The Original Buff, A Review and Some Weight-Saving Uses

The Original Buff, A Review and Some Weight-Saving Uses:

Buffs feel as if they have been around for an eternity, but I’ve yet to find a dedicated blog post regarding their uses in lightweight and ultra-lightweight camping and trekking, so here’s my attempt at one. In case anyone is unsure as to what a Buff is, in a sentence, it’s a seamless microfibre polyester ‘tube’ of fabric that can be worn in a number of ways to provide warmth, wicking properties and some degree of wind protection. There are a few options available including models incorporating Windstopper and fleece materials. Here though I shall be focusing on the ‘Original Buff’


The first use is really quite obvious: headwear. The Buff website highlights all the ways it can be worn at the following link, so if you haven’t seen the many ways of wearing one, check them out here: As a hat, the Buff  offers it’s first instance of weight saving within my pack. The Original Buff that I own weighs 38 grams,  which is lighter than most fleece hats available. Although the Original Buff isn’t as insulative as a bog standard fleece hat, I have found that the combination of the buff as a hat underneath the hoods of the clothing I am wearing, in turn provides ample warmth for my trips on the hill (including Scotland). I only really ever use it as a  hat, scarf , balaclava and occasionally sweatband, but these uses alone justify me carrying. The following features are therefore additional to this primary use.

Water Pre-Filter:

I use my Buff as a pre-filter for water when I fill up my Platypus from streams etc. The idea being that I place a small area of fabric over the mouth of the Platypus and as I submerge the mouth of the bladder under water, the fine weave of the Buff keeps bits of debris out of the bladder whilst  letting water in easily. If I’m careful I only get around a 10cm² area of material wet, which once rung drys surprisingly quickly (to purify the water I use sterilisation tablets, as the Buff does nothing in this respect). I know many people don’t really mind tiny bits of floating debris in their water, and to be honest it isn’t my greatest concern when on the hill. However, I find it makes cleaning my platypus much easier and when drinking water direct from the platypus and when drinking a hot brew on the hill it does feel like a luxury not having suspicious flecks  floating about!  This ‘luxury’ comes at no weight penalty either as the Buff’s first use for me is always as a hat.

*Its worth mentioning that for hygiene reasons, when I use the Buff as a pre-filter, I make a big emphasis on thoroughly washing the area of material that I used, in case I go on to use the Buff as a pillow case / hat etc.

Pillowcase / Pillow:

A tip which I have more recently adopted is a culmination of ideas from a friend and from a blog post by the ever fascinating Robin over at blogpackinglight ( In the post a Buff is used as a ‘pillow case’ over an inflatable pillow. A great idea. I however have never been too concerned with taking a pillow onto the hill (a decision which is purely personal preference, as I can fully understand why others would). When carrying a Buff, I make a makeshift pillow one of two ways (depending on how tired / how much effort I have). If I’m really tired I quickly grab a fleece, roll it neatly (zips, toggles etc facing inwards) and pull the Buff over as a sleeve for softness and to hold the thing together if I move in my sleep. Should I have more time and effort I grab a dry sak (normally the one used to carry my down bag) capture a small amount of air in it, roll it down to seal the air in and pull the buff over that. In the night this can deflate a little so placing a fleece inside can also be a good option. By using the Buff in this way, for no weight penalty, and by carrying no dead weight during the day, a very serviceable, comfortable and soft pillow can be created.


This one really needs little explanation. However I tend not to use my Buff for this all that often, as I find there is just to much moisture  absorbed over too great an area, meaning that when the Buff is used as a hat (its primary use) it’s less than comfortable to use. On those rare occasions when I’m staying on a ‘proper’ camp-site, rather than wild camping, I do seem to find myself using it as a small face towel more, so I thought it worth flagging up.

All in all, the Buff is a cracking bit of kit. It’s many uses beyond that of just headwear make it well really versatile. The longevity and hard-wearing nature also seem good, having had many washes both within a washing machine and on the hill. If I’ve got anything negative to say it would probably be the price. At around £10 (last time I bought one) for what is just 38 grams of polyester, it does seem a little steep, but it’s quality and versatility prevail.

Got any other uses for it?, then please leave a comment 🙂

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  1. Sea to Summit eVac Dry Sack « Light Outdoor Gear - 11/12/2012

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