Years ago I used to frequently make connections at the Pittsburgh airport.  On the A concourse, not far from the food court, was a little shop called Sox Appeal.  Among other types of socks, Sox Appeal had really unique, multi colored men’s socks.  They typically were $15 to $18 a pair (not cheap!!), and looked (sort of) like this:

Men's multi-colored socks

The only problem was, they didn’t last all that long.  Because I liked them, I tended to use them more frequently than other socks, and they wore out quickly.  The were fun and distinctive, but not a great value.

ta800-3In the last couple of years, as I’ve become more and more interested in traveling light, I’ve searched for products that are suited to that approach to travel. Several months ago a Practical Hacks reader recommended Tilley travel socks.  Boasting a 3 year “All Holes Barred” guarantee, Tilley socks are lightweight, can be washed out in a hotel sink and dry overnight, and very durable.  I bought several pair and have worn them a lot in the ensuing months.

Much as I did with the funky colored socks I used to buy at Sox Appeal, I find myself putting the Tilley socks into “extra rotation” in my sock drawer, in order to really put them to the test.  They’ve held up amazingly well.

The biggest benefit to travel socks (and underwear) is that you can reduce the number of such items you bring along on any trip, and thereby, the amount of weight you’re lugging around.

From the Tilley site:


  • Moisture-escape panel for extra breathability
  • Help keep feet dry and comfortable
  • Rib arch cradles your feet
  • Three-year ‘All-Holes-Barred Guarantee’
  • Wash, wring and they will dry overnight
  • Alphasan to reduce odor causing bacteria
  • Fabric certified “EXCELLENT” UV protection – UPF 50+, the maximum rating given
Fabric Story:
Made from 49% polypropylene (with alphasan), 46% nylon and 5% Spandex. This blended fabric gives our socks their excellent moisture wicking action, fast-drying capability, durability, and comfort.

And if washing out socks or underwear in your hotel room sounds like a big hassle, it isn’t.  It takes about 4 minutes to wash out a few items, rinse them, place them in an extra towel and wring it for about 15 seconds.  Then all you need to do is drape them over the shower or towel rod.  No big deal.

If you haven’t tried travel socks, check out Tilley travel socks. They may not be as sexy as multi-colored socks, but they’re a much smarter investment – especially if you’re a regular traveler!

The Fine Print:  this post contains affiliate links.

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4 Comments on In praise of the lowly (travel) sock

  1. Michael W. says:

    I’ve been tempted to try the Tilley Travel Socks (the synthetic ones, not the wool ones)so thanks for being the “guinea pig” for your readers and Googlers.

    Are these Tilley’s thick enough to be comfortable? I usually wear a “crew” thickness sock, not those old-style “thin” dress socks, which don’t provide enough cushion for my feet. My only concern with the Tilley’s is that they sound like they might be the thinner, dress sock style to help them dry more quickly.

    I used to “wring” my sink wash items (socks and underwear primarily, thin synthetic polos and tee shirts and crew necks seem to dry just fine without wringing), but then learned an even better way, less stressful to the fabric – roll the item(s) in a towel, set the rolled towel on the floor, and walk back and forth over the rolled up towel. Expressing the excess water this way is easier on the fabric than rolling and twisting. You have to interlayer the socks within the towel, you can’t stack them on top of each other.

    BTW, some synthetic socks take longer to dry than others. It partly depends on the selection of materials, partly on the thickness of the sock. I usually try to let my socks dry all the next day – it’s good to hear the Tilley’s will dry out literally overnight. When I am using one of my slower drying synthetic socks and REALLY need them the next morning, I wear them to bed while still damp – synthetic doesn’t have the same chilling effect as cotton socks do, and while it feels a little odd at first, they are dry by morning. It’s a lot better to try this odd step, than to wear damp shoes in our shoes, where they can’t air out and dry.

    Finally, when I hang my socks up to dry, I always try to hang them from the toes, so the water that drains down will go toward the crew top, not the toes, to make sure the foot portion is dry.


  2. Kevin says:

    Michael –

    I find them comfortable. They certainly aren’t plush like athletic socks, nor are they super thin as with old fashioned dress socks – they’re somewhere in the middle. From your description, I’m not sure you’d like them.


