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Reviews > Clothing > Hats > Buff Headgear Natural Merino Wool > Test Report by Brett Haydin

BUFF HEADGEAR NATURAL MERINO WOOL HEADWEAR
TEST SERIES BY BRETT HAYDIN
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - October 21, 2009
FIELD REPORT - January 05, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - March 09, 2010

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Brett Haydin
EMAIL: bhaydin AT hotmail DOT com
AGE: 37
LOCATION: Salida, Colorado, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 11" (1.80 m)
WEIGHT: 195 lb (88.50 kg)

I started backpacking in Wisconsin as a youth, being involved in the Boy Scouts programs. As a young adult, I worked at a summer camp leading backpacking, canoeing and mountain biking trips. I now generally take short weekend or day trips in rough, mountainous terrain, although I have extensive experience in the upper Midwest as well. I take one or two longer trips each year, where I typically carry about 40 lb (18 kg). I prefer to be prepared and comfortable, but I have taken lightweight trips as well.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

IMAGE 1Manufacturer: Original Buff, S.A.
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: www.buff.eu
MSRP: NA
Listed Weight: NA
Measured Weight: 2.5 oz (71 g)
Color Tested: Black
Colors Available: Cru, Stone, Camel, Kaky, Grana, Navy, Grey, Black

Other details provided by Manufacturer:


  • Moisture Management
  • Odour Resistant
  • UV Protection
  • Natural Stretch
  • Flame Retardant
  • Water Repellent
  • 100% natural soft Merino Wool

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The Buff Natural Wool Headwear, henceforth referred to as "Buff," comes attached to a cardboard cutout (pictured above) with two hangtags. It is a simple piece of headwear that can function as a neck gaiter, scarf, balaclava and even a beanie hat. The construction is a simple tubular shape that measures 29 in (74 cm) long. When I lay it down flat, the width measures 9.5 in (24 cm). There is a small grey Buff logo screen printed on one end as well.

The Buff is made from 100% Merino wool. Merino wool is, in my opinion, a softer wool that does not irritate my skin as other wools do. While the shape and design may be simple, the execution is flawless. The seams are flat which should alleviate any pressure points when wearing the Buff. There are no seams that run the length of the Buff either.

The fabric certainly feels soft to my touch. It is also stretchy so that I don't feel confined while wearing it as well. The buff is easy to use, even without directions, most configurations are pretty intuitive.

Based on the information available on the website and from other reviews I have read, the Buff is pretty much exactly what I expected. The fabric is softer than I expected, but otherwise it meets and exceeds my own expectations!

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

According to the manufacturer's website, there are 12 different configurations for the Buff: cap, scarf, balaclava, pirate style, Saharan, bandanna, hair band, foulard, helmet liner, dust mask are specifically listed. According to the products packaging, the Buff is machine washable and includes a list on universal washing symbols. These symbols translate to wash in cold water, and don't use bleach, the dryer, iron or dry cleaning. Simple, huh?

TRYING IT OUT

I couldn't wait to play around with the Buff! I have seen it elsewhere but I have never owned one before. I did have to work at figuring out the cap (beanie) version. For reference, if you twist the middle of the Buff, you create two separate chambers. To make the beanie, fold one side over the other.

We had a significant snowfall here recently; about 5 in (13 cm). I took the opportunity to walk my dog with the Buff as a cap. For the short while I was out there, the Buff did the job.

SUMMARY

I am really excited to test the Buff over the next four months. When I sleep in the backcountry, I generally wear a fleece cap, but they tend to fall off during the night. I hope that the Buff will be able to serve multiple purposes and keep me warm at night! So far I really like the feel and functionality of the Buff. I have no gripes out of the box either! I plan to use the Buff backpacking, snowshoeing, snowboarding and around town as well.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Over the past two months, I have used the Buff on two overnight camping trips as well as five days of snowboarding. I have also used the Buff on three day hikes as well as standard apparel when I have been able to get in a morning run.

