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Smartwool Classic Mountaineer Maximum Cushion Review

This is a plush mountaineering sock built to keep your feet warm and dry in the coldest conditions
smartwool classic mountaineer maximum cushion hiking socks review
Credit: Smartwool
Price:  $26 List
Manufacturer:   Smartwool
By Jon Oleson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 20, 2022
75
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 14
  • Comfort - 25% 8.0
  • Wicking and Breathability - 25% 7.0
  • Warmth - 20% 9.0
  • Durability - 20% 8.0
  • Drying Speed - 10% 3.0

Our Verdict

The Smartwool Classic Mountaineer Maximum Cushion provides superior performance as is among the best hiking socks in wet and wintry conditions. The high wool content ensures that your feet stay warm, while the plush construction allows for more wicking and breathability. It's not the quickest to dry, so it may be a good idea to carry a couple/few pairs with you on longer expeditions. While its warmth is a blessing on cold treks or when trying to keep your toes toasty in your sleeping bag, it also makes it less suitable for warm or hot weather hiking. But if you're looking for a cold-weather sock that will keep your feet comfortable and dry while bagging peaks, shredding slopes, or trekking across frozen tundra, look no further than the Classic Mountaineer.
REASONS TO BUY
Comfortable
Plush
High wool content
Built for freezing temps
REASONS TO AVOID
Slow to dry
Too warm for summer hiking

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Pros Comfortable, plush, high wool content, built for freezing tempsDurable, comfortable, wide temperature regulation, versatile, fittedHighly breathable, comfortable, well-fitted, no itch, excellent wicking power, quick to dry, great cushionGreat value, nice cushioning, soft on the skin, good thermoregulation, unique ventilation stitchingQuick to dry, accommodates a liner, comfortable cushioning
Cons Slow to dry, too warm for summer hikingNot ideal for hot temperaturesSlippery fabric, shorter length, not super warmLess wool content, deforms when wet, lacks stand alone warmthLoose fit, lacks compression paneling, loses wicking capabilities in cold weather
Bottom Line This is a plush mountaineering sock built to keep your feet warm and dry in the coldest conditionsAn all-time favorite meant for long days on the trail in cooler seasonsThis lightweight sock is comfortable, breathable and will keep your feet happy in the heat whether you're under the desert sun or tromping through the tropicsThese Merino blend hikers come in a value pack with 3 pairs, giving you more mileage for your money than pricier optionsA synthetic full-length sock with decent durability and a drying speed that excels in wet weather
Rating Categories Smartwool Classic M... Darn Tough Hiker Fu... Darn Tough Light Hi... Danish Endurance Un... Wigwam Hiking Outdo...
Comfort (25%)
8.0
8.0
9.0
7.0
5.0
Wicking and Breathability (25%)
7.0
7.0
9.0
9.0
6.0
Warmth (20%)
9.0
8.0
3.0
5.0
8.0
Durability (20%)
8.0
10.0
7.0
6.0
7.0
Drying Speed (10%)
3.0
4.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
Specs Smartwool Classic M... Darn Tough Hiker Fu... Darn Tough Light Hi... Danish Endurance Un... Wigwam Hiking Outdo...
Material 74% Merino wool, 17% recycled nylon, 8% nylon, 1% elastane 66% Merino wool, 32% nylon, 2% Lycra spandex 54% nylon, 43% Merino wool, 3% Lycra spandex 30% Merino wool, 36% nylon, 33% acrylic, 1% elastane 40% Olefin, 36% X2O acrylic, 20% stretch nylon, 4% spandex
Sock Thickness Heavyweight Midweight Lightweight Midweight Midweight
Tested Length Upper calf High calf Lower calf Mid-calf Lower calf
Time to Dry 200 min 180 min 100 min 140 min 160 min

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Mountaineer Maximum Cushion is everything that it states — a high Merino wool blend sock with lots of pile and maximum cushioning, built for the most extreme cold weather environments. It's less versatile than some of our other options, but it's top of its class for wintry or cold weather applications.

Performance Comparison


smartwool classic mountaineer maximum cushion hiking socks review - one of our testers resting his bones after a long day. the smartwool...
One of our testers resting his bones after a long day. The Smartwool Classic Mountaineer quickly became one of our favorite pairs for relaxing in after miles on the trail.
Credit: Jon Oleson

Comfort


This sock had one of the highest Merino wool blends that we tested — 74% Merino wool, 17% recycled nylon, 8% nylon, and 1% elastane. The Merino wool offers plush soft comfort, and the cushioning is among the highest in its class. We like that Smartwool incorporated recycled materials — peace of mind can be just as important as bodily comfort.


We wanted to test the "maximum cushion" of these socks, so we hiked with our two plushest cold weather socks side by side. Testing confirmed that the cushioning and comfort of the Classic Mountaineer is superior to most other cold weather socks on the market. It scored lower in this metric only because it's less form-fitting and less versatile. The sock is bulky and doesn't have compression paneling to hold it in place. This makes for a less specific fit but also allows you to wear liners underneath for added comfort on long, cold treks.

smartwool classic mountaineer maximum cushion hiking socks review - we hiked to compare our two thickest socks side by side. the rei...
We hiked to compare our two thickest socks side by side. The REI Merino Wool Expedition socks (left) and the Smartwool Classic Mountaineer (right). While both socks are ultra padded and warm enough for all your winter pursuits, the Smartwool edged out the REI in both categories.
Credit: Jon Oleson

Wicking and Breathability


Even though the Mountaineer is a heavyweight sock, it measured in the middle of the pack for wicking and breathability. This is due to ventilation panels that run on either side of the instep and looped construction that helps move moisture away from the skin. Although it's 74% Merino wool, the 25% nylon in the blend lends to the wicking action.


