Backpacker Tip: Washing wool socks

A tip from the backpacker Dave Stevenson.

Wool socks are warm, but they don’t dry out very quickly in wet weather!

On a long backpacking trip we arrived at a camp where we would stay for two days, and I decided to use that time to wash all of my wool hiking socks and liners. It was a beautiful day with sunshine, and I planned to hang the socks on a line to dry.

A good way to dry your socks is to hang them on vertical sticks

After washing them, I hung them out and then noticed the clouds rolling in. The next several days were rainy, damp and dreary, and because no campfires were allowed in that area, it took me four days to finally get all of those socks dry. I hung them off the back of my backpack, put them out to dry every chance I got, but without much sunshine it was a lost cause.

Fortunately, I had a pair of cotton socks that mistakenly got into my pack, so I used them with one of the pairs of liners that had dried out, but it was certainly not a good situation.


Do not wash all of your socks at the same time on the trail! If you do, you’ll probably be sorry! By the way, check out the photo up above showing how hiking poles can be useful in drying your socks.

We have some more suggestions from our readers:

  • Stick them in your bag and your body heat will dry them fairly quickly. I’ve also put them in the gear attic or strung a line inside the tent. Your body heat will, again, help dry them. (Linda)
  • I’ve done the same thing myself with the socks, but found out after reading about it that if you put them in the sleeping bag with you for the night that they will be dry in the morning. Also, I never wash all the socks at the same time and always have a pair of warm dry ones to sleep in. (Anonymous)
  • It’s a good idea to ALWAYS have one pair of hiking socks and liners inside a plastic ziplok bag for emergency use! (Anonymous)

Got some drying tips? Add your comments and suggestions down below!