MEN’S BACKPACKING SOCKS SHOWDOWN
This is a review of 4 different Merino Wool men’s size us-13 hiking socks.
- Point 6 Hiking Tech Light
- Smartwool PhD
- Wrightsocks Coolmesh 2
- Vermont Darn Tough CoolMax Hiker Micro Crew
About the review:
I walked at least 100 miles in each of these socks across both the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails.
My feet are size 13 (us) 3E (aka size 13, extra wide). While testing these socks, I was using Merrel Moab Ventillator Low non-goretex shoes. My feet are often sweaty; I take a lot of breaks to let my shoes and socks air dry.
These socks give me terrible blisters every time I wear them. Despite frequently stopping trailside to take of my shoes and socks, these socks cannot stay dry.
Darn Tough socks are thick and durable. They will last a long time. But they’ll destroy your feet in the process.
Only use Darn Tough Coolmax Hiker Micro Crew socks if you’re confident that they won’t give you blisters. People who have ever had a blister, or people whose feet sweat while wearing normal shoes, should NOT buy Darn Tough Coolmax Hiker Micro Crew socks.
These socks do not fit my feet well. There is a lot of extra fabric around the heel and toe box that is not filled by my feet, despite the socks being correctly sized (according to the manufacturer) for my size 13 feet.
The Merino Wool fabric is not tightly woven; there are loose Merino Wool fibers on the inside of the sock.
These socks tended to retain salts from evaporating sweet. As that salt dried, it rendered the socks more brittle than a piece of fabric ought to be.
Pros: Very durable. Duh; the name is “Darn Tough”
Cons: Thick and durable to the point of inducing severe blisters.
VERDICT: Stay away from Vermont Darn Tough Coolmax Hiker Micro Crew
Don’t try to backpack long distances in these socks. Despite being extremely comfortable, these socks are not durable enough for life on the trail.
The Wrightsocks Coolmesh II socks lasted exactly 110 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail before a rip that’d been developing in them rendered them unusable.
Last year, while hiking the Appalachian Trail, I ruined a different pair of Wrightsocks Coolmesh II socks in only 70 miles!
Pros: Easily the most comfortable set of socks on this list. The two-layer construction handles moisture and friction with ease.
Cons: Not durable at all. These socks will likely fail within 100 miles of hiking.
VERDICT: Only buy Wrightsocks Coolmesh II if you’ve got a lot of money to keep replacing them.
These socks never failed me while wearing them for over 1,000 miles. Point 6’s Hiking Tech Light socks strike a great balance between thickness and breathability.
When stopping trailside to air out my shoes and socks (as I often do due to my sweaty feet), these socks take only a few minutes to dry completely. They wick moisture very well, and the inside of the sock (e.g. when the sock is inside-out) is often dryer than the outside.
The fabric is very tightly woven: there are few loose Merino Wool fibers on the inside of the Point 6 Hiking Tech Light sock.
Pros: Great breathability, great fit.
Cons: After walking 1,200 miles in a single pair of Point 6 Hiking Tech Light socks on the Appalachian Trail, the elastic around the ankle failed. (A bit of humor, here: 1,200 miles is well beyond the life expectancy of a sock!)
VERDICT: The Point 6 Hiking Tech Light socks are truly great.
The Smartwool PhD socks are similar to the Point 6 Hiking Tech Light socks, but they’re a bit thicker in places and not as tightly woven (more loose fibers). I like these socks, and their wider availability (in stores like REI and Sport Chalet) means that more people have them.
These socks take noticeably longer than the Point 6 Hiking Tech Light socks to air dry.
The Smartwool PhD socks have noticeably more loose Merino Wool fibers in them (compared to the Point 6 Hiking Tech socks), but they are still of a very good weave.
The Smartwool PhD socks are thicker than the Point 6 Hiking Tech Light socks, but only marginally so.
Pros: Wider availability than the Point 6 Hiking Tech Light Socks
Cons: Not as good as the Point 6 Hiking Tech Light Socks
VERDICT: The Smartwool PhD socks are great, but not as good as the Point 6 Hiking Tech Light socks.