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Reviews > Clothing > Hats > Buff Headgear Natural Merino Wool > Test Report by Kathryn Doiron

Buff Natural Merino Wool Headwear


Test series by Kathryn Doiron
Initial Report: Oct 16, 2009

Field Report: Jan 2, 2010

Long Term Report: Mar 3, 2010


Image of Merino Buff



Personal Information:
Name: Kathryn Doiron
Age: 33
Gender: Female
Height: 5' 8" (1.7 m)
Weight: 150 lb (68 kg)
Email: kdoiron 'at' gmail 'dot' com
Location: Washington DC, USA

Brief Background: I started backpacking and hiking seriously almost four years ago. Most of my miles have been logged in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. I have recently finished 1200+ miles (2000+ km) of the Appalachian Trail. My style is to be as light as possible while not spending a fortune. My pack weight tends to hover around 25 lbs (11 kg) with two days of food and 0.5 L of water. I have recently started getting into winter hiking, snowshoeing and kayaking.


Product Information:


Manufacturer: Buff
Website: http://www.buff.eu/
MSRP: $27 USD
Weight: (stated) n/av
Weight: (actual) 1.9 oz (53.2 g)
Size/Color: standard sizing (fits most adults), in Cru, Black, Camel, Grana, Grey, Kaky, Navy, Stone colors
Material: Merino Wool



Initial Report:
October 16th, 2009

The Buff Natural Merino Wool Headwear (called Wool Buff from now on) is a multi-purpose head covering made from Merino wool. Merino wool has many great properties such as odor resistance, thermal regulation, UV protection, moisture management and water repellency to name a few. The Wool Buff is a long tube that stretches more in the width direction then the length direction. The tube has no side seam but does have flat-lock seams at the ends of the tube that have some stretch to it. The bottom seams seem to stretch about as much as the wool tube itself will stretch. The Wool Buff is about 28 in. (70 cm) long and 9.6 in. (24 cm) wide. There is a Buff logo on the Wool Buff near one bottom seam that feels like its painted on, not sewn on.

The Wool Buff came wrapped on a cardboard packaging with a water-color ram on the front. The back has a wealth of information in an easy to digest format. The information is presented in four different languages including French, and English. There are pictograms showing the features naturally present with wool, there are care instructions including the standard care logos present in most clothing, and there is a small how to wear section showing how to use the Wool Buff. The care instructions state that the Wool Buff is machine washable, but should not be bleached, dried, ironed or dry cleaned. The wear instructions show how to use the Wool Buff as a neckerchief, Saharah covering, scarf, and balaclava. The website shows many more ways to use a Buff. My favorite is as a head band.

Length and width detail of the Wool Buff

I was initially impressed by how soft the Wool Buff was. The website mentioned it would be silky smooth but descriptions can't replace actually touching something. I was also expecting the Wool Buff to be about the same length as other Buffs I have owned in the past. Although the website does state the Wool Buff is longer then a regular Buff I wasn't prepared for it to be quite a bit longer. I am really looking forward to getting out and using it as I really love wool and how it feels. I am curious about how useful the extra length will be or if I might find it too long. I think from one point of view, the extra length will make it easier to wear the Wool Buff as a beanie, something I have never been very successful at with my other Buff's.

Detail of the seams, front and back
Detail of the flat-lock seams both front and back

I wasn't really expecting any seams on the Wool Buff, but I was wondering how the ends would be worked to keep them from unravelling. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the ends were flat-lock seamed to prevent unravelling. Plus the flat-lock seaming doesn't create too much of a ridge at the bottom. I also found that the material was a bit thinner then I expected. I suspect part of that is due to the color of the Wool Buff. With such a light color, I can really see through the Wool Buff giving it an impression of being very thin. I find that the feel of the material is quite nice and soft and I can't wait to see how well it holds up once in the field.

My test plan over the next couple of months will be to use the Wool Buff on all my outdoor activities including hiking and backpacking trips. My trips will include backpacking in the George Washington National Forest and the Shenandoah National Park, plus dayhikes as well as an occasional kayak trip.



Field Report:
January 2nd, 2010

I have so far used this Wool Buff on about three day trips and one overnight trip. I have also used it several times around town and to work.

Trips:

My first trip out with the Wool Buff was a day hike up in the Brighton Lakes area in Utah. The hike was about 2-3 mi (3-5 km) with an elevation gain of about 1000 ft (305 m). Temperatures were around 50 F (10 C). I initially wore the Buff around my head as a head band but as the cool weather started to chill my ears, I shifted the Buff to cover by head and ears more fully.

Keeping my head and ears warm while eating
Keeping head and ears warm while hiking in Utah.

