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One thing that has been instilled in me since I was a very small kid is the importance of socks and dry ones at that. You never had to tell me twice about that because my Dad was obsessed with keeping extra socks on hand.
My Dad got jungle rot and had a lot of foot issues from Vietnam. He was out in the wet jungle so much there was just no way to keep his feet dry and in good socks. He used to soak his feet a lot when I was a kid and he just couldn’t ever get his feet right again.
For those that do not know, you can permanently damage your feet if you don’t dry your feet out regularly and wear clean socks.
Athlete’s foot is one thing, the fungal and skin issues that can occur with real jungle rot is something else.
Cracks in the soles of your feet make you more prone to infections and parasites. During an SHTF situation, this can be incredibly serious. Consider that during an SHTF situation, some bodies of water, floodwaters, etc are going to have more bacteria in them.
Warmer climates are going to be the worst. Jungle Rot/Immersion Foot can lead to dead and literally rotting tissue on your feet if not treated in the beginning stages.
Avoiding Jungle Rot/Immersion Foot
- Change socks often
- Keep feet dry whenever possible
- Air your feet out during the day or at least in the evenings. If you stop for rest, allowing your feet to get some sunlight on them can also help.
- Use foot powders if you tend to sweat a lot. Just talcum powder alone can make a big difference
- Treat any fungal issues as soon as possible
- Avoid wet conditions if you have cuts, cracks, or any blisters on your feet. This is a gateway for more bacteria and fungi.
Now on to the socks…
At the moment there are a lot of socks that you can buy and put back for a long emergency or SHTF. Cotton socks are good for hot climates and times when you are sure you are not going to be caught out in really wet conditions. Synthetic socks or natural animal fiber socks are what you want for situations where things could get wet or wet and cold.
There is something to be said for buying winter boots ½ size larger than needed to accommodate thicker socks that you may need to wear during the cold months of SHTF.
During a long emergency you will probably be using your feet a lot more and under a variety of conditions so it is very important to take foot care and socks seriously.
Choose socks based on your climate but remember that people can get hypothermia even when outside temps are fairly warm if they get wet and cannot get dry.
If you live in Southern California you are probably not going to want to buy the thickest socks an outfitter has to offer. Regardless of climate, it seems that having a variety of choices available or some socks that can be layered with other socks, is a good idea. Buying socks that are larger and hat can be put over others is something to consider. I have tried to do this with socks that were the same size and it always seemed difficult so I can see having a few pairs of socks that are a size larger.
With so many to choose from, I have just selected a few that are worth considering. I encourage you to look for others too.
I advise shopping out of season for some types of socks. Spring or summer is a great time to buy wool socks from outfitters both online and in-store. During the holiday season is also a good time.
I love these socks because they last forever, are super comfortable, and they are on sale sometimes for an amazing price. I bought a lot of them once when they were on sale for $5 per pair. At this point, all of the socks are still in good shape and I have a stockpile of them to last for quite some time. It really doesn’t get that cold here compared to some areas of the country so wool socks are not needed as often. I would say that the socks are true to size as well unlike many of LL Bean’s products.
I bought these at Old Grouch’s Military Surplus and I have been very happy with them. ( If you have a military surplus store, be sure to check them out for sock deals, if not then follow the link to Amazon.)
For starters, the silver blend helps make them more antimicrobial. They also come up to the knee which is nice for a little extra warmth on chilly days. They seem to wash well.
These are great for general use and as a trade item during short and long emergencies. The fact that they are made to fit a variety of foot sizes makes a great choice for stashing back for SHTF. The Hanes or Fruit of the Loom Mens Socks Size 6-11 is what I would recommend if you are unsure what cheap cottons socks to put back. Sometimes you can actually get better quality and a good price by purchasing packs of 2-3 pairs of socks at the grocery store. Our local Ingles Market sells really good cotton socks and it is convenient to just throw a few pairs in the cart when doing a grocery run.
There are a lot of people that have to wear diabetic socks. Even if you don’t it may be a good idea to have some on hand for SHTF because someone will want them. If you are a diabetic or have someone in your family that is, don’t forget to have a supply for them. A dozen pairs don’t cost much and could be a big help.
I really love Smart Wool. I used to have a nice sweater made of it that Matt bought me back in 2004. Well, his parent’s wonderful cat decided it liked it too so I wound up with a lot of holes in it after years of reliable service. Smart Wool is unique because it is just so darn soft and easy to care for. People that don’t like the itchiness of wool but like the positive aspects of a natural fiber sock will find that Smart Wool is the answer. You can buy just about any piece of outdoor clothing made from Smart Wool now and the price has come down some from when it first came out on the market.
