Gear Review: The Original Buff

Possibly the most versatile circular piece of fabric I own.

Throughout high school, I saw my cross-country ski friends sporting buffs at practice. I thought they looked like neat little neck warmers and frequently wanted one while skiing in single-digit temperatures, but I had no idea of their warmth and versatility until this fall. This cylindrical seam-free, breathable, sweat-wicking, wind resistant microfiber cloth changed my outdoor climbing life.

Perks as a neck warmer: Stepping in dog poop aside, having a cool breeze blowing across the back of my neck is one of my least favorite things. No matter how high I zip my jacket(s) and how far down I pull my hat, I can never completely close the gap on the back of my neck. While wearing a hood does solve this problem, it also reduces my peripheral vision, makes hearing my partners difficult, and somehow makes me feel confined and unable to move. This is where the Buff comes in.
Unlike a scarf, your buff is neatly contained right around your neck, no extra yarn necessary, and keeps you surprisingly warm for its thinness. I usually leave it on to climb in temperatures below 50 degrees, but, if you do happen to start to overheat, you can easily pull it up as a headband (see below for pros and cons) or throw it to the ground on single-pitch climbs. It’s also easy to toss in the wash, when, inevitably, it gets drenched in sweat on the hike out.

Perks as a hat: There are two main ways to wear your buff as a hat.
ONE: Go for the beanie. This option is recommended for boulders looking to keep with the (shirtless) beanie-sending trend. The now double-thick fabric keeps you from freezing in “perfect sending temps” and simultaneously wicks sweat from your forehead if you do happen to warm up by the topout. Why select this option over wearing one of your five Neff beanies? If are trying to stay cool on the approach by going hatless, you can save the extra weight and space in your pack by slipping your handkerchief-sized Buff into your jacket pocket. You’ll also impress your friends with your neck-warmer-to-hat conversion (see video below for instructions).
TWO: If you’re better at braving the cold than me and like to multi-pitch when it’s below freezing, you can utilize the neck-warmer-hat-combo by pulling the back of your neck warmer up over your head. This fits under helmets for ice, rock, and mixed climbing in the cold and also provides the simultaneous warmth and sweat-wicking properties of the beanie. The difference: you have a neck warmer and hat all in one without the bulk of traditional fleece models.

Perks and weirdness as a headband: The buff works best as a headband if used sweatband-style (see video below) to keep you from having to wipe away sweat with your freshly chalked hands. However, this can be difficult for those of us with longer hair if it’s not in a braid. While you can scrunch the fabric into a headband, in my opinion it’s much too thick and instantly becomes annoying. Instead, I use the cylindrical-bandana look, with the extra fabric flowing behind my head. This might look great if I had dreadlocks, but it usually just makes my head look small and occasionally bald.

Perks for hiding from unwanted partners: Pull neck warmer up over mouth and nose before walking by unwanted partners. Looking at something in the direction opposite them and walking fast help too.
This method can also be useful for when it’s incredibly cold out and you’d prefer to have a buffer of fabric between you and the 0-degree air to breath through.

Other Uses: Makeshift beer koozie and/or coffee sleeve, napkin (if wearing around neck, simply pull up inside to wipe your mouth), wrist/arm sweatband–no one likes armpit sweat dripping down their bare arms–large Band-Aid, and pretty much anything else you can do with a bandana.

WATCH THIS VIDEO for more ways to wear your Buff and the perks of 4-season use:


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