My next trip out was in the Shenandoah NP in Virginia. The temperatures started at 55 F (12 C) and dropped down to an evening low of about 45 F (7 C), elevation was about 2500 ft (762 m) with little gain or loss on the ridge hike. I again used the Wool Buff as a head wrap but later in the evening I switched over to a hat to keep my head and ears warm. I have started to notice that after some use, the Buff seems to lose some of its tightness and seems to sag with continued use.

My next trip out was another hiking trip in the Shenandoah NP area. This was to hike the White Oak canyon trail. The temperatures were actually up in the high 60's (20 C), elevation started around 1500 ft (457 m) and went up to 2500 ft (762 m). I wore the Buff around my head mostly to keep my hair out of my face.

The last trip out was a snowboarding trip and I ended up wearing the Buff around my neck to both keep my neck warm and to help keep the snow out of my jacket. The ski trip was out at Brighton Resort in Utah. Weather was warm, around 40 F (4 C) and I was snowboarding for the first time, which meant falling down most of the morning. The Buff did a great job of keeping the snow from entering my jacket. I was also able to pull the buff up over my face when I was on the ski lift to keep my face from chilling on the way up.

Impressions and Comments:
So far I really like the Wool Buff. The material is nice and soft, which feels great against my skin. I am not a big fan of the extra length and would rather have a slightly thicker material than more length. I tend to double the Buff up to take up the slack from the extra length. When doubled, the Wool Buff does give enough protection for my ears and head in cool weather. I also find that after wear, the Buff isn't as tight as it was when fresh from the wash. I find that because of the looser fit, I don't use it as much as a hair wrap, rather I use it as a head covering or neck covering. So far I have washed the Wool Buff about 4-5 times. The first few times I hung the Buff to dry but the last few times, I have been tossing the Wool Buff in the dryer with the rest of the clothes. So far, the Wool Buff has not shown any signs of wear. I think the color is picking up some dinginess to it simply due to the light color. Otherwise, the stitching is still holding and I haven't noticed any pilling of the material.

Wrap-up
Pros so far: easy to use, and feels nice against my skin. Cons so far: gets loose with use (between washes).



Long Term Report:
March 3rd, 2010

Over the last 2 months of the long term testing period I was able to take the Wool Buff out on several more day hikes and a long 10 day overnight trip. I have outlined this further use below.

Trips:

Two trips out were short winter hikes, the temperatures were close to the freezing point. Both hikes were about 3 mi (4.8 km) total and both went up to a local butte in the Salt Lake area to enjoy the weak winter sun and the scenery. The elevation gain was about 500 - 700 ft (152 - 213 m) gain. I was wearing the Wool Buff around my neck and lower face to keep the chill winds from sneaking into my jacket.

The long 10 day trip was actually down to Baja to do some kayaking and hiking. Temperatures during the entire trip were about 72 F (22 C) during the day and about 60 F (15 C) overnight. Each day we did several hours of kayaking followed by at least an hour of hiking at the campsite. I wore the Wool buff both while kayaking and hiking. The hikes were about 2 - 3 mi (3.2 - 4.8 km) round trip. We would hike up the headwater or over sand bars and dunes to check out the views and watch the sunset. I wore the Wool Buff around my head to keep my hair back and to keep the sweat out of my eyes and the sun off my head. I also wore a sun hat overtop the Buff to further shade my face and eyes.

Wool Buff at the beach
Keeping the sun off and the hair back while hiking on the beach.

Final Impressions and Comments:
Over these last few trips I have been quite happy with the Wool Buff's performance. It performed quite well in the colder weather but it actually did quite well in the warmer weather. I was pleased that my head didn't get too hot while kayaking as well as when hiking. The Wool Buff held up quite well over the 10 day trip with no washing. I didn't detect any foul odors from the Wool Buff after use. I still do not care for the extra length. I doubled over the Wool Buff and used it at half length which I found worked better for me even though it was a bit bulkier. I didn't care for the natural color as I have found it has picked up a dingy color, but this has not affected its performance. Overall, I have not seen any unraveling of the sewn end seams, nor have I seen any obvious signs of wear in the material. Other than the light color picking up stains, the Wool Buff still looks great. I have washed the Wool Buff numerous times and have even tossed it in the dryer. There is a minor amount of light pilling of the material, but that has only managed to make it softer and more comfortable and doesn't detract at all from its performance.

Wrap-up
Pros:

    - easy to use
    - feels nice against my skin
    - material softens nicely with age and washing
Cons:
    - gets loose with use (between washes)
    - too long in length
    - light color looks dingy with use


This concludes my report series on the Buff Natural Merino Wool Headwear. Thank you for following this test series. Thank you to Buff and BackpackGearTest.org for making this test possible.


Read more reviews of Buff Headgear gear
Read more gear reviews by Kathryn Doiron

Reviews > Clothing > Hats > Buff Headgear Natural Merino Wool > Test Report by Kathryn Doiron



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