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Before you take to the ice, you will want to be equipped with high quality gear from your outer layer down to your socks.
Choosing the correct footwear is especially important due to the intense nature of the sport.
After reading this article, you will have all the information you need to select the best socks for ice climbing. Let’s explore your options!
What to know about gear for ice climbing
If you are active in winter sports (or outdoor activities in general), you know the value of dressing in layers.
Planning your ice climbing clothing follows the same pattern. But, as you experience colder temperatures, you will need to wear more layers.
As you are moving on the ice, you will warm up and will need to be able to remove or add clothing in order to maintain a sound body temperature.
Your clothing will help you stay warm and protect you against overheating.
As you alternate between climbing and belaying, you will experience a wide range of temperatures, and your clothing must compensate for the varying degrees of body heat.
Here is a rundown of the basic clothing you will need:
- Base layer – The layer of clothing that will be closest to your skin. Choose your material carefully. Never wear a cotton base layer. Opt for a wool or midweight synthetic material with sweat wicking properties.
- Mid layer – The layer between your base layer and your outer layer/jacket. Material and thickness choice are highly dependent on the weather conditions. The colder the weather, the thicker and warmer your midlayer should be. Fleece or down are common mid layer materials. This is where you will wear a vest (for a better range of motion) or insulated jacket. You usually only wear a midlayer on your torso and arms; most people skip this layer below the waist.
- Outer layer – Possibly the most important layer for ice climbing. It must be waterproof, unrestricting, and windproof. You can choose to wear a more breathable, non-waterproof outer layer if you like, but you will be soaked very quickly on the ice. Make sure you have a hood that will fit over your helmet! Gaiters are often desirable, too.
- Hat – While your helmet will help a little with the cold, you should wear a lightweight, moisture wicking beanie underneath. A balaclava can be useful on super chilly days.
- Gloves – Waterproof gloves with a good grip that allow you to use your natural range of motion are the only way to go. However, take along a warm pair of gloves to slip on during the downtime as well. Bringing extra gloves on an ice climbing trip is always a good idea.
- Socks – While your boots will help protect your feet, your socks are the last line of defense that will ultimately protect your toes and feet. Try wearing different thicknesses of socks on shorter trips to find your preference, and bring extra in case you want to change between climbs. You may find that layering socks is best for you. Some ice climbers wear up to three pairs of socks at once, while others find that a single pair of midweight hiking socks feels better.
What to look for when shopping for ice climbing socks
Socks are often seriously underrated when sportsmen shop for outdoor gear. Do not be one of the unfortunate climbers who falls into this trap!
The socks you choose have the ability to determine whether you will have a fun, exhilarating day on the ice or a terrible trip that ends early due to cold, blistered feet.
Have you ever tried to wear a pair of running shoes that are a half size too small?
It’s very painful, right?
Wearing socks that are too small, or that make your climbing boots too small, will have the same terrible effect!
When you buy ice climbing socks, you have to take into account two key pieces of gear: the socks themselves, as well as your hiking boots.
First, your socks need to fit well.
They should be snug enough to remain in place, but not so tight as to leave deep indentations or restrict your circulation.
Make sure that they are tall enough to give you complete coverage in combination with your boots and pants.
Then, you must verify that they fit well with your climbing boots. As you change the thickness of your socks, your boots can fit quite differently. You may need an entirely different boot size!
(Although, it is probably more cost effective to purchase socks that fit your existing boots.)
Your ice climbing socks have to feel good! Look for breathable, moisture preventing, soft socks with a good level of cushion.
They should provide temperature regulation as well as prevent rubbing and blisters.
While you cannot definitively know the comfort that socks will provide until you thoroughly test them, you can weigh the odds in your favor.
Read the reviews before you make a purchase. Research the quality of the brand and material. Ask other ice climbers about their gear. Read posts on online forums.
If your research shows positive feedback, there is a good chance that you have found a good pair of ice climbing socks.
You may be wondering, “What’s the big deal about my sock material?”, but this can really impact your ice climbing experience!
Your socks have a tough job: they have to keep your feet warm (but not TOO warm), dry, clean, and smelling fresh.
That’s a lot to ask of fabric!
Merino wool, a strong, durable, soft fiber, is the best base material for hiking, climbing, and general outdoor socks.
It is warm, breathable, and moisture-wicking.
Merino wool will keep your feet warm even when it is wet, and this material helps to draw moisture away from your skin.
Look for socks made from a blend of merino wool and other synthetic materials such as nylon, polyester, or Spandex.
The addition of blending other synthetic fibers with merino wool strengthens your socks and increases their performance in demanding conditions.
Synthetic materials are very quick to dry, and a lot of them have antimicrobial properties which assist with odor elimination and prevention.
Avoid cotton in socks for ice climbing and other outdoor gear.
Cotton is great for inside use only, but when you need serious protection against moisture and cold temperatures, cotton is the last material you need. It’s warm in the beginning, but it is very slow to dry.
Once cotton socks are wet, your feet will quickly become very cold with no relief until you are inside.
Cotton socks absorb a great deal of moisture, which can cause blisters in addition to giving you cold feet!
