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Nothing’s Worse than Wearing Wet Socks…

When backpacking, the weight of my pack is inversely correlated to my enjoyment of the trip. The heavier my pack is, the more tired and grouchy I become, complaining to my companions about my aching shoulders and quivering knees. So I’m always on the lookout for ways to lighten my load.

Of course, some things are simply necessities, either because we cannot survive without them (e.g., water and food), or because we make a conscious decision that we absolutely must have them. For me and many others, it boils down to having clean underwear and socks – one pair for each day we’ll be gone. That’s fine for a quick overnight trip, but if you’re planning a longer adventure, those extra undergarments can add a lot of bulk and weight to an already bulging pack.

Washing clothes along the trail or in a hostel bathroom is an obvious solution, but it doesn’t work so well in wetter climates. In humid, rainy areas, it’s virtually impossible to get those undergarments (and especially heavy socks) to dry overnight. And few things invite discomfort and blisters more than the squishy feeling of wearing wet socks inside your hiking boots, whether you’re enjoying the great outdoors or pounding the pavement in a foreign city.

quick-dry-underwear

Fortunately, new, quick-drying synthetic fabrics are a vast improvement over cotton and wool. The latest fabrics are easy to wash and dry in just a few hours, even when it’s cold and damp outside. And although I normally prefer good old-fashioned cotton for my tidy-whities, I must admit that the new lines of quick-dry undergarments are surprising comfortable. They never itch, snag, or tear – and these are all critically important if you’re bringing only one or two pairs for a long trip.

quick-dry-socks

I haven’t tested all the products that are out there, but ExOfficio basics seem to be a great product line. They are a bit pricy, but you can save some money by taking advantage of sales (this one, 25% off, ends on March 31, 2009) or visiting the clearance section on the manufacturer’s website. You can also find a lot of quick-drying undergarments at bricks-and-mortar sporting goods stores.