When I began the Pacific Crest Trail I was offered free socks from KEEN, and thought to myself, “great, socks (supposedly) made for thru-hikers, that's one less thing to think about adding to my gear list.” It turns out that KEEN's socks are terrible, and after only 180 mi / 290 km I had worn through two pairs. It was time for a change.
The staff of Nomad Ventures in Idyllwild, California understood my plight, and thankfully they knew what they were talking about (at least they were confident enough to convince me of this). I left the shop having purchased my first (two) pair(s) of Darn Toughs.
Mr. Salesman told me that this sock, made from Merino wool, would help to heal and protect my failing feet. I was also informed that the sock would be comfortable in any environment, from the desert up through Washington – I was skeptical.
However, I was willing to try anything, and despite my initial dislike of the company name (I have grown to embrace it), I decided to invest in the US manufactured socks of tough darnedness. Darn Tough makes socks for hiking, running, biking, skiing/riding, hunting, and everyday use (in men's, women's, and kid's), but my now area of expertise lies with their Hiker 1/4 Sock Cushion.
- Manufacturer: Cabot Hosiery Mills
- 65% Merino Wool, 31% Nylon, 4% Lycra Spandex
- Weight: 2.3 oz (Men's Large)
- Sizes: S, M, L, XL (Men's only)
- Guaranteed for life
- Made in the USA
- MSRP: $17
The above specs reflect the Hiker 1/4 Sock Cushion (Men's Large).
WHAT WE LIKE
THE COMFORT | Imagine the best feeling ever (yes, you can imagine me giving you a back rub if you would like). Got it? Alright, that's what putting on a fresh pair of Darn Toughs feels like (and you can go ahead and multiply that feeling by ten if you're on the trail). They are truly comfortable socks and whether you're hiking in heat or rain, your feet stay happy in their protective sleeves.
THE BLISTER FREE-NESS | I can't speak for everyone out there (I can only speak for those worth being spoken for), but once I started using Darn Toughs, my blister problems immediately subsided. Post-Darn Tough wearing, whenever I felt a hot spot or blister arising, it usually worked itself out and it rarely inhibited my hiking.
THE GUARANTEE | Having already replaced multiple pairs of Darn Toughs (usually ~700 miles of abuse), I can personally attest to the legitimacy of their “lifetime guarantee” claim. Simply wash (this part is important) and mail in your defeated socks with a warranty form printed from the Darn Tough website and await your fresh new pair of foot accessories. For the truly lazy: Darn Tough Warranty Form.
WHAT'S JUST OKAY
THE WEIGHT | At an entire 2.3 oz a pair, Darn Tough's Hiker 1/4 Socks are not the lightest socks on the market (but seriously, 2.3 oz is practically negligible). Some hardcore ultralighters may be turned off by the idea of lugging around an extra 2.3 oz, except what are those ultralighters doing with an extra pair of socks in the first place? So take that.
THE COLORS | Although I have no gripes with the colors available, it bothers me that they offer different colors for the men's and women's varieties of the socks. I am a fan of all the men's colors, but as with all things in my life, I want what I can't have and I find myself desiring some pairs in the woman only colors.
WHAT WE NO LIKE
THE PRICE | “Seventeen dollars for a pair of socks!?” A typical reaction I get when I tell people the price of Darn Toughs. But they are worth it, so stop complaining (perhaps even without the lifetime warranty). The socks are also manufactured domestically in Vermont (USA! USA! USA!).
THE CONFORMITY | Given the excellent socks manufactured by Darn Tough, chances are that sooner or later, everyone will be aware of their majesty. What does this mean? It means that you may need to start mixing colors to stand out amongst the sock-savvy hiker crowd. By the time I hit Snoqualmie Pass on the PCT in Washington, every single hiker I met (at least two dozen) had converted to Darn Toughs. True story.
Darn Tough socks are amazing. Do yourself a favor and get a pair – you won't regret it (and if you do, then I had nothing to do with your decision to invest).
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