Hanging up wet socks in the tent overnight doesn’t work well because there isn’t a heat source that could heat up the sock fabric and cause it to evaporate. But if you know the right technique, it’s actually really easy to do.
I’ve had plenty of outdoor experience – especially hiking in the rain and winter. And I know a few techniques that work really well when you need to dry your socks overnight or while hiking. Down below, I’ll share the techniques that work the best for me personally.
How To Dry Wet Socks While Camping (Overnight)
These are the best techniques for drying wet socks overnight from my own experience, ranked from best to worst.
- Put them underneath your baselayer overnight on your torso. At the end of your hike, take off your wet socks and squeeze them as dry as you can. Just before going to sleep, you have to take your damp socks and lay them out on your belly underneath all of your clothing, and go to sleep with them. I know it’s gross, so this technique isn’t for everyone. But your belly (or torso in general) is the hottest part of your body, with the highest amount of heat retention and blood flow, so if you put your socks there, it will cause all of the water from your socks to evaporate towards the outer layers of your clothing. This surely won’t improve your hygiene, but it works. And if you wear merino wool socks, it isn’t actually that bad because in general, they start to stink only after 2-4 days of hiking.
- Boil up some water, pour it inside a bottle, wrap your socks around them, and place them in your sleeping bag. This technique is a bit complicated, and because I’m lazy, I rarely do it. But I will sometimes use this technique when hiking in the winter because it also helps you stay warm during the night.
- Wear your wet socks overnight (in the summer). This won’t dry them as well as placing them on your torso/belly overnight, but at least it follows better hygiene principles. That said, it definitely isn’t the most pleasant feeling going to sleep with wet socks, so this technique also isn’t for everyone. Also, if your feet are cold, avoid using this technique because it won’t do any good.
- Lay your damp socks in your sleeping bag along the upper part of your body. This is better than putting them near your feet (which is what most people do) because you generate much more heat around your torso.
- Heat some rocks in a fire, put them inside your socks, and leave them in your sleeping bag overnight. I personally don’t use this technique because rocks lose temperature rather quickly, and they leave minor particles inside your sock. But a lot of people have said that it works.
How To Dry Wet Socks While Hiking During The Day
To dry your freshly-washed socks, you need to give them a lot of airflow while you’re hiking. Squashing them in the side pocket of your backpack won’t do much.
To dry out wet socks while hiking, I used to tie them to my backpack and leave them hanging during the day. However, the part of the sock that’s in a knot doesn’t really dry out, so I had to re-tie the other end when the first part was dry. Plus, it only worked with long socks.
That’s why recently I started doing it differently. I started bringing a few safety pins along with me, and now I attach wet socks to my backpack with safety pins. However, they can detach very easily, so I use two for each sock, but you can even use three if you’ll be hiking in a rough area with a lot of branches. Also, make sure to check on them every now and then to make sure that they aren’t fallen off. This is the best technique for drying socks while hiking that I’ve found so far.
If you’re hiking in the rain, you can also put socks on your shoulders, next to the skin underneath your rain gear, which will also make them dry over time. However, they can get lost really easily, so I don’t use this technique often.
How Not To Dry Your Socks
- Don’t hang them up in the tent. As I already said earlier, you need a heat source to dry your socks. Hanging them up in the tent or in a tree overnight doesn’t work, because the water isn’t evaporating, and because of the condensation inside and outside the tent.
- Don’t dry them near an open fire. I’ve ruined countless boots, socks, sweaters, and other gear by drying them directly near an open fire. Even if you don’t burn out a hole, you can ruin the fabric, and it will develop holes much, much quicker.
How To Avoid Having Wet Feet In The First Place
- Get merino wool socks. If you have sweaty feet, extra bulky boots, or you’re hiking in the summer, then your feet naturally get wet over time when doing physical activities. Merino wool soaks up to 1/3 of its weight in water, and can slowly evaporate through the outer layers, which means that over time, your socks don’t get wet from sweat. This not only reduces the moisture in your footwear but also drastically reduces blister formation. Merino wool socks are somewhat expensive, but they’re definitely worth it. I personally use the Silverlight merino wool socks and I don’t get pretty much any blisters with them. Whatever you do, don’t hike with cotton socks, as they soak up a lot of moisture, and get wet from sweat very fast.
- Hike with three pairs of socks and change between socks once they feel damp. Ideally, you should have at least two pairs of walking socks and one pair of sleeping socks. This allows you to have enough time to dry them out, and change to a fresh pair once your socks are wet.
- Wear two layers of socks. A lot of hikers follow the two-sock layer system. Essentially, you’re wearing thinner synthetic liner socks in the middle and thicker merino wool socks on the outside. Synthetics don’t absorb almost any water, so they move it to the outer layers of the sock, which lets you keep your feet dry. The only downside to this system is that you’re carrying more weight, and realistically, you need to have at minimum 4 pairs of socks with you if you want to change between them. I personally don’t get any blisters with a single layer of socks, so I don’t follow it, but you can definitely try it out yourself.
- Switch to trail runners instead of hiking boots or shoes. The problem with hiking boots and shoes is that they usually aren’t too breathable, so your feet sweat. Trail runners are made to be used on the same terrain while being more active, so they’re much more breathable. The only downside to trail runners is that they provide less ankle and toe protection, and they don’t last as long.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you continue hiking with wet socks?
Of course, you can continue hiking with wet socks, but there’s a much higher chance that you’ll get blisters. So whenever it stops raining, I usually take off my shoes and socks, squeeze my shoes as dry as I can, and switch to a fresh pair of socks. Usually, the socks and shoes dry within a few hours of hiking.
When going to sleep, I switch to my dry overnight socks and dry my all other wet socks by throwing them inside my sleeping bag or underneath my clothing.
How can I keep my socks dry while hiking in rain?
One trick that people do when hiking in the winter or in especially wet, rainy areas, is to hike with plastic bags. The idea is that you put a plastic bag between your sock and your shoe. This might make your socks wet from the sweat, but at least it will keep your feet warm.
To avoid the bags from slipping down, you should use a plastic bag that’s not too large for your feet. A lot of hikers use regular bread bags because they’re free and work like a charm.
However, you should remove the plastic bags as soon as it stops raining because when hiking for long periods with this system, you’ll surely get blisters. You can also preventively tape your feet before the blisters start to form.
Can I dry merino wool socks near the fire?
Although merino wool is much more forgiving to fire compared to cotton and polyester, you can still ruin merino wool socks by drying them directly next to the fire. While cotton burns really well and synthetic fabrics also start melting, merino wool won’t keep an open flame, and will only char in a small region. But it will still get ruined, so don’t dry your merino wool socks near an open fire.