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Socks

This Humble Pair of Socks Saved My Triple Crown Hike

If you don't pay attention to your hiking socks, you could find your trip going sideways. Just ask thru-hiker Sammy Potter.

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The biggest hikes can go sideways over the smallest things. Take your feet: A blister or a broken toe at the wrong time, and your trip may become more agonizing than awesome. Sammy Potter discovered just how important the little things are partway through an attempt to hike the Triple Crown in one year, when his sock choices almost derailed his trip. Read on to find out what happened, and sign up for Outside+ to get his and partner Jackson Parrell’s packing list

Our tents (L.L. Bean Microlight UL 1-person models), quilts, and layers have been nothing less than instrumental to our hike thus far, but in the end, thru hikers’ best friends are their feet. And if you don’t treat your best friends well, they’re going to hold a grudge down the road (or trail).

I learned this lesson the hard way on the PCT when I decided to get rid of my sock liners and alternate between two pairs of socks for 5- to 10-day stretches of trail. It started out fine, and I applauded myself for saving the extra ounces in my pack. But a few days later, I started to notice small abrasions and red marks near my toes. These only grew as the days went on, and began causing me more pain than I could handle without two Ibuprofen a day and a break every hour. I just barely escaped this situation with the help of a doctor in the area who prescribed me some meds.

After that, I’ll never leave my sock liners at home again. Now I carry three pairs of socks (two Darn Tough pairs and one Smartwool) and three pairs of sock liners (REI co-op merino wool liner crew) at all times. A couple extra ounces is a lot better than walking on knives all day or ending up with an infection thanks to dirty socks.

Sign up for Outside+, and make sure to catch Jackson and Sammy’s story in Impossible Odds, Backpacker’s new podcast, premiering soon.