• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies living kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • raven ranson
  • paul wheaton
  • Jocelyn Campbell
  • Julia Winter
stewards:
  • Burra Maluca
  • Devaka Cooray
  • Bill Erickson
garden masters:
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Bryant RedHawk
  • Mike Jay
gardeners:
  • Joseph Lofthouse
  • Dan Boone
  • Daron Williams

! The Sock-o a Sock-o Darn Tough vs. Smartwool vs. Icebreaker Thread  RSS feed

 
pollinator
Posts: 284
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
46
bike books dog food preservation greening the desert
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This winter, three pairs of socks will do battle.

Prologue: I've worn out three pairs of Darn Tough socks in the past couple of years (and had two pairs replaced, free of charge from the company, although paying for shipping made replacements not actually free to me. ) I was very happy when I first tried the Darn Toughs, as they are far more comfortable then most socks I'd worn until finding them. It's also more then possible to wear them two or three times before having to wash them without feeling particularly grungy. Which is especially useful for camping trips. However, they are expensive, and I have never been able to find them on sale locally. I have, however, come across some other high-end socks at discounted prices, so I want to try them out and compare and determine for myself which socks are really the best deal.

Disclaimer: If you're in a different location and have different access to sock possibilities then I do, then the cost comparisons will be different for you. Also, if you wear your socks in different situations then I do, and have different feet then I do, and cut your toenails at a different frequency then I do, use a different washing machine then I do, etc., then your sock longevity will be different then mine.

Proclamation: I had to buy these socks, and no sock company has offered to send me money or free sock samples.

I will be testing and comparing these three (women's medium size) pairs of socks over the winter (and likely the next winter as well, as my past Darn Tough socks have lasted about two, two and a half winter seasons, and besides, Smartwool guarantees their socks for two years. Soooo then, these should last at least two years, right?)

Competitor One - Darn Tough's Cushion Boot Sock - 64% Wool, 33% Nylon and 3% Lycra - purchased at full price $31 CDN

Competitor Two - Smartwool's Light Cushion Hike  - 62%Wool 37% Nylon 2% Elastane - purchased on sale for $13 CDN

Competitor Three - Icebreaker's Merino Light Cushion Hike, Left and Right Anatomic Fit,  - 61% Wool, 37% Nylon 2% Elastane - purchased on sale for $12.50 CDN


It's not a typo, both the Smartwool and Icebreaker do indeed state they have the exact same ingredients.

Now, the Darn Tough pair has an unintended advantage, as I should have purchased one of their light cushion pairs, but what I actually have is their medium weight cushion. I haven't quite decided how to measure this yet, but I do expect the Darn Tough's (DT) to last longer because of the extra cushion. At the moment I'm planning to require a 10% longer life from the DT's because of their extra cushion - if they don't last 10% longer, then they don't win the longevity contest.

I can only wear these socks in the winter (for these purposes, September through to April) because in the summer I prefer being barefoot or in sandals.

Test conditions:

I will be wearing each pair of socks 2 days, and then washing all three pairs in the same wash load. (If I don't wear them all before I have a wash load, as I will be alternating them with other socks and stockings, then they'll all wait until they're all ready for the wash.)  All three call for warm water wash, no bleach, the Darn Tough's ask for gentle wash, the Darn Toughs and Icebreakers allow for drying by machine on low, which doesn't matter, because I dry everything on a line anyway. I will be using a front-load washer for the majority of the time, on regular cycle and use Nellie's brand laundry soda. ( I figure that a front-loader's regular cycle is like a top-loader's gentle cycle, so I don't think this will disadvantage the Darn Tough's.)

Every five washes, I will be making note of each pair's condition. (I won't necessarily post here unless something noticeable has changed.)

In the end, I hope to determine which stay comfortable longest, and which, for me, give the greatest comfortable lifespan per dollar.

The competition began on September 1st, and the competitors have just come out of their first wash and dry.

