DARN TOUGH MOUNTAINEERING SOCKS
TEST SERIES BY DON TAYLOR
INITIAL REPORT - November 12, 2009
FIELD REPORT - January 21, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - March 22, 2010
anfhiker AT yahoo DOT com
Youngstown, Ohio USA
5' 7" (1.70 m)
195 lb (88.50 kg)
For the past 12 years I have been camping/backpacking primarily in Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia with the Allegheny National Forest as the most frequented location. My trips are generally long weekends and I try to camp or hike at least once in all 4 seasons with the fall being my favorite. My backpacking trips usually consist of 15 mile (24 km) days and a group of 2-3 other hikers in forested, moderately hilly areas. I consider myself a lightweight, slow and steady hiker. The winter hikes often involve heavy snow and freezing temperatures.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Darn Tough Vermont
Model: Mountaineering Extra Cushion
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: www.darntough.com
MSRP: Not Listed
Listed Weight: Not Listed
Measured Weight: 5.6 oz (159 g)
My Boot Size: Men's 10 US
Made in the USA
The Mountaineering Extra Cushion Socks come from Darn Tough's Hike-Trek Series which is a line that also includes 1/4 socks, micro crews, and boot socks. Darn Tough's other lines of socks are listed on their website, which I found to be well organized and easy to navigate.
The Mountaineering socks are full size over-the-calf socks designed for extreme cold. The socks are offered in navy or gray and the sizes range from small to extra large. They are manufactured with 77% Merino wool, 19% Nylon and 4% Lycra Spandex. The manufacturer uses 100% fine gauge Merino wool which they claim helps regulate temperature and is highly breathable, itch free, fast drying and naturally antimicrobial. Other features the manufacturer advertises include fine gauge knitting for a secure fit and abrasion resistant yarn to reinforce the heel, toe and foot bottom. To help prevent blisters, the socks have a zero friction heel and to control slipping, the socks include mid foot supports.
The Mountaineering socks came with an unconditional lifetime guarantee. The company states, "If our socks aren't the most comfortable and durable socks you ever owned, return them for your money back."
|Sizing Chart From Darn Tough's Website|
The socks arrived partially wrapped in a thin cardboard package. This packaging was covered in good information such as the warranty, sizing chart, care instructions and features of the socks.
My initial impression was that the socks appeared to be very well made with good quality material. The wool is very soft and the thickness/cushioning are very noticeable. The seam at the toes is very small and smooth and the top cuffs of the socks appear to have good, strong elasticity. There are no obvious defects or snags that I can tell.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
The care instructions are listed on the packaging. Darn Tough recommends that the socks be machine washed inside out in warm water on the gentle cycle and then tumble dried on low. Dry cleaning is not recommended.
TRYING IT OUT
As with any new gear, I had to immediately try out the socks when they arrived. I put them on and took a short hike in the woods near my house. The socks were very comfortable and the cushion was definitely noticeable. The fit was great. I wear a size 10 US boot and these socks are a large. There was no play around my toes, heels and legs. Many hiking socks that I own are bulky around the toes in addition to having a seam that can be felt. On the few occasions that I have worn the socks so far, neither of these issues were a concern. The fabric is soft and did not cause that itchy feeling that can be common in wool socks.
So far I really like the feel of the socks. They appear to be well made and durable, however time and distance will tell. The quality and no-nonsense, lifetime guarantee give me a good feeling from the start.
I do not have any initial concerns with these socks.
Please check back in two months to see my long term report.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I have worn the socks on at least 4 day-hikes and 2 weekend trips in western Pennsylvania in addition to wearing them while working around the house, shoveling snow and to the Browns-Steelers game in December which turned out to be the coldest conditions that I have worn the socks in. The distances covered on the two weekend hikes were 24 miles (39 km) and 20 miles (32 km). Temperatures ranged from 6 F (-14 ) to the lower 60's F (16 C). During over 8 hours tailgating and sitting outside in Browns Stadium, the wind chill dipped to -15 F (-26 C).
When I have worn the socks hiking, the trail conditions ranged from dry and flat to very rugged, wet, snowy and steep. The places I have visited include elevations from 600 ft (183 m) to 1300 ft (396 m). I have worn my socks inside of trail shoes, full size hiking boots and light work boots.
