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How to Turn Holey Socks into New Socks aka the Darn Tough Warranty Works

Darn Tough socks hanging out Angel’s Rest at the eastern terminus finish of the Chinook Trail
Darn Tough socks hanging out Angel’s Rest at the eastern terminus finish of the Chinook Trail

Whenever a hiker asks we what type of socks to wear on a long distance trail, I always steer them to Vermont Darn Tough socks. First, I believe that the tightly knit weaving keeps out trail grime and leads to a better fit—which helps prevent blisters. Second, I really like that they are made in the US. Lastly (and perhaps the most important for long distance hiker) there is an unconditional LIFETIME GUARANTEE.

Wait—did you hear that right? Yes! If you get holes in your socks, Darn Tough will replace them for free. Darn Tough is so confident that the average user won’t be able to put a hole in their well-built construction, that they actually will give you a new pair if you ever manage to get holes.

4,000 miles later
4,000 miles later

I’ve talked to people who hike every weekend and have had the same pair of Darn Tough socks for 10 years without getting holes. But as a long distance hiker who is known to wear the same pair of socks everyday and as someone who puts miles into my socks that far exceed the average user, I have managed to get some holes in my Darn Toughs.

So here’s what I’ve done to get a free replacement:

  1. Wash my socks. If I’m going to return them, at least I should have the courtesy to bring them back in good shape. I’ve heard that sometimes, the Darn Tough team takes used socks to help aid in design and construction improvements. I could be helping to make a better sock!
  2. Seek out my local gear store: A lot of independent gear stores will take holey Darn Tough socks and replace them for free on the spot.
  3. Find Darn Tough at festivals and outdoor gatherings: Darn Tough booths at outdoor events like PCT Days are happy to switch out socks on the spot
  4. Mail them in!

    Packaged up and ready to go
    Packaged up and ready to go

Below is a documentation of my process of mailing in my Darn Toughs. I’ve only ever had to do it twice, but had a great response each time I did.

  1. After washing my socks, I packaged them up in a manila envelope. They’re plenty safe in there and it weighs less than a padded envelope or box (less expensive for shipping)
  2. Fill out this simple Warranty Form, print it out, and sign it.
  3. Mail it all off to:

DARN TOUGH VERMONT

Warranties Department

364 Whetstone Drive

Northfield, VT 05663

  1. I used first class mail instead of priority mail to ship out the envelope. It cost me $2.50 to mail three pairs of socks from California to Vermont. For new socks, that seems like a deal to me!
  2. Wait about 10 days and you’ll get some brand new socks mailed to your door with Priority shipping in a padded envelope. Hooray!

 

The lifetime warranty actually works!!!

Brand new socks arrived in the mail!
Brand new socks arrived in the mail!

Ultralight Gear list: late season Wonderland Trail

 

The Wonderland Trail circumnavigates Mt. Rainier
The Wonderland Trail circumnavigates Mt. Rainier

After the ALDHA-W Gathering, I was lucky enough to hike the 93 mile long Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier with Swami, Malto, and Bobcat.

I was expecting some colder temperatures in bad weather because: 1) we were hiking late season 2) Mt. Rainier is high altitude 3) Mt. Rainier is relatively north 4) it’s Mt. Rainier.

On the other hand, I was trying to keep my pack as light as possible because 1) my three hiking partners are really strong, world class hikers and I had to be able to relatively keep up 2) I knew their packs would be very light 3) the Wonderland Trail has a good deal of elevation change and I wanted to make going uphill as easy as possible.

With these concerns in mind, here is the gear list I put together for a late season Wonderland Trail trip.

Download the PDF file .

Outdoor Retailer Chic: Latest news in Outdoor Fashion (?)

Clearly picking up on the gender imbalance of OR attendees, Gracie’s bar calls “having a beard” a fashion trend. What about ladies and people like Trauma?
Clearly picking up on the gender imbalance of OR attendees, Gracie’s bar calls “having a beard” a fashion trend. What about ladies and people like Trauma?

I missed the memo on the dresscode for the Winter Outdoor Retailer show. Down puffy jackets are the dresscode here so much that the local restaurants are playing on the uniform to attract customers.

Ladies’ fashion at OR as rocked by the beautiful Liz from Turbopup and some other randos who didn’t realize I was taking photos of them.
Ladies’ fashion at OR as rocked by the beautiful Liz from Turbopup and some other randos who didn’t realize I was taking photos of them.

Meanwhile, of the 25,000 people here, the dress is gendered: men are wearing jeans and trail running shoes while women are wearing tights and high boots.

I guess I dressed like a man accidentally?

Bikini-wearing girls in hot tubs weren’t the only novelty at OR. Really tall men were there for the womenfolk.
Bikini-wearing girls in hot tubs weren’t the only novelty at OR. Really tall men were there for the womenfolk.

