Socks and Camping

Favorite Stripey Socks by Richard Styles

The Importance of Wearing Socks While Camping

To (mostly) quote a somewhat dirty rhyme from Band of Brothers:

“feet, neck, hands, __,

a pair of socks warms them all!”


That wonderful invention some people just can’t stand to wear [a tip: turn them inside out, there’s a good chance it’ll help].

Wearing socks during any camping or hiking trip will not only save the skin on your feet, they will also help you stay warm. Some people layer several pairs of socks, while others don’t like how the layered fabric pulls and catches. Unless your hiking trip is actually in a stream or river, socks will greatly improve your experience and stamina. [if you’re hiking in water – yes, it’s a real thing – wear your water shoes, and bring boots and socks to change into as soon as you finish the water portion. A camping towel is a great way to speed the transition between the two]

But not just any socks. 

Yes, you can layer just about any footwear and get warmer and more padding, eventually. However, your best bet while camping isn’t the bag of socks you buy to wear to the gym or just for walking the dog around the block once (or twice) a day.

You want socks that will help keep your feet warm. You want socks that will still feel like you’re cushioned and not walking directly on stones after an hour or two hiking.

If you’re hiking from campsite to campsite, you want socks that will help keep your feet, and therefore your boots, dry. The more your feet sweat into your shoes, the more likely are to have a health, and hygiene, issue. Not to mention how hard it is to clear odor from hiking boots while you still need to use them constantly.

Today’s example? Why, I’m glad you asked! It’s:


They are merino wool exteriors with a cotton interior to help cushion your foot. The wool has sooooooooooooooooooooo many uses for our purposes in the outdoors.

Merino Wool provides:

  • moisture wicking (helping to control both temperature and odor)
  • warmth around each foot
  • extra support and cushioning
  • cooling in higher temperatures
  • faster drying times, getting you back on your feet sooner
  • for when you pull your boots off just to get a break: SPF rated, so you don’t need to worry about burning the bottoms of your feet just to take a breather
  • little to no itch! Fine-grade hair greatly decreases the chances of irritation (unless you’re actually allergic to wool, in which case stick with the heat packs when it gets truly cold – yes, both parts of that statement are also real things)


The Importance of Socks for the Different Types of Camping

Living in a Tent

When living in a tent, temperature control is one of the hardest constant struggles. You always have to be focused on whether or not you are too warm or too cold. As the temperature fluctuates, you can’t wait until it becomes immediate to make changes to your situation – by then it’s too late, and suffering through becomes your best outcome. If you’re letting your feet overheat constantly, you could end up with a skin condition that may spread. If you aren’t warm enough, there are many other issues that can arise.

Continuing the thought of things that cannot wait until it’s too late: odors. Smells and scents can become overpowering even when living in fabric. If it lasts just long enough, you run the risk of becoming nose-blind to it and offending others without ever realizing you have a problem. Odors are also usually a sign pointing towards an underlying problem. If your shoes, socks, and/or feet start to smell, you may not be cleaning everything thoroughly enough often enough. You may also be developing one of the skin conditions I mentioned above.

As living in a tent implies dealing with the colder temperatures: don’t think of socks as just for your feet. Remember the dirty rhyme I used at the top? It matters.  You can use socks as insulation for yourself, your group, and your belongings. A thicker wool sock is actually a great way to keep a hot travel mug warm longer, without burning your hands (because they’re longer, you can also hold the mug while your hand is inside the neck of the sock when folded-over again)Use socks whenever you need an extra layer of insulation. Buy socks that would be huge or tiny on you, to give yourself options for sizes. You can wash them with your cookware and hang them to dry (or dry them around your neck depending on the respective temperatures of your wash water and the air temperature: an additional source of extended cooling or short heating).

Don’t underestimate the importance of padding either. The cushioning these socks provide are generally hard to believe for those who haven’t experienced it. Then it’s a surprise again 5 hours later when it’s still great. Use them to support you, your kids, and your belongings. Like the Olympians who store their medals in socks to protect them without fighting with the heavy boxes, be innovative with your socks. Yes, they’re great for your feet, and your hands at night (and wherever else you chose to put them); but they can also provide the extra support so your water bottle doesn’t bang against your leg or bag as you walk (unless you’re using the ‘Dune System‘ in which case, the socks would be a nice insulator packed in around the water sack).

Long Term Camping

All of the above goes for this, really. However, fluctuating temperatures may be more of a focal point (and worry) if you’re camping while the season’s change (or spring…cause we never know when the snow is going to actually stop falling).

Stay aware of your temperature, and check how the humidity feels in your joints. Don’t lose track of your baseline as you acclimate to the new weather patterns. Your body can be the best warning sign for trouble if you notice changes quickly.

These socks, in particular, will provide both the heating and cooling aspects you are likely to need as the seasons’ shift forward.

Hiking from Site to Site

The state of your feet will affect your trip quickly if you don’t keep them in good shape. Ever walked long distances with one (or both) feet mad at you, metaphorically? You won’t be moving fast, and you will tire far more easily.

Everything up in the Living In A Tent section can also be important if you’re on a longer trip, but there is one more thing that applies directly to you:

Change your socks as soon as you think they feel even slightly damp. Don’t wait. Don’t decide to just go one more mile. Don’t choose to stay with the entire group rather than take the 3 minutes and then catch up (if you’re in a more precarious setting: don’t change them on the face of a cliff. Please stay situationally aware – yes, also real). If you’re in an unfamiliar area, ask someone to stay with you. Most likely they will appreciate the excuse to catch a breath, snag a snack, or just quietly enjoy the sounds of the local wildlife.

You want to avoid those troublesome skin conditions, and you want to avoid any odors that can develop. Don’t damage your feet, or your boots, just to get to the end faster.

Remember: hiking isn’t about finishing the distance, it’s about your surroundings as you go.

Weekend Warriors and Holiday Campers

I didn’t forget about you!

For your trips, with and without your family, socks can still provide everything I’ve already mentioned, just in short bursts of time and activity.

If you are unaccustomed to walking that far, you will definitely appreciate the extra padding.

If you are unaccustomed to not having 4 cups of coffee to get out the door, extending the heat of one with a sock insulator may help get you awake faster.

There’s also a chance that you’re carrying a water bottle better meant for a gym than for the outdoors. Use a sock to keep it from banging around, and as a little extra protection in case it takes a dive towards the ground. You can also use an extra sock around your neck (or elsewhere) for heating or cooling.

The extra padding can also be a great way to keep any whiny teenagers on their feet longer. 🙂

If you aren’t exactly using hiking boots for your walks, you especially need to spend a little extra time thinking about the socks you’re going to put on. Any added protection and support you can get can be the difference between an enjoyable or wretched visit to nature.



Does anyone else feel like I used the word ‘socks‘ so often that no spelling looks right? That’s how I feel…I think there’s a technical word for when that happens, but I’m can’t remember it right now. If you think of it, can you let me know in the comments? 🙂

Or, if you have a favorite sock story, or clean rhyme, please share it below!

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I'm (now) an Affiliate, who blogs about the materials, gear and supplies needed for living in a tent and long term camping: http://longtermcamping.siterubix.com I also enjoy reading and sci-fi in all its many forms.

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