Choosing socks are a very important part of backpacking. Socks help to protect your feet, which we all know is a necessary part of backpacking. Choosing the right sock can make backpacking a successful and enjoyable experience, while choosing the wrong socks can cause quite the opposite.
Some people will wear 2 pair of socks for backpacking. A very thin polypropylene sock and then a heavier-weight wool sock over this. However, some prefer to just wear the one sock, and this is usually a wool sock. Do not wear cotton socks. These will retain any moisture and will more than likely lead to painful blisters. Of course length of sock depends on user preference, but also on type of shoe / boot worn and time of year or conditions expected.
Boots / Shoes / Sandals, etc…
Choosing the right footwear is a very critical part of your hike. If your feet ain’t happy, you definitely ain’t happy. And on the trail, your feet are carrying both you and your pack, as well as traversing some rough terrain that stresses your feet even more. So, fitting your feet with the proper socks and shoes (boots, or whatever) are very important if you want to enjoy your hike.
If you are able to go to an Outfitter and have an experienced salesperson fit you is the best way. However, this is not always the case. So the best thing to do is to study up on boots on the internet. The New Balance site has some good info for learning all things feet! Also, Dr. Scholl’s have kiosk set up at some stores that will actually do a foot-mapping of your foot, which will allow you to know more about your foot, and what you need for them.
Now that you have a better idea about your feet, go get the socks that you will be wearing while wearing the boots and try the boots on with those socks. Walk around the store with them on, and up inclines if they are available. Also, walk down the incline. You do not want your toes hitting the front of the boots. Be sure though that when going downhill you tighten your laces, as this will help to keep your foot from sliding towards the front of the boot. You can also lock your laces to help hold a good tight knot.
So, three things to look for in good fit of a shoe:
- The heel sits firmly in the heel cup, and does not slide side to side or forward.
- The toes do not hit the front of the boot while walking downhill.
- You have the proper arch support (this depends on your foot).
Also, there are quite a few different types of footwear that you can wear while backpacking. Again, it all depends on what you need, and what you are comfortable wearing. of course it can also depend on what kind of hiking you are doing, as well as weight that you are carrying.
There are Trail Runners, which are basically tennis shoes. They may be more geared towards hiking rather than running, by adding super-grippy soles and using mesh so that your foot can breathe well, and the shoe will dry out fast. Typically, these are worn by light-weight backpackers, but again, it all depends on your specific needs.
Of course there are boots. All kinds of boots. Leather and mesh. Waterproof and non-waterproof. Mid’s and high’s. And the decisions go on and on. These are of course used in many different settings, which one depends on which setting, and personal choice.
Sandals are also used by a few. Lots of hikers typically bring an extra pair of shoes to wear around camp so that they can get out of their boots for a little while, or to wear while crossing rivers so they keep their boots dry. Sandals are a good fit for these activities, however, some just decide to wear sandals for the whole trip. Again, personal decision.