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Best Socks For Travel & How Many Socks Do You Need?

by Tony · 12 comments

Best Socks For Travel

“How could you possibly fit a year of clothes into a 32 liter bag?”

“I could never have only a few changes of clothes in my bag. Didn’t that get gross? At the very least it got boring, right?

I hear you. I really do. I didn’t think it would be possible either.

But after 2 months of intense research before our trip, I had found perfect brands for each item of clothing I was packing. Instead of going through the laundry list of items (see what I did there?), let’s save that for later and just focus on one item so you can really see how to breakdown all of your clothing into as few pieces as possible. Starting with the best socks you could ever have for travel…

Best Socks For Travel

Best Socks For Travel

Quick: If you were going to travel on a week-long vacation, how many socks would you pack? What about for 2 weeks? Now what about for a whole year?

Before my year of travel, I would have said 5 pairs of socks for one week, 8 for 2 weeks, and maybe 10-12 for a year.

Is that about what you said?

But after way too much research on footwear in November of 2011, I realized that if I spent more money than normal on an actually nice pair of socks, I could make do with less pairs… A LOT less.

So what is the best brand of socks for travel and how many did I buy?

For comfort, variety, breathability, and the ever important “stink repellent” factor (you realize how truly important this one is when the guy in front of you on your 20 hour bus trip decides to take HIS shoes off for the trip), the best socks for travel that I can recommend are SmartWool.

Best Socks For Travel

I bought 3 types of SmartWool socks for a total of 4 pairs.

What I packed and what I recommend are the PHD Ultra Light Micro’s for running when on the road. They also are great when walking around cities and keeping your feet nice and cool.

I also had 2 pairs of PHD Outdoor Light Micro’s, which were the perfect socks for almost anything – Thick enough when hiking in the cold, kept my feet toasty indoors, but also not too heavy when running around outside.

I also packed one pair of SmartWool’s Mountaineering Extra Heavy Crew socks which were awesome. Super thick with lots of cushion, these socks were great on cold hikes.

The best part about these socks?

You really had to work to make them smell. I’m talking multiple days in a row of dirty hikes before they really needed to be changed. Plus, they dry quickly so it was no problem to wash them in the sink at night and have them ready to wear the next day… a huge win when on the road.

My Ultra Light’s were for running and really hot days. The Outdoor Light’s were for everyday use which is why I had two. Then the Extra Heavy’s were for the long hikes and cold days when the extra cushion and warmth were a huge help. I had every situation covered.

But that was it. 4 pairs of socks for 365 days of travel and there was never a day where I wish I had packed more. Now the cost of these 4 socks, approximately $60 total, is probably more than you’re used to spending… but they last much longer than cheap cotton socks, are much more comfortable, and save a ton of room in your bag.

Your Turn: If you have yet to travel, how many socks do you think you would pack? If you already have done a long-term trip, how many socks did you end up bringing? Does anybody think they have a brand better than my SmartWool’s (I seriously doubt it)?

About Tony
Quit his job to try actually following his dreams for once... and is currently loving it. He is working hard to to make this life-style permanent by writing about his adventures and brainstorming money making opportunities with his partner-in-crime, Meg.

photos by: Nanagyei & bark
OCDemon May 1, 2013 at 4:06 pm

The day I tried a pair of merino wool socks was the day I threw out all my other socks. I never went back. I like taking a few pairs of ultralight summer socks, and a couple pairs of warmer socks for colder days, and just wearing both when it’s freezing. No one ever really listens to me though. Oh well.

Tony May 1, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Doubling up is definitely a good option… great point. But my evangelism for merino wool socks might sound a bit strange to anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure. So freakin’ amazing!

Thanks for the backup on this in case people start calling me out for my merino love… always nice to know other people love it as much as I do!

K.T. May 1, 2013 at 4:13 pm

Better question…. how many pairs of UNDERWEAR would you take??? We took 5 each… Won’t lie… 5 has been entirely insufficient… Especially in the BLAZING heat of South East Asia.

Oh and we took 2 pairs each of smart wool. Best decision ever.

Also – Icebreaker shirts are the bestttttttt! No stank, whatsoever.

Tony May 1, 2013 at 10:35 pm

Wow… GREAT question K.T.

After extensive field testing, I’m pretty confident in saying that underwear is the one item of clothing that really doesn’t have a perfect solution. I’ve heard lots of people rave about specific brands, but nothing really seems to perfect.

If you’re in SEA… just stay near the ocean and never take your suit off!

I brought two icebreaker shirts and two non icebreakers that were synthetic no stink… the icebreakers were incredible and the others just couldn’t hold up. NO STANK!!!

Jan December 26, 2014 at 8:15 pm

Jumping in late here…and from a female’s point of view BUT think males could get a little creative and adapt to this….panty liners! The ultra thin ones…absorb sweat and other body leaks, stay affixed with sticky tape and can be replaced as often as you like. Try it out…it might solve some tight packing issues.
I’m going to China for several weeks and was searching for the socks problem….thanks for the smart socks tip…will take a good look.
I had thought of doing what I have often done when in rather primitive conditions…take really old stuff (socks, underwear, shirts)and discard it along the way…not attempt to launder. Thought I might do that with socks for this trip but think smart socks might be better.

Tony January 6, 2015 at 12:28 pm

Creative, Jan! That’s one I hadn’t hear before, but it makes sense that it would work. Don’t know if I’ll try it… but we’ll see :)

I LOVE the smartwool socks. They dry quickly and don’t hold smell. Super breathable too so they can keep you warm in the cold places, but don’t overheat you in hotter climates. HIGHLY recommended.

Appreciate you stopping by to comment!


Fred Perrotta May 2, 2013 at 12:15 am

I suspected this post would be about Smartwool. They’re also the best socks for everything else. I like their “hiking” socks for wearing with casual boots.

Have you used any of their other products? I’m curious if they’re as good as the socks.

Tony May 2, 2013 at 1:37 am

Thanks for the comment, Fred. A lot of their product names don’t seem to be the best as the socks are way more versatile than being just for “hiking” or “running.”

I’ve never used any of their other products, but my love for their socks has got my curious!

Andrea August 15, 2014 at 1:35 pm

Great post! I’m going abroad for several months so I’ll be on my feet a lot while taking trips. I’d really like to get these socks but am concerned about them being made of wool. If say I’m not able to wear a wool coat because of allergies, would these give me the same reaction?

Tony August 15, 2014 at 1:41 pm

Depends how allergic you are. If you get itchy from the wool coat, I’ve read that it is often from the coarseness and thickness of the fibers: http://askanaturalist.com/lanolin-and-sheep%E2%80%99s-wool-allergies/

Merino wool has much smaller fibers. You might want to test it out, but the socks did not feel like wool at all. I even had underwear made of merino wool and I would NEVER do that with regular wool :)

Best of luck and let us know if it’s a problem!


Michael September 25, 2016 at 10:36 pm

Darn Tough socks seems pretty good with their lifetimewarranty


RunneralZ February 27, 2017 at 10:57 am

Two pairs of socks are plenty. Especially considering how easy they are to wash. Just put them in the sink, apply some soap and warm water and voila…like brand new socks.

Smartwools are awesome. I once took a 13 hour long trip from Edinbrough to London on the bus, they kept my feet comfortable and odor-free.

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