SAM_5419.JPG
[Thumbnail for SAM_5419.JPG]
The Contenders
 
master steward
Posts: 10653
Location: Left Coast Canada
1814
books chicken fiber arts cooking sheep
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
how exciting!

Can you tell us a bit about the fibre content (cotton, wool, &c) of each brand and what you think of the texture?  I'm also interested in how tight the tops are as I'm looking for socks for a Christmas present for a diabetic.
 
master steward
Posts: 4922
Location: Pacific Northwest
1362
cat duck fiber arts forest garden homestead hugelkultur kids cooking wood heat
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I love my Darn Toughs! I got a 6 pairs of them last August, and despite wearing those same 6 pairs of socks pretty much non-stop without alternating with any other socks, only two have worn holes. A few are getting thin, but considering I wore through 6 pairs of Costco's wool socks in 1-3 months, I'm really pleased with the Darn Tough socks' endurance. And, they have a life-time warranty, so I can mail the pair of holey socks to them, and they'll mail me new ones without any extra charge (speaking of which, I really need to get around to doing that!). These are the socks I bought from them, and have been wonderful in both the summer and winter (my feet never overheated this summer, though the rest of me did!). I find the socks a little itchy where the change from one color yarn to another (definitely perfer the solid-colored socks, but the ones I got were only $7 each, including shipping). Mine are knee highs, and they are snug but not too tight. I find them about as tight as any other knee-highs I've owned. My legs are average size, I think (I'm 5'4" and weigh 130 pounds when not pregnant, and I don't have stick legs).

As for their fiber composition, it really varies on how thick the socks are. They have "ultra-light" socks that are 46% Merino Wool, 50% Nylon, 4% Lycra® Spandex. The thicker "extra cushion" socks, however, are 73% Merino Wool, 25% Nylon, 2% Lycra® Spandex. It seems like the outside layer of thread/yarn is likely the nylon and spandex, while the inside is wool--probably since the nylon and spandex are more durable than the wool? So, the thicker the socks, the higher the wool percentage (except for their "Thermolite socks" which have no wool: 64% Thermolite Polyester, 32% Nylon, 4% Lycra® Spandex. I haven't tried those socks, nor do I really want to. I like my wool!)
 
Vera Stewart
pollinator
Posts: 284
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
46
bike books dog food preservation greening the desert
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Notes from initial wearing:

Icebreakers - These felt very tight when I first put them on. I'm accustomed to folding over the top part of socks, to wear them doubled over my ankle, unless it's particularly cold, and I couldn't comfortably do that with this pair, at least not right now, right out of the box. After a little while, the sensation of tightness receded somewhat.

Smartwools - Certainly not as tight as the Icebreakers, I was able to turn the tops down. They weren't loose, but definitely looser then the Icebreakers (and the Darn Toughs as well.) The Smartwool pair doesn't seem as warm as the other two.

Darn Toughs - Felt the softest of the three. This fit is the fit that I've grown used to, so it was the most comfortable. Almost felt too warm for this early September weather.
SAM_5430.JPG
[Thumbnail for SAM_5430.JPG]
Icebreakers
SAM_5433.JPG
[Thumbnail for SAM_5433.JPG]
Smartwools
SAM_5460.JPG
[Thumbnail for SAM_5460.JPG]
Darn Toughs
 
Vera Stewart
pollinator
Posts: 284
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
46
bike books dog food preservation greening the desert
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The sock competition continues.
There has been no noticeable change in any of the socks to date.
 
Vera Stewart
pollinator
Posts: 284
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
46
bike books dog food preservation greening the desert
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The sock competitors have just emerged from their 10th washing.

So far, none have any visible changes.

However, the Smartwool pair are starting to feel a touch loose. They were the loosest to begin with, also they feel slightly "rougher" then the other two, which at first I didn't like, but it's growing on me. I think that the failing of the Smartwools may be an eventual loss of sufficient elasticity to keep them up properly. We're definitely not at that stage yet, though.