My first overnight trip was into the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness along the Browns Pass Trail. While hiking in the area over the summer, I noticed a turnoff to Lake Hartenstein that I wanted to visit. Elevation for this trip ranged from approximately 9,900 to 11,500 ft (3,018 to 3,505 m) and while the trail was snow covered in spots, the snow was noticeably deeper over 10,500 ft (3,200 m). Weather was cold with a low of 10 F (-12 C) when I checked in the middle of the night. The high was about 40 F (4 C). While the skies were overcast on the hike in, they cleared up at dusk and remained clear the rest of the trip. The hike into the lake is a fairly easy 3 mi (4.8 km), but I spent a fair amount of time exploring the area as well.

The second trip was along a section of the Rainbow Trail in the San Isabel National Forest. For this trip I hiked about 6 mi (9.6 km) in to a suitable camping spot. The weather was fantastic with temperatures near 40 F (4 C) and mostly sunny skies. Overnight low was about 20 F (-7 C). The trail was in great shape considering the amount of snow the area has seen recently and snowshoes were only needed in particular areas. Elevation range was approximately 8,500 to 9,800 ft (2,590 to 2,990 m).

My day hikes varied in conditions and elevation but were consistent with the conditions of my overnight trips. The farthest day hike was about 9 mi (14.5 km) with one that was much shorter with my daughter and her friend. Temperatures have been much more varied with snowboarding lows at about -5 F (-20.5 C).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I have used the Buff in a number of different styles. I have most commonly worn the Buff as a balaclava which allows me to cover my face as needed. Depending on the conditions, I wore it this way under either a baseball cap or a fleece beanie-style hat. I have also worn the Buff as a beanie as the photo below shows.

Buff on Trail
Wearing the Buff on the Rainbow Trail; beanie-style!



While I appreciate the warmth of the Buff, it certainly has limits as to the amount of warmth it can provide. I found that if I was involved in strenuous activity, such as snowboarding, I could remain comfortable with just the Buff under my helmet down to about 15 F (-9.5 C). While hiking and backpacking, I found that I added some style of hat when the temperature was about 30 I F (-1 C) unless I was wearing the Buff as a beanie. In that case I remained quite comfortable at 15 F (-9.5), but I was also wearing a fleece scarf.

While snowboarding, the Buff accumulated a fair amount of moisture when worn as a balaclava. As I would ascend the ski lifts, the temperature would cool and I noticed the moisture turning to ice. While I encountered equally cool conditions hiking, I did not experience this at all. I also try to minimize my exertion while backpacking to prevent hypothermia. Well, I try at least; backpacking in winter is strenuous enough without the mountains! I surmise that the icing is due to the exposure to winds and rapidly cooling temperatures as I ride up a lift. While backpacking and hiking, I can take a break and the moisture can evaporate more effectively. I am likely to run into foul weather at some point, so I will definitely monitor this for the Long Term Report.

I really enjoy the flexibility of uses this Buff allows for. At night, am able to wear the Buff to bed as an alternative to wearing a hat. Normally my hats fall off periodically throughout the night, but the Buff stays in place! Depending on the conditions, I have gone from wearing the Buff as a beanie to a balaclava and back again as the day warmed and cooled. This was especially true while hiking the Rainbow Trail, when I traversed in and out of gullies and the shadows they provided. Boy, is the sun ever warm here in Colorado! I love it!

My skin appreciates the feel of the Buff. Normally I would cringe at the thought of wool directly against my skin. If I really think about it, I can feel a minor "scratchy" sensation I associate with other wool products, but I really have to concentrate to notice it. For me it has not been cause for concern.

Cleaning the Buff has been easy. I generally toss the Buff in with my dark-colored clothing and I'm done. To date I have noticed no signs of wear and the manufacturer's logo is still visible and not faded.

SUMMARY

So far I am very pleased with the Buff. I find that it does a reasonably good job keeping my head warm in moderately cool conditions unassisted. As the temperatures dip, it continues to work well as an accessory. I have been able to use it in a variety of manners based on the circumstances.

