What Type of Socks Is Best for Camping & Hiking?

In this blog post, we are going to discuss suitable socks for camping and hiking. We will see what type of material, cushioning, ankle height, and fitting are best for your days out in the wild.

The average camper takes well over 2,000 steps to walk a mile. Over the thousands of steps my feet have taken during my hikes, I have found that a good pair of socks is important for me to stay comfortable. Therefore, choosing the right pair of socks is vital to enjoying your hikes. But what type of socks is best for camping & hiking?

The best socks for camping and hiking are those made of wool or synthetic materials and that fit snugly to your feet. Wool or synthetic socks will dry faster than other materials, such as cotton, and will keep your feet warm even if they are wet. Snug-fitting wool or synthetic socks will also reduce friction on your feet, which will prevent blisters and other problems.

While a bad pair of camping boots usually gets most of the blame for sore and blistered feet, one shouldn’t look past the impact the wrong socks can have on the feet. Get the wrong socks, and your feet will suffer, regardless of the boots you use. So, how do you choose the right camping and hiking sock?

Right material for camping socks

Let’s get one thing out of the way first and foremost – do NOT wear cotton socks when camping. Those training socks you wear when you play basketball? Leave them at home.

Cotton socks will leave your feet cold and damp all day, increasing the likelihood of blisters. Furthermore, cotton socks tend to increase the amount of friction between your feet and your camping boots, leading to hot spots and blisters.

Thankfully, there are plenty of alternatives to cotton socks that are entirely appropriate for camping. All of these materials help to regulate temperature, wick away moisture and dry quickly.

Wool

Wool is the foundation material of most camping socks. Wool is fantastic at keeping your feet warm even when wet, and it does provide a level of cushioning. It dries much faster than cotton or other materials. The one drawback to wool is that it can be scratchy and uncomfortable. This can lead to hot spots, which lead to blisters.

However, most wool socks today are combined with synthetic materials that make the socks more comfortable and less susceptible to hot spots.

Merino Wool

Merino wool is quickly becoming the most popular material for camping socks, and with good reason. It has most qualities of traditional wool, including keeping your feet warm despite wetness but is more comfortable on the feet.

Merino wool socks have more of a smooth, soft feel to them, reducing the amount of friction between your feet and your boots. This should protect your feet more from hot spots.

Synthetic Blends

Most camping socks nowadays are a blend of natural and synthetic materials. The modern camping sock is typically a weave of multiple natural and synthetic materials. Polypropylene, nylon, polyester and spandex are added to many camping socks to wick away moisture and offer a fitted design.

When combined with wool, these blended socks can keep your feet warm, dry, and blister-free.

Right amount of sock cushioning

While the weather conditions of a given hike can dictate the weight or cushion of socks, most campers appreciate a certain level of cushioning to provide extra comfort. Most camping socks fall into three categories when it comes to cushioning: light, medium, and heavy.

Light Cushioning

Appropriate for warmer weather, lightly cushioned camping socks are built to wick away moisture and keep your feet cool during a hot day on the trail. Not overly thick, some brands do still offer some cushioning near the heels as well as the balls of the feet.

Medium Cushioning

While I do not enjoy hot feet during a hike, I generally wear a medium-cushioned camping sock on most occasions, even in the summer. These socks offer more cushioning for difficult terrain as well as more warmth for cooler camping trips.

Heavy Cushioning

I like to have heavy-cushioned socks on my trips, because they make for great evening camp socks, even in the summer. But these socks do provide the most comfort and cushioning – as well as warmth. This comes in handy in the winter, but also on trips with the roughest terrain.

Correct sock length

Most camping socks are either crew- or ankle-length. I would recommend wearing crew-length socks for most trips – even if you have low-cut, trail running shoes. This might protect your lower legs from getting scratched or cut up walking through the heavier bushes.

What type of socks is best for camping & hiking - different socks length
Source: New York Times

But especially if you have high or mid-cut boots, you should stay away from ankle-length socks to avoid friction on your legs and ankles. This may cause extra heat to your feet on warm days, but the effect is really minimal.

Chose the right sock fitting

Proper Sizing

Most socks are meant to fit more than one size of foot, but it still helps to make sure you are getting the right sized sock for your foot. Use the actual size of your foot when buying a camping sock, rather than your shoe size. Otherwise, you could end up with a sock that is too large, leading to increased friction, hot spots, and blisters.

Get The Right Fit

As noted above, the wrong-sized sock will increase friction points. As you are researching socks, be sure that a camping sock fits your foot as perfectly as possible. A strong indicator of proper fit is whether the heel cup of the sock matches the heel of your foot.

Test For Comfort

You can fit the right material, the right amount of cushioning, and the right fit for your camping sock, but still do not know for sure if you have the correct camping sock until you actually try them out.

I would recommend buying a single pair of camping socks and using them on a test run with your camping boots over a variety of terrain. Make sure you hike for at least a couple of hours so your feet can swell, sweat, and move around in your boot.

By this time you will have a good sense of how your feet like these socks and whether they are a good candidate for longer camping trips.

FAQs – best socks for camping & hiking

Why are cotton socks bad for long hiking?

Cotton socks are bad for hiking because they do not have the moisture-wicking capability. Due to this, they do not absorb moisture from your feet and make your feet feel wet and slippery which will result in blisters. You will also feel uncomfortable hiking in wet feet.

Should I Wear Liners With My Camping Socks?

If you suffer from blisters, no matter what type of socks you use, you might try liners to solve the problem. These thin socks, usually made from silk or synthetic polypropylene wick away moisture, which leaves your skin less susceptible to blisters. They also provide extra protection from friction between your feet and your boots.

Should you wear two pairs of socks when hiking?

If your single pair of socks is not providing enough cushioning or moisture-wicking, you can wear an additional pair to compensate. If you correctly choose the material of your socks (a moisture-wicking inner layer and thick cushioning outer layer), you will feel more comfortable during hiking.

Should hiking socks be thick or thin?

Depending upon the weather conditioning, you can select appropriate cushioning for your socks. Thin socks are better for short summer hikes while thicker socks are better for winter hikes.

Why do my feet blister during hiking?

Blisters occur when your feet rub against the shocks or the boot surface due loose grip. If you are wearing loose socks or your socks are made from non-wicking cotton fabric, your feet will keep rubbing against the boot surface and ultimately develop painful blisters.