• Leon Pantenburg | Survival Common Sense


Review: Darn Tough® wool socks are durable, quality survival gear

600 377 Survival Common Sense Blog | Emergency Preparedness

Wool socks are standard hiking gear for me year-round, and good socks are a solid, survival equipment investment. Here are some socks that will last.

by Leon Pantenburg

Disclaimer: Darn Tough® provided the product for this review. I was not paid to write it, and nobody had any input. At the time of publication there was no advertising or affiliate relationship between Darn Tough® and Survival Common Sense. All I ever promise is a fair and impartial field testing and review. 

I’m hard on socks. I walk every day for a couple of miles, rain or shine, and I do longer hikes year-round. Sporadically, (and maybe spasmodically) I run. This last summer, some of my hiking was in deserts with extreme heat. In August, I was in the heat and humidity of Mississippi, with record triple digit temperatures. Come hunting season, I’ll be tramping all over fields, through timber and in standing water swamps. My socks take a beating in my boots, running shoes and waders.

Wool is my sock choice material year-round, and I have tried out many combinations.

To quote me in another story: Next to well-fitting boots, socks are the most important thing to keep you from getting sore feet. My all-around favorite sock material is wool because it breathes and wicks sweat away from the foot. (Here is why you should wear wool socks for summer hiking.)

My go-to hot weather hikers last summer included these Danner Incursion boots and wool socks. These are the Darn Tough work socks.

Many people start out wearing hiking boots, and socks are an after-thought. “I already have 100% cotton athletic socks that are thick and fuzzy, and they feel warm,” goes the reasoning, “so I’ll wear what I have.”

Cotton socks in waterproof boots are a recipe for creating blisters. Cotton holds in moisture and doesn’t wick it away from the skin. Once the material is moist, it doesn’t breathe. Couple cotton socks in boots with waterproof liners, and you have the worst of both worlds. The cotton will hold in the moisture, and so will the waterproof liner.

If your boots have a moisture barrier, they will be hot. I have yet to find a “Breathable” liner in a shoe or boot that works as advertised. (Here are some tips for avoiding sore feet.)

My experience is that there is nothing that wears out socks quicker than heat conditions, which leads to sweaty, damp socks in hot boots. This can create extra friction and wear on the material. Your socks will get hot quicker and stay moist longer. These are the conditions in which I wore Darn Tough® wool socks for the past few months.

From left are the Darn Tough Work, Tactical, Hike/Trek and Hunt socks. Each is designed for specific activities.

I tried out four different Darn Tough styles: The Work, Tactical, Hike/Trek and Hunt socks. The Work socks were worn the most, since I was doing more miscellaneous stuff outdoors, including yard work, plant foraging, rock hounding, mushroom hunting, hiking etc. They were also worn on my nightly two-mile dog walk on hot pavement. (My dog runs in the grass!) What would it take for the socks to show some wear?

The good stuff:

Material: Merino Wool socks are best for hiking, in my experience. Merino’s many inherent qualities – odor resistance and moisture wicking – make it one of the most desired fabrics for hiking socks.  (Learn how to wash Merino wool socks.)

Comfort: All the Darn Tough socks are soft and comfortable. They fit well – the heels and toes of the men’s medium size were right on for my size 11 feet.  A properly-fitting sock means there won’t be any folds in the material or toe, heel and instep sections and they are less likely to slide around in the boot or shoe.

Quality reputation: According to Ric Cabot, President and CEO of Darn Tough: “Nobody ever outsourced anything for quality.” The company backs that up with:

Unconditional warranty: An unconditional warranty? For socks? Here is the website vernacular:  “If these aren’t the longest lasting socks you’ve ever owned, you can return them to us for another pair. No receipt needed, just the pair in question.”

That’s pretty specific and iron-clad. The company couldn’t put out that out unless they don’t plan on replacing many socks. As best I can tell right now, my Darn Toughs are going to last a long, long time.

Made in the USA: The “still” in the “Still Made in Vermont” is a personal thing, according to the website. The Mill has been running for over 40 years, but the Darn Tough Vermont group– the sock unconditionally guaranteed for life – started in 2004.
When a product is made here, that means the workers make a living wage and labor in a good environment. They pay local, state and federal taxes. Their wages go to pay house and vehicle mortgages, band instruments and dance lessons for their kids, food and clothing, school stuff etc. Buy American!
Do you need some Darn Tough socks?
If you work outside, or recreate in rugged, potentially cold areas, you need solid, reliable wool socks to get the best performance out of your boots. If you can’t hike you may end up in big trouble. Blisters or sore feet in the Backcountry can create a survival situation.
There are many excellent wool socks on the market, and you have a wide variety of products to shop around. Darn Tough socks are a great choice, IMHO, and you can’t go wrong with them.

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