Stay Toasty with Down Socks for Backpacking & Camping
Anyone that’s used to camping in the winter or when it’s a bit chilly will be familiar with the struggle to stay warm. It’s all too easy to feel like you’re nose or your toes are about to drop off. Hopefully you’ll find something warm to put on before you get to that point! Obviously a high quality down sleeping bag will do the job, however when you’re getting in and out of your sleeping bag then down socks will stop your feet from instantly freezing on contact with the cold outdoor air.
What’s so special about down socks?
Down socks are that little bit of luxury for backpacking or hiking. Your feet will feel right at home nestled into these comfy little heat-savers. They are usually constructed from a nylon fabric exterior which is filled with various types of down such as goose down. The Goose Feet down socks are some of the most popular, in these the goose down is treated with “DownTek” for added waterproof capability.
Are down socks suitable for backpacking?
Hell yeah, if you want a few little luxuries then down socks are a nice touch for a bit of night-time foot attire. You can get ultralight down socks such as the Goose Feet ones again that weight between 2 and 2.6oz. The only problem for backpacking is that they aren’t the most compressible. You don’t want to be squishing them down to the smallest size possible as eventually they will start to lose their ‘loft’. Every now and then is fine though, and I would say the space they take up is no more than a couple of cans of coke (only a lot lighter!).
What about using the socks outdoors?
You can get some down sock brands that have rubberized soles such as the Baffin Base Camp slippers. Although not as comfy when in your sleeping bag, the synthetic sole slippers are fine outdoors as they won’t get the down wet. Traditional types such as Goose Feet ones don’t have a rubber sole, and so these would get soaked if you tried to walk on wet grass. They do however sell Over Booties that slip over the socks, and these are waterproof for when you need to slip out in the night for a call of nature.
Can I use them for hiking?
As you can probably guess they are more of a bed sock and intended for indoor use. If you’re going hiking or backpacking then you’ll need a more technical sock – such as the part merino wool, part nylon Darn Tough Vermont Hiking Socks. These obviously don’t have the warmth of down socks, however these are the style you want under your hiking boots. With the merino wool being naturally antimicrobial this should hope to reduce the ferocity of end-of-the-day-sock-smell-syndrome.
What are the brands of the best down socks?
There are a few main brands of down socks and booties, these include Goose Feet Gear, Cabiniste, King Camp and Rab. All of these are pretty high quality and are available either from mountaineering / outdoor shops, Amazon or REI.
Here are a few more things you can do to stay nice and toes-ty (haha awful pun!)…
- Heat your core – If the core of your body is warm then this will mean that hot blood will be transferred to your extremities. Your capillaries in your hands and feet will open, allowing the blood to circulate around – acting like a central heating radiator. One way you can do this is by layering up – start with a wicking winter vest to keep the sweat away from your body, then a hiking t-shirt, and then an insulating fleece. This winter combo will keep your insides warm, helping keep your toes warm.
- Get moving – Using your muscles is another way to increase your body heat and blood flow. Go Bear Gryll’s style and get down and do 30 press-ups for an instant heat boost.
- Change your hiking socks for down socks – Hiking socks are perfect for when your trekking through the mountains, but typically they will gather sweat and deposits (niiice!) through the day. Sweat instantly prevents the socks from providing you with the warmth to stop your toes going blue. At the end of a day on the trail, clean and dry your feet ideally, and then put on a pear of down socks.