Height of Socks
Crew length is the most popular length. Some people may like ankle socks but for putting back for SHTF or a long emergency, they are not something I would go out of my way to store up. Chances are you are going to be wearing more footwear that goes above your ankle so that you have good support for hiking and doing manual labor tasks. If you find a good deal, maybe get some quarter socks, but when in doubt go for crew length.
A Note on Expensive Socks
I don’t blame folks for buying a few pairs of socks that are a bit more costly or of very high quality. What I would recommend though is that you buy a single pair or two and wear them on some long walks or a few trips and see how you feel about them before buying a lot of one type. Not all socks are great for all people.
Also, be sure to look at the care instructions. Most clothing is pretty easy to care for nowadays but you still need to follow the recommendations.
Black absorbs heat. I like black socks for wearing with some clothing but for general wear, go with light-colored socks. The lighter colors are probably going to be more cost-effective and easier to find anyway. The one thing I dislike about light-colored socks is how easily they get stained but during SHTF that is going to be the least of my worries.
Men’s Socks Vs Women’s Socks
Women can sometimes get a much better deal by purchasing men’s socks unless they have very small feet. If I was a woman with really small feet I would check out the boy’s socks to get a better deal.
One thing I have noticed with women’s and men’s socks is that in some styles and brands, the women’s seem to be thinner and wear out faster. I don’t think this is a much a problem with some of the mid to higher-priced brands but it is something to consider when shopping for nice socks.
Washing and Sanitizing Socks
Keeping some soap around is something everyone should do. Water can be boiled and allowed to cool a bit before socks are added with some soap if you are dealing with very dirty socks that can be washed with warm or hot water. For basic washing or socks with special care instructions you can get away with colder water and soap but something, I want to recommend no matter what is allowing socks to be in the sun to help sanitize them further. UV rays are excellent at killing nasty things that may be lurking in socks.
I have a small drum style hand-washer called The Wonder Wash I use for handwashing delicates or single items of clothing at times. I tested it out and you can wash a week’s worth of dirty socks for 2 people in just a few minutes of cranking. Letting them soak in strong soap in the drum is helpful for getting them the cleanest.
I will turn the crank for a minute with a lot of soap and then let them soak for 30 minutes and then turn for another minute, rinse, and then wring out to dry. I have a spin dryer that wrings out clothes with very little power.
Here is the link to my article “Laundry Kit For SHTF” for those that are interested in low-cost alternative laundry options.
Other Foot Care
Socks are great but you should have a few other things for your feet.
Spray or cream for athlete’s foot
These can help prevent blisters and abrasion in shoes that don’t fit perfectly and they can help avoid other foot pain from lack of support. Even the best shoes will lose some support over time. Insoles can help give them a tune-up so that they offer you better support and comfort.
Moleskin for blisters
Salicylic Acid for removing bunions and growths
For more info, you can check out my article “Foot and Shoe Care Kit For SHTF”
Socks are useful for more things than just wearing on your feet. Here are a few ways to use socks beyond the norm.
Combine with rocks or other heavy objects to make a weapon.
People use to make jokes about a roll of quarters in a sock. The truth is that it would be truly awful to get hit by something like that. You can also use some rocks. A sock will only take so much so you may only get a few good hits depending on what you are wailing on.
Filtering sediment out of dirty water.
I have talked about the value of pre-filtering in many of my water-related articles. A regular cotton sock can be used as a pre-filter.
Old socks or very dirty gross socks can be used to make fires.
Cotton fibers are great for fire starting. Don’t throw away socks that have a few holes in them even if they are the cheapest cotton socks out there.
Clean socks with holes in them can still be used as toilet paper or for cleaning things.
Some people say that they use socks for gun cleaning rags. For some tasks, I guess this would be okay. The small fibers I find annoying though and so I avoid socks for gun cleaning rags. Some may be better than others. I do use clean but worn out socks for scrubbing things and then I just toss them. It is better than just throwing them away.
Use a sock as a dust mask
Anything is better than nothing if you have dust and debris saturating the air. Put a sock over your mouth to help filter out air until you can get to clearer air.
I am definitely guilty of grabbing a few clean socks and using them as extra pot holders when Matt and I were living under tougher conditions while building our house. They are not ideal but if you double them up and then use then they can work. The thicker the sock the better of course. Never try this with synthetic fiber socks.
Socks can hold a lot of small items that you don’t mind being mixed up together. You can even stuff a tube sock with a bunch of other socks so you can keep them all together if you want.
Socks that are white or brightly colored can be used for signaling or marking things. You could even tie one to a long stick and use it to wigwam or do other signals. For more info on signaling, be sure to check out my article on “Signaling”.
Socks can be used to cushion various things and protect them. Backpack straps or slings could be made more comfortable with a sock. You could even cut out the toes and slip it over a strap or sling so you could adjust where it sits for comfort.
What socks do you stash back? How many pairs do you think is a good guideline per person in your family? Do you have extra pairs in your bug out bag?