Extreme activities like hiking are the ones where footwear is one of the most critical aspects. With that said, most people pay too much attention to it and not enough on the socks.
While the shoes are responsible for keeping your feet and ankles straight and warm, traction, and more, the socks help with comfort, temperature regulation, and keeping your feet dry.
Socks vary in height, materials, stitching, cushioning, and tons of other things, which means choosing the right pair is not as simple as you think. Most people, myself included, have a preference for a particular brand for a specific use case. Once I choose the brand, I dive into the models and see which pair to get.
If you are in a similar situation but don’t know where to start, today’s comparison is works wonders for you. This article will be ahead to head battle between two giants in the socks industry – Bombas and Darn Tough.
Both are excellent socks manufacturers, and each one has its stronger and weaker sides. Let’s dive in and see which is which.
If you are the type of person that buys socks from reputable brands, you must have heard about Bombas. The company was launched in 2013 as a funding campaign through Indiegogo.
The founders of Bombas learned that the most requested piece of clothing in homeless shelters were socks. They decided to build the company around that idea, and for every pair of socks you purchase, another pair gets donated.
Bombas hasn’t been around for too long, but the humanitarian side of it made it very popular.
In terms of products, unlike other companies I’ve looked at, Bombas isn’t just a sock manufacturer. The lineup also consists of underwear and t-shirts.
Models and Options
In the model’s department, Bombas looks a bit thin when comparing it with other reputable brands on the market.
While companies like Darn Tough offer tons of model options, Bombas only has 9 options that are identical for men and women. Another slight downside is the lack of any kind of hiking socks for kids.
My biggest gripe with Bombas’ socks is that there aren’t too many options for a single pair of socks. Most of them come in packs of multiple pairs with different color options. While it means that you are getting them cheaper than purchasing individual pairs, the lack of options is not a good sign.
The design of the socks is nothing fancy, and for people that don’t put too much thought into that will be just fine. They may be a tad more interesting than Darn Tough, with a primarily classic design with stripes. The color options are also nothing write home about. For the most part, you are getting muted colors with minimal color options.
As for branding, it’s the same story as with most socks manufacturers of this caliber. Subtle with a color that isn’t too flashy, something I’m a massive fan of.
In terms of material, Bombas are mostly made of cotton and wool-based socks. When I say mostly, I mean only one pair of wool socks, and the rest are cotton-based. In my book, cotton is not the best material option for hiking, so that’s a big negative side for Bombas. There is only one model of wool-based socks, and they come in a pack of 3 pairs.
Bombas has a unique technology called Hex-Tec. What it does is help the company produce higher-quality socks that can last longer.
I’m not a huge fan of cotton as a base for hiking socks, but I’ll get to that later on in this article.
Unlike most socks companies, Bombas has two types of guarantees.
The first one is the standard lifetime guarantee, where you can ask for a replacement regardless of what happens with the socks. This covers fitment issues, damage, or even, as Bombas’ website claims, if your dog chews up your socks.
The second guarantee is the laundry one. Essentially, Bombas will send you a new pair of socks if you lose one sock during laundry. This is not a lifetime guarantee and is only available 1 year after you make the purchase. While it does sound silly, I had a few cases of lost socks, so it’s a nice thing to have.
Since most of the options Bombas has are packs, it’s difficult to determine the price of a single pair. The two single-pair options are $16 and $22, while the pack can go as high as $96 for a six-pair package.
In general, Bombas is not a very expensive socks manufacturer, and the reason for that is the choice of materials. Cotton is far cheaper than wool, meaning that you should expect lower prices. On top of that, you should also consider that one pair gets donated, so I’d say that the pricing is decent.
Darn Tough is a company that needs no introduction, especially if you are a seasoned hiker. Based in the US, this company has been on the market for almost 40 years, producing high-quality socks for multiple occasions. While most companies are forced to outsource some aspects of the manufacturing process, Darn Tough makes everything in their factory in Vermont.
Wool is all that this company does, and all hiking socks are wool-based. The material comes from sheep in the states. The shearing process is entirely animal-friendly, so you won’t have to worry about animals being harm during the manufacturing process.
Models and options
An important aspect for some people is the available models, where Darn Tough doesn’t disappoint. With over 75 models in the men, woman, and kids department, it may not be the widest in the world, but it’s certainly more than enough. Included in those models as socks with various heights and designs. On top of that, some models come with multiple color options. Finally, if you want to get multiple pairs, you can get some of the pack options with multiple pairs.
Speaking of colors, don’t expect something fancy or colorful. All color options available are generally muted. Some people say that the combination of design and colors is a bit dull.
The design is also nothing spectacular, as most of the socks have some classic-like stripes or boxes. I’d say perfect for people that don’t follow fashion trends while hiking.