The Icebreakers are also feeling less tight then they did at the start of the competition, which in their case is a good thing.

The Darn Toughs have not seemed to change in any way.
 
Posts: 229
Location: Vermont, annual average precipitation is 39.87 Inches
14
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am glad to have run across this thread!  I have become a fan of Darn Tough ever since an old neighbor introduced me to these locally made socks.  I have definitely worn holes through several pairs but I also wore them all winter long.  My husband and kids have Smartwool socks for skiing.  My husband prefers the Darn Tough socks for skiing but the kids were stuck with Smartwool because Darn Tough didn't make small enough socks when we bought them.  That may have changed now though.  I look forward to reading your conclusions.
 
Nicole Alderman
master steward
Posts: 4922
Location: Pacific Northwest
1362
cat duck fiber arts forest garden homestead hugelkultur kids cooking wood heat
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Darn Tough does make smaller socks now. They have Junior size small, medium, and large. The small fits my three year old. He has large feet and has been wearing them since he was two. They were a little big then, but since they are so form-fitting (tighter around the arch), they have always stayed on better than any of his other socks. They also have never even worn thin, despite him wearing them for a year. They're not itchy, and he loves them!
 
Vera Stewart
pollinator
Posts: 284
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
46
bike books dog food preservation greening the desert
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
These socks have now been washed 20 times.

How are they doing?

As you can see from the photo, the Smartwools are becoming distended. The Icebreakers are starting to look a little thin at rub points under close inspection, and the Darn Toughs are still looking and feeling fine.
20wash.JPG
[Thumbnail for 20wash.JPG]
 
Vera Stewart
pollinator
Posts: 284
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
46
bike books dog food preservation greening the desert
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
All these socks will go through their 25th wash in a few days. It will also probably be their last wear 'n' wash cycle until October, as it's becoming too warm for me to continue wearing wool socks comfortably.
I suspect there are some people who can wear wool all year long, but I'm not one of them.
After their last wash, one of the Smartwool socks disgorged a big ball of fluff from it's interior.
However, I will be keeping all three pairs until the return of the contest in the autumn!
 
Vera Stewart
pollinator
Posts: 284
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
46
bike books dog food preservation greening the desert
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I took the three pairs of competing socks out from storage today - I will probably start wearing them again next week.
 
Vera Stewart
pollinator
Posts: 284
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
46
bike books dog food preservation greening the desert
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The Icebreakers developed holes in both feet after their second wash this season!

I am shocked and a bit dissapointed. They seemed to be in good shape!

If it was only one sock, I would say I walked over something - I was out on the porch with them yesterday for a few minutes. But, I don't remember walking on anything dangerous, and BOTH socks have holes now

So I don't think it was the porch, I think it was the socks.




Now we have the Darn Toughs and the Smartwools remaining in the competition.

 
Posts: 97
Location: 6A
13
dog hunting cooking solar woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I gave you a thumbs up but maybe it should have been a thumbs down. Sorry bout your holy socks! cool thread.
 
pollinator
Posts: 324
Location: SoCal USA
33
bike cat dog tiny house trees
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This is excellent, thank you for doing the research! I bought a couple pairs of Darn Tough socks a while back with the idea of lifetime replacements. I found them nice and cool on warmer days, like they "breathed" really well.

I wonder if a thin piece of cardboard in front of returned socks, in a #10 envelope, would be light enough that 2 forever stamps would cover the weight? That would make shipping around $1 which seems like a good deal per pair of new socks.
 
Ghislaine de Lessines
Posts: 229
Location: Vermont, annual average precipitation is 39.87 Inches
14
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
One thought I had reading through this thread again is that it would be interesting to know what factories these socks are made at.  I say this knowing that the Darn Tough socks come from a mill here in Vermont that was contracted to make all kinds of socks for other companies.  Darn Tough was created because they could not compete with overseas manufacturing,  but they knew they could make a better quality sock.  I wonder if either of the competitor socks were actually contracted to be made in the same factory.

