Cumberland Trail Creek Crossing

Are you looking for socks to wear during your outdoor activities? Do your toes get cold while you are riding? Darn Tough socks are my new favorite. I think they are possibly the most awesome socks I have ever owned.

Darn Tough has not paid for this review, given me any free products, nor are they even aware that I am writing this review. The review is completely unbiased.

The Quest for Awesome Socks

IciclesI am reworking all of my gear toward an ultralight setup; this includes my gear for backpacking, horseback riding, and kayaking. One of my goals is to take less clothing, so the clothing I choose is much more important than it has been in the past. With socks, I needed something that was versatile, warm, fast drying, and prevented odor.

I have been prone to cold toes during outdoor activities, but most especially, when horseback riding. Riders know that your toes hang out of the front of your stirrups and receive a lot of exposure. Cold toes make for a miserable ride.

Your feet are quite likely to get wet and/or cold when kayaking, so it goes without saying that good socks under your neoprene booties will keep your feet warmer.

Merino Wool to the Rescue

There is a saying among the outdoorsy crowd, “Cotton kills.” The meaning behind it is that when cotton gets wet from sweat, rain, or an unexpected dunk in the creek, the wearer can quickly suffer hypothermia. Instead of wearing cotton, wool keeps you warm, even when wet, and dries quickly. For outdoor safety and comfort, always choose fabrics designed for this purpose.

So you think wool is too heavy and itchy? That is true of traditional wool, but Merino wool breaks all the old stereotypes. It has smaller fibers that make it soft and comfortable and can even be thin enough for t-shirts. Merino wool is:

  • breathable.
  • elastic.
  • odor, stain, and static resistant.
  • machine washable.
  • wrinkle resistant (not that it matters for socks).
  • protects from UV rays.
  • keeps you warm and cool, as needed.

Merino wool is also a sustainable fiber. It is biodegradable, natural, and renewable.

Darn Tough – The Best Wool Sock Company

Merino wool socks can be a bit more pricey than cotton, so I did some research before investing my money. I found that Darn Tough had a very good reputation. It is a company that has been in business for over 30 years. And here is the kicker: they guarantee their socks for life. Yes, you read correctly; FOR LIFE. If these socks get a hole, Darn Tough will send me a replacement. If I don’t like them, they send me a replacement. If they don’t fit, they send me a replacement. Seriously…you can read their guarantee here.

There are other wonderful Merino socks on the market, but I really like to support an American company that supports its customers. It helps a little that they have a clever name. (For the very young crowd that may not know, past generations used to repair the holes in knit fabrics with a technique called darning.)

Are Darn Tough Socks Truly Awesome?

I bought a few sets of Darn Tough socks a while back. They fit great without a lot of excess material in the toe box to cause blisters. They are comfortable and I fell in love with the extra cushioned version.

Frost on my windshieldIt wasn’t until I had a very “technical” hike this past weekend that I started thinking about the more important aspects of the socks. It just dawned on me that I haven’t had a blister nor cold toe syndrome while horseback riding or kayaking since I started wearing them. The socks performed so well, that I didn’t even notice them.

Last weekend’s hike on the side of the mountain started while it was 23°F. I have switched from hiking boots to trail runners, but was feeling a bit lazy about going out to my truck to get them while it was that cold. So, I wore my “water shoes” because they were in the house. My water shoes are the ones I use when kayaking in warm weather. They are basically close-toed sandals with good arch support and tread. With a pair of wool socks, they work well for shorter day hikes and this hike was going to be short, but difficult. What was not in the plan was slipping on an icy rock at a creek crossing and ending up with a foot in the water.

Everyone on the hike gasped when my foot plunged into the stream. I was offered dry socks by one of the other hikers because we were all slackpacking and most of us did not have full gear on board. I was completely honest when I told her about 60 seconds later that my wet foot was as warm as my dry foot, so I didn’t need new socks. Within a mile, the sock was dry because of the shoes I was wearing.

When I got home, it occurred to me just how truly awesome these socks are. I fully intend to replace all my socks with Darn Tough and highly recommend them for anyone’s gear list.

Feel free to share your best sock experiences in the comments.

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