Darn Tough's Mountaineering Socks
As always, we're looking at the Darn Tough Mountaineering Socks from the point of view of long distance trekking over tough terrain.
Test subject: Foot Size: 9 (Medium Width), Inner leg: 30", Height: 5ft 8"
Test item: Size = Medium
Kit Tests: Winter
Disclaimer: None required (item not provided by manufacturer)
|Materials: Merino Wool / Nylon / Lycra||74% / 24% / 2%|
|Knit: Fine gauge high micron merino wool||-|
|Weight (Size = Medium):||170g (per pair)|
|Product Sizing Reference: 9 (EU43) =||Medium|
|Manufacturer RRP||£24.00 ($27.00)|
Introduction: Unconditionally Guaranteed for Life
One of the things that stands out about Darn Tough is their guarantee. It's not the promise of a company that feels sketchy about their product:
"Our unconditional lifetime guarantee is simple and without strings or conditions. If our socks are not the most comfortable, durable and best fitting socks you have ever owned, return them for another pair. In a nutshell, if you wear a hole in them, we will replace them free of charge, for life."
There are plenty of cases online where customers were dubious of the seemingly gimmicky guarantee, only to find that's it's absolutely genuine. So what makes Darn Tough able to be so cocky about their product?
Materials & Construction
Darn Tough are based in Northfield, Vermont in the US and make all their socks locally in a single mill. What makes their socks so unique? Darn Tough answer this better than I can ...
"All of our socks are knit on small needle, fine gauge knitting machines. This approach produces durable, high density stitching without bulk. Less bulk means a better fit. The better the sock fits, the longer it will last. We only use fine gauge, high micron 100% merino wool in the knitting of our wool socks—we do not cheapen the wool by adding nylon or polyester to the blend of the wool. We reinforce the outside and inside of the sock with nylon and lycra for added comfort, durability and fit. "
The benefits of Merino wool are well known and I'll summarise them briefly:
breathable, moisture wicking and temperature regulating, resiliant and elastic (maintains shape over time), quick drying, insulating (and warm when wet), comfortable, odour-resistant and anti-bacterial.
So we have fine gauge Merino wool with a high density stitch, reinforced with nylon, in a seamless construction. What this allows is for extremely warm and cushioned mountaineering socks to have a streamlined fit more akin to a liner sock. In fact Darn Tough suggest that liner socks aren't necessary with their range, which makes a lot of sense.
Weight & Cushioning
Darn Tough produce socks with the following weight categories:
- padded light
- ultra-light cushion
- light cushion
- padded cushion
- full cushion
- extra cushion
The thickest and warmest sock in their range is the over-the-calf, extra cushion, Mountaineering Sock. The high loop stitch count provides very dense under foot cushioning. I wear these with my Altberg Bergen boots with the stock insoles. The Mountaineering Sock provides a very nice additional level of comfort (reducing the need for supplemental insoles) without adding much extra volume.
Fit & Comfort
When I first put these socks on I laughed because they are so absurdly luxurious. Form fitting is perhaps the best way to put it, like a good skin-tight baselayer hugs the torso, these socks hug the feet without feeling compressively tight or restrictive.
In use, you don't really notice them at all. During the last, very wet winter kit test, crossing streams that had turned to small rivers, my feet got soaked; in the saturated Mountaineering Sock my feet stayed warm, comfortable and blister free.
The over-the-calf length is ideal for winter socks and these combine well with 3/4 length baselayer leggings.
On the inside of the Mountaineering Sock we can see the extra heavy, terry loop construction which creates small pockets of air to insulate from the cold and enhances moisture wicking.
Darn Tough state that their socks are quick to dry. I'm not so sure about this, the last winter kit test (2017) was permanently wet and so nothing got a chance to dry, but being so dense I struggle to believe that these socks will dry quickly. We need a little more time to test this and the review will be updated when we come across some winter sun.
Conclusion & Rating
Bridgedale, Smartwool, Lorpen all make good quality socks, but if you're going to splash out on your feet (and feet are always worth it), then Darn Tough socks are the way to go. £20+ may seem like an extravagance, but with Darn Tough it's a once-off extravagance, and in actuality a sensible investment. No slipage, no bunching, no blisters, just toasty warmth and luxurious comfort. What more do you want from a cold weather sock?
We took up the Darn Tough challenge: were they "the most comfortable, durable and best fitting socks I have ever owned?"
And darn it, they were.
Rating (out of 10)
We'll update this review over time; so far it's too early to make an honest assessment of durability, but based on research and the lifelong guarantee we've made an estimate.
* The value score is derived from two factors:
1) Competitive Market Price (CMP). This represents our judgement of a competitive online price point if we were to stock the item. e.g. if we feel we would need to sell an item at 40% off (i.e. 60% of its full RRP) to be competitive, then our CMP score will be 6/10.
2) Customer Value Price (CVP). We then make an honest appraisal of the maximum price we would be willing to pay for the item (and we're mean). So if we'd pay 80% of its RRP our CVP score would be 8/10.
We then average the two scores to get our final value score, which in our example would be 7/10.
Last Updated: 08/06/17