Gear Box: Hiking Socks From Keen and Dahlgren

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Remember the old days, when we’d head out on a hike in a pair of basic leather boots and tube socks? At the end of the day, we’d be so happy that we reached our destination, simply so we could kick of our shoes and air out our tired, sore, and usually stinky, feet. A lot has changed since then. Our boots have certainly improved, becoming more comfortable and durable at the same time. Hiking shoes have become high tech wonders, mixing the latest waterproof and wicking fabrics, with Vibram soles and comfortable padding. As a result, our feet are more protected, and pampered, than ever, making it even more enjoyable to be out on the trail.

But boots aren’t the only thing that have gotten better, as hiking socks continue to evolve as well. Now days, there are a wide variety of socks to wrap your feet in and keep them well protected from the rigors of the trail. They come in a variety of weights for trekking in the summer heat all the way up to the icy cold of the polar regions, with every conceivable environment in between getting covered as well. I recently had the opportunity to test out new hiking socks from two different companies, and I came away quite impressed with both.

First, I received a pair of Boulder Canyon Lite Sox from Keen. Made from soft, comfortable Merino Wool, these socks were a joy to wear from the moment I slipped them on. They offer a snug fit, in the best possible way, without feeling restrictive in the least. You’ll find the usual Keen attention to detail is alive and well in the Bolder Canyon socks as well, as their seamless design ensures that they don’t irritate your feet on long hikes either.

One interesting design element in these socks is that there is actually a left and right designation to them. Keen designed them to be extremely comfortable, and that means building them specifically for each foot, and when you have a sock on the wrong foot, you can definitely tell a difference. (I know this because I tested them, not because I wasn’t paying attention and put them on the wrong feet. I promise! *Ahem*) Fortunately, Keen was smart enough to put a little “R” and “L” on the socks to help me keep them straight, and when they’re worn correctly, they just might be the most comfortable hiking sock I’ve ever used.

The Boulder Canyons stood up well on my trail tests, keeping my feet comfortable and dry, even in the heat of the Texas summer. And as we all know, dry, comfortable feet don’t get blisters and at the end of the day, they’re more weel rested as well. After putting in a few miles on a local hike, I was still able to go for an evening run without missing a beat. I think these socks are the just another ploy by Keen to make sure I never put anything on my feet that isn’t from their catalog. It might be working.

The Keen Boulder Canyon Sox have an MSRP of $16.95 and they’re worth every penny.

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The other hiking socks I’ve been testing are the Ultra Light Trail and Light Hiking socks from Dahlgren. Like their Keen counterparts, these socks also use Merino Wool, but they also mix in fabrics made from the fur of an Alpaca as well. This blend results in a super-soft, yet incredibly absorbent sock that also kept my feet cool and dry on hot weather hikes. I was especially impressed with the “ultra light” version of the socks in this regard, as they are incredibly thin and lightweight, yet still comfortable to wear and just as protective of your feet as the medium weight offerings. Both version breathed well and did a good job of  preventing blisters, although I admittedly rarely suffer from blisters in the first place.

Dahlgren is a company that is serious about socks. In fact, it is the only product they make, and it shows. Their products fit very well, are super comfortable, and definitely do what they’re designed to do – namely keep your feet dry. Whether you’re on a day hike on a local trail or heading to the Himalaya for a weeks long trek,  Dahlgren has the perfect sock to keep you moving along. The Ultra Light Trail socks carry an MSRP of $18.45, while the Light Hiking Socks will run you $21.45. That may seem a bit on the high side, but these are high quality adventure socks that will last you for a very long time, and they are definitely worth the money as well.

So, if I had to recommend to pick one of these pairs over the other, what would it be? There is no easy answer to that. The Dahlgren Ultra Light socks were absolutely perfect for the triple digit heat we’ve been experiencing all summer here in Texas, while the Keen Boulder Canyons are super comfy for trails in moderate temperatures. Either way, you can’t go wrong, and once you try these socks, you’ll wonder why you’d ever use anything else again.

Kraig Becker

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