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Best Hiking Socks of 2020

By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Wednesday October 7, 2020
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Our experts have put over 30 of the best hiking socks to the test in the last decade after countless adventures. This 2020 update features 10 of the market's top options that we compared side-by-side for months. Some pairs have been in our testers' rotation for years. To test, we traveled the globe in search of remote and beautiful lands. We backpacked, sailed, climbed, rappelled, and ran through less-traveled territory with these pairs. They got soaked, compressed, wrung out, smashed with dirt, and washed in rivers. After hundreds of hands-on testing hours, our recommendations come from direct experience to help you find the best socks for you.

Top 10 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 10
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Best Overall Hiking Socks


Darn Tough Hiker Full Cushion


Editors' Choice Award

$25.95
at Backcountry
See It

81
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 9
  • Wicking and Breathability - 25% 7
  • Warmth - 20% 8
  • Durability - 20% 9
  • Drying Speed - 10% 7
Materials: 66% merino wool, 32% nylon | Cushioning: Medium
Comfortable fit
Fantastic durability
Impeccable temperature regulation
Not best for hot weather
"Full" cushioning underfoot is not super thick

The Darn Tough Full Cushion Hiker is our all-time favorite for its impressive performance across all categories. They are continually an excellent option for all adventures we take them on. Balancing durability and performance, it's our top recommendation. They are long and boot compatible, but thin enough to be worn with a sturdy pair of hiking shoes. The fibers are soft and comfortable with a durable construction, backed by a lifetime warranty. After four years of testing, we still haven't worn a hole through — even with hundreds of miles logged. The men and women's specific fits are right on the money and feel good on a wide or narrow foot.

While we love it to pieces, its downside lives in its breathability. It offers great airflow with its paneled compression system, but the fabric is so tight-knit that it can't compare to other synthetic or loosely knit competitors. This makes it a stellar option for the icy weather of winter or chilly early spring and fall days, but it's less ideal for a hike during the heat of summer. If you're looking for a sock that trumps the rest in our tests, it's time to consider investing in a pair of these Darn Tough socks.

Read the review: Darn Tough Hiker Full Cushion

Best Bang for the Buck


Danish Endurance Unisex Merino Wool


Best Buy Award

$12.95
(57% off)
at Amazon
See It

69
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 8
  • Wicking and Breathability - 25% 8
  • Warmth - 20% 7
  • Durability - 20% 5
  • Drying Speed - 10% 5
Material Type: 33% merino wool, acrylic & polyamide | Cushioning: Medium
Fantastic value
Comfortable & cozy
Great breathability
Fabric bunching in toes
Durability issues

The Danish Unisex Merino Wool Sock is a high-value merino-synthetic hiking sock. Given its lower price, we are surprised at how breathable and comfortable it feels on the trail. The higher cut on the calf is compatible with hiking boots but thin enough to work well in a pair of hiking shoes. While the cushioning is plush, it's not maximal, making it a great option for any adventure through all seasons. It usually comes in a three-pack, which works out to a price that is half the cost of most hikers out there. It is offered in a unisex fit that works for both the ladies and the gents.

Even though it is built as a merino wool blend, it integrates more synthetic materials than the uber-insulating wool materials. As a result, it's not very warm in the winter when you are standing still for long periods. Also, for those with a more narrow foot, the toe box isn't super specific and bunches up, especially when wet. Aside from these caveats, it's still a high-value merino blend option that won't drain the wallet.

Read the review: Danish Unisex Merino Wool Socks

Best Lightweight Cushioning


Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew


Top Pick Award

$20.95
at Backcountry
See It

78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 8
  • Wicking and Breathability - 25% 9
  • Warmth - 20% 5
  • Durability - 20% 8
  • Drying Speed - 10% 9
Materials: 54% nylon, 43% merino wool | Cushioning: Light
Excellent fit
Superior breathability and wicking power
Quick to dry
Fantastic durability
Not a lot of stand-alone warmth

The Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew offers a thinner, more breathable construction for men and women. The high concentration of nylon provides powerful wicking power with plenty of breathable panels. This is the sock to wear if your feet sweat a lot or you find yourself in hot places. The height is compatible with low or mid-height hiking boots or running shoes, making it compatible for a wide range of uses. Its drying speed is impeccable, keeping feet dry on long adventures.

