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Least uncomfortable wet sock material?
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Matthew Marasco
(BabyMatty) - F

Locale: Western/Central PA, Adirondacks
Least uncomfortable wet sock material? on 03/10/2011 10:07:53 MST Print View

I've finally have got my pack weight down light enough that I feel comfortable making the switch to trail-runners, but I haven't quite come to grips with the reality of walking all day with wet shoes. The areas I hike have numerous daily stream crossings (for example, I crossed the same stream 21 times in one mile on the Black Forest Trail) where there's not always a log or a rock-hop to keep your feet out of the water. Which leads to my question... What sock material A- dries the fastest, and B- has the best feel against your skin while it is wet?

The only soaking-wet socks I have ever hike in have been merino (SW Adrenaline Light Hikers), and they seemed to soak up lots of water. They felt very clammy as well. I also had on goretex hiking boots. Was that my biggest problem?

Anyhow, I am looking for suggestions for summer-weight socks that, in your experiences, feel more comfortable against your skin and dry fast.

K ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
socks on 03/10/2011 10:21:29 MST Print View

Your Merino socks soaking up lots of water, means that they do a good job wicking, which is what you want against your skin. I would say that your Goretex boots were the problem, since once the water entered, it had no way of escaping. I hiked 15 painful miles on the Lost coast in soaked Goretex boots... You said you are looking for summer weight socks; in my opinion a thin Merino would be the right weight and once you have breathable shoes, if they get wet, they should actually keep the moisture a bit away from your feet. I do fine in thicker wool in the summer, as long as I tighten my shoes enough. The thickness of the wool allows for water to be kept even further away from the skin.
I am biased ,though, I really love wool.

David Lutz

Locale: Bay Area
"Least uncomfortable wet sock material?" on 03/10/2011 10:28:28 MST Print View

I agree with Kat - in my experience GoreTex shoes hold in the water, keeping your socks wet longer. Not fun.

Tyson Marshall
(sheepNgeese) - MLife

Locale: Ventura County (formerly PNW)
Re: socks on 03/10/2011 10:42:53 MST Print View

I wear wool almost exclusively. Even when I'm not backpacking, I wear wool. I wear wool boxers, wool shirts, and wool socks almost every single day... Usually, if I'm not wearing wool socks, it means I'm barefoot -- which is ideal. But hiking barefoot isn't the most ideal situation for a lot of the time...

... I'm with Katharina, I am biased.

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
SW adrenaline light hiking on 03/10/2011 12:08:40 MST Print View

The goretex may have been part of the problem, but the smartwool light hiking socks are also a bit thick to dry quickly. I used a pair last year with breathable trail runners in similar conditions (frequent unbridged stream crossings and damp grass)and never got them to dry out, even when tucked up under my shirt at night (and boy did they stink of mildew by day 4). My feet were wet for 17 hours each day, but by keeping them dry and clean at night, I was at least able to avoid problems. I recently got turned on to the injini coolmax socks and prefer them when things are going to be wet. They definitely dry faster. The Defeet levitator lites are another good choice.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
cool max on 03/10/2011 12:57:17 MST Print View

i find cool max socks dry a lot faster than fuzzy sheep

sure they stink ... you can wring them out and stuff them next to yr skin to dry em out ... and for that extra stink

as long as you keep moving wet socks arent usually an issue ... its when you stop and yr feet get cold ...

solution? ... dont stop for very long ...

Andy F
(AndyF) - M

Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic
Re: Least uncomfortable wet sock material? on 03/10/2011 14:00:10 MST Print View

Thin nylon or polyester dress socks.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Sock liners & hiking socks on 03/10/2011 14:15:34 MST Print View

I wear thin polypro sock liners and Thorlo Hikers, which are wool and acrylic with some nylon reinforcement at the heel and toe. Acrylic is one of the most comfortable synthetics when wet.

So far this combo keeps my feet comfortable even when slogging in S. Utah streams for miles in sandals. They dry fast and are comfortable while being "walked dry".

Diana Vann
(DianaV) - MLife

Locale: Wandering
Wright Socks on 03/10/2011 14:17:07 MST Print View

For most hiking conditions I prefer SmartWool, but when I'm in conditions where it will be difficult to dry out my socks, I use coolmesh, Wright Socks
Wright Socks

Scott S
(sschloss1) - F

Locale: New England
Polypropylene liners on 03/10/2011 14:26:59 MST Print View

On an early-season JMT hike, I spent 3 weeks with my feet constantly wet because of the snowmelt. All I had on my feet were 1 pair of thin polypropylene liners and my trail runners. This combination was very comfortable--the liner socks are so thin that they absorb almost no water, and my feet dried quickly on the rare water-free stretches of trail.

Unless I'm expecting very cold weather, this is my go-to footwear combo for any kind of hiking, wet or dry.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Multiple socks on 03/10/2011 15:41:32 MST Print View

Depending on the conditions, I wear up to three layers of thin socks.

Smartwool and others make merino wool liners that dry very fast because they are thin.

