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Reviews > Clothing > Socks > Darn Tough Mountaineering Extra Cushion > Test Report by Kathleen Waters

DARN TOUGH MOUNTAINEERING EXTRA CUSHION
TEST SERIES BY KATHLEEN WATERS
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - November 13, 2009
FIELD REPORT - January 27, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - March 11, 2010

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Kathleen Waters
EMAIL: kathy@backpackgeartest.com
AGE: 59
LOCATION: Canon City, Colorado, USA
GENDER: F
HEIGHT: 5' 4" (1.60 m)
WEIGHT: 125 lb (56.70 kg)

Living in Colorado and being self-employed, I have ample opportunities to backpack. There are over 700,000 acres/280,000 hectares of public land bordering my 35-acre/14-hectare "backyard" in addition to all the other gorgeous locations which abound in Colorado. Over the past 15 years, my husband John and I have also had the good fortune to hike/snowshoe glaciers, rain forests, mountains and deserts in exotic locations, including New Zealand, Iceland, Costa Rica, Slovenia and Death Valley. My hiking style is comfortable, aiming for lightweight. I use a tent (rainfly if needed). Current pack averages 25 lb (11 kg) excluding food and water.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Cabot Hosiery Mills, Inc.
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.darntough.com
MSRP: N/A
Listed Weight: N/A
Measured Weight: 5 oz (142 g)
Colors Available: Gray and Navy
Color Reviewed: Navy (according to retail packaging) but Gray per website
Sizes Available: Small, Medium, Large & XLarge
Size Reviewed: Medium - fits US women's 7-9.5 shoe

Contents: 77% Merino Wool, 19% Nylon, 4% Lycra® Spandex

MADE IN USA

Lifetime Guarantee: "If our All Weather Performance Socks aren't the most comfortable and durable socks you've ever owned, return them for your money back."
Mountaineering Socks
Picture Courtesy of Darn Tough Vermont

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

At first glance, I was struck by the thickness and length of the Darn Tough Mountaineering Socks (hereafter called "Socks" or "Darn Toughs"). Researching the Socks on the Darn Tough website, I couldn't tell just how heavy the Socks would be. These are really substantial Socks! More on that below.

According to the retail packaging, the color is listed as "Navy" but looking at the Darn Tough website, "navy" appears to be rather blue and "gray" appears to be what I actually received. I suppose it could be argued the underlying color of the Socks is navy though. I just don't see it that way, but what do I know about color? I'd be willing to compromise and call it "heathered navy"!

While the Socks sport Darn Tough Vermont's usual pattern, it is not the usual vivid color blocks I've come to expect of Darn Tough Socks. (I must easily have 10 pairs of various Darn Tough styles.) Rather these Socks are constructed in various shades of gray and are accented with subtle gray color blocks at the heel, arch and toe as well as the generously banded cuff. Dark (navy?) letters spell out "Darn Tough" over the toes and a dark-colored "mountain" logo adorns each side of the socks mid-cuff.

Toe of Mountaineers
Toe Logo on Darn Toughs

Heel of Mountaineers
Heel "Block"


The over-the-calf portion of the socks is ribbed while the extra heavy terry loop cushioning of the Socks' foot body is smoothly knitted. The terry calf ribbing is noticeable and is designed to "ensure a custom fit" according to the Darn Tough Vermont retail packaging. Brand-new, the socks measure 12.5 in (32 cm) from cuff to heel and 8.5 in (22 cm) from heel to toe in a size medium.

Size
"M" for MY SOCKS!
These Mountaineering Socks are part of Darn Tough Vermont's "Hike-Trek" series and according to Darn Tough's packaging promise "unrivalled level of cushioning performance whether you’re sporting approach shoes or hiking boots.." They have a "high density cushioning on the foot bottom, reinforced heel and toe, elastic support at the arch and ring toe construction" for a "comfortable, invisible seam". Ideal for extreme cold weather. Also the custom shrink-treated merino wool adds to the cold weather practicality for winter sport pursuits.

As with all my previous Darn Tough socks, these Socks appear to be very well made with no loose threads, bulges or other flaws.

One last item of note, inside the cuff, there is a neat little stitched-in "M" for size "medium". This will be great for keeping my husband from absconding my favorite Socks! He wears a "L". Thanks, Darn Tough!

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

Per the Darn Tough Vermont website, care instructions for the Mountaineering Extra Cushion socks are detailed as such: "To help ensure many happy miles with your Darn Tough Vermont socks we recommend that you machine wash them in warm water on gentle cycle with socks in-side out. Do not bleach. Tumble dry on low. Do not dry clean." Since I always wash my hiking socks in cold water, turned inside out without bleach, these instructions will not pose any sort of extra thought for me. However, I do line dry my socks.

