Gear Review: Darn Tough Socks
I love socks. Like the greatest wizard of all time (Dumbledore), I don’t believe one can have too many socks. After five years of hiking, I’ve determined my favorite brand to be Darn Tough. Between my husband and myself, we own at least nine pairs of Darn Toughs, but at least one more is missing. (It’s probably still in some dry bag from this summer that we forgot to unpack- can’t wait to dig that out next spring!)
Darn Tough is solely a sock company (see what I did there?) in Vermont where all they do is make the best possible socks. All their socks are made in the US, and they all have a lifetime guarantee. We finally got a chance to test this out earlier this month. After about 2,100 miles each, two of our socks had holes in them. We mailed them to Vermont and just a couple of weeks later, brand new socks showed up free of charge!
Being a rather large company, Darn Tough has a lot of socks, so I’ll stick to my two main squeezes- the Coolmax Boot Sock Full Cushion and the Hiker 1/4 Sock Cushion.
The Coolmax Boot Sock
This mid-calf sock is 64% merino wool, 33% nylon, 3% Lycra® Spandex, making it fast-drying and breathable. I got my pair this past April, and they’ve been through the wringer. I’ve taken them through snow-fed streams in mud season, up and down 14ers during a hot but rather wet Colorado summer and now into the tough winter. They were breathable and cool all summer, and they’ve been comfortably warm so far this winter. I also noticed that while my non-Gortex shoes tend to add a little stench to the toy store where I work, I’ve never had to worry about these socks stinking up the place! (That’s the merino wool working like a champ!)
The price is a little high compared to other sock brands- $24 for this pair. However, when you never have to pay to replace them, that’s a steal! I was willing to dish out the big bucks when I was a baby hiker back in 2009, so I bought a pair of Darn Toughs. My biggest fear was blistery, cold feet, and I’ve never looked back!
Also, I’m a sucker for looks. I like to match even in the woods, and Darn Tough makes that darn easy. All of my gear is some variation on purple or pink, and all my Darn Toughs are, too! The number one rule is to look good, and Darn Tough makes that possible.
Hiker 1/4 Sock Cushion
This is a lower sock, coming up just above the ankle. I took this pair on the AT last year for 1,700 miles. These are made of 62% Merino Wool, 35% Nylon, 3% Lycra® Spandex. As SOBO’s, we spent a lot of time sweating our feet off climbing those massive northern mountains during the summer. We only did laundry every 4 or 5 days, and I only had one pair of hiking socks from mid-Maine until the Shenandoah’s (when I bought an adorable but cheap pair of socks with bears on them that lasted about 100 miles). Thus, my Darn Toughs did serious overtime from Maine to Virginia and held up ridiculously well. They still don’t show signs of wear, even after another year of hiking (granted they get to share the load a little more these days). At this point, they probably have about 1,600 miles on them, and they’re as comfortable as the day I got them.
Another great feature of Darn Tough socks is their ability to stand up to DEET. In Maine, we both had a pair of non-Darn Tough socks that we started out with (to use when our Darn Toughs were too wet or too stiff from dirt). We were not afraid to use a lot of DEET, and the non-Darn Tough socks lost all elasticity around the ankle by the end of the Hundred Mile Wilderness (one hundred miles into our SOBO adventure). As for our Darn Toughs? Still going strong to this day! I don’t know how they did it, but it must be akin to a miracle.
This pair cost me another $17, but, again, they’ll be replaced quickly and for free if I ever do wear holes in them. Aside from the initial costs, there are no other cons to our Darn Tough socks. The only reason we own such an outrageous amount of them is we can’t seem to stop buying them. Every year when we get our REI dividends, we debate what to spend them on and usually settle on more socks; specifically more Darn Toughs!
As a timid but reasonably experienced hiker, I’d recommend Darn Toughs to anyone. Socks aren’t the first thing that comes to mind for most people planning a thru-hike, myself included. However, after hiking most of the AT in Darn Toughs, I have to admit that socks are an important part of your hike. If you’re blister-prone like me or just want a pair of crazy comfy socks that’ll hold up from Katahdin all the way to Springer (or vice versa) and beyond, get yourself a pair of Darn Toughs!
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