Ask an angler what gear would improve their fishing and you're likely to start hearing about the latest and greatest lures, flies, line, or tackle. Few would ever consider better socks, though they can make a big difference to the wading fisherman, in particular. Uncomfortable feet can make a day on the water miserable, or worse, downright painful or even dangerous.
Socks are a critical piece of outdoor gear because of the fact that the foot is among the heaviest producers of sweat in the human body. If sweat is not adequately wicked off the skin's surface, that moisture will chill the skin in cold weather and in severe cold, lead to infection and/or frostbite. Frostbite is obviously not an issue in warm conditions, but moisture on the foot can often also lead to cases of infection, sores, and blisters. Trench foot is often considered a soldier's worst enemy, and is just one of several feared immersion foot conditions.
Socks have come a long way. Early socks were made or animal fur and/or wrappings and eventually silk, cotton and wool. But wool or wool in combination with various synthetic materials, is now considered the best choice of materials for socks used in outdoor activities.
There are many choices of good quality socks on the market. I was introduced to Darn Tough socks by a NYSEG lineman while we both watched our sons play ice hockey, in Pulaski, NY on a very cold and snowy Saturday. The indoor temperature of the rink was colder than it was outside and I endured about an hour and a half of very cold feet, while my friend raved about how comfortable his feet were! He had come across them as a matter of necessity. He said he often worked outdoors in frigid conditions and was tired of dealing with cold, sore feet after a long day. He was also tired of wearing through socks quickly.
Darn Toughs are made of good stuff. They're tough for a reason: their unique blend of 100% merino wool, nylon, and lycra put together using fine gauge knitting and a high stitch count. My lineman friend claims they wear for years under very heavy use. I've yet to wear out any of the pairs I have after extensive fishing and hiking.
Darn Tough socks offer the following advantages:
- Fine gauge knitting / high stitch count ensures a secure foot-hugging fit with less bulk and more comfort.
- Moisture wicking - merino wool fibers naturally pull moisture away from the skin.
- Highly breathable and itch-free.
- Naturally antimicrobial - merino wool naturally repels bacteria and odor.
- Performance fit - these socks tend to stay put and in place, preventing hot spots and blisters.
- A full range of styles for activities ranging from casual wear to severe outdoor use. Sock types include "no show" ultralights for running / biking, crew socks, scent-lok socks for hunting, extra cushion socks and high over-the-calf full cushion boot socks for hunting / wading.
- Unconditional lifetime guarantee - wear them out and they will be replaced, no questions asked, free of charge.
- Made in Vermont, USA.
But all that performance, quality, and reliability comes with a pretty hefty price. Costing anywhere from the mid-teens to upper 20's, Darn Toughs might be also considered darn expensive. Still, buy a bunch of them and they may be the last socks you ever buy!
I give these great socks a 5 star rating. Though the initial cost of owning a pair is high, these socks will last for years and provide exceptional performance in the field. Buy a pair and try them under your waders. Your feet will thank you!