The Best Survival Socks for Preppers and Survivalists

Blisters, seam irritation, bunching, fungus, and even trench foot: all of these are what happens when you have a bad pair of socks. Even if you don’t experience any of these problems, poorly made socks wearing thin and developing holes is annoying. I’m not particularly tough on my feet, but I have worn holes through bad quality socks in a matter of weeks. Nobody wants to be constantly shopping for socks. This is not something you want to deal with in a survival situation.

We’ve been researching this one for a while, testing a wide variety of socks to find the best suited for survival conditions. Hiking, military, and even big-box store socks made the initial cut. Durability, toughness, and comfort were all huge factors that separated out the best socks from the rest of the field. We’re excited to share our findings and get everyone’s feet feeling great no matter which disaster or emergency they encounter. If you want comfortable, breathable, durable socks for any situation, one of our survival sock recommendations will accomplish that mission.


Contents (Jump to a Section)


Darn Tough Light Hiker Crew Socks

The Best Survival Socks

Darn Tough Light Hiker Crew Socks

Comfortable, Breathable, and Tough (of course)

These top rated socks give you consistent quality and extreme durability.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

You have probably heard of Darn Tough Hiker Socks. The Darn Tough company out of Vermont is well known for these socks, their durability, and the lifetime warranty they tack onto it. The socks we’ve selected are one of their lighter weight options, which performed better in a wide range of climates and activities than the thicker options.

The socks are a synthetic blend: merino wool, nylon, and spandex. This makes for a sock that fits like a performance athletic sock, but has the beneficial wool properties of a heavy hiking sock. The performance knit can feel tight on your foot at first, but the sock is seamless and holds its shape fantastically, making them very comfortable. If you want the best survival socks, the Darn Tough Light Hiker Socks will get the job done better than the rest.


Carhartt All-Terrain Boot Socks

Budget Survival Socks

Carhartt All-Terrain Boot Socks

Padded comfort that won’t break budgets.

Stay on your feet longer with heel and toe padding that reduces pressure, blisters, and moisture.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Carhartt is a recognizable brand that is widely available with budget prices. Their composite boot socks have come a long way, and now include acrylic, wool, nylon, and spandex for a durable all-weather sock. They are lower wool content than some of our other top picks, which drastically lowers the price. Buying in bulk helps also. Even with their lower wool content, they stay surprisingly comfortable in a wide range of temperatures, and even in damp environments.

It is tough to beat the bulk price of these Carhartt wool composite socks if you are looking to stock up or upgrade your regular wardrobe. If you need socks to make a skivvy roll to keep in your bug out bag, the Carhartt All-Terrain Boot Socks will do the trick.


Cold Weather Survival Socks

Icebreaker Merino Heavy Crew Socks

Practical, comfortable, and toasty in cold weather.

These durable, odor resistant socks are perfect for backwoods snowy hikes or walking frigid city streets.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Cold weather gear is what Icebreaker does best, and the Merino Heavy Hike+ Crew Socks are the most versatile pair you can get for extreme cold conditions. They are made from 63% Merino Wool, 35% Nylon, and 2% Elastane for a composition that gives great thermal properties with an exceptional fit. On many heavyweight socks with high-pile padding, you can experience slipping within the sock. These socks fit snugly to prevent this, with the help of the Elastane.

The top of the sock is designed to be breathable, which is often overlooked in extreme thermal socks. We found that socks that concentrate too much on heat retention with excessive thermal insulation become uncomfortable to wear in practical settings. Socks that do this, like Heat Holders, are meant for diabetic applications to improve circulation in your feet with heat. Practical cold weather survival socks balance thermal regulation with a snug, dry, comfortable fit. The Icebreaker Merino Heavy Crew Socks will do just that- and comes with a lifetime no-questions-asked warranty to boot.


Everything We Recommend

Darn Tough Light Hiker Crew Socks

Darn Tough Light Hiker Crew Socks

These top rated socks give you consistent quality and extreme durability.

Where to Buy

$20* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing

Carhartt All-Terrain Boot Socks

Carhartt All-Terrain Boot Socks

Stay on your feet longer with heel and toe padding that reduces pressure, blisters, and moisture.

Where to Buy

$45* (for 6 pairs) at Amazon

$10* at eBay

*at time of reviewing

Icebreaker Merino Heavy Crew Socks

Icebreaker Merino Heavy Crew Socks

These durable, odor resistant socks are perfect for backwoods snowy hikes or walking frigid city streets.

Where to Buy

$24* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing


The Socks We Compared

Our research narrowed the field down to several contenders that we tested: Thorlos, Darn Tough, SmartWool, Wrightsock, Under Armor, WigWam, Heat Holders, Icebreaker, J.B. Icelandic, Carhartt, Dickies, Hanes, and more. From there it came to just wearing the socks for extended periods, in a variety of activities, and seeing how they felt and held up. This helped us eliminate the socks that wore too hot, shifted around, or had other comfort issues.


What to Look For

The best survival socks have several important features to look for:

  1. Composition
  2. Knit Shape and Features
  3. Padding

Below, we break down what each of these mean for a great pair of survival socks. When you get the right blend of these, you get a versatile high-performance sock. You can also see variations of these three features to improve performance in different environments- like wet or extreme cold areas.

