I received a Buff as a gift several years ago for a 7-day rafting trip down the Grand Canyon during the summertime. I remembered seeing them on the show ‘Survivor’ that I used to watch, but I hadn’t thought about them much since. I mean, it’s just a sleeve of cloth with openings on both ends, what’s the big deal?
There is no big deal, which is sort of the point. Its simplicity is the key.
I had no idea how something so simple could be so useful. As it turned out, I ended up using that Buff during that entire trip. It kept me cool during the days, and warm during the mornings. It kept smoke and ash out of my mouth, and bugs out of my ears and hair. It protected my head from getting sunburned, and then easily wrapped around my wrist so I wouldn’t lose it during spontaneous swims. At the end of the week, I was quite impressed with my Buff, but after years of use, I have developed a respect for it.
I still use that same Buff to this day, and this is why.
Now, while there are a lot of different Buff offerings (Visor, Hood, Protection Series, etc.), I will be focusing on the Buff headwear similar to that of the original Buff. The simple cloth sleeve without any gimmicks.
These Buffs are just hollow cylinders of seamless cloth, with an opening on each end. It’s stretchy, soft, and weighs around an ounce. There are different material offerings, but they generally behave the same. There’s also an assortment of Buffs for the climate you anticipate to use it in. Regardless of what Buff you get, the basic premise is the same. Use it any way you want, for whatever purpose you need.
There’s really not a lot of research to do here, folks. Buff’s are simple items, and you will find that the hardest decision you will need to make will be what design you want on it. Generally, I recommend the UV Buffs as a first purchase, as every outdoorsman can relate to the benefits of its weight, UV protection, and versatility. You can branch out and get fancy with the fleece, cordage, or wind protection if you want, but I recommend considering the simple UV Buff because I believe it has the most well-rounded feature set for this product type. The more features and add-ons that you put on a product as simple as this, the more you limit its usability.
Speaking of product type, Buffs seem to be all on their own. I was hard-pressed to find any competition for the Buffwear brand, which is surprising to me considering how simple they are. Regardless, Buffwear is doing a great job and producing a great product, so don’t feel obligated to shop around too much.
Buffs have pretty standard pricing. No matter where you get them from, they will be around $20-$30. I think that’s pretty steep to charge for what a Buff is, but if you want the versatility and proven reliability you’ve gotta bite the brand bullet. Cutting up and stitching together your own sleeve of cloth will not be the same product, I guarantee you.
The Buff I received is one of the “High UV Protection” Buffs. The design on mine is no longer produced, but everything else is the same. I’ve been using this Buff for years in a variety of uses, and I’m surprised at how well it has held up. It’s seen a lot of time in direct sunlight, especially under the hot summer sun of Arizona. During the summertime, you simply just drench it in water and wear it on your head. Without water, you can still use it to wick up sweat and keep you cool that way. The evaporating moisture will keep you cool, while the material itself will block UV rays. It dries out in under an hour under a desert summer sun, so being near a water source helps.
I also use it as a mask in the wintertime when I ride my motorcycle. Using it as a balaclava mask it deflects wind surprisingly well, especially since the UV version is intended to keep you cool. In the wintertime, it’s used best as a neck warmer. The UV version works fine for the desert winters, but the heavier Buffs will probably be better suited for colder temperatures.
I have found the Buff particularly useful to deter allergy attacks. I tend to get really bad allergies in the spring, especially when lawns are being mowed and particulates are being thrown into the air constantly. Staying outside can be painful after breathing all that junk in for 5 minutes. On top of that, nobody wants to hang around someone who is stuffed up and sneezing non-stop. I found that if I use the Buff as a mask so that it covers my nose, mouth, and neck, my outdoor allergy attacks stop. Sure, I might look like I’m about to rob a bank while I’m out for a walk with my dog, but I’d rather look strange than feel miserable.
Another thing I have noticed about my Buff is that after continuous wear, the ends of the sleeve curl up. While it doesn’t really deter you from doing anything with it, it is a nuisance. I’ve noticed that the most efficient way of ironing out these curls is to just throw it in the wash. You could even look at it as a built-in notification system to let you know you should probably clean your Buff.
Speaking of getting clean, the Buff is pretty low maintenance. Most Buffs have Polygiene applied, which is an anti-bacterial treatment that should help keep it fresh. My Buff has never developed any mildew, but it will start to smell like gym clothes after a while. For me, it’s nothing intolerable, but a quick wash in the laundry brings it right back up to socially acceptable olfactory standards.
The Buff is advertised to not lose its elasticity or color in time. Although it baffles me, I’m pleased to report that it is true. Despite the years of sunlight, stretching, washings, and elements, my UV Buff still behaves like new. One visible symptom of wear is the presence of small bunches of fiber throughout the surface of the Buff. This is common with most apparel, and I often see a similar effect on my t-shirts. Although it is evident upon close inspection, it does not affect the performance of the Buff, nor has the color of the Buff itself degraded. Additionally, the Buff has also retained its elasticity and still forms to its original shape.
The Buffs are surprisingly durable. My Buff has no tears, rips or holes in it to this day. On top of that, I have never seen one that did. In fact, I have friends that have been using their Buffs just as long as I have been using mine, and they are still in like-new condition to this day. There is no discount to their durability either, as mine is just as comfortable today as the day I received it.
Buffs are very versatile. Beyond their obvious uses, they can also be improvised for many other unmentioned situations. Being stretchy, lightweight, strong fabric means they could be used as a water filter, improvisational wound treatment, pet clothing, containers, and even a windsock. If you were to make a list of all the uses for a traditional Buff, it would compare to the versatility of mil-spec 550 paracord. Simple, yet supremely effective.
A Buff is a Buff is a Buff. No bells and whistles needed. It’s simple, works well, and I recommend it to the outdoorsman, adventurers, and even landscapers.