We tested these socks during expeditions, long hot work days, and cold, damp nights along the coast. We found that on the hottest of days, our feet stayed surprisingly dry — even in boots. On cold nights when we were using the socks to keep our toes toasty, our feet stayed warm throughout the night, and if we were sweating, the socks did a superb job of wicking away the moisture. We also verified that the Mountaineer could hold up even after days of use. They'll take a lickin' and keep on keepin' your feet toasty and dry over the miles and days.

smartwool classic mountaineer maximum cushion hiking socks review - an inside out look at the classic mountaineer. here you can see the...
An inside out look at the Classic Mountaineer. Here you can see the ventilation panels running on either side of the foot, as well as the thick pile of loops to wick moisture away, helping to keep your feet warm and dry in any condition.
Credit: Jon Oleson

Warmth


These socks are built to protect you from the cold. Of all that we tested, they are the warmest and most plush. The high wool content ensures that feet will stay warm even in cold and damp conditions, while the superior wicking ability of the looped construction ensures that your feet will continue to stay warm and dry throughout the day.


While these socks are superb for mountaineering, skiing, and winter backpacking, we also found that they are swell for sleeping. They quickly became our go-to for a warm sleeping sock to keep our toes toasty when the cold night was nipping at our feet. The pile holds up well during use, so even if you only bring one pair of socks on your trek, these will keep working to keep your feet warm day and night despite the wear.

smartwool classic mountaineer maximum cushion hiking socks review - when it's time to set up camp, one of the first things is to change...
When it's time to set up camp, one of the first things is to change into comfy socks. The Smartwool Classic Mountaineer was the most comfortable for evening loungewear.
Credit: Jon Oleson

Durability


Due to the thickness, these socks are more durable than most. Despite our best effort, we haven't worn any holes, and the cushioning remains, adventure after adventure. Merino wool is generally less durable than synthetic fabrics, but a good blend in these socks ensures that you'll get a lot of use before they become cleaning rags.


At first, we questioned the durability of the looser stitch design of the Mountaineer. Although a looser stitch may increase the breathability of a thick sock, it doesn't always enhance durability. The threads on these socks tend to fray with use, but we didn't find that this affected the durability. The socks retained their performance despite this perceived drawback.

smartwool classic mountaineer maximum cushion hiking socks review - despite the fraying of fibers, the smartwool classic mountaineer...
Despite the fraying of fibers, the Smartwool Classic Mountaineer hold their cushioning and warmth adventure after adventure.
Credit: Jon Oleson

Drying Speed


Wool is slower to dry than synthetics, and even though these socks are 25% nylon, the high wool content makes them slower to dry than lightweight and mid-weight socks. During our testing, they took the longest to dry on the line — 200 minutes in 80°F weather.


We recommend you take an extra pair if you're embarking on a long cold trek. Each day you can dry your worn pair by the fire while you don your warm, dry pair to lounge around camp.

smartwool classic mountaineer maximum cushion hiking socks review - one of several tests to determine the dry time of all our hiking...
One of several tests to determine the dry time of all our hiking socks.
Credit: Jon Oleson

Should You Buy the Smartwool Classic Mountaineer?


If you're looking for a warm sock for cold wintry activities, look no further. The Classic Mountaineer Maximum Cushion offers unbeatable warmth, superior wicking ability, and comfy cushioning that will endure the miles. This sock is also a top contender for the most comfortable sleeping sock. It's a great one to throw in your pack when your days are warm, but the mercury drops at night. Your feet will stay snug as a bug in a rug while you recount the day's adventures by fire or lantern light. And you can rest assured that the night's cold won't nip at your toes. We recommend against using these socks anywhere you'll encounter stickers, burrs, bramble patches, or anything else that will cling or pull at the fibers. Their plushness becomes a weakness in these situations.

smartwool classic mountaineer maximum cushion hiking socks review - we inadvertently discovered that the smartwool classic mountaineer...
We inadvertently discovered that the Smartwool Classic Mountaineer (left) are not recommended for walking through burrs. Although still not suitable for this type of hiking, the REI Merino Wool Expedition socks (right) were more resistant to the burrs than the Smartwool. This is largely due to a tighter knit..
Credit: Jon Oleson

What Other Hiking Socks Should You Consider?


If you are going to be hiking with exposed socks around burrs and brambles, then you may want to consider the top mountaineering sock from REI, the REI Co-op Merino Wool Expedition. It stood up to our testing and was only beaten out slightly by the Smartwool socks. If you want a sock that is even more tightly knit but still offers cold weather warmth, durability, and a thick cushion, then check out our Editors' Choice and best all-around hiking sock, the Darn Tough Hiker Full Cushion.

Jon Oleson
 
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