Occasionally, people ask me what one piece of gear I always take on my outdoor trips. We all have that one item we feel compelled to always have in our pack. My one item I can’t live without is my merino wool Buff.
I bought a Buff last spring because I was going on a bike trip and I thought it would fit under my helmet nicely. My expectations for it weren’t very high beyond keeping my ears warm, and I thought it would be a better option than the cotton Carthart beanie I had been using for years.
Turns out, I absolutely love my Buff. I use it all the time, and I haven’t been on an overnight trip without it since I bought it. Please note that it’s the merino wool Buff I love; I haven’t tried the original version.
What is a Buff, you ask?
Have you ever seen the show Survivor? It’s one of the bandana things that the contestants are given that represent their respective tribes. While the tiny girls on the show wear them as tube tops, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend doing so yourself. They are just the right size to wear on your head (which makes me think that they give the Survivor ladies larger versions).
Regardless, you can bend it and wear it in different ways with the ultimate goal of keeping your head warm or keeping hair off of your face.
What’s so great about a Buff?
- They are warm. I don’t think I need to elaborate on this point. The goal is to keep your head warm. Buffs do the job.
- They are versatile. You can wear it several different ways. I usually fold it over twice and wear it like a bandana so it covers my whole head. If the weather is extremely cold, I fold it an extra time so there is four layers total over my ears. Alternatively, if I get a little too warm and I don’t feel like taking the time to put it in my pack, I like to twist it around and wear it on my wrist until I stop for a break. If I’m wearing a jacket with a hood, the Buff makes a nice neck warmer.
- It’s breathable. You don’t get too hot while wearing it. It is breathable enough to let some of the heat escape.
- It keeps my nose warm. Does anyone else have the problem where you are in your sleeping bag all cozy, and the only thing poking out is your cold nose? It happens to me a lot. I wear my Buff like a mask while I sleep so my nose doesn’t get cold. The material is thin enough that I don’t suffocate.
- There are alternative uses. I like to put my cooking pot on the fire to cook, and sometimes I make foil-wrapped calzones in the coals. I use the Buff as a pot holder so I don’t burn my fingers. Just be careful not to burn a hole in it! When I’m not hiking, I like to use it as a laptop cover.
- It doesn’t smell bad. One great thing about merino wool is that it does a good job of repelling smell. Even if the Buff is soaking up your sweat, it still doesn’t get too gross.
- My hair doesn’t look bad while wearing it. I’m at a constant battle with wearing beanies. I have long, thick hair. When I tie it in a bun, beanies don’t stay on my head right. When I leave it down, my hair frizzes out of the bottom in a puffy mass. Since personal appearance is a top priority on the trail (I joke), it’s nice to be able to wear my hair how I want without looking like a hot mess.
- It costs $30 and it comes in lots of colors. While you don’t necessarily need a Buff, it is really nice to have. $30 is a fair price for what you’re getting. Plus, they have lots of different patterns and colors, so it brightens up your trail outfit.
- Downside: If you want to keep hair off of your face during summertime, the Buff is too hot. I would recommend getting the headband version if this is your goal.
Overall, I love my Buff and I’m going to keep taking it on all of my outdoor trips. What’s the one item in your pack you can’t live without?