Cotton socks are also known for retaining odor more than socks made from synthetic fibers.
Climbing, hiking, and other outdoor activities can take a toll on your feet… and your socks!
Ice climbing socks need to be especially tough to retain their shape throughout intense use and during washing.
If you do not purchase durable socks to wear ice climbing, your socks are likely to rip, stretch, and move during your climb, making your experience uncomfortable at the least and dangerous at worst.
If your socks lose their ability to perform, you will need to replenish your supply, which can be really annoying (and expensive)!
Look for socks that are described as tough, durable, and well-stitched. This helps to validate the quality of the manufacturer, which in turn leads to the quality of the product.
Best socks for ice climbing
There are a number of ice climbing socks that may work well for you. It’s important to always consult an industry professional before using any new product.
The following options may work well for your next ice fishing adventure.
PEOPLE SOCKS Men’s Women’s Merino wool crew socks 4 pairs 71% premium with Arch support Made in USA
People socks are made using the perfect combination of Merino wool, nylon, polyester, and Spandex.
You can wear People socks on the trail, in the city, while you are working, or when you are sitting at home.
While you’re busy tackling ice climbing, your socks will protect your feet without making you overheat.
They’re meant to keep your feet just warm enough no matter the conditions.
People socks are produced in North Carolina and sustainably shipped right to your door. You get quality footwear while protecting the environment!
These socks are medium-heavy weight and feature a reinforced heel and toe; they are designed to endure for much longer than standard Merino wool socks.
They will last for climb after climb!
You also enjoy the People’s Promise with the purchase of this product: if you have any issue with your socks, simply contact the company, and they will right the situation.
People socks are comfortable, well-made protection for the most rugged conditions.
With multiple size and color options, you can enjoy the comfort of People’s socks with the knowledge that they were sustainably, locally produced.
View at Amazon to learn more about how these socks may work for use while ice climbing.
- Blend of Merino wool, nylon, polyester, and Spandex
- Warm protection with natural temperature control
- Made for everyday use as well as active wear
- Reinforced heels and toes for long-lasting use
- Multiple color and size options
- Locally, sustainably manufactured and shipped
- People’s Promise guarantee
Kirkland Signature Mens Outdoor Trail Socks Merino Wool 4 Pairs
Kirkland’s Signature Men’s Outdoor Trail Socks are comfortable footwear for all seasons.
Also made of merino wool they will protect your feet from cold, wet conditions, and will help them to stay at a safe, comfortable temperature.
If your feet often feel sore after a day on the ice, don’t worry! These socks are cushioned from the heel to the toe to ensure maximum comfort and padding. This will also help them outlast competing brands.
Are you annoyed by the infamous toe seam in most socks? Kirland’s has the solution! They have included a smooth toe seam that you can barely feel, so you will not be bothered any longer.
The smooth toe seam also gives you a better fit.
And, these socks are highlighted by vented panels in the bottom of the foot for air flow and breathability.
You will also benefit from arch support for added comfort. As you can see, Kirklands has produced incredible socks for ice climbing.
With two different sizes, they will fit nearly anyone, and reviews show that they fit true to size.
To care for your Kirklands socks, turn them inside out, wash on the warm cycle, use non-chlorine bleach, and tumble dry low.
View at Amazon to learn more about how these socks may work for keeping your feet warm and comfortable.
- Comfortable For All Seasons
- Cushion from the heel to the toe
- Sweat wicking
- Comfortable and durable merino wool fabric
- Smooth toe seam
- Vented panels for breathability
- Arch support
- Two different sizes: M and L
SOLAX 72% Women’s Mens Merino Wool Hiking Socks, Outdoor Trail Crew Socks 3 Pack
Solax brings you a pair of merino wool socks that have several perks.
They’re made of merino wool, polyester, nylon, and spandex.
Designed to be itch free and comfortable, merino wool socks will last all day.
Solax socks provide you will compression to ease the stress of a long climb as well as a cushioned sole for comfort and shock absorption. These are very important features to consider when you think about the stress on your feet and legs during a day on the ice.
With extra cushioning to minimize the stress on your joints, this product offers you a high level of protection from physical exertion in addition to protection from chilly conditions.
These socks allow you to hike all day without pain or stress on your feet!
They even have an arch support to hold the socks in the correct location, no matter how much your feet move around in your shoes.
The flat knit toe seams work together with the cushioned bottoms to reduce blisters and increase your support and comfort.
These breathable socks will keep your feet warm without overheating. And, they are naturally sweat-wicking and odor free!
Merino wool absorbs sweat and other moisture much better than other materials, keeping your feet dry to avoid blistering.
These socks come in two sizes: large and medium.
View at Amazon for more information on how these socks may work for you.
- Made of merino wool, polyester, nylon, and spandex
- Itch free
- Breathable and insulated
- Cushioned bottoms and flat knit toe seams
- Odor free
- Ribbed for excellent fit and comfort
- Intended for all day wear during activity and relaxation
- Leg compression for lasting support and protection
- Extra padding to reduce impact on joints
- Multiple size options
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