I’m pretty close to nailing down my footware system for crossing Scotland next May during the TGO Challenge. Hiking conditions in Scotland are notorious for being wet and boggy and leather boots are not going to fly for a 14 day cross-country hike. While I dearly love my leather Asolo TPS 520s, they take take 4-5 days to dry when they get soaked through. The only viable alternative is to wear a pair of trail shoes that are fast drying, and not lined with a breathable membrane like Gore-tex.
Instead, I’m almost certainly going to hike in a pair of Inov-8 roclite 320 Trail Shoes. If the ground is wet, I’ll wear a pair of Rocky Gore-tex socks over a thin Smartwool merino liner. I’ve been wearing this combination during the past few weekends and I think I have enough space in my 9.5 size shoes, even if my feet swell from a lot of walking (which is normal). I may still experiment with a slightly wider shoe, but it’s close.
Temperatures however can go down to the 30’s (near 0 celsius) in May, so I need a sock system that can keep me dry and warm even if my shoes get wet. The key is to have a two layer system consisting of a waterproof layer and a warm liner underneath to absorb sweat and prevent blisters.
While Gore-tex socks are not technically a vapor barrier liner because they are breathable, they do maintain a warm enough micro-climate to keep wet feet from getting cold. I know this for a fact, because I used to wear Rocky Gore-tex socks, year-round,over a pair of wool hiking socks while whitewater kayaking. They kept my feel warm in frigid cold water and recent testing validates that they’re just as good today as they were then.
There are only two problems with Rocky Gore-tex socks: they’re dam expensive at $60/pair and fitting them can be challenging. They run small so may need to try on a pair one or two sizes larger than your shoe size to get a good fit. Once you nail it down, they fit snug enough that there’s no extra fabric that might rub you the wrong way and lead to blisters. Each foot is shaped, for a left or right foot, and well marked so can’t mix them up.
I’ve owned several pairs of Rocky Gore-tex socks over the years and never had some leak at the seams, which are taped for integrity. They do tend to fray at the top cuff, but only after a long period of abuse.
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Have you given any consideration to wearing a light weight overshoe. There have been times when a pair of Totes over my trail shoes would of saved the day. Walking marshy areas doesn't always require optimal traction. Maine hunting boats are too heavy to carry and impossible to hike in. But, maybe a pair of Totes would be light enough. Anyway, just a thought. I think the biggest drawback is looking like a dweeb.
Good choice – you won't be alone!
I won't be taking any waterproof socks in May – I don't like breaking my rhythm by having to stop and remove my socks before one of the many stream crossings I'll encounter every day. As long as I have a dry pair of socks in my pack for the end of the day I'm happy!
Oh, and consider the benefits of plastic freezer bags for putting your nice warm socks into cold wet shoes for late night toilet breaks…
Nice route so far by the way.
Cool. This is exactly my system, but with some Salomon Techamphibian 2 Water Shoes and SealSkinz socks over SmartWools.
The Rocky Gortex socks are indeed the best combination for this kind of walking including stream crossings. I used them until the temps are down around 20F when I switch to vapor barriers.
Maybe a little better than thin Smartwools underneath would be the lightest, thinest polyester-ish socks you can find. They'll absorb less sweat and dry out faster.
I find Sealskinz trap lots of moisture in the outer layer and are heavier and very slow to dry.
Totes may be utterly unsuitable for this kind of walking. They are not meant for anything but easy sidewalks and will tear quickly, sometimes even when stretching them to put them over your shoes.
Good tip. I have been finding that they are fine in very cold weather with just a pair of REI polycro liners. You have obviously refined your system. I tried Sealskinz and also found them way to thick.
Philip – 2 questions related to a mention that you made of having 2 different shoe sizes…
So do I; expensive PIA! How do the G-Tex Socks work out for that? What is the size difference? And just out of curiousity, which foot is which size? In my dreams I find someone with the opposite pairing… Synchronicity is possible if not probable :)
Where are you getting the Rocky Goretex socks from? I've not yet found anywhere with stock?
Can I get those in Europe somewhere? From what Trekmates told me, they discontinued their waterproof socks.
Thanks for a very helpful review – I was just considering these. Which height of the Rocky socks do you recommend, 11 or 13 in.?
Would the Rocky’s keep out water during deep fords ?
If not any other recommendations for early season 35 degree crossings (over the knees)?
God no. The water comes in over the top.
Do what I do. Walk quickly. Really. Snow melt sucks.
I’m sure my GoLite Pinnacle is worn out and needs to be replaced… I’m sure… I’m sure… now where’s that box knife?
I got some thin neoprene socks a couple years ago and I wear them when hiking in nasty wet stuff. So far, I haven’t lost any toes to frostbite… catbite has come close a couple times…
I’m curious what makes you prefer these over plastic bread bags or Vbl socks?
Rocky Goretex socks for me are a keeper. I hike mainly in the shoulder seasons on the AT or summer above timberline, both of which you may find snow and cold. I have Merril Moab ventilators because, well, they ventilate, and will dry relatively quickly (my first rule toward keeping in warmth). So when grandpa David and I found ourselves hiking the southern AT mtns in December I decided on the Rocky Gore Tex socks. Don’t use them if it’s warm but when the temp starts dropping towards freezing AND a chance of significant precip rain or snow they have proved keep the feet warm and dry with my woolies under them. My two cents for Rocky Gore Tex socks, dido on price and size comment, but size 14 for my size 13 shoe is just right.
Is this system still in your rotation or do you generally choose a 200g insulated boot at this point?
I use a 400g boot for day hikes and over roasting bags instead of goretex socks when dry boots are required for overnights.
I’ve had these for ten years and love them. I’ve had to refresh the waterproofing a few times which is normal.
They seem to be.very hard to find now outside of ordering directly from the manufacturer. The link provided with the article no longer works as you would expect after eight years.