When I bought my awesome boots, they suggested i pick up some wool socks. Wool socks?! I may have exclaimed, incredulous that people wear them outside of winter. After a year though? Consider me a convert. They don't make your feet nearly as warm as you'd fear they would. I thought that I was going to be roasting in them, but I was pleasantly surprised. Usually when I think of wool clothing I think of hats and mittens, or the big thick wool socks (easily two to three times thicker than these) I used to wear for skiing and the like. Or itchy sweaters. Why would you want an itchy sweater on your feet? Thankfully, it's been nothing like that. any of that. I have nothing but positive things to say about the concept, and particularly the REI socks.
At $13 a pair, the REI Light Merino Wool Hiking Socks aren't as pricey as some brands like the $19/pair Smartwool socks I saw, nor are they as cheap a deal as I found the other day at Gander Mountain, at $14 for 3 pair. I definitely like the REI sock better though. I don't regret picking up the Gander Mountain socks, but the REI is definitely higher quality. The big difference lies in the seam, the REI socks are seamless so there's nothing to irritate the foot. My cheaper socks I just picked up, they DO have the seam in them, and while it isn't bothersome, I am aware of it. They're both equally cushiony (one of many reasons to get them) and they're both about the same thickness and density.
The idea behind wearing wool socks for hiking is not only the extra padding they afford you (you CAN still get blisters, I've got a small one on my toe after a recent day hike in the REI Sock) but also to wick away moisture. Wool is also going to smell less than cotton. You want to make sure that some of your sock rises above the cut of your boot, this gives it someplace to wick the moisture to and evaporate it. Furthermore, if you get wet during a water crossing or through snow or mud, those wool socks will still keep you warm. Cotton does not do that.
Would I recommend them? The REI socks without a doubt, buy them if you have a REI in your area and can afford them. the Gander Mountain socks? They're not bad, and if you're on a budget, 3 pair socks for the price of 1, might not be a bad deal. Want a pair of your own? Buy them at REI here!