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Darn Tough Mountaineering Extra Cushion Socks Review

Darn Tough Mountaineering Extra Cushion Socks Review

Darn Tough Mountaineering Extra Cushion Socks are serious socks for seriously cold weather. They are Darn Tough’s thickest sock and 25% thicker than their standard cushion sock. They are made of a combination of merino wool, nylon and lycra spandex to improve shape retention, longevity and wicking. They feature fine gauge knitting and fast action wicking. Best of all, Darn Tough socks are guaranteed for life or they’ll replace them for free.

Specs at a glance

Darn Tough Mountaineering Extra Cushion Socks are what you want in your boots in winter if you like a really thick sock. The over the calf socks go 17” above the heel, and the micro crew goes 8.5” above the heel. Darn Tough claims that liner socks are not needed with their socks, but I still use a liner sock with my winter system. I tend to get more movement in my winter boots than with my summer footwear since they are fairly stiff, and I want to decrease the possibility of friction as much as possible.

I first decided to try the Darn Tough Mountaineering socks because I was tired of wearing out Smartwool socks. After a season, the cushioning would be worn out of spots on the heel, down to the threads. I had already transitioned successfully to Darn Tough for three season hiking, so figured it was time to give them a try in winter. The promise of a lifetime guarantee sweetened the deal.

Worn Out Smartwool SocksWorn Out Smartwool Socks
Worn Out Smartwool Socks

Darn Tough socks are knit on small needle, fine gauge knitting machines to produce high density stitching without being bulky. Turning the socks inside out, you can see a clear difference between Darn Tough socks and Smartwool socks. The Smartwool have a much looser looking knit than the Darn Tough. Darn Tough uses fine gauge, merino wool in the knitting of their socks. The outside and inside are reinforced with nylon and lycra for added comfort, durability and fit. Their socks are also pre-shrunk, so they maintain their size and shape when washed and dried.

The women’s version of Darn Tough’s Mountaineering Sock only comes in an over the calf version. They are great in extremely cold conditions. When it’s really cold, I like to pair these with an Icebreaker capri-length bottom base layer. There is just enough overlap to avoid a cold gap. I run fairly warm hiking and find these a bit too warm on my legs on many days when the temps are over 20 degrees F. I wish they made the women’s in the micro crew. On warmer days, I use the men’s micro crew and the fit is fine.

After long days, the Over-the-Calf Mountaineering socks might be a little damp from perspiration, but my feet do not feel damp and they are not cold, even in negative double digits. I’ve also overtopped my boot slightly in a stream hidden by snow. Although there was some initial coldness near the top of the boot, my toes were never cold. Removal of the socks at the end of that day revealed that they were more than slightly damp, yet they remained warm.

All of my Darn Tough Mountaineering socks are holding up well after several seasons
All of my Darn Tough Mountaineering socks are holding up well after several seasons

All of the Darn Tough Mountaineering Socks I have are on their second or third season. They are holding up very well. They show signs of some abrasion on the outer face in places, but there are no areas that are compromised down to threads like my old Smartwool socks.

Darn Tough definitely stands by their product. If you do manage to wear them out, simply fill out a warranty claim on their website, send back the old socks, and they will send you a code so that you can order new ones. You will have to pay shipping to send the old ones back, but they will ship you the new ones free. I recently sent back two pairs of my teenaged son’s Hiker ¼ socks. He wears Darn Tough socks every day, year round, and these two pairs were purchased years ago when his feet stopped growing. I had replacement socks within a week.

Each fall, Darn Tough has a factory seconds and overstock sale at their mill in Northfield, VT. I wanted to go, but have never been, which may be a good thing since I have a weakness for wool socks. I’ve heard from friends that it’s a really great time if you’re into socks.

About the author

Wanda Rice has been backpacking since the late 1980’s. She has climbed the New Hampshire 48, the New Hampshire 48 in winter, the New England 67, the New England Hundred Highest, and the Four-Season 48. Wanda also teaches for the Appalachian Mountain Club’s (AMC) Mountain Leadership School, the AMC New Hampshire Chapter Spring and Winter Schools as well as the AMC NH Winter Hiking Series. She leads day and overnight trips for AMC NH year-round and loves mentoring new leaders. She is a gear junkie, a self-proclaimed Queen of Gear Hacks, and loves sharing her tips and tricks with others. Wanda lives in southern NH and is looking forward to moving closer to the mountains in the next few years.

Disclosure: The author purchased these socks with her own funds.

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  1. Love them! I think I bought the tall men’s socks, they fit well and are super warm!! I also noticed I can wear them several days without a problem. I’m slowly replacing all my socks now and only buy Darn Tough.

  2. Brilliant! Thanks for reviewing these. I will bet that these last longer than the Cabela’s ordinary over-calf wool cold-weather hunting socks, which have been my go-to solution so far. (Cabela’s also has a “deluxe” version – I haven’t tried those, because frankly I only use these particular over-calf cold weather socks a few times a year, when I am standing still for long periods of time – birrd-watching, astronomy – in very cold weather.)

  3. Hello Philip,

    It would be nice if you put weight. Here is my measurements: full cushion boot socks men’s L 103g, hiker 0.25 cushion men’s L 66g.

    Your text leaves impression that ALL Darn Trough socks are good, and ALL Smartwool socks are bad. I do not think it is fear. Swartwool has many socks (too many in my opinion), and not all of them are bad. On the other side I had bad experience with DT socks as well (some “lifestyle” socks I bought for my wife).

    DT full cushion boot socks are really good (probably the best wool socks I had). They are currently my socks for sleeping: I found them warmer than ragg wool style “fluffy” socks, and they do not need anything above or under them to be warm.