Given that there are scantily-clad models walking the floor at OR, the pressure for ladies (who make up less than 50% of the attendees here) to look their best is pretty high. To compensate, I’m wearing my “going out” make up.

Men’s fashion this season at OR features puffies+jeans. Although brightly colored running shoes were common, dress shoes and cowboy boots (see above) are also popular. Either way, a backpack is a MUST.
Men’s fashion this season at OR features puffies+jeans. Although brightly colored running shoes were common, dress shoes and cowboy boots (see above) are also popular. Either way, a backpack is a MUST.

The guy OR attendees here are debuting men’s fashion trends for this fall—“rustic-hipster” with a skinny hipster silhouette thing going on.

What’s up with the guys in suits? Older East Coast types must sell gear, too.

Rumor on the street is the Bureau of Land Management directors at the Show were rocking the suits. DC types…
Rumor on the street is the Bureau of Land Management directors at the Show were rocking the suits. DC types…

Ladies fashion for fall is going towards what the OR Daily calls “demure earth tones,” which IMHO, is no good for taking photos of women in the outdoors (blends in too much with the background). I guess outdoor designers aren’t actually planning on women going outdoors…just looking like they do.

Nothing says clubbin’ and late night like an ultralight pack and softshell.
Nothing says clubbin’ and late night like an ultralight pack and softshell.

Unlike Summer OR (where people actually bring extra clothes and even costumes for going out), the best style for hitting the (mostly) free evening entertainment at the Show is in an ultralight pack.

Sneak Peak at the useful, quirky, and innovative NEW gear at Outdoor Retailer

The crowds flock to the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City to see the newest gear
The crowds flock to the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City to see the newest gear

Real gear editors like Will Rietveld will go on to write better reviews of the new, innovative, interesting, and quirky things at Winter Outdoor Retailer, but here’s a sneak peak at some of what I’m seeing on the show floor that could be of interest to the ultralight backpacking community:

  • Western Mountaineering has a new version of the thru-hiker favorite Flash jacket. The old Flash used a Pertex-like fabric that weighed 1 oz/yard—the new stuff is 0.8 oz per yard. But what I thought was even cooler was the new design—black on the outside and fluorescent yellow on the inside. Although the jacket isn’t quite reversible, its design is perfect for keeping warm in black in the woods while giving the versatility of flipping the jacket for better visibility during roadwalks.
  • Kahtoola is also debuting a brand new, much anticipated Nanospike for urban living which doesn’t look like it will work for hikers at all. The nano-spikes have tiny screws about 1/4″ in length that could grip ice on a sidewalk, but probably shouldn’t be gripping ice on a sketchy slope. That being said, they weigh a lot less (couldn’t get a weight on it, but the rubber and the metal all weighed less than the normal microspike) so you know some ultralight crazy person is going to use them.
  • Sierra Designs is coming out with a no-zip backless quilt with fully enclosed footbox. This is supposed to be the big innovative crazy thing of the year.
  • I’ve seen and hiked with one before, but the luminAID is a relatively new cool product that is just getting some attention in the hiking market. This 2 oz inflatable solar lamp is a great substitute for gathering around the campfire when you’re hiking in no-burn or alpine areas. Daphna, one of the engineers who invented the luminAID, advises me not to use it as a pillow, but I’ve heard Glen van Peski  does it. Like Sawyer, the ladies behind this product spend a lot of time using it for developing country aid projects. Plus, I like the idea of supporting two young female engineers in their cool work.
  • SealSkinz waterproof socks offer a traditional sock feel that is waterproof (in contrast to most waterproof socks that are made of neoprene). This British-based company is debuting at this Winter OR. The name is old—an American company used it to sell neoprene socks—but was recently bought by a ten-year old UK company specializing in sock-feeling waterproof socks. This could potentially have applications for snow hiking or in cold conditions.
  • The I-Rest Massager is a device the size of an i-pod nano that hooks up to two pads and massages your body. The battery lasts at least 20 hours and is easily rechargeable. This could be an ultralight way to ensure a massage every night on the trail. Although it is a bit pricey, I tried the 2 oz product for a 15 minute massage and thought: “I could be down with getting one of these every night after a day of walking.” Highly advised for the older hiker crowd.

UPDATES FROM 1/23/2014 12:15 PM

  • Debuting at OR, Turbopup offers a new product that got a lot of publicity–a meal replacement bar for dogs. The Probar of dogs, these bacon or peanut butter flavored 500 calorie bars are grain-free, made of human-grade American ingredients, gentle on dog stomachs, and owned/created by a veteran/woman owned business. Plus, Kristina, the owner/founder/bar-maker took good care of the long distance hikers at OR by giving them a home booth.

