There’s nothing like a cold winter morning, where the sun is shining bright and glistening off the ice drenched maple trees. Enjoying the great outdoors in the middle of winter is exhilarating, but It can also be equally dangerous. What you wear and what your gear is made out of will essentially determine whether or not you survive the back-country snowmobile ride or summiting Mt. Rainier.
Even if you’re just hitting the slopes for a few hours, you need to stay warm. If you’re not wearing the proper clothing, and that includes socks, your body temperature is going to start dropping rapidly. When you’re in extreme cold weather, it doesn’t take long for hypothermia to set in. Sit back and read and I will give you my pick of the best socks for extreme cold!
(Quick side note: If you are looking for boot inserts and other winter clothing that will keep you warm in sub-zero temperatures even if you get wet, see my article “Fortress Clothing – My Review!“)
In case you wish to skip right to my top pics for extreme cold weather socks, just click on any of the links below to be taken to the details of that sock. After doing that if you wish to get back to this list remember to just hit your browser back button.
In my opinion the best socks for extreme cold weather are:
- Skiing Socks
- Mountain Climbing / Hiking Socks
- Hunting / Ice Fishing Socks
- Snowmobiling Socks
Did you know your feet are like thermostats for your body? If your feet are warm, then you’re typically feeling pretty cozy everywhere else. But, when your feet are cold and wet, you start to feel it in your legs, chest, arms and hands. When heading out into the extreme cold you want to choose the best sock for your activity. You also need to pay attention to the fabric of the socks. We’ll get into all these tips in more detail below. Other things to consider when choosing the best sock for extreme cold: thickness, padding and fit.
Best Sock Material for Extreme Cold
Let me start this section by making it very clear you should without a doubt stay away from cotton socks at all costs! Seriously, cotton kills, and you don’t want to die because of a poor choice in socks. In all seriousness, cotton absorbs sweat and doesn’t let it go. Wearing cotton socks is like put a pair of sponges around your feet. You’d never do that- at least I hope you wouldn’t. When cotton socks absorb sweat, they get wet. A few miles into a 30-mile winter expedition and your feet are soaking wet.
You can thank cotton for that. When your feet are wet, you get cold! And it’s not just your feet that are chilled, suddenly your entire body is shivering and you’re entering the beginning stages of hypothermia. I know it’s a bit dramatic, but this is a very real scenario you could face when you choose the wrong socks.
So, what should you be wearing? Great question. You want to look for socks made out of synthetic material or merino wool. I’m partial to merino wool, simply because they are exceptionally soft and incredibly functional. Merino wool wicks away moisture, preventing your feet from getting sweating. Merino wool is also a great choice for insulation- keeping your feet warm, but not too warm.
Synthetic socks are made out of nylon, Lycra and other man-made materials. Synthetic socks are a great choice too! This type of material also wicks away moisture all while keeping your feet warm and dry. Your biggest objective when choosing the warmest sock for extreme weather is to make sure they keep moisture away. If your feet stay dry then you will stay warm!
Socks for Extreme Cold
Okay. Now that you know what to look for in a pair of warm winter socks, let’s take a look at what’s on the market today. Remember, we don’t want to our feet to get too hot or too cold, so you need to take into consideration your activity level when you’ll be wearing a particular pair of socks. With the gear nowadays, you can pretty much do any activity outside in extreme cold. With that said, I’m going to narrow down the best socks for extreme weather based on activity. Let’s get started.
Okay so these first four socks are the ones for snow skiing. You can use them for other things but skiing is primarily what they were designed for.
1. Darn Tough Men’s Padded Cushion Skiing Socks
Are you ready to make fresh tracks? Slip on a pair of Darn Tough ski socks and you’ll be the last to lodge for a cup of cocoa. These socks are padded in all the right places and made with all the right material to keep you nice and dry, even when you wipe out on that double diamond run. These socks are made out of 62% merino wool, 4% Lycra and 34 % nylon.