Survival Sock Composition

Socks have definitely become more complex over the years, especially with the many types of yarns now knitted into composite socks. Wool socks used to take the cake- there weren’t any comparable socks that could measure up with wool’s performance. Cotton stays damp and polyester provides very little thermal insulation.

Polyester wool blends are a prime marketing tactic used by some sock makers. Low wool content synthetic blend socks are still ‘wool socks’, and marketers have been known to abuse this. The difference between a 60% wool blend sock and 20% wool blend sock is very noticeable, but the cost on the 60% wool blend is twice as much. Additionally, yarns such as acrylic and elastane can improve the durability and fit of a wool blend sock.

When a sock with solid yarn composition is combined with cutting edge knit features, the sock simply performs better.

Knit Shape and Features

The knitting machines that create socks are complex, huge, and have become more advanced over the years. This allows them to adjust the knit to create unique sock shapes not just for different sizes, but to concentrate different yarns in different areas adding features to some of the best survival socks.

These features can include:

Survival Sock Knit Features
Advancement in knitting technology have drastically improved sock features.

All of the knit features in the graphic above make a sock more durable, comfortable, and effective in any survival situation.

Sock Padding

Besides the yarn composition and the knit features, the amount of padding (or lack of padding) provided by the knit pile can affect a sock’s durability, comfort, and thermal insulation. Many hiking socks have more padding on the ball and foot of the sock, with less padding on top of the foot. Ski socks have padding on the shin, while snowboard socks do not. Steel toe socks have extra toe padding. Padding can be in different areas based on the purpose of the sock.

Padding can be more comfortable, but it can also cause the sock to be too hot if there is too much of it. Excessive padding (on cotton sock, in particular) can make a sock hold water and sweat for much longer. High-pile padding can add a slipping sensation even if a shoe or boot is snug, since the padding can allow the inside of the sock to shift compared to the outside of the sock.

The trick to sock padding is to have it in the correct locations- and not too much of it.


Why Socks are Important for Survival

Blisters, skin maceration, frostbite, and even trench foot can be preventable with the right equipment while taking care of your feet. Taking care of your feet includes keeping your feet:

  • dry
  • warm
  • protected

Socks and shoes are the best equipment to do this reliably. Toe warmers and other technology are great, but are temporary and/or cost prohibitive to use all the time. The best practices you can use to protect your feet include:

  • get several pairs of great socks
  • wear some good shoes/boots that fit well
  • use skincare products, like Gold Bond powder to keep your feet dry at the end of the day
  • listen to your feet: itching, pain and numbness can all be indications of trench foot

In a survival situation or emergency, the last thing you want to deal with is your everyday items and clothing failing you. Bad socks causing blisters (or worse) can hamper your ability to deal with much more important issues.


Who Needs Survival Socks?

Everyone wears socks, and everyone can benefit from high-performance socks that won’t let you down.

The main kits that you should have survival socks for include:

Survival socks also make sense as part of a skivvy roll in these kits:

A skivvy roll is a way to roll a shirt, underwear, and socks together for quick retrieval in a bag. You can find out more here: How to Pack Like a Pro: The Skivvy Roll.

How We Review Products: We research thoroughly before selecting the best products to review. We consult experts in the field for a better understanding of what makes the gear great. Hours on end are spent field testing gear in stressful conditions. We assign performance criteria and impartially rate each tested item. You can support us through our independently chosen links, which can earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. After our review process, some of the items reviewed end up in our giveaways.

Sources and References

An objective look at the best survival socks is useless without sources and references. We leaned on these for the book knowledge that we paired with our practical military experience and prepping acumen.

Baird, K. & David, H. (1971). Wearing and Washing Performance of Wool/Nylon Blend Socks. Textile Research Journal. 41, 7. (Source).

Özdil, N. (2008). A Study on the Thermal Comfort Properties of Socks. Tekstil ve Konfeksiyon. 18, 2, pgs 154-158. (Source).

Richie, D. (2017). Athletic Socks. In: Werd M., Knight E., Langer P. (eds) Athletic Footwear and Orthoses in Sports Medicine. Springer, Cham. (Source)


The Final Word

Being properly equipped to deal with any situation is no small task. Socks may seem inconsequential at first compared to skills, hobbies, and other equipment and resources- but hopefully we’ve convinced you of how important a solid pair of socks can be. When I advise beginning preppers, I always explain how spending a little more on the stuff you use everyday pays off in the long run. Wearing a rugged pair of socks doesn’t take any skill- just a little bit of forethought on a small detail that can effect your survivability.

We presented quite a lot of information, but as always: if you have any questions let us know and we would be happy to help. Our research and testing settled on Darn Tough Light Hiker Crew Socks as the best option given the functionality, durability, versatility, and value.

I’m glad we picked survival socks to try out and test, because I was able to try a lot of great socks myself and help figure out which socks were the best-of-the-best. Now, I’m outfitted with the best socks for everyday use and for my BoB and GHB skivvy rolls.

Most of the time, at this point I’m telling you to practice with your gear- but with socks… just wear them! And with the best socks, you don’t have to worry about wearing them out!

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.


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The Best Survival Socks for Preppers and Survivalists

Rusty

I am an engineer by day, but a prepper 24/7. I am an Air Force veteran that developed emergency and disaster plans as an emergency manager and responded to many attacks and accidents as a HAZMAT technician. I have been exposed to deadly chemical agents, responded to biological incidents, and dealt with natural disasters worldwide. Check out my full story here: Rusty's Story

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