Are socks the most underrated piece of outdoor gear? Chris Townsend assess the best for hillwalking. On test Smartwool PhD Outdoor Medium Crew socks

These are okay midweight socks suitable for year-round use in all but the hottest and coldest weather. They’re mostly cushioned but do have some small mesh panels for ventilation.  I’m not sure of the point of the latter and haven’t found the socks any more breathable than others of similar weight. There are elasticated panels at the ankle, arch and instep and Smartwool says the fit is exceptional. I don’t find it any better than other socks with simpler designs however, including other Smartwool ones. The cushioning is denser at the heel and toes and the legs are rib-knit. The socks are quite warm and better suited to cold conditions. I’ve had a pair of the original PhD socks for several years and they are comfortable and have proved durable. No more so however than similar socks including the Smartwool Hike Mediums, which cost around £16 and are the Smartwool socks I’d recommend as I just don’t see that the extra complexity of the PhD version actually adds anything.

Reviewed in January 2015 Issue