Why do socks matter and which should I choose?
A good pair of socks are an essential piece of gear for any trip, whether it’s a 3-mile day hike or a 5-month trek. That’s because a pair of feet contain 250,000 sweat glands producing up to half a pint of sweat a day. All that moisture can get trapped in a bad sock, and by time you get back to the trailhead, get in the car, and let your feet breathe, the chance of developing blisters increases and the smell may be unbearable.
What is a bad sock?
Your basic cotton sock is the worst sock you can wear when heading out onto an adventure. This is due to cotton’s poor ability to regulate moisture. Think about your bath towel-most bath towels are made from cotton because cotton is so absorbent, with the ability to absorb up to 20 times its weight in water. When you wear a sock made out of cotton all the sweat you produce will be soaked up into it and will not be able to evaporate, keeping your feet wet. This doesn’t allow your body’s natural temperature regulation to occur because all your heat will be lost into the wet sock, resulting in cold feet.
Socks Built for Adventure
Now that we have cotton out of the way, the best sock for your outdoor expeditions will be Merino Wool. Yes, even in the summer Merino Wool is the way to go.
Advantages of Merino Wool:
- Breathability–porous construction of merino wool increases airflow through the sock.
- Odor Resistant–due to its antibacterial properties you’ll stay fresh even after days of use.
- Moisture-wicking–Merino Wool takes sweat from against your body and wicks it outward to the edge of the sock where the sweat can evaporate.
- Temperature Management–unlike cotton, Merino can only hold about a third of its weight in water. This means more evaporation is taking place, keeping you cool in the summer and dry in the winter.
- Darn Tough
I have backpacked over 6,000 miles in a variety of Merino Wool socks and they undoubtedly make a difference, from the damp east coast Appalachians to the west coast Sierras wool socks are a must. Merino keeps the feet feeling dry and warm (even when wet) and can be worn for days on end. The longest I’ve worn a pair without washing or blisters was 8 days of hiking. They are durable and survive long days on trail and repeated hot washes. For the Pacific Crest Trail I only used 6 pairs for 2,650 miles of backpacking. Merino Wool is a go to for me for a variety of activities, ranging from large expeditions to walking the dog on a cool morning.
Merino wool can seems pricey, usually $20 a pair, so other options can be looked at such as polyester or nylon. Note: Most merino brands come with a lifetime warranty against holes and elastic so be sure to read the packaging, you could be buying a $20 pair of socks that will last you the rest of your life which helps with the heavy price tag.