This sock will offer plenty of heat while in motion (given its high proportion of merino wool), but doesn't offer the most warmth while sitting still. It's not a great choice for winter camping or standing around in the cold. However, if breathable and durable construction is what you seek, we think you should check out this product.

Read the review: Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew

Read the review:Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion - Women's

Best Synthetic Model


Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro


Wigwam Hiking Outdoor
Top Pick Award

$16.00
at Amazon
See It

75
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 7
  • Wicking and Breathability - 25% 8
  • Warmth - 20% 7
  • Durability - 20% 8
  • Drying Speed - 10% 7
Materials: 41% polypro, 34% acrylic, 23% nylon | Cushioning: Medium
Durable
Comfortable & Breathable
Quick to dry
Less specific fit
Wicking ability drops in cold weather

The Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro is one of our longest tested socks and has proven its longevity and breathability in warm weather. We've been testing this sock for over six years, and it is still going strong. The 100% synthetic construction offers excellent breathability with super durable fibers that still haven't stretched out and only show minor signs of pilling. It'll dry quickly on the trail (as proved in our dryer and field tests), making it a good option for soggy and dry environments.

Unfortunately, this sock isn't very warm. Once the mercury drops to around freezing, it also loses its wicking power, making it best for warmer weather conditions. The fit is less specific than other options, too. While it doesn't slide down the leg while traveling, it lacks compressive paneling, which sometimes causes it to bunch in the toes if the fit isn't spot on. If you're seeking a synthetic sock with excellent durability and performance in warmer temperatures, it comes highly recommended by us.

Read Review: Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro

Notable Mention for Breathability


Wrightsock Coolmesh II Crew


64
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 7
  • Wicking and Breathability - 25% 9
  • Warmth - 20% 4
  • Durability - 20% 4
  • Drying Speed - 10% 8
Materials: Synthetic | Cushioning: Light
Super breathable
"Blister-Prevention" construction
Dries very quickly
Lacks durability
Not very warm

The Wrightsock CoolMesh II Crew is possibly the most breathable and quick-drying synthetic sock we've tested. When choosing which to wear on the hottest days of summer, this is the one we chose. It features a unique 100% synthetic construction that utilizes a 'double sock' technology. There are two layers where the outer layer is nice and thin, while the interior is thicker and burlier. This allows the fabric to slide around on each other, helping to reduce friction on your skin, and thus blisters. The fabric itself is porous and dries quickly. It fits well and is quite comfortable for all-day wear with both women and men specific designs.

The downsides? It's not very warm, and its durability is questionable. While this is quite a popular sock, we noticed wear and tear after just 10 miles on the trail. Aside from that, it is our top choice if you frequent hot weather and need a little extra when it comes to blister prevention.

Read review: Wrightsock CoolMesh II Crew

Backpacking into the Grand Canyon on the New Hance Trail is one of the many reasons you might want to get a great performing hiking sock.
Backpacking into the Grand Canyon on the New Hance Trail is one of the many reasons you might want to get a great performing hiking sock.


Why You Should Trust Us


This review is brought to you by OutdoorGearLab Senior Review Editor Amber King. She is an endurance athlete that loves to trail run, splitboard, hike, and backpack. She spends most of her time exploring places in remote, trail-less terrain such as the Hornstrandir Nature Preserve, and on the rocky and exposed trails that make up one of the world's hardest ultraraces, the Hardrock 100. She also enjoys figuring out the most efficient and most lightweight systems while fastpacking through these mountains.

The hunt for the best hiking sock began by combing through the market to find potential test candidates. We selected the top 10 to purchase, compare, and wear side-by-side. We consider the most important things that a hiking sock does and design tests around these performance areas. For example, the warmth metric was broken down into dry and wet warmth, with the socks being worn in cold weather while either dry or wet, in succession. Durability was evaluated after each pair had roughly 60 miles on them. Drying speed was measured both in the field and in controlled conditions in the lab. We truly look for the best products out there to provide our readers with the most useful recommendations based on our experience.

Related: How We Tested Hiking Socks

Enjoy the views! Here we hang out at the top of a peak in Southwest Colorado. This sock is suited for all conditions... rain or shine.
Long hikes in Iceland with a few socks to assess.
Compatible with hiking boots  this full length sock provides additional warmth through the calves.

