How to use and where to buy anti-leech sock?

Leech socks
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The 130-million-year rainforest of Borneo is older than Amazon, but there is one small bug that scares its visitors. Like other rainforest in South East Asia, the best lowland forest of Malaysia is always infested with forest leeches, the little wiggling and slimy blood suckers, which are extremely persistent to crawl onto your naked skin for a feast.

leech bite
Their bite is nothing more than a minor cut, but the anti-clotting agent in their saliva causes you to bleed profusely for hour, some find the bloody view a terrifying experience. I was always shocked by the screaming of the girls who find leech on their skin, so I decide to write this guide.

leech socks as jungle trekking outfit
Leech sucks, so how to prevent being leeched? The MOST EFFECTIVE way to prevent leech bite is by wearing anti-leech socks or leech-proof socks (leech socks in short), as shown in the photo above. Leech socks have become a standard part of the outfit for jungle trekking in Borneo.

So you want a leech sock huh?

There are 4 types of leech socks (see following photo). In most cases, you only need to pick type no.1 or 2. Type 3 and 4 are less common and listed here FYI only:
types of leech socks
Please see photo above for numbering.
No.1: Elastic-strap leech socks – most commonly used.
No.2: “Deluxe” leech socks – expensive but the best.
No.3: String leech socks – old fashion but still in use.
No.4: Long leech socks – same as No.1 but longer.

Though look different, all of them employ the same simple mechanism to keep leeches at bay. Basically they are just oversized socks for you wear over the pant, to block leeches from accessing your skin from the opening of your pant.

1. Elastic-strap Leech Socks

A pair costs RM18 to RM24 (≅USD5-USD6.50) and made of cotton cloth. It is the most commonly used. If you don’t want to read further, just buy this one.

most common type of anti-leech socks
most common type of leech socks

FYI, you can buy anti-leech socks online:

Anti Leech Hiking Socks Free Size Protection for Trekking (Yellow, Extra Long)

how to wear leech socks
To use it (it is easier to wear it in sitting position), (1) wear it like socks all the way up but at outer layer, so you can cover the opening of your pant. (2) Then pull the elastic strap to tighten and seal the opening. (3) Note the adjustment knot to control the tightness of the strap. (4) repeat the steps for another foot and put on your hiking boot or shoes.

elastic strap of leech socks
Keep your legs comfortable, an extremely strong tight is not necessary. I know you worry that leech might sneak in through the sealed opening but that’s very unlikely. The closed loop of the strap always hooks on something in forest, so you may want to hide it behind the socks.

Below is a 1-min video to show you how to wear this anti-leech sock:

Click Here for wider video

The Good: reasonable price and comfortable to wear.

The Bad: during long walk, the socks will slide down gradually. You have to pull it up regularly. It is made of cotton cloth, so it gets wet easily during rain or if the trail is muddy.
leech socks sliding down

2. Deluxe Leech Socks

A pair costs RM38 (≅USD11.50) and made of nylon material (upper part) and linen cloth (lower part). I call it “Deluxe” because it is very expensive.

deluxe leech socks

deluxe leech socks outfit
Just wear it like other leech sock. This leech sock has internal elastic grip on top and bottom of the nylon (blue part), so you don’t need to tie any string. But I find it a bit tight though. Maybe it’s new.

close-up of deluxe leech socks
Above: close-up of Deluxe Leech Socks

You may watch the 1-min video below to see Deluxe Leech Socks:

Click Here for wider video

Personally, I think this is the BEST leech sock, due to the reasons below.
The Good: The materials are more water-resistant and durable. That means the socks can be cleaned (e.g. mud) and dried quickly. This is important for long period of jungle trip, because wet sock is very hard to dry up in humid forest of Borneo. The double grip points also keep the leech sock in position.

The Bad: the most expensive type. For that price, you can buy two pairs of other leech socks.

3. String Leech Socks

A pair costs RM15 (≅USD4.50) and made of cotton cloth too. This design is phasing out and replaced by Elastic-strap Leech Socks.

string leech socks

look of string leech socks

lace of leech socks
The design is similar to other cotton leech socks. Since it has no elastic grip, you need to tie a noose on the cord to seal the opening, like how you tie shoe lace.