TRYING IT OUT

Pulling the Socks on for the first time, I found the length to be their most distinctive feature. The top of the cuff hits right at the bottom of my knee. Whee! I haven't worn "knee socks" since high school! The height is such I needed to actually scrunch the cuff down a tiny bit so as to allow my knee to bend without constriction. But I adjusted it easily and now the Socks feel great.

Knee Socks
Real "Knee" Socks



The overall fit (I wear a women's size 8 boot) is perfect with no excess fabric around my heels or toes and no excess tightness around my calves.

While it feels a bit weird to have my whole lower leg covered with socks, I have to say, it also feels great today as the temps have cooled off. Before I put on the Socks, my feet and legs were kind of cold. I tried the Socks with both my (currently) usual trail shoes and mid-height hiking boots. The Socks slid right down into the boots with no bunching. And now that I have on these nice warm Socks and my boots are laced, I think I'll go for a walk. Bye!

SUMMARY

This concludes my Initial Report on the Darn Tough Vermont Mountaineering Extra Cushion Socks. See below for the results of my first two months of testing, to read how they performed for me.

Thank you to Darn Tough and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to try out these great new socks!

Kathleen (Kathy) Waters


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

With the Christmas holidays and then a bout with a nasty cold, I was only able to wear the Mountaineering socks on 3 day hikes during these last two month. I didn't take the socks with me on my trip to Walt Disney World one day in Orlando, Florida although I sure wished I had as the temps were around the freezing mark!

All the day hikes were in the mountains behind my land in Canon City, Colorado with the elevation upwards of 5600 ft (1700 m) to 5800 ft (1770 m). The weather was generally sunny to partly cloudy with temperatures from 38 F (3 C) to 65 F (18 C). The terrain is rocky to muddy with lots of ups and downs and scrubby pine to juniper and cactus vegetation. While I didn't hike in snowy conditions, I did encounter snow on the ground in patches.

I also wore the socks a few days at work when it was especially cold and one night to sleep in.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The Mountaineering socks have worked very well for me..

I often have had trouble with fit when it comes to socks because a lot of socks are cut with a boxy toe. Darn Tough socks have a more tapered toe box which fits my feet better. Despite the socks' unisex sizing, the tapered toe box accommodates a woman's more narrow foot silhouette very comfortably. Having this tapered fit means I don't have excess fabric at the toes. When a sock has excess fabric in the toes, it bunches up on me and causes discomfort. My choice is then to either try to tuck the excess fabric under my foot - which causes a varying size lump - or to contort the sock by pulling upward on the cuff - which is a temporary solution as the sock slides downward in due time. Thanks to the Darn Tough's construction, I don't have to worry about this.

Darn Tough Mountaineering Socks
Darn Tough Moutaineering Socks


Knee socks are not something I've worn since high school. I liked knee socks then and I like them now - so does my husband, but that's another story ;) . The knee-high length of the socks means my entire calf is covered and protected from the elements including the cold. This works out great for me as I tend to wear rather thin convertible pants year round. While I hike hot and my core gets sweaty after only an hour or so of "normal" hiking, my legs and toes do not. With the Darn Tough Mountaineering socks, at least my feet and calves stay toasty!

Cushioning is a feature at which the Mountaineering socks perform especially well. I haven't worn an especially heavy pack during this phase of testing (I will in the long-term period coming up) when cushioning of both socks and boots are critical, but I have been hiking on some very rocky terrain which also tests the cushioning capabilities of both socks and boots. Trekking on broken shale and hard granite has been no match for the Mountaineering socks' ability to protect my feet from undue bruising. The thickness of the soles of the socks was sufficient and the compression band in the arch portion of the Mountaineers gave me adequate support, both up and down hill.

Lack of wicking has not been a problem with these socks. I have never felt damp or had a blister or hot spot develop as a result of wetness. I have taken off my Darn Toughs and been almost embarrassed at how sweaty they are, but my feet are bone dry. Oh, and they don't stink like a lot of wet socks, either.

I, initially, was curious/concerned as to whether or not the Mountaineering socks would remain knee socks after hiking. Thankfully, they do, even after hours of hiking. I'm not saying they don't slip a tiny bit, they do, but I think it's more because I've pulled them up to the max when putting them on, rather than a lack of stay-put-ness in the cuffs.

As for wearing, so far, there haven't been any signs of stretching out, over-shrinkage after washing, pulls, pills or loose threads. I've washed them twice in cold water, turned inside-out with a tech wash soap. As with all my technical socks, I line dried the Darn Toughs.

SUMMARY

I love all my Darn Tough Vermont socks and especially love these! Their construction, warmth, cushioning and performance are what I've come to expect from Darn Tough Vermont socks and their long height/length is a super added bonus! I am planning several snowshoe trips in the next two months and know the Mountaineering socks will be a staple item, most likely not in my pack but on my feet.