  3. PaulZ says:

    I’ve used Tilley socks for ages — they really are the best thing in the catalog (including the hats, and I really love my 3 Tilley hats!). I must have 7 or 8 pair of the dress socks and 4 or 5 of the wooly walking ones.


  4. Michael W. says:

    I found some Tilley products at a Royal Robbins outlet in Berkeley today. The socks didn’t seem too thin for me, and aren’t any more expensive than the Smart Wool and Patagonia socks I often buy. I bought a pair of the light brown (khaki) ones and will try them out tomorrow. Unfortunately they only had the ankle high ones, but since I will wear them with brown Crocs at the beach, that is probably fine.

    I also found the Royal Robbins Field Vest, which seems truly neat and has made me think that there may actually be a place in my travel toolkit for a travel vest.

    A long time ago I bought a canvas Domke photo vest for travel, but this travel specific vest is Much better than the Domke, both in terms of pocket design and in terms of materiasls. The Domke was cotton, which soaks up water, then dries really slowly, making it fairly unsuitable as weather protection; the Royal Robbins, on the other hand, is Supplex nylon, just like my old LLBean and Lands End jackets, which looks smart, has a nice hand, and the design is trim but with none of the metrosexuality of that iPod-friendly vest you reviewed a while back. I think I’m going to wear this new vest on the flight over my shirt, it might actually be enough to keep me warm, (a Marmot Sunset “windshirt vest” was enough a couple of flights ago) and will certainly let me keep stuff more handy than I might otherwise be able to. I don’t intend to overload it, just a pen here, snack there, boarding pass, eyeglasses, etc. My passport always goes in my pants pockets – I don’t like to be separated from it even during a brief transit through security.

    I also found the Pacsafe Coversafe, their slim money/document pouch for around the waist wear, under or over clothing. Clever design – the belt has thin cables in it, so “razor artists” can’t slash it off. Also the buckle is under a “hood” so it can’t be snapped off easily, and there is a Velcro tab to keep the zippers from being easily opened.

    I’m sure if the Pickpockets School included these in their curriculum, the pickpockets would find a way around these little impediments, but for now these money belts are so rare it should deter the average pilferer.

    Should be great to use at the beach when I have trunks on (more for the sun than swimming, I’m not big on swimming). Also good when going to night markets – even if I don’t keep much that is valuable in it, it is a good “decoy” to keep pilfering hands out of my pockets. The Pacsae is only $18 or so. Mind you, it’s not intended for transiting security, the cables set off the alarm.

    Not to be a travel nag, but you’ve GOT to stop doing all these business trips and go someplace semi-tropical instead, to put a different slant on your travel tips. :-) I have to admit this request is purely selfish, since I’ve always done more vacation flying than business flying. And as you pointed out in your review of the Patagonia Lightweight Travel Duffel, the type of travel affects the type of bag that is most suitable. (“Bihn is for Business, Steves is for European trains and planes, Air Boss is for safaris.”)

    Not that that’s a bad thing – I have to make two midweek business trips over the next 30 days, and your thought provoking articles on minimalist business travel are making the task of packing much more fun, and less daunting, to think about.

    “Thought provoking” is exactly what I mean, too – unlike some writers who dictate to their readers, you seem to challenge us to take your tips as a starting point, not the last word.

    Well, I do have to admit I’d like to hear more about the Bihn, Air Boss, and Patagonia carry-on pieces. You are becoming quite good at sniffing out what works and doesn’t work, and a comparison and contrast might be just about right. Although my wife swears if I buy another travel bag, I can pile them in a heap in the living room and sleep on them. Alone.

    Some final thoughts on socks: Target used to have some VERY good black crew style socks made out of Coolmax, which were wonderful for work, the comfort of hiking socks with the appearance of dress socks, and inexpensive to boot. At the other, rotten end of the goodness spectrum, the No Nonsense men’s socks sold at Walgreen’s etc. should be avoided at all costs. I had to buy some two weeks ago when the socks I put on that morning were accidentally mismatched (navy blue & black) and I’ve never had a worse sock in my life.


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