Wear those as the base layer to reduce the funk and clamminess, with then synthetic socks on top.

Of course nothing is going to feel comfortable in a boot full of water.

Maybe punch/drill a couple weep holes near the sole?

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Least uncomfortable wet sock material? on 03/10/2011 16:26:43 MST Print View

Wool socks are good - the one really good use for wool in backpacking imho.
Thin synthetic liners are favoured by some, but not used by others.
Cotton socks - forget them!

Goretex boots are both a failure and a dinosaur. A failure because the membrane gets dirty and blocks up very quickly and becomes a plastic bag. A dinosaur - well, we have had that discussion many times.


Chris Townsend
(Christownsend) - MLife

Locale: Cairngorms National Park
Least uncomfortable wet sock material? on 03/10/2011 16:57:11 MST Print View

Wool. Just done a 13 day 212 mile hike of the Southern Upland Way in Scotland. Four days of rain at the start and wet, muddy trails throughout. My feet, in Inov8 Roclite shoes, were wet viurtually the whole time. I wore one pair of Teko Medium Hiking Socks the whole way (rinsing them out a couple of times - not a proper wash) and they were comfortable every day.

jim draucker
(mtnjim) - MLife

Locale: Shenandoah Valley VA
Socks on 03/10/2011 17:03:18 MST Print View

Thin polyester/nylon dress socks +1 These and New Balance trail runners are perfect for me.


Eugene Hollingsworth
(GeneH_BPL) - F
Least uncomfortable wet sock material? on 03/10/2011 21:11:55 MST Print View

Last year I hiked all day through wet grass, puddles, and mud over my shoes all day. (swampy area) - Messsssy- with lightweight wool socks and non-waterproof mesh shoes. It was kinda fun watching the water and mud squeeze out the top after each mud puddle. I didn't find it particularly uncomfortable. Rinsed the socks out in the evening and put on wet socks in wet shoes the next morning. Temps never dropped below 65F if I remember correctly.

Contrast that with synthetic socks (the 2-layer sewed together kind from REI) even damp they stunk so bad after a day no one wanted to come near our tent where we had them hanging outside. :-)

Eugene Hollingsworth
(GeneH_BPL) - F
Hey Roger - wet socks and water proof shoes... on 03/10/2011 21:18:25 MST Print View

What's your suggestion? I'm due for a new pair of lightweight shoes, a little more ankle support than trail runners, but I'm thinking waterproof because I usually just get wet over the tops of my foot. I would prefer to stay dry when I can.

So - relative to the wet sock discussion, is there a better shoe/boot material to compliment wool socks, even in 80F or 90 F deg days?

James Patsalides
( - MLife

Locale: New England
Re: least uncomfortable sock material on 03/10/2011 21:43:24 MST Print View

Have you tried hydropel? Here's what I've been doing...
1. Applied to feet - generous layer of hydropel
2. Smart wool ankle sock carefully rolled over the hydropel
3. Lightweight mesh sneaker
4. Dirty girl gaiters

You have to put the sock on carefully so it doesn't wipe off the hydropel, but, with one application per day, your feet stay pretty nice and dry, and it gives you a nice slick feeling even as your socks start to get a bit funky over a few days. I find that the thin smart wool socks dry out in maybe 15-20 mins of hiking after a stream crossing, depending on the weather. Hydropel is an indispensable part of my foot care system!

Happy trails, James.

Edited by on 03/10/2011 21:44:18 MST.

Dug Shelby
(Pittsburgh) - F

Locale: Bay Area
Smartwool Merino on 03/10/2011 23:23:34 MST Print View

My favorite has been Merino wool. Smartwool is my go-to sock.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
What's your suggestion? on 03/11/2011 05:05:26 MST Print View

Hey Eugene,
Re: "What's your suggestion?"

I have glass ankles and I also prefer mid height shoes, but that is only because I find it hard to keep my ankles in shape as I keep rolling them.
It kept me out of basketball when I was young until I started wearing high top sneakers.

Most experts agree that if you do ankle exercises regularly and/or hike uneven ground regularly, you won't need ankle support anymore and can wear trail runners.

I'm working at it and hope to be able to wear trail runners this year.

On the subject of keeping your feet dry, many believe you shouldn't worry about keeping them dry, but instead, being comfortable when wet. Shoes that are highly breathable(NOT Gortex) and socks that are warm when wet are common advice for cold wet environments.

Eugene Hollingsworth
(GeneH_BPL) - F
Re:What's your suggestion on 03/11/2011 11:03:43 MST Print View

Steve - Good advice, thanks. I think the "least uncomfortable when wet" goes to base layers (?) also. (Includes underwear, right?) For next fall I'll be looking for light wool longjohns and a button down long sleeve wool undershirt. At least when I do sweat, I won't chill as badly. I don't always have the oppertunity to remove/add layers, only open up what I'm wearing. (Whitetail hunting, when the only time you want to be seen or heard is by other hunters)

Ankles: I haven't hurt them yet, but rolled sideways a number of times last year on the rough rocks and roots of SHT. You're right - some support is warrented.