To this point, the socks have seen almost all of the many different conditions that hiking in the Midwest entails.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The socks continue to be a great addition to my trail gear. They fit just as good as the first time I put them on despite one of the pairs getting run through the dryer on high (against the manufacturer's instructions) by accident. Both pairs have seen more than 10 wash and dry cycles and neither show any wear worth noting.
During the coldest of situations, the socks have done an excellent job of keeping my feet warm even in my trail shoes which are well ventilated. As the day warms up, they wick away the moisture well and do not overheat my feet. They seem to be well suited for the temperature ranges I have faced. I agree with the manufacturer's claim that the Merino wool naturally regulates temperature.
The socks stay pulled up reasonably well however I do find myself adjusting them back up from time to time. This is truly a full size sock that covers my legs up to my knees. Normally I would not have choosen that full of a fit because socks that are pulled over my calf always seem to make me itch. However, despite taking a little time to get used to the fit, these socks do not create that itching feeling around my calves.
The "zero friction heel" has done a great job of preventing blisters. I have not noticed any blister hot-spots forming. The "mid foot support" also does a great job. The socks stay in place and do not bunch up.
The cushioning of the socks is still noticeable, especially when I change out of one of my other pairs of socks into the Darn Tough's.
Still holding their fit
No blister hot spots
Holding up to washing without pilling
Excellent wicking and temperature control
None so far
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
My use of the socks during the last few months consisted of several day-hikes, one frigid short weekend trip and countless days wearing the socks around town and while working outside. All of my hikes were taken in Cook Forest Pennsylvania State Part and the Allegheny National Forest. The trails varied from snow covered to very muddy to dry and rugged. Temperatures ranged from 10 F (-12 C) to 35 F (2 C).
My use of the socks around the house included log splitting, snow shoveling and many other winter time rituals. On one occasion, I purposely wore the socks out for several hours on a hike in the woods around my house to test them out during our coldest weather of the year. The temperature was -5 F (-21 C) with high winds and deep snow.
In most all cases I wore the socks without a liner. My boots are mid-height, waterproof and not very breathable. On the colder days, I pulled the socks over my base layer. The pants I wore most often were convertible hiking pants however on the snowy days I wore an outer shell over my hiking pants.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
In all cases, including during my short day-hike on one of the coldest days of the year, the socks kept my feet and calves warm. Even after back to back hiking days the socks rarely slipped down my leg or bunched up in my boots. The cushioning has diminished somewhat but it is still noticeable and appreciated.
Even though my boots are not as breathable as I would like and I was not wearing liners, the socks did a good job of keeping my feet dry and comfortable. On the rugged trails I did not experience the dreaded hot spot indicating that a blister is coming soon.
On one specific occasion, on a day-hike on the Seneca trail in Cook Forest State Park, I slipped while trying to cross a half frozen stream. My one foot went completely through the ice and the water poured in over the top of my boot completely soaking my sock. During the hike back to the cabin, even though my foot was cold, the sock kept it warmer than I would have expected it to. When I got back to camp I hung the sock in the chilly cabin to test the drying time. With the cabin temperature hovering around 50 F (10 C), the sock, although not very pleasant to put on, would have been usable the next day.
I have put the socks through countless wash and dry cycles. As my wife will tell you, I rarely pay attention to separating out my laundry loads based off of the care instructions. Because of this, these socks have gone through full wash and dry runs. They have not had the benefit of delicate or low cycles however they are no worse off. They still hold their size, fit and shape extremely well.
After using these socks over the past few months, I feel that they have held up extremely well. My initial impression of the socks was that they appeared to be very well made with good quality material. After several months of wearing the socks on a regular basis I still agree with my original thoughts.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
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The seams of the socks have stayed together without any noticeable wear. They are still unnoticeable while I have the socks on and the elastic top cuffs have held their shape and elasticity. The socks still fall down my legs from time to time however the amount of times they need readjusting has stayed constant from the beginning.
The socks have been through countless wash/dry cycles with most of the drying done on high despite the manufacturer's recommendations. Even with my careless laundering I have not noticed any wear and tear issues. They have held their shape and fit extremely well. Pilling has not been and issue and even the colors do not appear to have faded.
The cushioning has diminished somewhat but it is still noticeable when I am hiking and I still have not got completely used to the feel of the full leg cut. Other than that, everything else I can say about these socks is completely positive. I consider these socks to be the most comfortable that I own and I will be purchasing another pair of Darn Tough's in the future.
Many thanks to Darn Tough and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test these socks.
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