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Reviews > Clothing > Socks > Darn Tough Mountaineering Extra Cushion > Test Report by Paul Schilke

DARN TOUGH VERMONT MOUNTAINEERING EXTRA CUSHION
TEST SERIES BY PAUL SCHILKE IMAGE 11
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - November 19, 2009
FIELD REPORT - January 25, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - April 07, 2010

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Paul Schilke
EMAIL: paul schilke (at) msn (dot) com
AGE: 37
LOCATION: Mogollon Rim, Arizona, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 8" (1.73 m)
WEIGHT: 165 lb (74.80 kg)
BOOT SIZE, MENS: US 9.5 (E.U. 42.5)
SHOE SIZE, MENS: US 9 (E.U. 42)

I have been a genuine backpacker since 2002 and enjoy lightweight camping. Nowadays, I prefer using water filters to chemical treatments. I have camped under a tarp, but have also spent several sleep-deprived nights buzz-bombed by rodents at popular backcountry campsites. Although I have spent up to 7 months backpacking, I am lucky to get out for 3 to 5 days. I have almost no use of my left arm. I snowshoe and cross-country ski in the winter. My wife and I have a two-year old daughter who enjoys hiking and camping with us.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Cabot Hosiery Mills Inc
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: darntough.com
MSRP: N/A
Listed Weight: N/A
Measured Weight: 4.9 oz (140 g)
Size: Medium
Style: 1440
Color: Gray
Materials: 77% Merino Wool, 19% Nylon and 4% Lycra spandex.

IMAGE 6

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

Each pair of Darn Tough Vermont Mountaineering Extra Cushion Socks arrived at my home in its own hang tag package. The packaging promises that Darn Tough Socks will be the most comfortable socks the purchaser has ever worn and backs that promise with an unconditional lifetime guarantee. A sizing chart is provided which relates shoe size to sock size. A brief history of the company is given with an 800 number and the company website URL where readers are directed to review a complete list of Darn Tough Vermont products.

The packaging describes the benefits of Merino Wool as naturally temperature regulating (i.e. cool in the summer and warm in the winter), fast drying and naturally antimicrobial. The Mountaineering Socks' technical features listed on the package include, "Fine Gauge Knitting - More stitches per inch to ensure a secure foot hugging fit with less bulk and more comfort. Abrasion Resistant Yarn - 4-ply Nylon reinforces heel, toe and foot bottom. Zero Friction Heel - deep heel pocket which eliminates blisters and hot spots and Mid Foot Support, no slipping, no bunching". These all sound like important features in a technical sock, but why does the abrasion resistant yarn focus on 4-ply Nylon when the socks are 77% Merino Wool?

My first impression of these socks is that they will be very comfortable and durable. The extra cushion will be a nice addition for chilly mountain mornings. These socks may be the cushiest I own, something I'm not really used to since I usually buy lightweight socks to hike in.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

The care instructions on the package state that the Mountaineering Socks should be washed "in warm water on gentle cycle with the socks inside-out. Do not bleach. Tumble dry on low. Do not dry clean." The bar-code sticker blocks a couple of letters of the care information but not enough that I cannot comprehend what is said.

TRYING IT OUT

For many years, I have been purchasing and wearing size medium socks and ignoring the sock sizing information provided by manufacturers such as Darn Tough Vermont. I do this to avoid droopy socks, probably because most of my socks are tube socks.

The Mountaineering Socks are true to size. The size medium sock I ordered does not function as an over the calf sock on me. If I stretch the sock over my calf, my toes are cramped and the sock tends to slide down to mid-calf later. Also the heel pocket of the size medium does not quite center on my heel.

As two pairs were shipped, I will return one pair to Darn Tough Vermont and swap it for a size large. I will continue to test both the size large and the size medium, because I would probably not return the medium sock if I had obtained it outside of a test for BGT.

Regardless, the socks have been very comfortable when worn so far during five miles (eight km) of hiking. I slipped them into an insulated pair of 8" (20 cm) tall boots and took them out for a hike in 24F (-4C) weather. My feet were extra toasty and comfortable. Near the end of the hike as the day warmed up, my feet of course started to sweat a little.

I also found the socks to be very comfortable while hiking in low-top shoes, although the extra cushion caused my feet to feel slightly cramped in the size 9 shoes (EU 42) vs. the size 9.5 (EU 42.5) boots.

IMAGE 7

SUMMARY

I like the socks. The sizing on the package is accurate. The socks are true-to-size. The socks make my feet extra toasty both when hiking in the forest and while wearing them around the house. I will have to be careful that my feet do not become too warm and subsequently sweaty when wearing the socks with insulated boots.



FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I have used the Darn Tough Mountaineering Extra Cushion Socks on twelve excursions in the Apache National Forest at elevations ranging from 7000 to 9000 feet (2100 to 2700 meters) and on one hike in the Superstition Wilderness at elevations ranging from 2400 to 3600 feet (730 to 1100 meters). All use was in the state of Arizona. I have used them in temperatures ranging from 20 to 54 F (-7 to 12C). I have used the socks while snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and while hiking.