UPDATES FROM 1/24/2014 11:00 AM

  • Potable Aqua has a new water treatment system called PURE Electrolytic water purifier. Hikers carry an eyedropper sized bottle of saline solution very similar to . . .  eyedrops. When a hiker needs to treat water, she puts a few drops of the saline solution into a 3.8 oz electronic device smaller in size than a granola bar. After a few seconds, the solution will fizz and then be ready to put into a water source. It easily scales from 1-20 L and doesn’t need replacement batteries, only a charge from a plug or USB (it also has a built in solar panel). It claims to inactivate viruses and bacteria including Cryptosporidium.
  • Jelly Belly is launching a new line of Sport Beans called Protein Recovery Crisps. Offered in Chocolate, Berry Smoothie, and Vanilla, the crisps have a whey protein coating and a crispy pea protein center offering 12g of protein per serving 1.5 oz serving. Not vegan.

UPDATES FROM 1/28/2014 12:45 PM

  • Spot has a new theft-alert tracking device called the Spot Trace that can go on cars and boats and runs on 4 AAA lithium batteries. It’s about the size of two match books and weighs 3.1 oz. Although it seems of limited use to the hiking community, it weighs 0.8 oz less than the Spot Gen 3, and still lets people track GPS Coordinates in real time. It could be a perfect thing for a paranoid mom whose kid is about to thru-hike…
  • With the potential to be the single most innovative thing I’ve seen at the entire show, the Power Pot is a cookpot with a wire hooked up to it that harnesses the heat from your cooking to charge a cell phone or camera. It works with canister, alcohol, woodburning, and Esbit stoves. I immediately thought this could be of benefit to photographers like Barefoot Jake who go out for 10+ days at a time without resupply (or recharge) and thus have to pick-and-choose which photos to take. For someone like Jake who cooks meals every night, this 12 oz pot could be a huge advantage. For people like me who go ultralight and expect to resupply every 4 days or less, it is still a bit heavy for me.

World Water Day: Another reason to love my Sawyer filter

My nastiest experiences with unclean water haven’t been on trail (no, not even on the Continental Divide Trail). Instead, I needed good water treatment the most when I was staying and living with families in Botswana, Cambodia, and Nicaragua. As a hiker, I choose to bring myself to areas where the water may not be the cleanest, yet 1 in 6 people in the world don’t get that choice. Their water is contaminated and they have no choice about whether to use it or not.  I’m proud that organizations like Wine to Water and Sawyer filters are working to make water cleaner worldwide.

It’s pretty awesome being sponsored by a company that has a mission besides profits. Sawyer is ensuring people around the world have access to clean water (you can see a relative of the filter I use backpacking in this cool video). Happy World Water Day!

 

CNN has a nice interview with the founder of Wine to Water here

 

Gear review: Sole’s new product, the Insulated Response Footbed

At 4.73oz, Sole’s brand new product, the Insulated Response footbed, keeps thru-hiker feet warm without the weight penalty.

I was at the point where I thought that feet so cold that they somehow manage to be numb and painful simultaneously was an inevitable part of long distance hiking. The easy options for keeping feet warm while trekking—like snowboots—don’t translate easily to long hikes. An athlete who needs to cover marathon miles daily with everything needed for survival on her back needs something different. I’ve been using Sole footbeds since my 2009 thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail and was thrilled to discover their newest product, the Insulated Response footbed, as a potential answer to my cold feet problem. To experiment winter hiking with the Responses, I took them out for some Colorado winter peak bagging and up the side of Pikes Peak on the famous Olympic training ground, the Incline, to explore how a simple piece of gear could put the joy back in snow hiking.

Loving my new footbeds on top of a Colorado peak
Loving my new footbeds on top of a Colorado peak

Long distance trails often dip between snowy mountain crests and lower altitude snow-free areas. On that terrain, traditional forms of winter footwear are too heavy and bulky to carry through the dry sections, and are too cumbersome to get big miles in on the snowy sections.  The Sole Response footbeds create a nice middle ground—they are warm enough to keep me insulated in the snow, but comfortable enough to keep using in myp shoes during snow free sections of the trail. From the hiker’s perspective, this has benefits—can anything be more annoying than having to stop every mile to put on or remove footwear when the terrain changes? With the Response footbeds, hikers can glide through snow and dry mountain regions without stopping for anything but an occasional loose shoelace.

