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What kind of sock material is more suitable for mountain climbing or hiking?

September 25,2023

What kind of socks should I wear for hiking? What kind of socks do you wear for hiking? What kind of socks do you wear for mountain climbing in summer? What kind of socks should I wear for mountain climbing in winter?

There seems to be a lot of knowledge in socks.

Here, we will discuss the sock issues closely related to hiking and mountaineering, as well as their different styles, material characteristics, and performance in specific environments and conditions.

Ⅰ. What kind of socks should I wear for hiking in summer?

You have many choices, such as wool/synthetic fiber socks or all synthetic fiber socks, which work well in summer

1. Wool/Synthetic Fiber:
The main performance of each fiber is achieved through mixing to achieve the best results. But this is not enough, as minimizing the weaknesses of each fiber is also one of the characteristics of such products. Especially Merino wool (excellent moisture management, including moisture, softness, comfort, lightness, antibacterial properties, etc.) is being extensively used in the production of hiking socks.
The best summer hiking socks include 50% to 65% ultra-fine merino wool, 30% to 50% nylon (to improve the wear resistance of 100% wool socks), and 2-5% spandex or elastic fibers (to increase elasticity and add good recovery performance to the final product). There are also other hiking socks made of wool and three or more different types of artificial fibers, which perform better in cold conditions. Usually, wool/synthetic fibers are much more expensive than 100% synthetic fibers.    

2. Fully synthetic fiber:
All synthetic fiber socks are also the first choice for many people during summer travel. As a good substitute for wool/synthetic fibers, 100% synthetic fiber socks have certain advantages over wool/synthetic fiber socks. For example, they are cheaper, lighter, faster to dry, and smaller in size.

The commonly used synthetic fibers for summer hiking include polyester/nylon/spandex and polyester/nylon/acrylic/spandex. Polyester and modified polyester dominate in such blends, as the content of the blend typically includes 40-80% polyester.

Other important factors when choosing summer hiking socks include length, thickness, fit, cushioning, breathability, sweat absorption, drying speed, durability (expected lifespan of socks), and price. In addition, your hiking time, environment, expected weather conditions, and personal preferences are also determining factors.

Ⅱ. What kind of socks should I wear for winter hiking?

Choosing socks is more important for winter hiking. The material must be comfortable, and at the same time, it should have good insulation and warmth functions, which can effectively isolate your feet from the cold. Wool/synthetic fibers are still the preferred choice, with a mixture of 70-80% Merino wool and 20-30% synthetic fibers (synthetic materials such as nylon, polyester, acrylic, spandex, etc.) being the best choice. Thick and warm, which is important in winter.

The same material, heavier socks can provide more warmth than lighter socks.

There are also various options for the height of outdoor socks in winter, ranging from lower to mid calf, and even above calf. Generally speaking, in cold weather, long socks are more effective than short ones. In addition, the durability of socks also needs to be considered, and wool is usually mixed with nylon and/or polyester fibers to improve durability and wear resistance. This is also one of the reasons why 100% Merino wool socks are not recommended, as they are blended with Merino wool and synthetic fibers.

Ⅲ. Should I choose thick or thin hiking socks?

This depends on the environment and conditions in which you will be hiking. Obviously, those who backpack in winter and cold weather need thick socks to keep warm and dry. For those who enjoy hiking in summer and hot weather, thin socks can have great benefits.

For long-distance and hiking trips, it is recommended to wear socks that balance breathability and cushioning. Therefore, for long-term travel, a medium thickness buffer is the best.

Another key factor is your shoes, and if you like sandals or minimalist shoes, a pair of thin hiking socks is enough.

However, for heavy hiking boots, thin socks and thick and hard soles do not match well.

Ⅳ. Should you wear two pairs of socks when hiking?

Layering socks is a classic way to achieve optimal performance. Wearing two pairs of socks can achieve the following effects:

1. Provide more buffering.
2. Reduce boot wear.
3. Absorb excess moisture.
4. Stay warm from the cold.

If handled properly, wearing two pairs of socks can bring better comfort and protection, reducing the chance of blistering. Just remember that the inner layer (the sock next to your skin) should be very thin and made of hydrophobic material, which is hygroscopic and quick drying, so that sweat can be quickly expelled from the feet. The outer layer (socks between the boots) should have characteristics of insulation, cushioning, and wear resistance. It should be made of synthetic fibers, wool, or a blend of wool/synthetic fibers to release moisture from the feet.

Ⅴ. What are Merino wool, alpaca wool, and what are the advantages of wool socks?

Wool is an excellent choice for winter socks, especially Merino wool. It is also one of the best materials for making warm socks because it has characteristics such as softness, warmth retention, antibacterial properties, moisture absorption, and relatively fast drying.

Wool has another excellent characteristic, even when it is damp, it can feel warm, and unlike cotton, it does not lose its insulation properties.
Merino wool is finer, softer, more comfortable, and less likely to irritate the skin than traditional wool.

In addition, alpaca wool is another type of wool that is very suitable for winter wear. It is a soft, silky natural fiber, similar to wool, that can retain heat without increasing weight, and has excellent insulation properties. Compared to wool, high-quality alpaca wool is lighter and warmer.    

Ⅵ Why are cotton socks not suitable for hiking?

Due to some inherent characteristics of cotton socks, they are not a good choice for hiking and other high-intensity activities.

For example, it can absorb a large amount of water, stick to the feet, lose insulation, and easily wrinkle the skin.

In addition, the slow drying speed of cotton makes it unsuitable for making hiking socks. Wearing wet cotton socks can easily cause blisters (wet socks can soften the skin of the feet).

Although, what kind of socks should I wear for hiking? This is a simple question, but the answer is not that simple.

In short, when choosing your hiking socks, you should choose the appropriate material (avoid using cotton), which has a comfortable cushioning effect, and the length is suitable for your needs. In addition, when making a choice, do not forget to consider the environment and expected weather conditions.