Analysis and Test Results


In this review, we focus on mid- and lightweight hiking socks with functionality for all adventures. We evaluate each with five core metrics, including comfort, warmth, drying speed, breathability, and durability. Now you can guide yourself to the right hiking socks for your purposes.

Related: Buying Advice for Hiking Socks

A solid hiking sock is integral to any backpacking or hiking adventure on your itinerary. Be sure you buy a pair that works for you and one that has a reputation for great performance.
A solid hiking sock is integral to any backpacking or hiking adventure on your itinerary. Be sure you buy a pair that works for you and one that has a reputation for great performance.

Value


Getting a sock that is durable and won't break down after minimal use is super important. Here at OutdoorGearLab, we strive to provide great recommendations that aren't just all about performance but also won't crash your budget. We find a lot of value in sock manufacturers that offer a lifetime guarantee and are constructed of more durable materials. For example, brands like Darn Tough and Farm to Feet advertise and offer a lifetime guarantee that allows you to send back your socks if you're not happy. The Farm to Feet proves to be the most expensive, followed by Darn Tough (depending on the style you seek). On the other end of the spectrum are the less expensive options that also provide a decent level of performance and durability. The Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro offers superior durability and protection but is not as high value as the Danish Unisex Merino Wool Socks. There are great deals out there for great performing socks.


Socks on Sale
Strategically shopping for socks can pay off. Sock colors are often updated once or twice per year, and when this happens, the older colorways are usually available at a steep discount.

Comfort & Fit


When testing this metric, we consider many variables that contribute to comfort. This includes panels of cushioning, relative thickness, and specificity of fit. We look at how each feels during low and high-intensity exercise, specifically backpacking, hiking, and running while adventuring over technical and smooth surfaces. After taking on challenges that push our physical boundaries, we note which sock is the most comfortable to pull on and just relax with. Socks that fit well with midweight cushioning and a merino wool composition are typically the most comfortable. Those that are a tube of fabric without strategic architecture are typically less comfortable for adventuring for many miles. This review is for both men and women, so we note which socks are unisex and which have designs that are specific to both men & women.


Cushioning
Ample Cushioning

While most hiking socks are pretty darn comfortable, some contenders stand out better than others. Those with the highest amount of underfoot cushioning are typically best suited for super technical trails or just pulling on after a long day out on the trail. The Smartwool brand socks are renowned for the comfortable wool and long-lasting trail comfort. For example, the Smartwool Hike Medium Crew is a tube of super lofty cushioning around the top and bottom of the foot, and through the calf. These are a favorite, along with the REI Co-op Lightweight Merino Wool Hiking Crew, for pulling on after a long, hard day on the trail.

A look at the different cushioned options. The Smartwool (center) offers the best in cushioning followed by the Darn Tough Full Cushion (bottom) and the REI lightweight cushion (top).
A look at the different cushioned options. The Smartwool (center) offers the best in cushioning followed by the Darn Tough Full Cushion (bottom) and the REI lightweight cushion (top).

The Smartwool PhD Pro Light Crew outperforms the Smartwool Hike Medium Crew because it is designed more thoughtfully with more a more compressive and specific fit that provides better breathability. Both are highly comfortable, but for different reasons.

The most comfortable and cozy socks are the ones with ample cushioning. Here  we lounge out in the morning at Blue Lakes in the Sneffles Wilderness while taking in the early morning sun on the peaks above.
The most comfortable and cozy socks are the ones with ample cushioning. Here, we lounge out in the morning at Blue Lakes in the Sneffles Wilderness while taking in the early morning sun on the peaks above.

In comparison to the Darn Tough Hiker Full Cushion, the Smartwool socks offer a higher level of cushioning. This sock is deemed quite comfortable simply because of the fit, but the fibers are more tightly compacted, which feels a little scratchy to some. In our testing, we deem this a very comfortable and well-fitted sock that offers better performance than the Smartwool Lightweight Hiking Crew. In comparison to the Smartwool PhD Pro Light, the Darn Tough offers less plush cushioning overall. For a 'fully cushioned' sock, it feels like it has a lighter amount of cushioning. So, if you're seeking the best cushioning out there, look to the Smartwool PhD Pro Light Crew or the Smartwool Hike Medium Crew.