    DT hiker 0.25 cushion… are not so impressive. For me “Smartwool PHD Run Lite Elite Mini socks” works better as main hiking sock. SW has better cushioning and more breathable (my feet stays dryer in them). Also SW’s are lighter – 46g for XL size. Concerning durability – I have four pairs of PHD Run Lite Elite Mini socks which has more than thousand mile on each of them, no problems so far. And if you shop for “irregulars”, you can buy three pairs of SW’s for the price of one pair of DT’s.

    Just my two cents…

    • I didn’t write the article….just saying..but I’ll pass your suggestions along.

    • I’ll echo Philip. I’m pretty much done with Smartwool except for the occasional bargain for casual wear. I’ve thrown away so many pairs of casual, hiking & PhD. Since Darn Tough made their debut at my house at least 4 years ago, we (this includes myself and 2 sons) have only worn out 5 socks (2 pairs plus 1 sock….I don’t know how that odd one happened). So, they CAN wear out. Initially I had some shrinkage in the first couple pairs I bought, so after that bought a bigger size. Another bonus on my summer Darn Tough hiking socks is that I stopped wearing liner socks and had no adverse effects.

  4. I don’t know if the women’s DT socks are different as far as compression, but i’ve tried a number of the men’s in a crew length, and they’re all way too snug around the leg. They leave a significant indentation in my leg after wearing them even for a few hours. They are well put together, made in Vermont, and have the lifetime guarantee, so i’d really like to love them, but they don’t work for me. Their Cool Max version seems even tighter.

    I’ve noticed that even the more recent Smartwools seem tighter than they use to be. I wore almost nothing but Smartwools for a number of years, and they were mostly okay, but i agree that they do seem to wear pretty quickly (under the heel and ball).

    So i’ve been on a quest over the last year or so to find a brand that i like. No real success with EMS (also too tight), Karimoor, Fox River, Wigwam, Farm to Feet. But, after trying a few different offerings, i’ve have some luck with a couple of different styles from both Point6 and FITS. The socks from both these manufacturers have much more structure and seem more solid than Smartwool, and don’t indent my leg nearly as much. I’ve only tried the medium and heavy weight versions so far. I’m not sure why so few retail outlets stock these (i order online), as these seem like really solid socks.

  5. Wearing a pair now…trying to make a fit decision between the Salomon x ultra winter cs wp2 boots and the Oboz Bridger. The Saolomon does not work with the DT mountaineering sock but the Oboz I have some forefoot/toe room. I can never get shoes to fit…normal length and width but low volume make my life hell when it comes time for new shoes. Inserts and sock changes are a never ending mashup.

    The socks are keepers. I’ll figure out how to work them into the mix.

  6. Literally stumbled across these socks while looking for the regular Darn Tough crew sock. These socks are wonderful and one aspect of the Darn Tough Mountaineering sock over the Smartwool Mountaineering sock is that the Darn Tough aren’t that much thicker than a regular mid weight hiking sock. The Smartwool version I can only use with a few winter boots because they take up so much room.

    Right now I only have a few Smartwool socks left and the rest are Darn Tough and LL Bean socks.

  7. FWIW, my calves are big and I was wondering whether these would actually be “over the calf” for me – and they were. Have only worn twice for two-snowing in single digit temps and like them. They don’t slip down (yet).

  8. I’m glad you’re willing to review a lot of the gear that often doesn’t get thorough reviews.

    I had always hated thick socks because I always sized my shoes and boots to fit too perfectly with thinner socks. When going thicker, it would cut off circulation and make it colder.

    This last year I went to Alta Olympus 4 shoes, which are super wide at the toes compared to most shoes and boots. I found that my old pair of crummy thick wool socks made my feet super warm down to freezing in the Altra shoes, also helped by how thick the mid-soles are on the shoes to insulate from the ground as well as any winter boot I have ever tried.

    I just ordered a pair of these DT Mountaineering socks to use with my Altra shoes in cold weather. From what I can gather, they are probably the warmest socks in production right now.

    It’s kind of exciting to be able to add warmth with socks finally, instead of using home-made neoprene overboots.

    • If you don’t hike in winter, you lose half the year. We review winter gear and write trip reports because it’s such a great time to hike and quite challenging too.

    • So, I did some snow camping in the Olympic mountains to test them out. I think it might be critical to buy these socks one size above normal for some folks. They fit pretty snug. If you are prone to circulation loss from tight clothes, then these socks might be too tight in normal sizing. I found my feet didn’t stay as warm as they should have stayed. Maybe I just have chubby feet? I don’t know. LOL It’s also very possible that these socks need a good bit of use to loosen up and shape to your feet and legs, and I didn’t give them enough time or miles hiking.

      I wear size 10.5-11 shoes, so the Large should have been well within my range. They’re very nicely built socks for sure though.

      I have actually settled on the Smartwool Mountaineering socks instead, which are built with a looser knit and have a little more loft and breathing than the Darn Tough, in my opinion. They seem to work a little better in my trail runners than the Darn Tough but for sure feel a bit more sloppy and less durable as a trade off.

      • je,
        I received my DT Women’s O-T-C Xtra cushion socks yesterday. I also wear a size 11 shoe. I ordered the Large sock and they fit me perfectly. Granted, I haven’t hiked in them yet but they feel real good to me. My calf at it’s widest is 15 1/4″ if that helps you. I also got the men’s DT Hunter O-T-C extra cushion in Medium and they fit the same. Very comfortable for me. Where have these socks been all my life? I have two drawers full (TWO!) of socks that are too small! I was wearing two or three pairs of socks to protect my feet from cold and also for the pounding they take on the trail. I’m not a hardcore hiker like most of you, I’m happy if I can get 10 miles in a week at nearby trails. I just wish I knew about these socks and this newsletter sooner. I’m going to have to start a third drawer now.

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