smartwool vs darn tough

Smartwool vs Darn Tough: Which Is Better?

When adventure awaits, you want to be as comfortable as possible in order to have as much fun as possible. Whether you’re going on a weekend camping trip or a demanding hike, there are certain basic essentials you should always have with you. One of those essentials is comfy, durable socks that can handle moisture and help keep your feet warm and dry.

Smartwool and Darn Tough are two of the most sought-after brands of hiking socks on the market. They both have similar strengths and features, and it can be tricky to navigate which is the best option for you.

Fortunately, help is at hand. If you’re on the hunt for a new pair of hiking socks but you’re unsure which of these two excellent brands to purchase, we can help you narrow your search. 

So let’s break down Smartwool vs Darn Tough to see which of these two brands offers you more value for your money by looking at the pros and cons.

Smartwool socks

First up is Smartwool, a brand that has been helping campers and hikers find the perfect socks for various outdoor activities for the last 25 years. Smartwool is one of the most well-known and well-respected brands in the industry. Smartwool socks are made from premium New Zealand wool, their socks come in a variety of patterns – and, crucially, they are versatile and durable. Let’s take a quick look at pros and cons and then we’ll break down the detail.

Smartwool AdvantagesSmartwool Disadvantges
Provides extra warmthShow signs of wear quickly
Soft and comfortable to wearCan only hang dry
Keeps heat retention
Traps odors

Advantages of Smartwool socks

If you want socks that provide some warmth, then Smartwool is a great option. They utilize Merino wool, meaning they’re soft and comfortable to wear and they don’t get covered in sweat. Merino wool also aids heat retention and traps any odor, which is ideal when you’re going camping or hiking. 

The Smartwool website has a sock finder that helps you find the perfect pair, a pretty neat feature if you’re unsure of which option to go for. So if you’re looking for socks for hiking, biking, running, or another outdoor activity, they’ll help you find a pair based on preferences such as warmth, value, and comfort. Although they’re made for outdoor use, you can always wear your Smartwool around the house too – meaning guaranteed warm feet during those cold winter months! 

Disadvantages of Smartwool socks

Smartwool socks may not be as long-lasting as Darn Tough, who offer a lifetime guarantee (more on that below). You may find that they’ll show signs of wear around the heel and ankle, meaning you’d need to replace them more often. Depending on how often and how hard you’re working the socks, this may or not be a huge issue.

Because Smartwool socks are made from Merino wool, it also means you can’t put them in the dryer. Instead, you’d need to let them hang dry.

Smartwool and Darn Tough both make great quality socks - but which is better?

Darn Tough socks

Next up we have Darn Tough, a family-owned business based in Vermont. Darn Tough is probably best known for its unconditional lifetime guarantee. If you aren’t happy with your pair of socks – maybe you don’t find them to be as comfortable, durable, or well-fitting as you’d like – then you can return them to Darn Tough and they’ll replace them for you. No questions asked!

Darn Tough AdvantagesDarn Tough Disadvantages
Unconditional lifetime guaranteeExpensive initially
Durable and moisture-managingCan’t put in the dryer
Keep your feet dry
Don’t show signs of wear easily
Tend to keep their shape
Range of different thicknesses

Advantages of Darn Tough socks

Darn Tough socks are durable, moisture-managing, and comfortable. They’re versatile, suitable for a variety of uses, and keep your feet nice and dry while you’re outdoor adventuring. One clear advantage of the Darn Tough socks is the unconditional lifetime guarantee. So if you find that your socks have worn out quickly (although that’s probably unlikely), all you have to do is get in touch and they’ll send out a new pair to you. 

Since Darn Tough socks are so well made, they tend to keep their shape and fit better no matter how long you wear them for. Darn Tough offers their socks in a range of different thicknesses. Depending on what climate you’re hiking in, whether it’s warm or cold, they’ll have a sock that can match your need without compromising the quality.

Disadvantages of Darn Tough socks

Darn Tough socks are relatively expensive if you are just a casual hiker, so if you don’t go hiking regularly then you could probably find another similar pair of socks elsewhere. In our experience, Smartwool tends to be slightly cheaper than Darn Tough overall.

Since Darn Tough socks will likely last you a very long time, they do have the edge in terms of long-term value, despite the upfront cost. Another disadvantage for Darn Tough is that you’ll also need to line-dry them. Since Smartwool also suffers from this issue it’s not a huge factor in comparing the two, but something to be aware of before buying. 

Tips on choosing the right hiking socks

Sock choice is a personal preference but when it comes to choosing a new pair of hiking socks, you need to consider a few things. The main thing you need to factor in is the climate of where you’ll be hiking as you don’t want your feet to be too hot or cold. If you’re unsure of the thickness you need, midweight is your best option as it’s versatile and can be suitable for many conditions. 

You’ll also need to consider how long you will be wearing the socks and the length of the sock you need. Crew-length socks are ideal for wearing with hiking boots whereas quarter-length socks are great for hiking with trail runners. 

Smartwool vs Darn Tough

To summarize, Smartwool and Darn Tough are both great brands that make high-quality hiking socks. Darn Tough is a little more expensive initially, but will probably last longer. Darn Tough doesn’t have Smartwool’s handy ‘sock finder’ tool, so you may also need to put in some research to find your ideal pair. Smartwool on the other hand makes this very quick and easy.

Choosing a suitable outdoor activity sock can be tricky, so we hope this Darn Tough vs. Smartwool explainer made things a little easier. Why not check out the rest of our blog for more tips, tricks, and gear reviews from the trail?

We’re braced for a full-on sock war in the comments – do let us know which brand is your favorite!

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