Picture courtesy of Darn Tough Vermont.
I was a long-term wearer of another well-known brand of thick woollen socks for many years before I met these – in a gear test in fact. I was impressed as soon as I put them on: they felt thick and robust – and I have known many socks in my life. My wife, who is sometimes just a shade suspicious about my gear enthusiasms, took to them as well, and with the same enthusiasm. As a former research scientist in a textile physics / wool research laboratory, I also knew a bit about socks from the technical side of things.
Many months later, having abused the ever-loving-daylights out of them on tracks, on scree, walking in sandy rivers, walking in the snow, and so on, in light to very light footwear, I was still wearing my first pair. In fact it was several YEARS before that pair finally developed a small hole in one heel and were discarded. Basically, I had been deliberately wearing that one pair for all my walking, just to see how long they would last. The photo here shows the sock I had been wearing after about a year beside a new unused one. The used one has shrunk slightly, but still looks pretty good.
Used and unused socks.
The very fine loop pile knitting.
Because I was a bit curious, I had some correspondence with the manufacturer about the socks. You see, while (almost) everyone knows that the loop pile found on the inside of thick socks comes from the knitting process, few know much about the technical details of sock knitting machines. The loops are there to add bulk to the sock, but long floppy loops made from thick yarn do not remain very effective for long: they get compacted. The secret to the Darn Tough Vermont socks lies in both the special knitting machines they use and the yarn. The yarn is a good wool blend and finer than average, but the knitting is much finer as well. This would produce a thinner sock, except that the knitting machines are set to do a multi-layer knitting in the regions around the foot. The end result costs more to make, but the ‘floppy loops’ are smaller and tighter, the sock is thicker, and it stays thick for a very long time.
My socks at the end of a day.
Since knitting machines are automated, they can be programmed to produce a wide range of socks, in shape and thickness and style and size and cuff length… and also in colour pattern. While this Review is about the one model of sock which I use, I should point out that there are a horde of other models available, varying in thickness, cuff length, and fibre content. Each model comes in a range of colours and sizes: this one model comes in four sizes from Small to Medium to Large to X-large. But that’s not all: they come in a range of coloured patterns as well – in this case about five. So … I have two colours in this model and my wife has two different colours. Now we know whose socks are whose.
The range of models, sizes, and colours Darn Tough makes has created a problem for the company in one way. Shelf space at the retailers is always at a premium, and for a long while it was hard, or even impossible, to find a retail shop which carried the exact model, size, and colour I wanted. I resorted to buying them from the factory (which has been in Vermont for thirty years), although the company was not originally set up for web sales. I am pleased to report that it seems that most of the range is now available over the web (from Amazon) at a good price – slightly better than the average retailer in fact.
I will make a real endorsement here. Sure, my first pair of socks was free, part of a gear test. But after that I actually bought the next few pairs for myself and my wife! Yes, I actually paid cold hard cash.
My wife wearing the socks in a range of conditions.
I mentioned that both my wife and I wear these socks now, in all sorts of conditions. The left-hand photo here shows my wife river-walking in the wilds of Wollemi National Park (Australia) – trust me, it’s easier to walk in the river than fight the scrub on the banks. The middle photo was taken in ‘poor weather’ (sadly rather common) while snow shoeing in Kosciusko National Park (Australia) at about 1,800 meters (5,900 feet). The right-hand photo was taken on the rather steep Pas de Mont Colombe on the way to Lac de Merveilles on a variant of the GR5 in France, at the end of a three-month walking holiday there.
|Manufacturer||Cabot Hosiery Mills Inc|
|Year/Model||2008, Boot Sock Full-Cushion • 1405|
|Material||62% Merino Wool, 34% Nylon, 4% Lycra® Spandex|
|Sizes||Small, Medium, Large, X-large|
|Weight (measured)||108 g (3.8 oz) / pair Medium|
What’s Not So Good
- Hard to get from retailers
Recommendations for Improvement
- Web store (partly done – Amazon)
Disclosure: The manufacturer provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge, and it is owned by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to review this product to the manufacturer under the terms of this agreement.