Feet submerged in the snow for a full day of hiking will love the extra insulation
Feet submerged in the snow for a full day of hiking will love the extra insulation

Using 3M technology, the 1.6 cm thick Response footbeds are sleek and, like all Sole products, designed to mold to the natural arches of the user’s feet. At 4.7oz for the pair, the Response footbeds are an incredibly lightweight alternative to snowboots and, more importantly, integrate well with a thru-hiker’s gear. The Response footbeds are simply inserted into a thru-hiker’s footwear of choice—typically, trail runners—and at low weight cost, creates a barrier of warmth for hiking (and postholing) through the next section of snowy trail. Hikers visiting the Sierra section of the Pacific Crest Trail or the San Juans or Glacier National Park section of the Continental Divide Trail will want to get a hold of these footbeds before heading into days of snow travel and will find it easily adapts with gear they already use.

After a snowy day on the Incline, my feet don’t feel the cold (but my legs feel the burn)
After a snowy day on the Incline, my feet don’t feel the cold (but my legs feel the burn)

I experimented hiking with one foot using a Response footbed, and another foot without, and the difference in warmth was notable. While wearing the Response footbed, I quickly realized the strange sensation of having the bottom of my feet and toes warmer than the top of my feet.  Paired with RBH Design’s thin waterproof sock, like the VaprTherm Insulated sock, the Response footbeds could keep a hiker’s feet warm all day long for days on end. However, if the weather is cold, I would ensure both insoles and socks were removed and kept from freezing overnight.

The bottom line: If you want an effective, lightweight, and convenient way to keep feet warm during a thru-hike, the Sole Response Insulated footbed will integrate and adapt easily into an ultralight gear system (or any gear system!).

Evernew Pre-production Sleeping Pad

Peak break using the Evernew sleeping pad as a sit pad
Peak break using the Evernew sleeping pad as a sit pad

I was lucky enough to test out the Evernew sleeping pad in pre-production by taking it for a 486-mile thru-hike of the Colorado Trail. How does it compare to other sleeping pads on the market?

It didn’t seem like closed cell foam pads were an area for innovation, but Evernew is trailblazing with its new sleeping pad. The Japan-based company renowned for ultralight gear—lived up to its reputation by making a 5 foot 8 inch long full-length pad that weighs in at 4.8 oz on my scale.  On thru-hikes, I usually bring just a closed cell torso pad (typically the 4.5 oz Gossamer Gear Nightlight or half of the 14 oz Z-lite), but since the weight penalty of the Evernew full pad was fairly minimal, I brought the whole thing.

Home sweet home
Home sweet home

The Evernew pad was quite stable at night, useful for my many nighttime rolls. It remained stable when used with a floored shelter and also in and outside of the Mountain Laurel Designs Superlight bivy. It was comfortable for sleeping on my side and stomach. The Evernew pad is 20 inches wide compared to the Nightlight’s 19 inches and the Z-lite’s 20 inches; I’m relatively small with my widest area at 16 inches, but Evernew may consider creating a wider version for bigger Americans.

Given that my hike was in September, often at elevations over 12,000 feet, the Evernew pad provided surprisingly good insulation. Since the pad was so long, at below freezing temperatures, I folded the pad for double coverage around my torso, and was able to sleep warmly in my 20 degree sleeping bag. When the Colorado Trail took me to lower elevations and temperatures, it felt more like normal summer hiking conditions.  At the lower elevations, the sleeping pad was definitely warm enough. Since I wasn’t given specs on the pad, I still remain curious about the pad’s r-factor.

I also used the Evernew pad as the frame in my ultralight pack (Mountain Laurel Design’s Prophet). I prefer folding a pad in the part of the pack against my back vs. the barrel/burrito/coiled roll method (Backpacking Light writes a nice review of the debate between the two techniques). Although the Evernew pad does not come with pre-cut ridges like the Z-lite, perhaps because of its thinness, it folded easily into the back of my pack. I’m not used to using a full pad as my frame, so the inside of my pack felt a bit cramped with all my gear and the full sleeping pad inside.  Although flimsier than the Gossamer Gear Nightlite or Z-lite, the Evernew pad folded over many times was sturdy enough to carry a grueling 7 day resupply of food—way more than I usually carry.

My only concern with the Evernew pad is its durability. When I transported the Evernew pad is a duffel bag from the Outdoor Retailer show to my next hike, the pad became slightly indented. However, ultralight hikers should be familiar with caring for delicate gear to avoid damage. Like most closed cell foam pads, after some 500 miles of use, the Evernew pad was not as thick as when I started—but it still measures ½ inch thick after the hike compared to a new Nightlight pad’s 3/8 inch thickness.

Measuring the pad height after 500 miles of use
Measuring the pad height after 500 miles of use

The bottom line: If you want an even lighter closed cell foam torso pad, this is your ticket to cutting off an extra ounce.  For backpackers who seek the weight advantages of a closed cell foam torso pad, but also envy the comfort of a full length pad, Evernew has made a revolutionary piece of gear.