A comfortable hiking sock is important for long days on the trail. Here we take a picture as we prepare to ascend a few thousand feet to the rim of the canyon  after staying and hiking for three days.
A comfortable hiking sock is important for long days on the trail. Here we take a picture as we prepare to ascend a few thousand feet to the rim of the canyon, after staying and hiking for three days.

Lightweight Cushioning

Most of the socks fit into this category, but the level of "lightweight" cushioning is seemingly quite variable. For example, the Wrightsock CoolMesh II Crew is super thin with hardly any cushioning at all, while our favorite for lightweight cushioning, the Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew is stacked with more protection, but not as much as the Darn Tough Full Cushion. The REI Lightweight Merino Wool Hiking Crew offers great breathable panels, but the cushioning is closer to medium than light.

The Darn Tough Light Hiker Crew offers comfortable performance that'll protect on multi-day and single-day hikes. Here we check out trails around our property near Ouray  Colorado.
The Darn Tough Light Hiker Crew offers comfortable performance that'll protect on multi-day and single-day hikes. Here we check out trails around our property near Ouray, Colorado.

Of those that sport lightweight cushioning, the Darn Tough Light Hiker is our favorite simply because the fabric performs well in all conditions and feels good. It provides protective cushioning responsive enough to carry a heavy pack and protects through the Achilles. It's not as plush as the Smartwool brands but is thicker than the Injinji Outdoor Midweight Crew NuWool and Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro sock. The Smartwool Pro is said to be a lightweight sock and offers great areas of ventilation. However, the material is super plush underfoot, feeling more like a medium level of cushioning. The Farm to Feet Damascus Midweight is another super comfortable contender that claims a 'medium' level of cushioning but is lighter and more similar to the Darn Tough Light Hiker. It offers a little more plushness in its cushioning than the Darn Tough.

The Injinji Outdoor Crew socks offer exceptional breathability and little comfort underfoot. Many runners and hikers prefer a thin sock for its enhanced level of breathability. The individual toe design may help prevent hot spots for those who are blister prone.
The Injinji Outdoor Crew socks offer exceptional breathability and little comfort underfoot. Many runners and hikers prefer a thin sock for its enhanced level of breathability. The individual toe design may help prevent hot spots for those who are blister prone.

When considering ample cushioning, the Smartwool options are our top recommendations, while the Darn Tough Light Hiker is our favorite for lightweight cushioning. Now, let's take a look at the fit.

Fit

Fit is another function of comfort. A well-fitted sock that doesn't slip or bunch will help to keep your feet happy for long miles on the trail. In this section, we compare the relative fit of different socks. Those that performed the best have integrated areas of compression and thoughtfully structured toe boxes that don't deform under stress. We also look at the relative sock heights and compatibility with different hiking shoes and boots.

This sock has a female-specific fit that is more narrow through the forefoot and heel. We also love the compression strip that wraps the arch of the foot. This prevents slippage and friction while hiking over technical terrain.
This sock has a female-specific fit that is more narrow through the forefoot and heel. We also love the compression strip that wraps the arch of the foot. This prevents slippage and friction while hiking over technical terrain.

Female and male-specific fit are to be considered. Typically, a female-specific sock will have a more narrow profile throughout the toe box and heel. While a sock may be 'female-specific' or 'male-specific' it's important to look at your foot. If you have a very narrow foot profile and struggle to find a well-fitted sock, consider a female sock option. If you have a wider foot and women's socks don't fit well, consider a male-specific sock. Most socks that aren't specifically built for one sex typically work for both.

Most of the socks we tested integrate elastic materials that keep the sock in place while on the trail. For example, all the highest performers, such as the Darn Tough Full Cushion, integrate a compressive material around the arch and the calf. Darn Tough also uses a more tightly knit design in the fabric that 'hugs' the foot. The Smartwool brands don't hug the foot as much and allow a little more freedom. Of the Smartwool socks, the Smartwool PhD Pro stays in place the best, while the Smartwool Hike Medium Crew is more like a tube of material that lacks compressive paneling.

Flip your socks inside out to reveal its architecture. Here we see the ample cushioning underfoot and highly breathable architecture that's the pinnacle in this sock's excellent performance.
Flip your socks inside out to reveal its architecture. Here we see the ample cushioning underfoot and highly breathable architecture that's the pinnacle in this sock's excellent performance.

