The first woollen socks to be discovered were unearthed at Vindolanda in Northumbria and dated back to the 2nd century AD. They were a child-sized pair made from woven wool cloth meant to protect against the rough British weather. Roman tablets found at the site even include the instruction to “send more socks”.
If you are like most hunters you can’t get enough of a good pair of comfortable socks for the backcountry. To hear that on Roman tablets unearthed with the first woollen socks 2nd century AD was the phrase”…send more socks“, well, sounds strikingly familiar amongst todays hunter-gatherer’s.
Love & Marriage
Backcountry hunters around the West preach the importance of footwear as one of the MOST important aspects for hunting hard and deep in rugged terrain. Just as important are the socks you choose. Socks are the fabric that marry your feet to your footwear, and like any marriage the companion you choose matters.
Socks are the fabric that marry your feet to your footwear, and like any marriage the companion you choose matters.Muley Freak
It’s a down right shame when hunters dish out $300+ dollars on a pair of boots and then slips on a pair of socks not adequate for the challenges of the backcountry. Sometimes those high dollar boots will take the blame for foot problems caused by poor sock choice.
Your hunting sock should have 4 main purposes. 1) comfort, 2) protection from friction, 3) wick moisture, 4) temperature control. When you find a sock that does all those it’s like hitting the foot comfort jackpot.
Materials You Don’t Want
- Cotton: Let us get this one out of the way first so there is no confusion. If you are wearing cotton or a cotton blend sock for hunting then you need to quietly put those cotton socks in your next campfire and never wear them again while chasing game. Cotton is archaic when it comes to high activity performance wear. It absorbs too much moisture, takes long to dry, can’t regulate temperature, and it’s heavy. Keep the cotton socks for church and not for high physical output hunts.
Materials You Do Want
- Merino wool: A fiber harvested from Merino sheep. You’ll find a ton of high performance socks with merino wool in them. Wool is naturally anti-microbial and won’t get stinky as fast. After a few days in a pair of sweaty socks you’ll appreciate the anti-stink. Where merino wool really shines is its ability to regulate temperature. In cold weather the natural crimp in wool fibers creates tiny pockets of trapped warm air that act as insulators, holding in heat next to the body. This same process has a cooling effect in warm weather, as wool releases moisture it absorbs heat from the wearer and the tiny pockets of air created by the crimp in the fiber trap cool air and insulate the wearer from warmer outside temperatures. As wool pull moisture away from your skin to evaporate you feel cool and dry even in hot weather. Merino wool also has the ability to retain its insulating properties when wet.
- Polyesters: A common plastic-based synthetic fiber that’s strong, light and shrink-resistant. These synthetic materials add durability to socks and dry very quickly in the field. These poly materials can insulate, wick moisture very well and dry very fast. This material can be less comfortable in hot conditions and don’t insulate when wet.
- Nylon: Fibers made from durable, lightweight, synthetic polymers. Great at wicking moisture from your skin, providing durability of the sock over time and cutting down on bulk.
- Spandex, Elastane, & Lycra: These materials provide the socks with some elasticity that help with fit, comfort, and to stay in place. It also helps the socks hold their shape over time of wearing and washing. These elastic materials usually make up a smaller percentage of the overall build of the sock but are critically important.
*Different socks will have different percentages of each of these materials in the build of the sock. Read on to see 3 of our favorite socks.
Fit and Comfort
Sizing: When you put on the socks make sure that your heel is absolutely centered in the hell of the sock. This is critical to fit, your toes need to be where the toes should be and the heel should be right in that heel pocket, no exceptions. This fit is critical to your socks staying where they should be and reducing the risk of bunching and friction. Look at the manufacturers sizing chart and we’d suggest if you are on the edge of 2 different sizes err on the side of going smaller. If the socks are too short though you’ll find yourself bending over to pull them up often.
Arch Support: Some socks offer a tighter weave in the arch of the foot for ‘arch reinforcement’. Your boot and footbed should really be the structure that supports foot arches, not sure if a sock can really help support your arch or not but we like this feature because it helps to keep your sock in place on your foot.
Ventilation: There are some hiking and hunting socks that have sewn in ventilation. The ventilation is usually in the form of ‘air-vents’ where the material is thinner and allows hot air to escape. These would be really good for warmer weather hunting or if you have feet that sweat a lot.
Seams: Flip the sock inside out and check out the construction from the inside. If the seams stick out and aren’t flat this is a recipe for some big painful blisters, especially the toe seam. You may notice that some socks are constructed seamless as well. Doesn’t hurt to look on the inside of the sock.
This is pretty self explanatory. Socks usually come in three weights or thicknesses; 1) light, 2) mid, and 3)heavy weight. The heavier weight socks will be warmer and have more padding. Choose accordingly to the climate and what you prefer. Your boots can even help play a role in what weight sock you choose. A full grain leather boot will run warmer than a light hiker made of breathable synthetic material. You might be able to get away with a lighter weight sock in the full grain leather boot in cooler temps. The physical intensity of your hunt can also determine optimal sock weight. In general if your hunt is high intensity you’re gonna want to go with the lightest weight sock you can get away with.
The heavier weight socks will take up more room in your boots too. If you don’t have a lot of extra room in your boot the heavier weight socks might make those boots feel tight and uncomfortable. On the flip side of that, your socks can also be used as a tool to fine tune your boot fit. If you find your boots fitting with a little too much room then jump up in sock weight.
3 of Our Favorites
Make: 58% Merino / Nylon 32% / Poly 7% / 3% Spandex
Details: These socks are a lower cut sock, just above your boots. We like these shorter shocks for hot days because they stay low and don’t cover your calf and they are vented to get rid of heat and perspiration in the foot area. They’re great for trail running also if you’re in to that.
Make: 58% Merino / 40% Nylon / 2% Spandex
Details: These socks are cut long at 19″ and meant as a compression sock that goes over the calf. If you’re going to go really hard in the backcountry and you’re prone to sore legs then give these a go. Compression socks increase blood flow and help with keeping your legs fresh instead of sore. These tall over the calf socks also add warmth for the legs during cooler hunts.
Details: These socks are a mid-calf sock that are great for just about everything. Great cushion for those longer days on your feet. Darn Tough stands behind each pair of socks with a lifetime guarantee too! We’ve put it to the test.
Like we said before, socks are the piece of equipment that bond your feet and boots. It’s imperative to have a quality pair so don’t skimp. Purchase the best you can afford. If you feel like some of the price tags are a bit high watch for seasonal sales and closeouts, you’ll be surprised. We just scored two pairs of Fits light hiker crew for $14 (regularly $20/pair) on closeout. Another way to save money is to only wear them when you need them. I’ve had socks last years because these precious little treasures only go on my feet when I really hit the backcountry hard. Everyday use is out of the question when paying $20 a pair.
So however you get quality socks, just get them. Those along with some kick arse boots like Crispi will help you stay longer and hunt harder.