Review: Sealskinz Waterproof Socks

My acrobatic skills might fairly be likened to an elephant's, and I'm certainly no gymnast, but I've done some impressive rock-hopping in the name of maintaining dry socks. I love hiking, but if there's one thing I hate about it, it's getting my feet wet.

When I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail last year, my trail name was Condor, but I secretly gave myself an alias: Captain Dry Feet. I dislike the feeling of wet, squishy, slug-like socks underfoot so much that when I was on the PCT I sometime took stupid risks and wasted a lot of time trying to find dry places to cross.

It wasn't too far into my 1,700-mile hike that I started missing my trusty pair of SealSkinz Submerge Waterproof Socks. I have been using these socks for two years now, on multi-day backpacking trips and particularly soggy day trips, such as Buckskin Gulch. Before long, I broke down and called to have my resupplier mail my pair of SealSkinz to me before I hit the High Sierra.
SealSkinz socks are not made of actual seal skin, but they might make seals a bit jealous.  The company makes an assortment of socks and gloves designed to keep extremities dry and insulated, even while slogging through wet and cold conditions.  Even out of water, I find that their thick "skin" adds comfort to every stride. Do they make a good everyday hiking sock? No. They are a little heavier than most hiking socks and could cause overheating. But on wet days, there's nothing better.

What makes these socks different than my everyday backpacking socks (I personally prefer REI Merino wool hiking socks) is the patented seamless three-layer design, which helps keep the socks' shape, keeps water out, and wicks away sweat. The company calls this their Moisture Vapor Transpiration system, combining a durable Nylon/Lycra shell, a Dupont fabric inner wicking layer, and Coolmax fiber to help diffuse perspiration. Whatever they call it, it works.

For those adventure-seekers who splash though streams or slog across muddy terrain, a pair of these unisex socks will make the journey much more comfortable. The socks have a snug, yet cozy and comfortable fit, and they stay warm even when fording icy streams swollen with snow melt.

In the two years I've used my SealSkinz socks I've yet to get blister. They consistently perform well while wading across calf-high brooks, but any higher and water slips past the elastic cuffs.

On more than one river crossing I've reached the other side with socks bloated out like water balloons, requiring me to stop and wring them out. If I had to do this after every river I probably wouldn't wear them. But just a little acrobatic ability goes a long way, and the benefits of the SealSkinz far outweigh the risk of taking on water.

To be fair, I'm sure the socks' elasticity has lost some of its snap over two years, but I found a work-around: I've noticed that when I wear the socks under a pair of lightweight hiking pants or knee-high Nylon gaiters, the pressure of the water on the clothes keeps the mouth of the sock from taking in water.

As I prepare for a next big hike—a 400-plus mile trek through the Sierra Nevada this summer—I'll definitely be packing along my pair of SealSkinz. Captain Dry Feet will be glad to have them.