The REI Light Hiker is very similar to the Smartwool Hike Medium Crew in the level of cushioning, but the fit is more specific as it integrates a compressive panel around the arch to keep it in place. As a result, we prefer this sock when it comes to fit and performance because of its enhanced fit.

Overall, if you're in the market for a comfortable and cozy sock option, look into the Smartwool Hike Medium Crew or REI Light Hiker. Both offer ample underfoot cushioning and are a favorite for pulling on after a long day on the trail. In terms of performance comfort, our favorites include the Darn Tough Full Cushion, the Smartwool PhD Pro Light Crew. Both are well-fitted and offer great underfoot protection. These are all great options for longer or more technical trails. If lightweight comfort is what you seek, look into the Farm to Feet Damascus Midweight or Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew (for both men and women).

Wicking and Breathability


Wicking and breathability are important to avoid the dreaded 'swamp foot.' A sock that can thermoregulate well and move moisture away from your foot will inherently keep you happy and comfortable for long days on the trail. We ran, hiked, biked, and backpacked over distances ranging from one to 28 miles to test this metric. We took socks through a wide range of temperatures and conditions, too.


Socks with a thinner construction or loosely packed fibers typically breathe better than those that are thicker or have a higher density construction. By far, the most breathable contenders feature 100% synthetic construction. The Wrightsock CoolMesh II Crew totally crushes this category, being a clear choice for hot weather. It integrates thinner synthetic materials and ventilation that allows water vapor to escape effectively. The interior layer is soft against the foot and wicking away moisture efficiently. If you're looking for a warm or hot weather sock, this is our favorite.

We enjoy a Spring jaunt that has us meeting many puddles and mud in the Darn Tough Light Hiker sock. It's the best lightweight sock we've tested so far.
We enjoy a Spring jaunt that has us meeting many puddles and mud in the Darn Tough Light Hiker sock. It's the best lightweight sock we've tested so far.

The Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro is another great option offering fantastic breathability. The fit is looser, so it doesn't wick as well as the Wrightsock, but the looser knit and larger coils along the interior of the sock grab moisture to move it effectively away from the foot. Unfortunately, this sock loses its wicking power in colder weather, as we observed on a winter camping trip. Luckily, you can fit a liner underneath the sock that helps to increase its ability to wick. The Injinji Outdoor Midweight Crew NuWool also provides superior breathability, though some of our testers mentioned that sweat lingers in spots between the toes, so it didn't score as high as the Wrightsock or Wigwam.

Jo tests the Darn Tough Full Cushion sock while trying to tag a peak close to 12 000 feet. On the way  we encountered big snowfields that totally drenched the sock. Luckily  it offers great wicking power to keep her foot dry.
Jo tests the Darn Tough Full Cushion sock while trying to tag a peak close to 12,000 feet. On the way, we encountered big snowfields that totally drenched the sock. Luckily, it offers great wicking power to keep her foot dry.

Of the wool-synthetic blends, the Darn Tough Light Hiker and Farm to Feet Damascus Midweight offer a similar level of breathability that is superior. Both utilize ventilation patterns along the upper portion of the foot and throughout the length of the calf, while the Darn Tough Light Hiker is shorter in design. Less coverage makes it a more breathable sock and more suitable for warmer conditions. The Darn Tough Hiker has revamped their sock to offer superior wicking power to the Damascus Midweight and stays dry throughout the day.

The Darn Tough Full Cushion did well and proves to offer a similar level of breathability as the Smartwool Hike Medium Crew or the REI Co-op Lightweight Merino Wool Hiking Crew. While the Darn Tough has thinner materials and offers areas for ventilation, the weave isn't as loose as these other options so moisture can get stuck in the material. Between the REI and Smartwool, the REI offers a breathable panel around the arch, making it more breathable than the Smartwool sock.

Here we test the breathability and wicking capability of each hiking sock by running through the thin air of the Peruvian Andes.
Here we test the breathability and wicking capability of each hiking sock by running through the thin air of the Peruvian Andes.

The Smartwool PhD Pro Light Crew is our favorite thicker sock option. The ventilation panels are large and extend from the arch to the top of the foot and go through the length of the calf, similar to the Darn Tough Full Cushion. The only difference is the material is more loosely knit, making water transfer easier, and thus more breathable.

