Darn Tough Vermont Boot Sock Review

In a world where most clothing seems to come from China and be of debatable quality and life, these thick, durable, woollen Made-in-Vermont socks are a standout - and have a well-deserved cult following.

Hightly Recommended

Overall Rating: Highly Recommended

It is hard to imagine a sock getting a 'highly recommended' rating, but that is what we have given these, based on their thickness, ruggedness, durability, and sheer value for money.

About This Rating

M Find other top product reviews »

Print Jump to Reader Comments

by Roger Caffin |

Field Testing

Darn Tough Vermont Boot Sock Review - 1
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.

Darn Tough Vermont Boot Sock Review - 2
Used and unused socks.

Darn Tough Vermont Boot Sock Review - 3
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.

Darn Tough Vermont Boot Sock Review - 4
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.

Darn Tough Vermont Boot Sock Review - 5
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.

Specifications

Manufacturer Cabot Hosiery Mills Inc
Web Site www.darntough.com
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
MSRP US$17.96 (Amazon)

What’s Good

  • Thick
  • Durable
  • Long-lasting

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.


Citation

"Darn Tough Vermont Boot Sock Review," by Roger Caffin. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/darn_tough_vermont_boot_sock_review.html, 2010-04-20 00:00:00-06.

Print

Reader Comments

You must login to post comments.

New Visitors: Create a new account
Username:
Password:
Remember my login info.

Forum Index » Editor's Roundtable » Darn Tough Vermont Boot Sock Review


Display Avatars
Sort By:
Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Darn Tough Vermont Boot Sock Review on 04/20/2010 14:55:16 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Darn Tough Vermont Boot Sock Review

Tony Beasley
(tbeasley) - MLife

Locale: Pigeon House Mt from the Castle
Re: Darn Tough Vermont Boot Sock Review on 04/20/2010 16:05:43 MDT Print View

Nice review.

On Roger’s recommendations I started using Darn Tough socks about a year ago, they are the best sock I have ever used and without a doubt they rate in my top 5 pieces of gear.

Tony

Jeff Piper
(jmpiper)

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
How would these compare to Dahlgren socks? on 04/20/2010 16:26:01 MDT Print View

I have worn various styles and thicknesses of Dahlren socks for the past 5 years. Love the Alpaca wool. Any comparisons that can be made between the two?

Thanks,

Jeff

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: How would these compare to Dahlgren socks? on 04/20/2010 18:34:30 MDT Print View

Sorry, no idea, as I have never seen Dahlgren socks. Tell them to send me some ... :-)

Cheers

Andrew Lush
(lushy) - MLife

Locale: Lake Mungo, Mutawintji NPs
Re: Darn Tough Vermont Boot Sock Review on 04/20/2010 19:26:05 MDT Print View

No doubt about it.

DT socks are simply the best.

I bought a couple of pairs when I was in the US 3 years ago. I liked them so much I bought about a dozen pairs of various styles. They are the only socks I wear now - at work, training, and bushwalking.

They are supremely comfortable and very hard wearing. I cannot recommend them highly enough.

Like Tony, I first heard about them from something Roger wrote on this site. So thanks for the tip Roger.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: Darn Tough Vermont Boot Sock Review on 04/20/2010 19:37:27 MDT Print View

I was wondering when a review of these would come along! I bought a couple pairs not too long ago, so no long term experience, but they are very comfortable to wear so far.

I've got to try out a pair of those Dunlops....

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
wool geekage on 04/20/2010 19:52:55 MDT Print View

I appreciate the insight on the differences in how the wool is woven.

I find the boot socks too warm, thick, and think they breath adn wick poorly. The thinner and lower socks are my favorites, and they come in pretty colours!

BRIAN BOLIN
(OBOZ) - F

Locale: OVER YONDER'
agree 100% on 04/20/2010 19:55:29 MDT Print View

"I find the boot socks too warm, thick, and think they breath adn wick poorly. The thinner and lower socks are my favorites, and they come in pretty colours!"

They are great on preventing blisters, but I agree 100% Waaaaay to hot of a sock and no breathablity at all.

donald buckner
(toomanyarrows)

Locale: Southeast U.S.
Too hot? on 04/20/2010 21:11:35 MDT Print View

Just wondering what temperature if any would be considered too hot for these socks? I personally never use thick wool socks in warm conditions. Below 50 degrees F. I thought these socks were wonderful. I will use them mostly for hunting in 30-60 degree weather, and for hiking in the winter. I have been using one thin nylon dress sock for hot weather, and my shoes have to be 1/2 size smaller to fit right. I have not been on any long distance hikes where my feet might swell and demand a larger shoe size.

Amy Lauterbach
(drongobird) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Darn Tough on 04/20/2010 21:28:29 MDT Print View

+1 on the Darn Tough endorsement. LOVE THEM.

My model: Darn Tough Merino Wool Mesh 1/4 Sock. 1.5 oz in size large.