The right combination of wool and synthetic material makes this a top choice. The Lycra keeps the sock in place- preventing you from reach down your ski boot to pull up a rouge sock. With a lifetime guarantee this may be the only pair of socks you’ll ever need for skiing in extreme cold. This sock is also thin, which keeps the circulation flowing in your foot. Stay away from thicker socks, especially when wearing ski boots!
Check out the price here on Amazon: Darn Tough Men’s Padded Cushion Skiing Socks
2. Darn Tough Women’s Padded Cushion Ski Socks
Like the men’s version but made specifically for women. These socks provided all the right support and cushion right where you need them. There’s extra padding over the shin area, to prevent your ski boots from bruising that sensitive area. Other than the bells and whistles, these socks are well, darn tough.
They are made out of merino wool, Lycra and nylon blend. This blend of fabric works wonders at keeping your feet dry and warm. As with the men’s socks above, they are durable and come with a lifetime warranty.
Check out the price here on Amazon: Darn Tough Women’s Padded Cushion Ski Socks
3. Outdoor Wool Skiing Socks
These pair of socks make stay dry look really cool! Slip on a pair and suddenly you’ll feel like you’re in a Warren Miller ski movie. Okay, maybe not. But, it’s nice to dream, isn’t it? These socks are made by Pure Athlete and they are made with you in mind.
According to the manufacturer, the socks have a perfect blend of merino wool and polypropylene to take away moisture and keep your feet nice and toasty. In addition to keeping your feet dry, they also provide arch support! The blend of synthetic fabric also keeps the socks from slipping. No one likes cold calves! These socks ring in at about $25.
Check out the price here on Amazon: Outdoor Wool Skiing Socks
4. Wigwam Performance Ski Socks
These are the Rolls Royce of socks! So, what makes them so special? It’s all in the material and attention to key areas of your foot. According to the manufacturer, the socks are made out of a blend of synthetic and wool material. This is classified as a mid-weight sock, so it’s great for when your skiing or wearing big boots.
Remember, you don’t want thick socks when you’re going to be really active. If you do, your socks may be working against you and cause your feet to get way too hot. This particular pair of socks will cost you about $15 and they come with a lifetime guarantee!
Check out the price here on Amazon: Wigwam Performance Ski Socks
Mountain Climbing / Hiking
So, you’re getting ready to summit Mt. Rainier and you’re in the market for a new pair of socks. You’ve come to the right place. When your mountain climbing, you will be exposed to extreme cold temperatures, especially the higher up you go. You need to keep your toes warm when you summit and descend off that mountain.
5. SmartWool Hiking Light Crew
is a trusted and durable brand that reintroduced the world to a new kind of wool. This particular pair of socks is almost 70% merino wool. The rest of the sock is made of synthetic material.
Because you’ll be on your feet a lot while hiking in extreme cold, you’ll want a sock like this- made with a higher percentage of wool. I haven’t personally purchased this particular sock, but appears to be a popular choice for hikers and mountain climbers.
Check out the price here on Amazon: SmartWool Hiking Light Crew
6. SmartWool Trekking Heavy Crew Socks
Like the Hiking Light Crew, this pair of socks packs a punch when it comes to wicking away moisture and keeping your feet dry. The socks are also breathable and comfortable to wear for hours on end. This is the kind of sock you won’t need to peel off at the end of the day.
This pair of socks are a little thicker than the previous SmartWool sock I mentioned above. So, you’ll want to try on your socks with your boots to make sure it’s a good fit. You don’t want your feet to be too snug in your boots, otherwise you’re losing circulation.
Check out the price here on Amazon: SmartWool Trekking Heavy Crew Socks
7. SmartWool Women’s Mountaineering Extra Heavy Crew Socks
If you’re heading out on an expedition where there will be extreme cold, this is the pair of socks for you! These socks are made for extreme weather. You can be in -20 degree weather and feel nice and toasty thanks to the proprietary blend of material.