Overall, if you're seeking a thinner sock that wicks and breaths the best, the Wrightsock CoolMesh II Crew is your best bet. While all the socks we tested breathe relatively well, of the merino-synthetic blends, the Darn Tough Light Hiker is our favorite, for its thinner materials, followed by the Farm to Feet Damascus Midweight. Of the thicker socks, the Smartwool PhD Pro Light Crew is by far the best.

Hiking and running in wet climates demand a sock that will wick and breath well. Here we run it out at the start of a 20-mile day on the remote island of Hornstrandir in Iceland. Through this run  we encountered wet  sandy beaches  tall grass  and heavy rain. Through it all  this sock kept our feet relatively happy and warm.
Hiking and running in wet climates demand a sock that will wick and breath well. Here we run it out at the start of a 20-mile day on the remote island of Hornstrandir in Iceland. Through this run, we encountered wet, sandy beaches, tall grass, and heavy rain. Through it all, this sock kept our feet relatively happy and warm.

Warmth


A good hiking sock will keep you warm when you need it the most, whether you are summiting a mountain or curling up in a cozy sleeping bag. When looking at warmth, we take into consideration the wet and dry warmth of each sock. To test warmth when wet, we dunk each sock in water, intrepidly bite down on our lower lip, and hike around in cold temperatures. To test warmth when dry, we fly ourselves to remote places in Alaska during early spring or camp out at altitude through the summer months, where temperatures vary from 10F to 35F daily. Then we take each sock on split-boarding missions by day and snow-camp adventures at night. In the end, we rate each hiking sock based on performance in these conditions.


If sublime warmth is your goal, it's essential to look for a sock that integrates more wool than synthetic materials. These typically offer impressive warmth when both wet and dry. For example, the Darn Tough Full Cushion, Smartwool Hike Medium, and REI Co-op Lightweight Merino Wool Hiking Crew offer the best warmth in both wet and dry conditions, with the proportional amount of merino wool being higher than other materials. This is simply because wool insulates both when wet and dry more effectively than other synthetic materials like nylon or polyester. These socks provide more warmth and a much wider range of thermoregulation. The Danish Unisex Merino Wool Socks is an example of a merino wool synthetic blend that isn't as warm as the socks mentioned above. This is because it integrates only 33% merino wool among other synthetic materials, whereas the other options offer between 66%-70% merino wool in its construction, along with thicker materials.

Wet weather is inevitable in Iceland. Here  our main tester logs the miles while fastpacking over 90 miles in three days in a remote  cold  and wet place. Her calf-length socks provide warmth  even in these crazy conditions.
Wet weather is inevitable in Iceland. Here, our main tester logs the miles while fastpacking over 90 miles in three days in a remote, cold, and wet place. Her calf-length socks provide warmth, even in these crazy conditions.

Synthetic socks, like the Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro, perform well in warm conditions, but lack warmth when temperatures drop as they tend to lose their wicking properties when dry or wet. That said, they still do insulate well when wet, offering protection in colder weather, as long as you stay mobile.

Toe socks like the Injinji Outdoor Midweight Crew NuWool are colder than traditional styles because of their individualized digit design. This keeps toes away from each other, which doesn't enable a 'warming effect,' similar to how mittens are typically warmer than gloves. Of the socks tested, this is the coldest sock in both wet and dry conditions.

We also tested the Darn Tough Light Hiker while cross country skiing in cold weather. These lightweight contenders typically offer enough insulation while on the move in colder weather.
We also tested the Darn Tough Light Hiker while cross country skiing in cold weather. These lightweight contenders typically offer enough insulation while on the move in colder weather.

Overall, if you're seeking a sock that'll keep you warm, opt for those that offer the highest proportion of wool to synthetic materials. In both wet and dry conditions, this construction supersedes the rest. More specifically, the REI Co-op Lightweight Merino Wool Hiking Crew (79% merino wool) and Smartwool Hike Medium Crew (66% merino wool) are our two favorites.

Durability


Socks really do take a beat down while exploring outdoors, and a good one will last you for several hundred miles before failing. Testing durability in a short period can be pretty tough, but we managed to see a difference after putting 60 miles on each sock tested. This has been our fifth year testing these socks, with some seeing very few changes. After these years of fastpacking, hiking, and biking, we've been able to note big differences in durability.


