crew Socks
Described as a “travel sock” Royal Robbins claims that this crew sock is a versatile sock, suitable for wearing while traveling on planes, hiking, exploring cities, or relaxing at a hotel or restaurant. Its construction (hemp blended with recycled polyester) is reported to be durable, odor controlling, breathable, and temperature regulating. One of Royal Robbins’ group of Travel Hemp Socks, this version is also treated with Permethrin and labeled as an “Insect Shield” garment.
I have used this pair of socks for many days this spring, while traveling to Colorado by plane (including a hot sweaty run across a mile of concourses), hiking and dog walking around Vermont, birding walks, buggy canoe camping, and for just getting around town.
Primarily used with sneakers, and occasionally water shoes, I do like this sock. Though it feels quite different from the soft merino blend socks that I usually wear, I am impressed with its fit and comfort. After 6 weeks of use I have anecdotally noted that it does appear to repel bugs, and it does appear to not hold odor. It has also shown an ability to wash well and maintain its shape and size, some of the many factors that allow me to recommend this sock for all-around use.
- Durable and maintains shape after washing
- Crew length stays up without slouching
- Integrated insect repellent
- Made with anti-bacterial hemp to reduce odors
- Not as soft to touch as some other materials
- Hemp does not insulate well when wet
Introduction: I am tough on socks! I wear socks with quite a variety of footwear, and often find that the heels are wearing thin, the toes are holy, and they begin to get ragged and lose their shape. I usually wear a merino blend sock, because I like the softness, and the fact that the wool component will keep my feet warm even when wet.
But, wet wool socks do tend to stink, and I have to treat my socks with Permethrin to avoid bites from the increasing number of insects (especially ticks) we encounter on our outdoor adventures. So, the chance to try out Bug Barrier socks branded as "Insect Shield", thermal regulating, and odor-resistant seemed like a good idea.
This pair of Royal Robbins Hemp Travel Socks are the first pair made from hemp (it is 37% hemp according to packaging label) that I have ever tried. Though initially skeptical about the reported properties of hemp as a sock fabric, I am beginning to be convinced that such socks can work for me in most circumstances.
I have been testing these socks for nearly two months, wearing them a few days each week, with two washings per week. I have worn them with camp sandals, sneakers, hiking boots, and water shoes. The socks have been camping, bird walking, dog hiking, airport concourse running, shopping, and canoeing. Though they do feel quite different from my usual merino socks, they fit well, have kept their shape, and appear to be a durable construction and design.
Sock Design and Construction: I am testing a unisex size Large, in crew length, in the color Asphalt (grey with a little blue trim). The label on the packaging describes the composition as 56% recycled polyester, 37% hemp, and 7% elastane. The Royal Robbin sock chart indicates the availability of this version sock.
The Bug Barrier sock is also available in an over-the-calf compression style, and a quarter sock. I prefer a crew sock, and often fold over the crew top to make a slightly lower sock profile on my leg, but yet not as low as a quarter sock.
The benefits of using a hemp woven fabric are described as providing inherent anti-bacterial odor control, tensile strength, naturally breathing with thermal regulation properties. According to Royal Robbins, hemp socks will "breathe when its warm and insulate when it's cool". The blend of hemp with recycled polyester also aids in wicking moisture and maintaining the shape of the sock.
As a Bug Barrier garment, the socks have been treated with Permethrin insect repellent, designed to repel bugs such as mosquitoes, ticks, ants, fleas, chiggers, and midges.
My Uses and Activities while wearing the socks:
First of all, I can say that the socks fit me well. I wear a size 43 shoe, and that puts me correctly into the Large size for these socks. They are a bit snug to put on, despite the presence of stretch/elastane material, but once on my feet, they stay in place without slippage, bunching, or the crew top sliding down. Royal Robbins claims these socks have an "Anti-bunch construction, including deep pocket “Y” heel, channel flex zone and knit welt cuff that holds sock in place". Whatever the technology is called, it does seem to work well.
There is a seamless toe, and some mesh weaving designed to keep your feet cool; there is also some strategically placed padding for comfort, as seen in this photo of the socks inside-out. I would consider them a "mid-weight" sock, as they are heavier than "lightweight" socks I own.
I find the socks very comfortable, though I have not specifically noticed them getting any softer after multiple washings.
I am prone to getting eaten alive by bugs, in fact, on my first camping trip prior to using these socks, I picked up quite a few bites around my legs and ankles. Since then, I have worn these Royal Robbins socks while camping, and anecdotally, have not been bitten in the area covered by socks.
I use the socks around the campsite, while wearing my cheapie camp sandals, and also while wearing low water shoes or neoprene booties while canoeing. When water temps are cool in the early morning, the use of a wool sock provides added insulation for me feet. I have noted that these socks do not provide the same wet water warmth as my wool socks, but they are not actually designed for that purpose. It also appears that they do take a while to dry out, unless placed in the hot sun.
Odor-resistance may be a bit subjective to judge, but it does appear that they do not get noticeably stinky even after wearing for 24 hours, as may happen when traveling.
Royal Robbins provides washing instruction for the socks on the wrap-around packaging: "turn socks inside out before washing. Do not use fabric softener. Natural fiber will shed upon first wear, break in upon first wash". I did not notice any fiber changes after multiple washings. I also followed the instructions by not using bleach, using cold water, and drying on low heat. I observed that the white lettering on the socks is still visible after over a month of use.
Since these socks are considered a bug barrier type sock, there is additional information re: care of an "insect shield technology" garment. These instructions indicate you should never dry clean the item, never add additional insect repellent treatment, and use additional skin-safe insect repellents for exposed skin. Interestingly, it is also reported that one should wash any Permethrin treated item separately from other clothing...something I have not done, because I was not aware until I read "the fine print". The insect repellent properties are said to remain active for approximately 70 washings.
Eco-Friendly Aspects: For every pair purchased, Royal Robbins donates 1% to the ATCF (Adventure Travel Conservation Fund) to fund conservation projects that protect cultural and natural resources and help local economies dependent on tourism. It is nice to know that this company is contributing for good, but in reality, the socks are priced competitively with other similar brands, and that small contribution not likely sway a decision for me.
The use of hemp in garments is increasing, and Royal Robbins claims it is the most sustainable textile crop they have discovered. Hemp is apparently cultivated with rainwater, and has a deep root system, so planting of hemp plants can help with erosion. So, if this little pair of socks can help our fragile planet, I'm all for it!
Summary: I like these socks, and would consider buying more, primarily for summer use. I have obviously not yet tested them in cold weather (have worn in temps 45-95 degrees f.), so really cannot yet assess their thermal capabilities. They do seem to be a comfortable, durable, and cool sock. The added benefits of anti-odor and anti-insect properties makes them especially suitable for many outdoor activities.
I wear a variety of footwear, including sandals, water shoes, sneakers, hiking boots, winter boots, cycling shoes; the use of a suitable sock is critical for comfort and to prevent blisters or irritation. I therefore have quite an assortment of socks, and over the years have experimented with various sock design and fabrics. My many years of active pursuits make me quite familiar with assessing the pros/cons of different socks and footwear.
Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps
(Sample for testing and review provided by Royal Robbins)
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54% polyester, 41% hemp, 3% elastane, 2% nylon
Bug protection, Odor resistant, Ventilation, Stretch
Recycled, Recycled polyester