I can't say that I have any true complaints so far. Aside from the accumulation of ice while snowboarding in extremely cold conditions, the Buff has otherwise done a fine job of shedding moisture.

I would like to thank the folks at the Original Buff as well as the volunteers at BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to be a part of this series so far. Please check back in about two months (early March 2010) to see how the Buff is performing.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

During the Long Term phase of this test series I was able to take the Buff on an additional two backpacking trips. We also had really great snow in the area so I used the Buff on an additional eight days of snowboarding. I also went on one snowshoe day hike during the test period. I have experienced conditions on the slopes from whiteout blizzards to clear blue skies as well as temperatures as low as -5 F (-21 C).

My first trip was a three day trip into the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness area of Colorado into the Harvard Lakes region, elevation 10,300 ft (3,139 m). My partner and I hiked approximately 4 to 5 mi (6 to 8 km) each day. Except for the hike to the lakes, we cut our own trails through snow that was 12 to 24 in (30 to 60 cm) deep. The weather was fair; mostly cloudy with periods of clear skies and very little wind. Temperatures ranged from 10 to 40 F (-12 to 4 C).

I also took an overnight trip along the Colorado Trail, just below Mt. Yale. I spent he night camping at 10,500 ft (3,200 m). My dog and I hiked about 5 mi (8 km) along snow packed trails in mountainous terrain. The weather on this trip was cloudy with a high near 35 F (2 C). My thermometer read just below 20 F (-7 C) when I turned in for the night.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

For the most part, the Buff has continued to perform in a similar manner to that of the field report. It continues to be a flexible addition to my winter clothing supply. While it has limits to the temperatures, I have never needed anything more than a fleece cap over the Buff as a balaclava to remain warm. There are three distinct areas that deserve additional remarks from my observations over the past two months.

neck gaiter
Buff as a neck gaiter
While hiking in the Harvard Lakes region, I noticed that the Buff seemed more irritating on my skin, similar to wearing traditional wool. I found it itchy and uncomfortable, especially if I put a baseball cap over it. This was most noticeable on my forehead. I have not noticed this problem again, so I think perhaps my skin was reacting to something in the air. I noticed that if I took the Buff off and wore just my cap it still was irritating on my forehead so it was difficult for me to determine the cause.

Another item I noticed during these final two months is that when using the Buff as a balaclava, icing continues to be a problem. While backpacking near Harvard Lakes, I noticed ice developing where the Buff was covering my mouth. The temperature was cold and there were gusty winds at times so this seems consistent with my earlier observations. I did not notice this on my second trip, where the conditions were much more mild. I find the other moisture wicking abilities to be quite good for my preferences.

Finally, in regard to the odor management capabilities I must admit I am impressed. While backpacking near Harvard Lakes I had the unfortunate mishap of a leaking bottle of beer from a local microbrewery. I noticed the Buff was wet and smelled just as I was heading out the door to the trailhead. While I admit the first day I noticed the smell, by the second I could hardly smell the beer. I know, it must sound gross, but we testers will carry on no matter what life throws at us! Well, I also rinsed off the Buff in a stream and managed to get it more or less dry. Still, I was encouraged to see how a rinsing could hold the stench at bay.

SUMMARY

Things that rock:


  • Easily configured into several styles
  • Great moisture wicking properties
  • Odor management properties seem to work
  • Keeps my head warm under normal conditions

Concerns:

  • Seems to ice up under extremely cold conditions
  • Did cause skin irritation on one occasion

CONTINUED USE

The Buff has been an extremely reliable piece of equipment for me. I plan to use this year round since even in the summer I can use the Buff up on the summits. Because it is small and light it has earned a permanent place in my pack!

I would like to thank the folks at the Original Buff as well as the volunteers at BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to be a part of this series.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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Reviews > Clothing > Hats > Buff Headgear Natural Merino Wool > Test Report by Brett Haydin



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