I’m the type of person that doesn’t want too aggressive branding, and Darn Tough got it right. The logo and company name are present on the socks but are well incorporated into the design.
If you want excellent wool socks, then Darn Tough is the place to go. Many experienced hikers go for wool-based socks, primarily because of their temperature regulating properties. Also, unlike other materials, you can wear them longer before odor becomes an issue.
Socks made entirely out of wool are no good, especially in a hotter climate, which is why Darn Tough combined it with synthetic. The Coolmax polyester, wool, and a few other materials blends aim to provide the right balance for hiking. Excellent temperature regulation, not a lot of moisture absorption, breathability, and shorter drying times.
Darn Tough is placed as a premium socks manufacturer, and with that, you get a few extra perks when you buy a pair. The lifetime guarantee is a nice touch, considering the expectations you may have. You can ask for a replacement or a refund if the socks don’t fit, get stretched out, or anything else that you may not like. Darn Tough will take your pair, recycle them and reuse the materials to keep the waste as minimal as possible.
Considering the quality, material, and guarantee, the price should not come as a surprise. Darn Tough’s socks range from $14 to $30, depending on the height and model you go for. You can go for a discount if you get some of the packs with multiple pairs. It will cost less per pair when compared to purchasing them individually.
Bombas vs. Darn Tough – Which one to go for?
I’m going to be straight up and go for Darn Tough, mainly because they are the better performing socks in this duel. With that said, there are some positive sides to Bombas which you should consider.
In terms of material, Darn Tough knocks Bombas out of the park. I’ve spoken against the use of cotton socks for hiking in a previous article. Cotton is a cheap material that doesn’t perform exceptionally well in those kinds of situations. The biggest drawback is the moisture absorbing properties and extended drying times. Bombas managed to tackle that problem slightly by blending synthetics, but it won’t outperform Darn Tough at the end of the day.
Darn Tough is worth paying the higher price tag primarily because of how durable and comfortable they are. On the other hand, Bombas is worth it because you are giving something back to the community. You buy one pair, and the company donates one to homeless shelters.
In terms of options and design, it’s another win for Darn Tough. While the designs are not that far off from Bombas, the number of models and color options means that you have greater flexibility.
Overall, I would say buy from both. You can use Darn Tough for the extremer hiking scenarios, where you’d want the best performing socks. You can leave Bombas for the less strenuous ones. I may not put Bombas in the first place, but I still buy them only because I know that I’m helping someone have warm feet with the donated pair of socks.
Choosing the right pair of socks
Regardless if you go for Bombas, Darn Tough, or any of the other socks manufacturer, you need to be careful how you choose them. I’ve made a short guide that should help you with that.
Whenever I purchase a new pair of socks, the first thing I check out is the blend of materials. Strenuous tasks require a unique combination of materials so that the socks can perform optimally.
In my experience, wool-based socks tend to be the best at them. The wool is excellent at keeping the temperature under control, which is essential, especially in a colder climate. It struggles as the temperatures reach the upper point, but this is where the synthetics come into play. Mixing synthetic materials like spandex, nylon, or polyester means that you get better breathing capabilities, as well as improved durability.
Height and Weight
A common misconception is that the weight of the socks is irrelevant. While it may seem true, you’d want as less weight on your feet as possible during activities like hiking or running. It means that your legs will need to work less.
Lighter socks are great at reducing weight, but they suffer in the durability and comfort department. Thinner materials mean that they won’t be as long-lasting as some of the thicker ones. Also, as the manufacturer needs to keep the weight down, you will need to sacrifice some cushioning.
Going for the beefy socks will improve the durability and comfort, but you will be adding weight to your feet.
In general, it’s a matter of balancing both of them and get something that works best for you. In my experience, this is a trial and error moment until you manage to fine-tune the balance.
For height, there isn’t too much to think about. You should always get socks that are higher than your footwear. This doesn’t apply just to hiking, but to any kind of activity. Exposing your skin to the inside of the shoes or sneakers may lead to irritation. In some extremer cases, it may result in blisters.
The comfort part of socks in terms of cushioning is closely related to how thick and heavy they are. Thicker socks have better cushioning and are more comfortable to wear.
Natural materials like wool are often recommended as they are softer on the skin. During hiking, where rubbing is a possibility, irritation can be reduced or even eliminated. The same goes for stitching. Many manufacturers have seamless toe designs that help protect the front of your feet.
Getting a pair of socks and seeing them with a hole in a few weeks is not my idea of fun. That is the reason why durability should be another priority for you when you’re buying a new pair of socks.
In many ways, the socks’ durability is related to the materials used. Most of the hiking socks you’ll find on the market are a blend of wool and synthetics. Nylon and elastane are in charge of durability and elasticity.