Good socks are a key component to keeping one’s feet in good working order, thus maintaining both comfort and morale. If your feet fail you misery soon follows, I’ve seen many a strong body crippled by a few quarter sized blisters. In a practical sense if you want to be that prepper who is able to carry a pack for 10 to 20 miles good socks go a long way in making this task possible. Even if you are only going for a weekend backpacking trip it’s essential to know which socks are worth shodding your feet with, they can definitely make life better when out on the trail.
My Feet Are Not Your Feet
All feet are different and I’m not just referring to shape, although that does matter. My feet don’t sweat that much but I know some people who have clammy and sweaty (gross) feet. I know where I develop hotspots and what to look for with respect to padding or seams in socks to mitigate that, your foot and experiences may or may not be different. So I suppose what I mean is that my experiences might not necessarily reflect yours, take that into consideration.
The Test Conditions
It’s one thing to wear socks on a trip to REI to look for gadgets and interact with staff who may or may not have taken a shower that day, or for a 2 hour jaunt on the local nature trail. It’s another thing entirely to put socks to the test under somewhat extreme conditions. In the past year I’ve had a chance to evaluate these socks under normal daily operations, during weekend hikes and under field trials for extended periods which included long movements under less than ideal conditions. That stated let’s get to the players and my review.
Kirkland Signature Men’s Outdoor Trail Sock
Where to Buy: Amazon.com, Costco when in stock.
Price Point: $22 for a 4 pack.
Composition: 70% merino wool, 18% nylon, 10% polyester & 2% spandex.
Pro’s: Affordable, sturdy, plenty of cushioning.
Con’s: Can be hard to find in stock, somewhat short for a boot sock.
Summary: If you can find your size these socks might be the best combination of affordability and durability for wool socks. They don’t exactly scream lavish comfort when on your feet but do feel good and hold up well under long periods of use. As stated they can be short for full length boots, what I mean by that is that because of their size they won’t come up over the calf and be taller than the top of a boot. Some people like to fold their socks over the top of the boot, if you are one of those people this sock won’t do it for you. I’ve been impressed with these socks and still defer to them for daily use most of the time, you really cannot go wrong with the Kirkland Outdoor Trail socks.
SmartWool Light Hiker Sock
Where to Buy: REI.com and other outdoor stores.
Price Point: $18 for ONE pair.
Composition: 73% merino wool, 22% nylon, 5% elastic.
Pro’s: Very sturdy, very comfortable, work well when wet.
Summary: Once you pull a pair of SmartWool socks over your feet you will immediately know why they are $18/pair. These socks feel GOOD! Not only that, they work well under adverse conditions and hold their composition after being washed week after week, month after month. As with the Kirkland they are a bit short for tall boots but for use with normal hiking shoots / short boots they fare well. If I could afford to have 20 pair of SmartWool socks I would but I don’t fancy spending $400 on socks anytime soon. You really can’t go wrong with these socks, maybe purchase one pair a month and stock up that way.
Fox River Military Boot Sock
Where to Buy: Foxsox.com or other outlet sources.
Price Point: $12 per pair, might be cheaper on Amazon.
Composition: 70% polypropylene, 28% nylon, 2% spandex.
Pro’s: Good price point for, contoured to fit feet well, tall enough to fold over military type boots.
Con’s: No wool, heels can wear out faster than other socks (my experience).
Summary: Don’t let the absence of wool deter you from these socks, they have served me well under pretty bad conditions and I would not hesitate to go to them again in the future. A decent price point and good availability make these a nice choice, I just wonder about their durability over longer periods of time. I’ve had the portion above the heel wear out on a couple pair of these socks…but if you aren’t moving longer distances under load for days on end I wouldn’t worry about that happening.
Military Issue OD Green Sock
Where to Buy: Sportsman’s Guide, Surplus Stores etc.
Price Point: $22 for 12 pair.
Composition: 50% Wool, 30% Cotton, 20% Nylon.
Pro’s: Super cheap which means once they wear out they are easily replaceable. Tall enough to wear with milspec boots, somewhat durable.
Con’s: You get what you pay for, contrary to popular belief these do not wear like iron. Over time they really show their age and quality of materials / assembly.
Summary: Are these better than white gym socks? Absolutely, but not by much. If you love these socks you probably think that, in 2015, jungle boots are the best thing going. The good news is that you can buy a large pack of these for $20 and just throw them away and buy more. I will tell you that although I have a drawer full of these I rarely reach for them.
If you only take one thing away from this review it should be this: you must have good quality socks on your feet if you expect to persevere in adverse conditions. My thoughts are that the Kirkland socks are probably the best combo of affordability and comfort out there, but if money was no object the SmartWool would be at the top of my list. OD Green Milspec socks are better than cotton white socks but barely so, I’d go to them if I happened to lose every other pair of socks that I own. Fox River socks haven’t let me down yet but their lack of wool construction gives me room for pause. At the end of the day only you can choose and I hope you choose wisely. More info on this topic can be found here and here.