Or maybe not.  This article mentions losing all of those contracts to overseas but now have military contracts.  https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bostonglobe.com/business/2016/04/21/darn-tough/qYaTdRFEcFSIM35ZQVjUuM/amp.html
 
pollinator
Posts: 644
Location: northwest Missouri, USA
54
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm a SmartWool fan and have been for about 12 years from my first pair that I still have and still are in good shape. The pairs of SmartWool socks I have are varied in models, all at the crew length. Most of them I've had for more than five years. I don't have holes in any of these socks and they have performed beyond my expectation - especially that original pair. I'm torn as to the most important feature of the original pair: the ergonomic shape and arch support or its ability to wick moisture away from my foot. Both of those are highly desired qualities for me. That ergonomic structure is not built into the wooly extra thick winter SmartWool socks I have which I think are more for wearing in something like a muck boot. I wear all of them in a pair of Double-H work boots ( http://www.doublehboots.com/Product?stockNo=9714 ) that likely has aided in their long life. There is a bit of relaxing of the sock after many washings, but if put in a dryer, my experience is that it usually helps pull the sock back into form for me.

I'm not sure whether washing/drying machines are harder on socks than wearing a pair twice, which I do before putting into the dirty clothes.

It's been my experience that clothing will have benefits and drawbacks no matter what the article is. It's very rare to find a piece of clothing that has all the upsides and none of the downsides. From Vera's trial of socks, it seems as if the Darn Tough and the SmartWool will meet most people's needs. I'd also add to all this that because there are so many models (not just styles) of SmartWool socks that you need to purchase the sock model that suits your intended use. Work sock, hiking sock, running, casual, etc. They make them all and more, so be sure you're buying something designed to do what you want to do and you're not expecting a work sock to keep your feet warm in winter or the running sock to keep your foot from blistering in your leather hiking boot. I've settled on the medium hiking crew sock as the most versatile model for my needs around the homestead in all four seasons. Again, that's in a heavy leather work boot.

Love the review, Vera.
 
Vera Stewart
pollinator
Posts: 284
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
46
bike books dog food preservation greening the desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Mark Tudor wrote:
I wonder if a thin piece of cardboard in front of returned socks, in a #10 envelope, would be light enough that 2 forever stamps would cover the weight? That would make shipping around $1 which seems like a good deal per pair of new socks.



I'm in Canada, and have shipped socks to the official Canadian address for Darn Tough returns - I believe the last time I did so, with two pairs of socks (not the socks included in this "contest"!) it cost about $6 CDN. They set me two brand new pair back, which still seems like a good deal!
 
Vera Stewart
pollinator
Posts: 284
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
46
bike books dog food preservation greening the desert
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Just wanted to update that the two remaining competitor socks have been washed 10 times so far this year. I'm not wearing them as much this year as last because I was away in warmer parts for part of this winter. Haven't noticed any changes to them since the fall!
I've converted the icebreaker pair into a very warm (but unfortunately rather short) set of wrist-to-knuckle fingerless "gloves."
 
Posts: 178
Location: ALASKA
5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Interested to see how the final appraisal shakes out for you.  My wife used to wear smartwool socks, but has discontinued their use due to wearing out earlier than she thought they should.  They wear well, but she says for the money she would have thought they would last longer than they do.
 
Vera Stewart
pollinator
Posts: 284
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
46
bike books dog food preservation greening the desert
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Done for this year! Fourteen washes this year. Both socks still in contention, competition resumes next fall!
 
Vera Stewart
pollinator
Posts: 284
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
46
bike books dog food preservation greening the desert
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I remembered! I have started wearing the darn toughs and smartwools again. One washing down in season three of the competition!
 
The overall mission is to change the world. When you've done that, then you can read this tiny ad:
Binge on 17 Seasons of Permaculture Design Monkeys!
http://permaculture-design-course.com
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!