Good people of the trail, I ask you to consider the humble sock. Banished to dark drawers, sacrificed to the laundry gods, forced into indentured puppetude upon retirement, this is the oft maligned, underappreciated workhorse of a generalist’s wardrobe. We expect these knitted swaths to keep our feet warm, dry, and cushioned against any number of oppressive stuffs, yet we relish the moments they’re torn off, flung across the room, tossed in a corner, anticipating the glorious feeling of bare feet, free from any kind of yarn-strung bondage.
Or perhaps as hiker-folk, we make one very specific exception to the rule – we hope these clothy pairs protect our feet, allowing us that extra mile or two until camp, that last hundred feet to the summit. For us, a good pair of socks is one of the dividing lines between a great day in the mountains and a terrible week spent airing out a blistered-up, burned-out collection of war-torn tootsies.
To this end, I had high expectations for Darn Tough’s Hike / Trek line which, like the rest of the company’s footwear, comes with its very own lifetime guarantee. This is a bold claim that I cannot yet address as I hope to live for a very, very long time, but I can offer a rundown of how two pairs fared on a sweat-soaked backpacking trip in Yosemite and several romps on the local trails of the Santa Monica Mountains.
Right out of the package, the Darn Tough Women’s Light Hiker Micro Crew Light Cushion (that’s a mouthful!) wooed me with its silken touch, almost like a high-quality dress sock – smooth and luxe, with a firm stretch. However, flip these bad boys over and you realize they’re the mullet of hiking socks – and that’s a good thing. While the fancy body of the sock snuggled my leg, ankle, and foot-top in a soft cocoon, the bottom pulled the hard duty, protecting my soles with a lightweight, yet still noticeable cushion. I wondered if these would feel slippery in my hiking boots, but despite the mistake of wearing insulated (i.e. non-ventilated) boots in hot temperatures for a multi-day backpack, the Micro Crews held fast with zero slippage and no hot spots or blisters thanks to the seamless construction, plus they dried out quickly in the sun. Bonus: I kept these on my sweaty feet for two solid days of strenuous backpacking and they didn’t stink up the tent.
The Women’s Daphne ¼ Sock Cushion was my go-to for local trails. A lower-cut sock, the Daphne also boasts a slightly thicker weave on top than the Micro Crew. Worn with my low-top hikers, these fit like a glove, stayed in place, and held up just as well to repeated foot-poundings on dirt and loose rock. My only issue was aesthetic – not only was this pair a garish blend of bright red, lime, blue, magenta, and orange (other colors are available), but they also rather predictably sported flowers, the symbol of my primary complaint with women’s adventure clothing. This is less a criticism of Darn Tough than it is for the entire outdoor gear industry: just because I’m rolling in estrogen doesn’t mean I want to look like a walking garden.
Feminist gear gripes aside, these socks are just as good as any other high-quality wool hiking socks on the market – and perhaps even better, considering the lifetime guarantee (“If you can wear these socks out, we’ll replace them. Free of charge. No questions asked. For life.”). A pair of Darn Toughs will set you back nearly a Jackson, but like most quality wool hiking socks, it’s worth it for the peace of mind (and of foot) you’ll have on the trail.
Darn Tough provided these socks for review at no cost but did not provide compensation or influence the content of this post.