The Good: cheaper. If you know the right technique to tie the knot, the socks won’t slide down.

The Bad: The strap is not elastic so you have to tighten it stronger to hold the sock in place. However, this causes extra stress and discomfort to my skin. After long day of jungle trekking, it will leave thin lines of bruises on my skin at the strap area.

4. Long Leech Socks

A pair costs RM34 (≅USD9) and made of cotton cloth.

long leech socks
In general, it is same as Elastic-strap Leech Socks, but it is a few inches longer and have two elastic straps.

long vs short leech socks
To compare the difference, I wear both long and short leech socks, as shown in photo above. I think it’s for people who wear short pants.

The funny thing is – leech sock is for leech-phobia tourists. Our local people don’t wear leech socks. Those villagers who always go in and out forest normally wear long soccer socks, less effective (60-70% leech proof) but costs only a few dollars. In fact, most of them don’t really bother about leeches.

soccer socks
If you can’t find any leech socks for sale, you can use soccer socks instead, which is readily available and cheap. Make sure you get the long one with very tight weaving that leaves no tiny seam for leech to wiggle its way in. The soft-bodied leech only needs a loose hole as tiny as pencil tip to puncture your skin for blood.

Does anti-leech sock make me 100% leech-proof?

Good question! The answer is NO. But it’s 90% leech-proof and does make a big difference. To understand why, you need to know how leeches “attack”.

activity zone of different leeches
There are 2 types of leeches in Borneo jungle, namely, Tiger Leech and Brown Leech. Brown leeches are smaller and usually active on ground level with wet leaf litter. Occasionally you may see it crawling on grass. When it crawls on your leech socks, you can just flick it off. Brown leech can be fend off easily by leech socks.

However, for tiger leech which is bigger and active from ground to waist level, you have to be vigilant all the time. Especially in wet season, tiger leeches will hide and wait in the leaves and twigs of shrubs along the trail. If your body touches the bushes, you will pick up tiger leeches on your legs or waist. The leeches will crawl up and look for exposed skin on upper part of your body, for example, armpit, neck and belly. Leech socks won’t work in this case. So you need to keep an eye on your body (or ask your buddy to check regularly). Anyway, just avoid contacting any low shrub and you shall be safe.

leeches in shoes
When leeches crawl to your leech socks, 90% of them will go inside your shoes. Leech dislikes dry surface so the dry cloth of leech sock deters them slightly. You will find half-death leeches in your shoes. But it is different story when it rains and your leech sock is wet.

Where to buy leech socks?

There are a few places in Kota Kinabalu where you can find leech socks. I only name two shops here. When you buy leech sock, check the sewing and make sure there is no hole on the socks.

1. Borneo Outdoor Gear

It is in ground floor of Suria Sabah shopping mall (see map below).

Borneo Adventure Gear


View My Sabah Map in a larger map

Below is their contact:
Address: Lot. No. B-66 & B-67 Lower Ground Floor, Jalan Tun Fuad Stephen, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.
Tel: +60 88-488873
Mobile Phone: +60 10-9541826 (Alfred Lim)
E-mail: welve82@streamyx.com

leech socks for sale
They have Elastic-strap Leech Socks and Long Leech Socks for sale.

2. Tech City

Tech City is next to Jesselton Point, near to city edge of Kota Kinabalu (see map below).

Tech City shop


View My Sabah Map in a larger map

Below is the contact of Tech City:
Address: No.5, Jalan Gaya, Jesselton Point, Warehouse, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.
Mobile Phone: +60 12-6701796 (LC Lee)
E-mail: llchen@yahoo.com

deluxe leech socks for sale
They only have Deluxe Leech Socks for sale.

Some popular nature destinations such as Tabin Wildlife Reserve and Danum Valley also sell leech socks in their souvenir shops, but at higher price. Please share with us here if you know any other shop selling leech socks.

