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How do you dry wet socks when camping/backpacking if it's raining and the socks cannot be hung to dry outside?

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I've been compiling a list of recommendations on this subject for a little while. Please add to the list if you can. I hope you find this useful.

  • Stuff them inside your thermal underwear (while wearing them), each sock on top of a thigh, and wear to sleep
  • Wrap the socks in a hand towel, wring towel tightly, and hold the wrap as moisture equalizes between the items
  • Place a wet sock on each of your hands and warm the socks carefully beside a low-setting camp stove
  • Stuff pack towels within sock and allow towels to wick moisture away
  • Stuff socks into the base of your sleeping bag
  • Insert an activated hand warmer into each sock
  • Boil rocks (caution: rocks can explode) and insert the hot rocks into the socks
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consider moving your answer items in the question to a single answer entry. – ppl Oct 1 '13 at 18:12
The best place to discuss this is probably in meta. You cna find meta on the right of your login name. You have good questions, I'm not sure why or what moderators changed. Please share your point of view on meta. – ppl Oct 2 '13 at 14:22
up vote 12 down vote accepted

Sleeping with the socks on your torso is the most effective method I have found, and it does not require anything you wouldn't already have. For this, you just:

  • Take socks off
  • Put them inside your shirt, under all layers of clothing. They must be touching your skin.
  • Sleep
  • Wake up in the morning with dry socks.

This works with a lot of things: socks, gloves, hats, anything that could get wet. You don't need a fire, extra fuel, towels, hand warmer, etc... Putting the socks on your legs also works but your core is a much warmer furnace. You can dry socks during the day using the same method.

I generally carry two pairs of socks: one to wear and one to dry. I alternate every night and morning, so that I am constantly wearing dry socks. I have found this to be critically important to be comfortable while being cold or wet.

NOTE: I am assuming synthetic or wool socks. Wearing cotton socks in the outdoors is generally a bad idea. After a few days of this method, your sleeping bag will start to accumulate some moisture, so it's a good idea to air it out when the weather clears.

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I would not advise putting wet socks anywhere near anything that's preventing you from getting cold if it would generate a risk of hypothermia through decreased insulation or increased heat conductivity. Using your body heat to dry socks is dangerous in cold conditions as you're taking heat from yourself.

With this in mind, you should use an external heat source to dry your socks. This could be a fire or as you mentioned, hand warmer.

Socks can also dry in the wind, so if you can arrange for them to be exposed to wind whilst being protected from rain then that will also work.

As you mentioned, water can also be extracted using an absorbent material, such as a towel. You would have to decide which is more important to be dry at the time. Greater efficiency can be gained by an arrangement where water has a good route for escape and does not pool.

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I have a pair of rings inside my tent up at the top that allow me to string a clothesline - I use a hockey lace and leave it in place all the time. I can then hang things up inside my tent. On a sunny day, this is far slower than hanging them outside, but on a rainy day it is obviously quicker than outside, and it does work.

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It wont work well if the weather is cold and damp. – Unsung Oct 3 '13 at 13:00
It has worked for me in cold damp weather if there are people in the tent adding a little warmth. – Kate Gregory Oct 5 '13 at 10:40

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