Long Term Report - Darn Tough Vermont Socks - Roger Caffin
- Hi all
Herewith my Darn Tough socks LTR - carefully washed for your delight. :-)
Full html version at
Damn good socks.
PS: Bother! The date in the Test/Test folder is wrong! Fixed below, and in the html on my machine. I didn't bother
changing the Test/Test upload though.
Long Term Report - Darn Tough Vermont Socks
Reviewer: Roger Caffin
Weight: 63 kg (138 lb)
Height: 168 cm (5' 6")
Email address: r dot [surname] at acm dot org
Home: Sydney, Australia
I started bushwalking at 14, took up rock climbing at University with the girl who became my wife and walking partner,
and later we took up ski touring and canyoning. We prefer long hard trips by ourselves: a week in Australia, two months
in Europe/UK. We prefer fast and light in unfrequented trackless country. We are out for at least three months a year.
We have reduced our pack weights from 18 - 20 kg (40 - 45 lb) to ~12 kg (26 lb), including food, for week-long trips. I
designed and made much of our lightweight gear.
I am also the maintainer of the Australian aus.bushwalking FAQ web site www.bushwalking.org.au/FAQ/.
Manufacturer Darn Tough Vermont
Knitting Mill Cabot Hosiery Mills
Style Hike Trek, Boot Sock, Full Cushion
Material 69% wool, 27% Nylon, 4% Lycra
Weight (measured) 103 g (3.6 oz) pr, Large
* I take an 8 - 8.5 size in UK fittings, which made my job of choosing a size rather difficult. The Medium size goes to
8 (UK), while Large starts at 8.5 (UK). The company resolved this by sending two pairs of each size.
I mentioned in the Initial Report that the company web site describes the socks thus: "High density cushioning surrounds
the entire foot and shin. Custom shrink treated Merino wool. Ribbing above the ankle insures a proper fit. Reinforced
heel and toe. Elastic support around the arch. Ring toe construction for a comfortable invisible seam." I added that the
knit seemed very fine, the loops inside very tight, while the sock thickness was generous.
My foot size of 8 - 8.5 (UK) straddles the border between Medium (up to shoe size 8) and Large (shoe size 8.5 upwards)
for these socks, so the company sent me two pairs of each size. I chose to wear the Large size, so my wife (with
slightly smaller feet) swooped on the Mediums for herself.
Most knitted socks will stretch a fair bit, but these Darn Tough socks are very robust and probably a bit more resistant
to stretching than most. My opinion from our testing so far is that the sizing information given by Darn Tough Vermont
is quite accurate, and also that it pays to buy on the high side for sizing.
I reported in my Field Report that the socks were going very well. At the time I had used only one of the two pairs on
trips, so I decided that I would stay with that one pair for the rest of this Test, to see how they handled the
treatment. I should mention here that we (my wife and I) have been going walking pretty well every week since this Test
started. Many of these trips have been over very harsh terrain, while other trips have seen us walking in a sandy-bottom
creek for hours at a time. My lightweight KT-26s have a mesh upper which lets sand in when I am walking in the water, so
the socks were often covered in sand for a good part of the day. All in all, I have to say that this one pair of socks
have been given one of the toughest workouts I have even given a pair of socks.
They have survived. In fact, not only have they survived, they have survived very well. On the basis of performance to
date, they show every sign that they will continue to handle this sort of treatment for another year or two at least. Of
course, extrapolating into the future like this is risky, but in this case I feel quite justified in expecting this.
Some socks have a very slippery outer surface, and this can be extremely dangerous when the slipperiuness lets them
slide around inside footwear. I mentioned in my Field Report found it very gratifying that these socks have felt quite
secure inside my very light KT-26s. I regard this as very important in rough country; even more important when we are
scrambling around in our canyon country as shown here. Both my wife and I were wearing the Darn Toughs that day. I am
happy to report that they continue to grip the inside of my KTs and my wife's joggers very reliably (which is just as
I still find the part of the sock above the ankle region too long. However, it works if I fold it down. The folding
probably adds to the warmth of the socks, not that I have needed that during this Test (in the Australian summer), but
no matter. The extra length also adds to the weight (and maybe the price), so it would be nice if the company could come
up with a design slightly shorter in the ankle.
