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How to Pick the Best Socks for the Trail

Socks are the most underrated — and most often ignored — piece of outdoor gear. A quality pair of socks might seem expensive at first, but it is worth its weight in gold and will make your time on the trail so much more enjoyable.


1. Thou shalt never wear cotton socks for hiking. They absorb sweat quickly and are very slow to dry. Soggy, sweaty feet = BLISTERS.

2. Thou shalt wear only socks made of wool or synthetic fibers … or a blend of both. They will dry quickly, wick sweat away from your feet and keep your feet more comfortable on the trail.

3. Thou shalt wear socks that fit. Make sure your socks fit snugly. If they’re too big, they’ll bunch up inside your boots or shoes and be uncomfortable and might cause blisters.

4. Thou shalt not dry your socks on a stick over the campfire. They might catch fire or melt. Instead, wring them out and lay them on a warm rock in the sun.

5. Thou shalt always pack three pairs of socks. That way, you have a pair to hike in, an extra pair for hiking when the other gets wet, and a clean, dry pair for sleeping.


Here’s a little secret: There’s often sizing overlap between large kids’ socks and small adult socks. They’re essentially the same product and cover the same size feet, but the kids’ versions are usually much cheaper. So check the company’s sock sizing charts online, and when they fit, go with the cheaper kids’ version.

11 Comments on How to Pick the Best Socks for the Trail

  1. army sock wearer // January 31, 2018 at 4:24 pm // Reply

    I recently purchased five pairs of drab green army socks. They’re fifty percent wool, thirty percent cotton and twenty percent nylon.
    At first, I thought I’d made a mistake, as I hike often and I worried about sock ‘rub’ and other discomforts. So far, a great foot feeling and no worries….

  2. Costco offers brilliant merino wool socks in 4 packs for $14 or so. 3 pair survived Philmont with no damage.

  3. i really like smartwools..they are cushioned, dry quick & comfortable.

  4. bring a pair of emergency socks and ONLY use them in an emergency!

  5. Very surprised to see that the “official” Scout sock wasn’t the #1 or only choice…

  6. Backpacker_Alex // November 1, 2014 at 4:30 pm // Reply

    My favorite socks are made by Darn Tough. I thought Thorlos were amazing until I got these. I now never wear my Thorlos. I’ve got several full cushion merino pairs for hiking, and a lighter synthetic pair for wearing around camp that work with both boots and tennis shoes. They run about $22/pair for wool and $18 for synthetic.

  7. Pirate Queen of the Antelopes // October 28, 2014 at 12:08 am // Reply

    If the seam of your sock still rubs enough to create a hot spot when hiking, wear the sock inside out. The smooth side of the seam will be against your foot.

  8. Of course, the best socks are hand knit. I hand knit all of my scout socks. They had a red stripe at the top and red heels and toes. I learned from another scouter that when he was growing up that is what scout socks looked like.

  9. I wear the BSA hiking thorolos. Excellent socks. I collect boy scout
    Socks and have about 40 pair some dating back to 1920.

  10. nursejon1962 // October 24, 2014 at 7:02 pm // Reply

    We were taught to put white poly blend Sox underneath.. Like tube Sox..then pure wool outer. Then hiking boots..

  11. good to know // October 24, 2014 at 6:49 pm // Reply

    Good socks to wear evwn to work in

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