I wear the Mesh weight in temps from ~35 or 40 to 105. Hiking (~40-60 days per year) and also cycling (20-40 days per year).

Much more durable than the Smartwool socks or Dahlren Alpaca socks.

And for me, the fit is great. The DT mesh weight sock is not very stretchy so you really do need the right fit. If you order for the first time you might want to get your normal size plus the next size bigger so you can try them both. (In Montrail shoes I wear womens 10, and in DT 1/4 mesh socks I wear size Large even though I normally wear a Medium sock.)

They carry them at BackCountry.com, so whenever I buy from them, I can always buy DT socks to reach the $50 free shipping threshold.
http://www.backcountry.com/outdoorgear/Darn-Tough-Merino-Wool-Mesh-1-4-Sock/DRN0008M.html

Edited by drongobird on 04/20/2010 21:32:46 MDT.

mori costantino
(mori) - MLife

Locale: urban urbane
Longevity on 04/20/2010 21:55:47 MDT Print View

My experience with the durability of Darn Toughs is similar. Last year on the PCT, I used one pair almost exclusively from campo to oregon. That pair outlasted 3 pairs of shoes. I did use gaiters to help keep them clean and did wash them at every resupply town.
Comfortable too- with a wide range of temperatures.

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Darn Tough on 04/20/2010 22:31:16 MDT Print View

I wear the crew height exclusively and get a couple of years out of them with six or seven pairs on rotation. They are fantastic. I would think that the boot height ones would be way too hot for me. Plus with wearing trail runners, not necessary.

Donna C
(leadfoot) - M

Locale: Middle Virginia
Re: Darn Tough on 04/21/2010 05:54:43 MDT Print View

Love mine. I get them thru Shoebuy.com

Per Hansen
(pereqa) - F

Locale: Sunny Southern Greenland
Re: Darn Tough Vermont Boot Sock Review on 04/21/2010 07:12:44 MDT Print View

We are completely in agreement on this one Roger, even the color. I have bought nothing but Darn Toughs since 2008 and my experience is exactly like yours. I have bought all mine at AJ's Ski & Sports, not the cheapest, but darn good service and they are quick, even to Greenland!
I have tried their ski socks too for winter use, I thought they were thicker, but they are mainly just longer and not really worth it. The boot socks are their no. 1 in my opinion, I will try some of their thinner woolen crew socks for summer use though, during the height of summer the boot socks are a bit on the heavy side.

John Addleman
(Jaddleman) - F

Locale: Boulder
Darn Tough on 04/21/2010 10:12:36 MDT Print View

I've had a pair of the hiking quarters since last fall (found some at Marshall's for $5) and they were very good to me as everyday socks during the Winter. I especially like the flat-knit cuff, it keeps stuff out better than other socks I have. I'm glad to see they have lighter-weight socks, I'll probably get those instead of Defeet Wooleators. Can anyone compare the two?

Jason Livingston
(jasonlivy)
Re: How would these compare to Dahlgren socks? on 04/21/2010 11:03:27 MDT Print View

I've used both the Darn Tough Socks (for about 3 years now) and Dahlren socks for several years. My impressions are the Darn Tough socks are simply the most durable, the best fitting, and the most well made sock you can buy! The Dahlren are very good quality and well made, but Alpaca just isn't as durable as the threads Darn Tough uses (the Alpaca sheds horribly on the socks I've owned). Most of my Dahlren socks seem to fall apart after a couple of years of use.

I do have some thicker Dahlren socks that I use exclusively for winter snowshoeing and they have served me well. I also know Dahlren have made improvements in the past year to address the durability issue (these do wear better than previous versions), but they still don't compare to the durability, fit, and robustness of Darn Tough Socks. I would say Dahlren are a tad bit warmer due to the hollow fiber of the Alpaca wool...

Edited by jasonlivy on 04/21/2010 11:04:44 MDT.

John Coyle
(Bigsac)

Locale: NorCal
Darn Tough Vermont Boot Sock Review on 04/21/2010 11:13:33 MDT Print View

Thanks for the article Roger. I always greatly appreciate your knowledgeable input from "Down Under." I just ordered some Darn Toughs (1/4 mesh) on sale from Backcountry Gear out of Eugene Oregon. Hang in there dude and keep the articles coming!

Joe Geib
(joegeib) - F

Locale: Delaware & Lehigh Valleys
Re: Darn Tough Vermont Boot Sock Review on 04/21/2010 12:28:26 MDT Print View

I use these for my snowboard socks. They are the best snowboard socks I've ever had.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Too hot? on 04/21/2010 15:11:22 MDT Print View

> what temperature if any would be considered too hot for these socks?
We have worn them up to 40 C (104 F) without any problems. Well, no FEET problems :-)

Cheers

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: Darn Tough Vermont Boot Sock Review on 04/21/2010 16:06:19 MDT Print View

But are they UL???

;)