How to Choose a Hunting Sock
One of the first phone calls I took when I started doing Customer Service for BlackOvis was a gentleman who had just retired from his job. He explained that he was 71 years old and figured he had 15 or 20 years left. One of his retirement gifts to himself was buying 365 pairs of socks. For the first year of retirement he would get to wear a brand new pair of socks every day! Most likely each pair would only be worn a couple of dozen times before he passed away. This guy was my hero!
One of the simple joys in life is pulling on a brand new pair of socks. When you are on a long tough hunt one of the biggest moral boosters is a good fire, a hot meal and a warm, dry pair of socks back at camp. The old saying goes “ The feet feed the wolf” and for hunters this statement rings true. You could find success on a hunt without a spotting scope or range finder. You can struggle through with a sub par sleeping bag, pad or tent. But if your feet fail due to poor quality socks or boots your Gunwerks rifle, BTX spotter or Hilleberg tent are not going to save the day.
When you start looking at socks there are a few things to consider. Should you use a liner sock and a two sock system or just one? What's better: Merino wool or Synthetic? Light, medium or heavyweight which is best? Let's look at these one at a time and then I will offer some suggestions on my favorite socks.
Should I use a liner sock and outer sock? With a two sock system you are increasing variables which can make good fit and performance harder to dial in. Instead of finding one good sock you now need to find two good socks that will work together. Using two socks that don't work well with each other or with your boot can lead to increases in friction, bunching and cause blisters. If you have been using two with good results I wouldn't necessarily tell you to change, but generally wearing one sock makes fit and good performance easier to achieve. You are also cutting down on gear you have to pack on a hunt. Most guys will pack 2-3 socks for a 3-5 day hunt. You would need to double that if you are wearing two every day. I like to have 2 pairs of socks that I rotate day to day and then I keep one just for wearing in camp and sleeping.
Merino or Synthetic?
Which is better: Merino wool or synthetic? The short answer here is both. Merino wool is an amazing product. It is naturally antimicrobial, which helps keep your socks scent free. Wool also has fantastic natural insulating properties. It will insulate your feet and help keep you warm even when it is wet. Merino wool does have some down sides. It is slow to dry, does not stretch very well and is not ultra durable. Wool also does not naturally wick moisture very well. That is where the synthetic materials in a blend really improve performance. Synthetic materials generally include Lycra, spandex, nylon and polyester. All of these fibers improve on the natural benefits of wool by improving drying time, moisture wicking, stretch and durability. Look for a sock with at least 50% merino wool, but generally less than 75-80% wool.
Light, Medium or Heavyweight, what should I wear? If you are primarily a late season tree stand hunter, where long sits in cold weather are normal conditions. You should probably be wearing a heavyweight sock and be sure to size your boots with that thicker sock. For almost every other type of hunting and condition I would recommend a medium weight sock. On early season hunts where I know the temperatures will be high I sometimes wear a lightweight, but be sure your boot still fits well with the thinner sock. I have some boots I can bounce back and forth between a light and midweight sock with no issues, and other boots that just will not fit well unless I am wearing a midweight.
I am generally not a fan of using socks as insulation. Don’t get me wrong, you can definitely adjust your foot temperature based on the socks you are wearing, but If you plan on wearing a lightweight, uninsulated boot in August or September and then by putting on a thick, heavyweight sock wear the same boot on a rifle hunt in November you are setting yourself up for failure. Generally wearing an insulated boot with a midweight sock will be a better system. The insulation built into the boot tends to do a better job of providing consistent warmth retention. The midweight sock will help wick away any sweat, keeping you dry and your boot will fit better. Fitting one boot to multiple socks with different thicknesses can be a challenge. And an extended hunt in a poor fitting boot is never a good idea.
Now that we've covered some of the basics, here are a few of my favorite socks. All of these suggestions will be midweight socks, but most of these companies offer a lightweight version or equivalent as well.
61% Merino with added cushion in the heel and toe. This sock is made in America from 100% American grown wool and performs super well. I think this sock is on the thicker end of a midweight and would perform well through mid to late season. If you would like a lightweight version from Crispi try the San Juan or the Manti.
58% Merino wool with a manufacturer lifetime guarantee. This sock has a high comfort, compression feel and features full density cushioning on the heel, toe, and arch of your foot. This added cushioning helps with all day comfort without adding bulk or volume. In my experience this sock has the most efficient moisture wicking properties and is ultra comfortable. Personally, it's my favorite sock. Also available in a lightweight version.
66% Merino wool. Smartwool has made a fantastic midweight hiker that is still available today. The PhD Hunt series improves on their classic design by adding body mapped mesh zones for increased breathability and virtually seamless toe design. Also available in a lightweight or Heavyweight option.
59% Merino Wool. This sock offers added cushion under your foot and a performance fit, which help keep the sock in place and comfortable. Darn Tough socks are known for their moisture wicking and durability which is backed up by there no strings, lifetime guarantee. Darn Tough also offers a few Lightweight and Heavyweight options.
In my current role with Crispi boots I am amazed at how many guys are willing to invest large sums of money in boots, optics, rifles, camo and other gear, but pause at spending considerably less on a few pairs of really high quality socks. Any of the socks I mentioned above would be a great addition to your gear list. Invest in a couple of pairs and I’m sure you will see a difference.