Outside surfaces, new and used socks Inside surfaces, new and used socks
A worry with anything made of wool is that it will felt up, and what with all the river walking we have been doing I did
expect this to happen quickly. In my Field Report I mentioned that this had happened a bit, but not very much. The same
comment still applies: some felting has happened, but not an excessive amount. The pictures above show my used and
new/unused socks, with the new unused ones at the top (of course). The outside of the socks are at the left; the inside
of the socks showing the terry towel loops are to the right. A 'slight' loss of whiteness may be seen at the toes of my
used socks. Well, that's what happens with open mesh footwear.
I could go into a detailed analysis of how much felting there is and where it has happened, but it might be easier to
just look at the photos. Yes, there is some surface abrasion and scruffiness, but not a lot.There are no detectable wear
spots. In the past I have found that some brands using a blend of synthetic and natural fibres have lost the natural
fibres in the heel region after a while, leaving a round patch of thin synthetic mesh fiber behind. The thickness change
at the edge of such a worn patch leads very quickly to blisters: nothing like that seems to be happening here.
In summary, I think the fabric conditioner and a bit of a stretch after washing may have helped minimise the felting.
The socks have remained springy and stretchy. But I also think the fine weave of the terry loops and the knitting over
all has helped a lot. Big slack loops and big knitting loops would quickly lose their bulk. The finer weave may be a
shade slower to knit and therefore more expensive to implement. Well, maybe so, but it seems worth it.
Wool is meant to smell when wet. OK, so let's just say the smell was never particularly bad. My feet are sometimes
Washing and drying
The socks have been washed every week at home in warm water, inside out and with fabric conditioner. They washed just
fine, and the fabric conditioner seemed to be quite effective. There was negligible smell left after a warm wash. The
springiness remained very prominent. I did find that a quick stretch of the sock in both directions after washing seems
to free up the loops a bit, such that the original softness was preserved.
My wife washes our socks. She has reported that my socks are always dirtier than hers, but we know why: her shoes have
an effective fabric at the front, while mine have a porous mesh. But she has also reported that mine sometimes still
have bits of sand in them after some washing. Apparently it gets in there and is hard to get out. The interesting thing
is that the sharp edges of the sand particles don't seem to have done much damage so far - at the end of the 4-month LTR
period. Darn Tough.
Purely as an aside I should mention cost. I don't actually know how much these Darn Tough Vermonts cost, but I suspect
it may be more than I pay for my lightweight KT-26 shoes (which are about US$25 maybe). An amusing thought, that my
socks are dearer than my shoes! But two comments should be made. First, I am not really fussed what my socks and shoes
cost, as long as they function brilliantly. I have never had a blister in this combination, so who cares about a few
dollars? Second, while my KTs have superb grip and are very light, a pair would not last me more than 6 months at the
most in our country. These socks look like lasting for a couple of years.
Test Results so far
I undertook to evaluate a number of questions; my findings are below.
In summary, it will be obvious that I am very impressed with these socks, and would go so far as to buy some more one
day in the distant future when my two 'Test' pairs wear out. Could be a while though.
* Overall comfort: do my feet feel as good at the end of the day?
* Cushioning: am I conscious of the loop pile cushioning my feet?
* Grip: do the socks slide around in my lightweight shoes (which is very dangerous)?
This has definitely not happened.
* Sweating (I do!): do my feet get very hot and wet?
A bit hot in the Australian summer, but not too bad.
* 'Wickit technology': what does this mean (if anything)?
I don't know! But see my other results.
* Lace pressure: can I feel my shoe laces through the top of the sock?
I can if I do the laces up too tight and the tongue on the shoe slips sideways, but not under 'normal' conditions.
* Bunching: does the Lycra keep the sock from creasing around my feet?
Yes, this works very well.
* Size: should I buy the Medium or the Large?
My experience so far is that erring slightly towards the large size is good.
* Felting: does it happen over time?
Little seen despite a lot of harsh treatment. An outstanding performance.
* Endurance: how do the socks take a bit of sand?
Little visible effect. Wonderful.
* Smell: how fast does this accumulate, how well does it wash out?
Shall we simply say that the socks have not been really bad? The smell has washed out quite well at home.
* Washing recovery: how well does the loop pile inside recover when washed in a stream in cold water?
Recovery was only moderate, but other socks seem no better and sometimes a bit worse.
* Washing recovery: how well does the loop pile inside recover when washed at home properly (with fabric conditioner)?
This has worked well.
* Toes: how well do the tips of the toes last? (and yes, I do trim my toenails!)
No problems at all.
* Cuff: Is the tightness going to be a problem?
It is a problem if I leave the sock up. I solved that by folding the ankle region down as far as possible.
* Life: how well do the socks last overall?