To learn more tips to combat leeches, you may Click Here to read “How to prevent leech bite?”.

Photos taken in Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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  • cgs1550

    Thank you very much for taking the time to post this information.
    -Victor  Tampa, Florida USA

  • mysabah

    You are most welcome Victor. 🙂 Please share this with your friends who need the info.

  • Silas

    Thanks mysabah, two great articles!  One question though.  Travelling during August, will i be alright with Keen sandals, or will i need more substantial footwear?

  • mysabah

    You’re welcome. Where will you travel? Keen sandals is quite ok as long as you wear leech sock. This sandal is great if you need to cross river.

  • Your posts on Sabah are great! We are very excited to visit Sabah in March to see some of your awesome birds. In South America we and our guides wore rubber boots in the jungle. I was going to bring my rubber boots, but in your photographs, I never see rubber boots. Are rubber boots a dumb thing to wear in Sabah?

    Regards, Eric G. Portland Oregon, USA.

  • Hi Eric, thank you and welcome to Sabah. 🙂 Rubber boot is also a smart choice, especially in Important Birding Areas such as Kinabatangan and Tabin as the trails there can be very muddy sometimes.

  • Heather Hapeta

    thanks for this information …. I’ll be buying leech socks as soon as i arrive in Borneo in July … now to continue reading your blog … most useful for me as travel writer coming to visit in July 2013

  • Hi Heather, you are welcome. 🙂 I’m really glad that my blog helps. Please feel free to contact me if you need any other info. Have a nice trip in Sabah!

  • Jojo

    THanks for the information – a quick and unrelated question: Which rainforest lodge do you recommend for the best Sabah rainforest experience? I know some are “reserves” and others are not and are actually located close to palm oil plantations. Any thoughts on this? thanks! and keep up the good work!

  • Hi Jojo, thanks for reading my blog. The best rainforest lodge I would recommend is Borneo Rainforest Lodge of Danum Valley, the one that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited last year. More info at: http://www.mysabah.com/wordpress/?p=548

  • jason

    Thanks for the information. Does any 1 know where to purchase Anti Leech Socks in KL area?

  • I’m not sure about KL. Hope their outdoor shops have such item.

  • leech lady

    Fun learning site! Thanks for the info! From scared tourist!

  • My pleasure. 🙂 Once you get used to leeches, you will find that they are cute LOL.

  • Anne_mohd

    You can buy the socks at this shop. It’s only RM19 for that Deluxe type:

    SRI DAMANSARA OUTDOOR
    Lot 1.45, Level 1, Desa Complex,
    Jalan Kepong, 52100, Kuala Lumpur.
    http://www.sridamansaraoutdoor.com/

  • Thank you Anne. That’s really good to know.

  • Ahli Chung
  • Thank you Ahli for your info. It’ll be very useful to those who want to buy it outside Sabah. ^^

  • Barbara

    Hello,
    do you now also a shop in Kuching to buy the leech socks ?
    Thank you for an answer.

  • Hello Barbara, I wish I could help you but I’ve never been to Kuching so I don’t know..

  • C ZeRN

    can sport tight pant work like the leech sock? tq

  • Hello C ZeRN, it’s unlikely that leech can bite through pant, but you need to make sure your feet are covered too.

  • C ZeRN

    Noted. Tq.

  • Joline Lalime

    Thanks for this informative post. I love the “local” tact of just wearing footy/soccer socks – I’ll do that 🙂
    Some great, down-to-earth information.

  • You are welcome Joline. Thank you too for your nice words 🙂

  • Ceylon Top Gems
  • Andrea Sciacca

    Hi @murphy!
    Thanks a lot for all your information, we are going to Kelabit Highlands do you know if we can find leeches socks there or in miri ?

  • platypus

    I have a question. I read somewhere that wearing ladies stockings are most effective. Have you tried this method before?

  • I was told that lady stocking works. However, I didn’t try this method, worrying that someone would call me a creep. >_<

  • Hi Andrea, I never been to Kelabit Highlands so I don’t know, sorry..