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#201258 - 06/28/18 03:28 PM drying socks while hiking
AtlantaBill Offline

Registered: 06/28/18
Posts: 2
Loc: Georgia, USA
I hike in areas which require many water crossings. I've tried waterproof boots, waterproof socks, etc. I've tried crossing barefoot, or with my camp sandals, then drying feet and putting back on my socks. I've used wool, neopreme, dry tech, etc. socks. All good ideas.

I'm interested in how best to dry my socks, either after a stream crossing or simply after washing them. Typically I wring them out and hang them on the outside of my gear and eventually they dry.

I'm thinking of putting them in a plastic bag with little holes, like some produce comes in, so the sun will heat them up, but the holes will let the excess moisture escape. Has anyone done this?

Or is there a product, 'solar clothes dryer'? (yes, I know, it's sold right next to dehydrated water crazy ) - a flat storage bag, with a clear plastic side and a back of black nylon with a gore tex membrane?

If I'm overthinking this, please don't kill me. I'm just bored at work today.


#201261 - 06/28/18 04:14 PM Re: drying socks while hiking [Re: AtlantaBill]
OregonMouse Offline

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6652
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
A nylon mesh bag (or mesh pocket on your pack, if you have one) would be the best. I'm not sure why you'd want to punch holes in a plastic bag. First, the plastic, even with holes, will considerably retard drying. Second, once you've perforated the plastic bag, it will soon rip to shreds. Just attach--firmly!--to the outside back of your pack.

A zippered mesh bag found in the laundry soap/supply section of almost any supermarket weights 1.0 oz.

I just splash across streams in my trail runners and walk them dry, which takes about an hour or two. With merino wool socks, they start feeling dry in less than half an hour. You can of course wring the stocks out after fording and put them back on, which hastens the drying time. This seems rather time-wasting if you're going to be fording again in an hour! Of course this method works only with well-ventilated footwear, no goretex lining or other hindrance to drying.

I note that you are located in a far more humid part of the country than am I. (I know Oregon has the reputation of being rainy, but we have a long dry season in summer, when it rarely rains at all and the humidity is low.) It might be worth your packing an extra pair or two of socks so you always have a dry pair. That's what I have done, especially when out in the "shoulder season" with more frequent rain.

Edited by OregonMouse (06/28/18 04:20 PM)
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

#201263 - 06/28/18 08:05 PM Re: drying socks while hiking [Re: AtlantaBill]
Glenn Roberts Online   content

Registered: 12/23/08
Posts: 1723
Loc: Southwest Ohio
I also hike in the humid east, though somewhat north of you (Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, mostly.) I rarely encounter more than 1 or 2 river crossings on a 3-day trip, so I just carry sandals when the trip involves such crossings.

As far as drying socks, I could never get wool or wool-blend socks to dry after I rinsed them out. They’d still be damp or soggy when I got home a couple of days later. Eventually, after I started wearing trail shoes instead of boots, I switched to 100% synthetic socks (usually a blend.) They usually dry overnight, or by hanging on my pack until about noon the next day.

#201267 - 06/28/18 11:45 PM Re: drying socks while hiking [Re: Glenn Roberts]
AtlantaBill Offline

Registered: 06/28/18
Posts: 2
Loc: Georgia, USA
Yes, I agree thin synthetic socks are best for quick drying, and wool are just best for everything.

Yes, I have mesh pocket on the outside of my pack, which is my current 'dryer'.

My thinking on the plastic bag with holes, or some type of membrane, is to get a 'green house effect' where it's hotter inside the bag. And yes, it will be more humid too. So I'm wondering if the higher temp will drive the water out of the socks faster. Or will being surrounded by higher humidity will reduce the water leaving the socks.

I actually completed a university class in 'thermodynamics and mass transfer' so I should be able to answer this, but it was so long ago we used slide rules. I'm not hating slide rules, they put a man on the moon.

The water leaves the socks because of the concentration difference between the water in the socks (higher) and the water in the surrounding air (lower). In Arizona this is faster, in Appalachia this is slower. Warmer air can hold more water than cooler air and warm damp socks will dry faster than cold damp socks. So if the plastic bag will keep the heat of the incoming sun rays, but then leak some of the warmed moist air out through the holes or membrane, the socks should dry faster than simply hanging them in the ambient air (humid air in Appalachia). This is the question, will the captured heat drive out more water sooner, or will it simply create a 'steam room' and the socks never dry?

I will do a test.

#201268 - 06/29/18 12:33 AM Re: drying socks while hiking [Re: AtlantaBill]
aimless Online   content

Registered: 02/05/03
Posts: 3038
Loc: Portland, OR
the concentration difference between the water in the socks (higher) and the water in the surrounding air (lower).

I guess it all comes down to how much of the "surrounding air" is closely confined within the plastic bag and how much is outside the bag. As the air exchange increases, the greenhouse effect will decrease. There's probably a formula that would describe that curve, but you might need to formulate it yourself. wink

#201269 - 06/29/18 09:44 AM Re: drying socks while hiking [Re: aimless]
balzaccom Offline

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 1871
Loc: Napa, CA
We try to keep our socks dry. Hiking in the Sierra, it isn't that hard. We take off our socks and boots/shoes and do any wet crossings in our water shoes, then stop and dry our feet, put our shoes and socks back on.

As had been suggested, this can be tedious if there are four crossings in a mile, but generally that isn't the case...and sometimes we just hike in our water/camp shoes to do that.

But if we do have a pair of wet socks to dry, they are hung on the outside of the pack and are usually dry in a couple of hours...

check out our website and blog:

#201272 - 06/29/18 10:59 AM Re: drying socks while hiking [Re: AtlantaBill]
4evrplan Offline

Registered: 01/16/13
Posts: 784
Loc: Nacogdoches, TX, USA
I think the humid microclimate of the air trapped/semi-trapped inside the plastic bag is going to make the socks take longer to dry, in spite of the higher temperature. A better approach may be to put something matte black behind the socks so they get heated up, but without trapping the moisture.
Hiking is the ultimate realization that the journey is more important than the destination.

#201274 - 06/29/18 12:30 PM Re: drying socks while hiking [Re: AtlantaBill]
BZH Offline

Registered: 01/26/11
Posts: 959
Loc: Torrance, CA
The plastic bag with holes will certainly saturate the air quickly bringing your concentration gradient to zero. Dryers work because they continually bring outside air in (heat it up) and exhaust the hot moist air.

To dry things you need flow of air over the wet part of the sock (if you took heat transfer back in the day too: the convective heat transfer Nusselt Number is directly analogous to the convective diffusion Sherwood Number). Attach your socks to the outside of the pack and get as much air flow across them as you can. Jerry-rigging some way to lift them off the pack (or dangle off the side) would be a good idea. Better than the black felt backing suggested above... you could try using black socks. You could also direct sunlight onto the socks by Jerry-rigging some reflective material... but that sounds a bit kludgy to me.

#201277 - 06/29/18 12:40 PM Re: drying socks while hiking [Re: OregonMouse]
Pika Online   content

Registered: 12/08/05
Posts: 1791
Loc: Rural Southeast Arizona
For me, wading through a stream with my shoes and socks on is about the only time either my shoes or socks get washed cry
May I walk in beauty.


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