Trying Lightweight Hiking Socks

I tried lightweight socks on my most recent backpacking trip and really liked them. I’ve been wearing thick wool socks for backpacking since the 1970’s. I stopped using liner socks a decade or two ago, but I had never tried lighter main socks like the thru-hikers wear now.

The forecast was for continuous soaking rain, 48º temperatures, some steep trails, and a fair amount of idle time waiting for the next participant patrol to come to my area. That’s a good sock test, with a nice chance to have cold, wet feet, plus blisters. But less sock means less wet sock, right? And if I get a blister on a two-night outing, I can deal with that.

I grabbed some light socks at REI, Wigwam Merino Airlite Pro. They are roughly one third each of merino wool, stretch nylon, and polyester, plus a smudge of cotton. There is no cushioning, just a nice smooth fit.

Here they are with my previous socks, SmartWool Trekking, 77% merino wool and probably one of the heavier socks you can find.

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I tried out the new socks going work a couple of times and on neighborhood walks. My hiking shoes (well-ventilated trail runners) are my everyday go-to-work shoes.

They also passed inspection by Loken.

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Getting to the point, the socks were great. It did rain almost all Saturday, so they were soaked. The trail from base camp up to the ridge could use some switchbacks and general trail maintenance. It was a tougher test than expected. The trail down from the ridge needs a double black diamond sign. It goes straight down the fall line and was muddy and covered with wet leaves, perfect conditions for rubbing hot spots on your feet. I was planting my poles hard and practicing my trail glissade. In between, I spent two hours under a tarp waiting for patrols to visit my activity, and an equal amount of time in camp observing them set up and cook.

The socks slide a little bit in the my shoes, but that is OK. First, the shoes are sized for thicker socks, and second, I’d rather have the sock grip my foot and slide rather than the sock slide against my skin and cause blisters.

I wasn’t planning on saving weight in my pack, but these thin socks are meaningfully lighter. The heavyweight socks I’ve been wearing are 100 grams per pair, and these are 50g. When I carry two pair, that saves 100 grams, over three ounces.

If you haven’t figured it out, I’m now a thin sock hiker (the sock on the right). They even look good enough to be dress socks.

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