First and foremost, when looking at durability, consider the warranty that comes with the sock. Darn Tough offers a lifetime guarantee of the sock, even after you've tried to wear holes into the material. In our experience, they are totally bomber. The materials are tightly knit, the fibers are strong, and we haven't had any bad experiences yet. Even though the upfront cost on both is relatively high, we know we are buying a product that will last for hundreds of miles. In our testing, we've had the same socks for over four years, logged over 500 miles on them, and they are still going. While some have definitely experienced holes after lots of use, we rest easy as you can send them back to Darn Tough, and they will send you a new pair — without an additional cost.

A look at the Darn Tough Hiker with full cushion. It still looks like new after being laundered. This one has about 50 miles on it at the time of taking this photo.
A look at the Darn Tough Hiker with full cushion. It still looks like new after being laundered. This one has about 50 miles on it at the time of taking this photo.

While we haven't tested the Farm to Feet Damascus Midweight as extensively, they offer the same warranty. We wore these primarily on a month-long sailing, fastpacking, and running trip in Iceland. Throughout, they continued to perform, even after logging upwards of 200 miles. We still have them in hand, a year later, and they are still crushing it.

The Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro is a burly synthetic model that should last for seasons to come. After 60 miles of use, it still looks brand new with very little noted wear and tear. While the Darn Tough varieties showed pilling after this amount of time, the Wigwam had none to speak of. After about five years of testing this sock, we can confidently say it is highly durable and should last you for many seasons.

How should you wash your socks? In short, turn them inside out, machine wash on a gentle setting in cool or warm water, use mild soap, and tumble dry low.

Drying Speed


A sock that dries quickly has a large advantage on multi-day backpacking trips, especially in rainy climates or on trails that have seen a fresh rain. To test drying speed, we went hiking and backpacking in the field, purposely dunking our feet into streams and rivers along the way. We continued to hike to see if each would dry out on their own. In addition to these subjective field tests, we performed very precise drying analysis to see how quickly each dry in a home dryer. These two data points help us determine which socks dry the fastest and which retain water.


A look at the socks participating in our drying tests.

All the socks tested are constructed to appropriate materials, and for the purpose of hiking and backpacking, all dried within an appropriate amount of time to deem it fit for hiking. Though of all the socks tested, the Wrightsock CoolMesh II Crew demonstrate the best drying capabilities. Like the Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro, it is a full synthetic sock. In just 60 minutes of drying at low heat, it was completely dry.

The Wigwam Hiking Pro lands second place drying in just 70 minutes, similar to the Darn Tough Light Hiker. However, the Light Hiker earns a lower score because they typically took longer to dry during our air drying tests in a fairly humid environment. The Darn Tough Full Cushion surprised us, drying in 70 minutes, like the Wigwam, and offers a quick-drying capability on the trail.

One of the many ways we test our socks. Here we dry out two pairs in the faraway lands of Iceland while fastpacking through the Hornstrandir Nature Preserve. These climates are wet  testing how quickly each sock dries.
One of the many ways we test our socks. Here we dry out two pairs in the faraway lands of Iceland while fastpacking through the Hornstrandir Nature Preserve. These climates are wet, testing how quickly each sock dries.

Overall, if you're seeking a fast-drying sock, the Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro and Wrightsock CoolMesh II Crew offer the fastest drying time. These two socks are constructed of 100% synthetic materials. If you prefer a wool-synthetic blend instead, check out the Darn Tough Hiker Full Cushion and Farm to Feet Damascus Midweight, as they both offer impeccable performance in our on-trail tests and objective, in-house dryer tests.

Hiking provides you with the opportunity to see and connect with the most remote and beautiful places in the world. A good pair of hiking socks will provide you with the means to do that in a comfortable way.
Hiking provides you with the opportunity to see and connect with the most remote and beautiful places in the world. A good pair of hiking socks will provide you with the means to do that in a comfortable way.

Conclusion


We have taken these socks to three continents to test and learn about their advantages and pitfalls. In these varying climates, we've been able to identify recommendations best for any trail condition. When you're looking for a bomber trail sock, be sure you take into consideration how you need it to perform. There are many options out there, and the perfect one for you is ready to be found.

Amber King