Check out the price here on Amazon: SmartWool Women’s Mountaineering Extra Heavy Crew Socks
8. Darn Tough Extra Cushion Socks
The name of these socks says it all. They are darn tough at keeping your feet dry in the most extreme cold weather on the planet. They are made with 79% merino wool. That’s a whole lot of wool working hard to wick away moisture and keep your feet insulated. They’re also cushion to prevent blisters on your heels and toes.
Nobody likes to stop in the middle of a descent at 10,000 feet to attend to a nagging blister. If you’re worried about blistering- this is the pair of socks for you! At $26 a pair, you’ll have enough left in your budget to pick up a couple sets for your next adventure.
Check out the price here on Amazon: Darn Tough Extra Cushion Socks
Hunting / Ice Fishing Socks
The same sock principals apply to hunting and ice fishing. You want a sock that will keep you warm and keep moisture at bay. With hunting you’ll be hiking a lot, so you may want to consider a thinner sock. However, if you’re ice fishing- you’ll be sitting or standing in one place. This type of activity probably lends itself to a thicker sock, with more insulation. Let’s take a look at what the best socks on the market today are designed for extreme cold hunting and ice fishing
9. Darn Tough Extra Cushion Socks
Clearly, we have a winner here. I mentioned this sock above for mountaineering, but it’s equally as good for hunting and ice fishing. As I mentioned above, this socks rocks the merino wool with 79% of the sock, made out the durable material. This particular pair of socks also has a blend of Lycra, that keeps the sock in one place. They don’t slip, slouch or shift in your boot.
That lycra plays a critical role in sealing out the weather at the top of the sock. It’s fits like a glove, too! Not too tight and not too loose. It’s the perfect sock to keep out extreme weather conditions. I know I sound like a broken record, but this sock is a top pick for keeping your feet warm in extreme cold.
Check out the price here on Amazon: Darn Tough Extra Cushion Socks
10. Premium Merino Wool Crew Hiking Socks
Look at all the wool! 71% merino wool from Australia. These socks are made for extreme cold and designed to fit your foot perfect. The socks are also incredibly durable and the company stands behind every purchase. In fact, you can return your socks even if you get hole in the toe. How’s that for customer service? In addition to the moisture wicking capabilities, the socks are also made with nylon and spandex.
This blend of synthetic materials means the socks will stay where they are supposed to and keep your shins warm all at the same time. The spandex creates a seal from the weather, keeping the cold out and your warm body heat in! You can’t beat the price tag either: $26 for 4 pairs of socks. This is by far the best deal I’ve seen on high quality merino wool socks.
Check out the price here on Amazon: Premium Merino Wool Crew Hiking Socks
Writing this article is really getting me itching to get out in the cold winter mountains, particularly on a snowmobile. Snowmobiling is one thing that it has been a really long time since I have done personally. But I digress.
11. Heat Holders Men’s Original
If you’re heading out into the back-country to take advantage of all that fresh powder, these are the socks for you. Heat holders are the number one sock for snowmobilers because of its thermal capabilities. The socks are made out of proprietary blend of synthetic material- no merino wool here. According to the manufacturer, the socks are made using Heat Holders Yarn.
This yarn had been developed to provide maximum warmth, breath-ability and moisture control. The loops of the yarn are also designed to keep warm air closer to your skin. These socks are great for when you’re riding, digging out your snowmobile or stopping for lunch. These are the top pick for snowmobiling in extreme cold.
Check out the price here on Amazon: Heat Holders Men’s Original
Wherever your next adventure takes you, choosing the right pair of socks will determine how much fun you have! No one likes to hunt, hike or ski in wet, cold, socks. How many times have you called it a day because of chilly feet? Too many to count. With so many innovative fabric blends at a variety of price points, there is no reason not to have warm dry feet on your next adventure in the extreme cold!