This concludes my Field Report on the Darn Tough Vermont Mountaineering Extra Cushion Socks. After two additional months of testing, in mid-March, you can read below how they performed for me.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

All of my testing of the Darn Tough Mountaineering socks in late January to the present took place in the Wet, Fremont and Cooper mountains of south central Colorado. The elevation I hiked in ranges from a low of 5300 ft ( m) to a high of 8400 ft (m). Temperatures fluctuated from 20 F (-7 C) to 60 F (16 C) during daylight hours and freezing to 10 F (- 12 C) just before dawn. Weather conditions were mostly cloudy with some sunshine in the mornings on my dayhikes. Light rain and snow mixes in the afternoons and overnight kept it interesting.

All of my hiking involved uphill climbs to high points and then downhill treks when homeward bound. Of course, none of these trails are just plain straight-up elevation gains, they all involve lots of "ups and downs". The trail conditions varied. Parts of the Newlin Creek Trail (one of my favorite hikes) are remnants of an old late 1800s sawmill road. The first couple of miles/kilometers of another hike, the Fremont Peak Trail, are over a very-rutted access road to a radio tower. Other sections of trails are simply beaten down pathways. And then, when I'm hiking in the Cooper Mountain area, there are no trails at all!

This means, the terrain runs the gamut of packed down dirt (or mud at this time of year) to pebbly rocks, to broken up shale to hard granite slabs. At higher elevations, there was also loose to packed snow and ice. Oh, and on the Newlin Creek Trail, there are 18 stream crossings which at this time of year are sheer, thickly rippled ice!

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

In February, I wore the Socks on two dayhikes and on two weekend overnights. Wearing socks to sleep in is something I only do on the trail. And, I particularly like the knee-length of the Mountaineering socks for this; so not only are my feet protected but my calves too. The added benefit is no extra bulk constricting my knees as there would be if I had to wear - say, pants - for extra warmth in my sleeping bag.

During the last two months, the weather has been up and down so many times I've lost count. It's rained, snowed and been sunny. It's been up to 60 F (16 C) in the daytime and down around 20 F (-7 C), also in the daytime. Nights have ranged from freezing to 10 F (-12 C).

This means when venturing out on the trail, the watchword was "layer, layer, layer" and my Darn Tough Mountaineering socks were a big part of that. Mostly, I wore liners with the Socks and in the colder temps I topped my base layer pant with the Socks. These combos were completed with a pair of convertible pants, in all cases.

As examples of how the Socks worked for me, I decided to copy and paste two entries from my trip journal. I think my field notes say it all!

1.) Newlin Creek Trail, Wet Mountains, Colorado"... I LOVE THESE SOCKS! I wore the socks with Injinji liners. The socks are close fitting on my feet without being too restrictive even with linings underneath. The knee-length helped to keep my legs warm but not too warm under my 180s base layer and Columbia Titanium convertible pants. The knee-length also gave my legs extra support around the calves which probably helped me in all the uphill stretches. And they stayed put! No creeping down to my ankles. The DTV Socks kept my feet warm and although the socks were damp when I removed them at the end of 6 hours of hiking, my feet were dry and comfortable."

2.) Fremont Peak Trail, Fremont Mountain, Colorado"... Since it was supposed to be so much warmer than last week's hike, I didn't wear sock liners with the socks. Once again, the DTV socks kept my feet dry and warm. I didn't experience any sweating so wetness from inside the socks wasn't a factor, nor did any snow come in contact with the socks. At no time did the socks slip downward and this was the second day I wore them, so they had not stretched out at all despite the previous hike. There was no feet stink either. I will be washing them after this wearing though."

The Mountaineering Socks continue to wash and wear in stellar fashion with no noticeable degradation as can be seen in the picture below. The upper Sock pair is a brand-new, never-been-worn pair and the lower pair of Socks has been washed and worn numerous times. Hard to tell the difference, I think. I've been washing the Socks in cold water with a tech wash and air- drying them. Even though Darn Tough doesn't say the Socks need such tender care, I do it anyway.

New vs. Old Socks
New Socks, Old Socks!

And now that this test is over I will start wearing the new pair. Yippee!

SUMMARY

As with all my experiences with Darn Tough Vermont socks, these Mountaineering Socks have earned a permanent place in my sock drawer. They will be front and center for as long as the appropriate cold weather holds out. They may even find a niche in my backpack on high elevation summer hikes and overnights!

The Socks are comfortable to wear, supportive when I'm active, wick well, dry quickly and don't stink! What more could I ask for of a pair of socks?

Thank you to Darn Tough and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to try out these great new socks!

Kathleen (Kathy) Waters

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

Read more reviews of Darn Tough Vermont gear
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