The tale begins at Kick Off (ADZPCTKO), the event that marks the beginning of PCT thru-hiking season. Along with many other hikers, we were handed free samples from PCT sponsors and other merchants in the long line of kind vendors.
The representatives of Keen Footwear were gleefully doling out socks to hikers, one pair per person. I was actually in the ever-crowded women’s bathroom when someone mentioned “free socks!” I and everyone else shouted “where?!” and ran out, thus completing the plan of a hiker to poo in peace. These socks were lovely, ankle length, colorful but not overwhelmingly so, and thinly woven. Even better, they came with an unbeatable lifetime guarantee- which, as thru-hikers, we take as a challenge. Equally as gleefully, we thanked Keen and put them to the test.
As much as we loved the free socks, we shredded them within a hundred miles. We shot Keen a rather presumptuous email…
Our group of 4 picked up some socks from you lovely people at the PCT kick off in April. We were told they were indestructible and guaranteed for life, even though we’re not ones to complain about free things (thanks again), all of our socks were pretty much chewed to bits within 100 miles of wear.
Henley’s brother went to the grocery store, he has milk in a bag and, on the way to his apartment or car, the bag busts and he doesn’t have a gallon of milk any more. He went back in to the store for not double bagging his milk, it was their fault, and therefore he deserved some milk. The store, as good corporate citizens, gave him some free milk.
I don’t know if this story is relevant, but our discussion about your socks has rat holed significantly. Did we dream the guarantee element of your product? Would you be willing to support us further on the trail?
We also believe that your socks were comfortable and delightful when hiking, they also didn’t smell as much as others. Apart from the holes, we like them, a lot.
Hoping you can help,
Dan, Elie, Henley and Grace x
We attached the following photo as well:
Here’s the response we received from Keen:
I would love to replace your socks for you, this will actually be quite helpful for the Product Team to know. One of the reasons we give these socks to you on the trail is too see how they will hold up to the wear. Please let me know what you need and where I could send them. Or if it’s better for you, I can make you a code for 4 pairs of socks and you could just order them when you’re ready J Let me know!
With this unbelievably kind and spirited response, we set about getting new slips for our kicks. They arrived at our next Post Office stop without a hitch (well, with a hitch to get there).
Of all the socks we’ve worn on trail, no brand has survived without a hole or many. The testing has been fairly exhaustive: Keen, Smartwool, Eastern Mountain Supply, Darn Toughs, Alpaca from the Boulder Army store, and Icebreakers.
Our favorites are very clearly Darn Toughs. Henley loves them for their comfort, especially the bike/run version, which are thin but very durable. Grace adores their gentle inability to encrust into foot-shaped shells. Instead, they stay supple and un-crusty. Elie swoons over their lifetime guaruntee. After a year of consistent wear in tough conditions, including many Tajumulco and PCT miles, my (Elie’s) pair developed a small hole. If this ever happens, Darn Tough will replace the pair of socks FOR FREE. That’s right. You never have to buy another pair of socks ever again. And they truly are well made, last forever, and come in great colors. One hiker friend has worn the same pair through the whole AT and now much of the PCT without a hole, which is unbelievable. No other socks compare… Sorry, Keen. Dan, last but not least, prefers unbranded Alpaca wool socks from the Boulder Army Surplus Store, despite their propensity for holes.
To sum it all up, we love Keen and thank them very much for their kind support. Their socks are mighty comfortable, however, they are simply too weak to hold up to the rigors of the PCT. Darn Toughs, on the other hand, prove stylish, functional, and durable, and I’ll be wearing them for the remainder of the trail.