When snowshoeing, I wore the socks inside of Salomon B52, insulated winter boots. The snowshoeing trip lasted about three hours and the depth of snow varied from approximately 0.5 to 2 feet (0.2 to 0.6 meters).

While skiing, I wore the Mountaineering Socks in nordic, nnn binding, ski boots which are just a bit snug (US size 8.5, EU 9). I wore the socks both while skiing on groomed trails and while skiing in unbroken powder and hard pack as deep as 2 feet (0.6 meters). I wore the socks while on seven separate ski trips the duration of which varied from 30 minutes to 5 hours.

In cross-country ski boot
Socks in cross-country ski boots


While hiking, I wore the Mountaineering Socks in 8" boots, 10" boots, the Salomon boots and in low top hiking shoes. Two of my hikes were conducted off-trail in rugged terrain with steep slopes which, for brief periods of time, were nearly vertical. Four of my hikes were on trails.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The Darn Tough Mountaineering Extra Cushion Socks were great performers. These socks are for activities in cold weather. When I wasn't using the socks in snowy conditions, my feet were apt to heat up quickly to the point of sweating. When wearing the lowtop hiking shoes, I didn't notice the sweatiness as much as when I was wearing the boots. Perhaps this is an indication that the socks do not retain as much of the sweat when given the opportunity to breathe.

I found that my snug ski boots felt a little more roomy while wearing the Mountaineering Socks. I had expected the boots to be too tight to wear with socks which provide "extra cushion". When I didn't wear gaiters while skiing, the socks became soaked with water. Even when wet while wearing these socks, my feet stayed warm during active use. Once in the car on the ride home, I noticed that my feet were wet and cold.

Re-photograghy
Wet sock on foot, size medium


In the course of testing the Mountaineering Socks, I had the opportunity to test both a large and a medium size pair of socks because the sizing chart indicates that I should be wearing a size large. At first I felt that the medium was a bit too small and the large a little more comfortable. Over time I found that the medium was the most comfortable. I found that the large socks were more likely to bunch up inside of my footwear. Both sizes showed indications of wear in the toe area in the form of minor discoloration.

minor discoloration
Minor discoloration


SUMMARY

The Darn Tough Mountaineering Extra Cushion Socks were very comfortable when worn in a variety of footwear. They were more comfortable when worn in cold weather activities. The sizing chart indicates that I should be a size large. At first I thought the size medium was too tight, but after wearing both sizes over time, I found that I preferred the size medium. When it wasn't cold, my feet produced a lot of sweat in these socks. My feet enjoy wearing the Mountaineering Socks in cold weather.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

In addition to the locations listed in the Field Report section, the Darn Tough Mountaineering Extra Cushion Socks were used on a three day hike on the Arizona Trail in the Four Peaks Wilderness. The socks were used at elevations ranging from 4100 to 6200 feet (1300 to 1900 meters). The temperature ranged from 40 to 60 Fahrenheit (4 to 16 Celsius). At first the socks were used as overnight camp socks. On the third day, during the hike out, the socks were worn while hiking on-trail and off-trail. About 10 miles (16 km) were covered. I wore the socks while hiking to protect a blister which had developed on the first day because I had not treated a hot spot when it first appeared.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The socks performed quite well as camp socks and exceeded my expectation as hiking socks in temperatures exceeding 50 Fahrenheit (10 Celsius). Each night, after camp was set up, I enjoyed slipping the comfortable thick and warm socks onto my worn and tired feet. A nice pair of camp shoes would have made my comfort complete. On the third day, I wore the socks while hiking in Vasque Wasatch boots. At first my feet were uncomfortably warm. After 15 minutes of hiking, I no longer noticed my feet as being too warm. Later, when hiking to get back to the ridge where the trail was located, I climbed down and back up a steep incline. Throughout the day-long hike and the evenings in camp, the socks performed admirably. The Merino Wool truly regulated body temperature, either heating or cooling as needed. Throughout the duration of the test, the socks were durable and tough.

IMAGE 12

SUMMARY

The Darn Tough Mountaineering Extra Cushion Socks are comfortable socks which regulate body temperature. Circumstances gave me the opportunity to wear them while hiking in rough conditions in temperatures greater than 50 Fahrenheit (10 Celsius). Although they were uncomfortably warm at first, after 15 minutes of use, that discomfort disappeared. Overall these are great socks and I enjoyed testing them.

CONTINUED USE

I will continue to wear the Darn Tough Mountaineering Extra Cushion Socks for hikes in Fall, Winter and Spring conditions. Also, I will carry the socks with me as camp socks when backpacking all year round.

Thank you Cabot Hosiery Mills and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to participate in this test.

Paul Schilke

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

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