Darn Tough Socks brings you a lifetime of happy feet, and we got a chance to slip a pair on to give them a try. Check out why you might want to keep a few pairs on hand.
A lifetime warranty. Some outdoors companies have them, like Tilley Hats and Rat Cutlery. It is a phrase that conveys quality, and re-assures the buyer that they are investing in a quality product. Sure, many things are not guaranteed that you would think should be, like cars and shoes, because they eventually wear out. There are a few items that can be expected to last forever, but socks probably aren’t one of them. Socks? No, it isn't meant to incite a giggle from a three year old, socks are extremely important to the frequent wilderness trekker. Many backpacking trips have gone very good, or have turned out extremely horrible, due to sock choice.
Darn Tough, a USA based company from Vermont, is the maker of the best socks I have used to date, and they happen to have a lifetime warranty. Backpacking is one of the most demanding outdoor activities that one can do while wearing socks. You are twisting, turning, rubbing, abrading, and heating and cooling your feet sometimes all within a few seconds of each other. This can have horrible effects on your feet, as anyone who has hiked in wet cotton socks can attest to. Most aficionados recommend some type of wool or man-made material for comfort, and there are a plethora of good and bad sock choices out there. Darn Tough knows that too, and makes sure that their socks are the farthest thing from your mind when out slogging about the Earth, but are the first thing that comes to mind when you’re shopping.
Darn Tough is owned by Cabot Hosiery Mill, a company that has been around for a long time in the textile business. The Chief Designer of Darn Tough socks designed socks for over 30 years. "We saw the need for a tough sock, so the company rose up out of necessity from consumers" reports Andy Linnevers, a Darn Tough associate. Made in Vermont, the company has over 80 employees, many of which are experienced and avid outdoorsmen, runners, bikers, hikers, trekkers, climbers and skiers. They test the socks to the limits themselves before sending them out to other testers.
The socks are made out of custom count fibers of Merino wool or Coolmax. Merino wool is a very interesting material derived from the Merino sheep breed, and the wool itself contains anti-microbial properties that occur naturally within the coat. The wool socks are pre-shrunk too, so they can go into the washer and then be dried on low. The Vermont based company’s products have just been approved by all four branches of the military, and were awarded an $8.5 million dollar Army contract, so they are here to stay. The government is really starting to take care of their soldiers now, and their feet are going to be riding the comfort wave. Andy Selters, a world renowned climber and guide, uses Darn Tough socks on his mountaineering expeditions, integrating the sock’s all terrain performance into his all terrain life style.
With over 31 different sock designs ranging from over the calf versions to no show ankle models, the company has many options. These includes different knits, mesh (open knit, breathable), ultra light, ribbed knit, and invisible seams. The seam of the ring-toe, that little line that goes over your large toe, can be uncomfortable in some other brand’s backpacking socks, but the Darn Tough socks have an integrated stitch making it seamless and unobtrusive.
A Very Long Testing Process.
I didn’t want to just wear these socks around, write them up, and be done with them. Socks have always played an important roll in my rompings, as they can make or break a trip with their uncouth hotspots that can form with time. I’ve played other companies socks and ripped through them, as they normally only hold up to a few months of washing before they had to be retired. Some socks will shrink and pill up, then eventually fall apart. Both pairs of Darn Tough’s socks, the Merino wool and the Coolmax, did not disappoint. With the simple directions of turning the sock inside out before throwing them in the washer, these socks are no worse for wear. The stuff on the inside is made for the rigors of the washer, and the pre-shrunk nature of these knits means that you can give them the heavy duty treatment then tumble them on low in the dryer. Many other wool sock companies put in small writing that you are supposed to air dry their products.
Swamp Stomping Coolmax Hike/Trek Boot Sock
At the SHOT Show, I asked the marketers what sock they would recommend for some nasty high PH level swamps. I told them about my water draining boots and how I can stay wet or damp for a day at a time when outside. They prescribed to me a Coolmax version of their popular Hike/Trek boot sock. I promptly put them on the next day and started testing them at SHOT Show, where being on your feet on concrete floor is a quick way to find out if the socks are going to cause any problems. I like Merino wool, but wool can get warm in some cases, and I’m more comfortable using this quick drying material in the muck. I went down to South Carolina and tested these socks over the course of three days inside my OTB Odhin Boots. I will mention that between the three days, the only cleaning I did was drying them on a makeshift rack. The same socks were worn for three days in muddy wet environments, with no hot spots, wear marks, or nasty staining on my feet or the cloth. They cleaned up like a charm. Since then I have taken them on 4 backpacking trips, where they were used day after day and still had comfort to spare. Coincidentally, my buddy Joseph had a similar pair of Darn Tough socks on a few of the trips and shared my jubilation for the company’s quality. The normal stiffness and funk that I get with other Coolmax sock brands did not occur during any of this use. The guys weren’t kidding when they told me I could literally spend days in one pair.
Merino Wool Hike/Trek Boot Socks and Hunt/Fish Socks
The other, comfortable, more luxurious socks Darn Tough has to offer are basically anything in their Merino wool series. As stated before, the antibiotic nature of the wool makes the funky feet factor very unlikely. I did use the Hike/Trek wool socks in a bog, and they cleaned up great, however they took slightly longer than the Coolmax to dry. The Hunt/Fish socks are a bit roomier fit than the normal Hike/Trek sock, and may be the choice for extremely wide feet, or those that like to wear the large plastic slip on style boots. Speaking of large boots, they also feature an over the calf sock that worked perfectly with my extremely high and ugly over the calf snake boots. I only had one pair of socks I chose to wear with these boots, and when I tried the Darn Tough versions, it was almost like wearing a brand new boot, as the wide cuff up top did not sag inside the boot at all and kept friction at bay during the long car rides and field treks. In tall boots it is important to have a tight sock, as seeds and other plant matter can get in and gather at the top of the boot. With tight lacing and Darn Tough socks, I didn’t have that problem.
In conclusion, these socks speak for themselves in their comfort and warranty. I had some other “intelligent” wool socks on a plane one time, and they absolutely cooked my feet and made my plane ride miserable. I never forgot about that ride, and I made a point to try both the Coolmax and the Merino wool socks on a longer plane ride to El Salvador recently. I didn’t have any problems with these thermo-tolerant socks like I did with other brands. For the first time hiking, my boots have come off but the socks stayed on my feet. They felt that good.
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