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What is a "buff", how is it used, and why should I have one?

I've seen them advocated in numerous places, but I'm not sure why a tube of cloth is better around my neck than a scarf, etc.

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Yes, I could google this, but it seems like a question others would have as well, and I'd like to see some expert opinions on this piece of gear. – Russell Steen Feb 4 '12 at 18:54
Most important use: face cover for autonomist/anarchist demonstrants like here ;D – Paul Paulsen Aug 6 '14 at 13:42
up vote 16 down vote accepted

To be honest I was dubious about getting something that I thought was gimmicky, but my son’s Scout troop was selling custom Buffs to raise group funds so I ended up buying one.

A Buff is just a tube of lightweight, stretchy material.

I’ve found them useful in three particular situations:

  • They are thin, so can be worn like a hat under a bicycle helmet for extra warmth in the winter.
  • Worn round the neck it provides a comfortable scarf that helps seal any gaps around my jacket collar.
  • In summer, I dip it in a stream or river and wear it round my neck to help keep cool.

I think they are versatile and useful, but certainly not a full replacement for a scarf, hat, or whatever.

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Too, I use it as an eye mask at night when I'm travelling by train. – akond Sep 16 '12 at 14:30
It can also be rearranged to make a skull cap (twist, then invert one half) or a simple balaclava (pull over head until top is just below eye level, then pull back overtop of your head, only your eyes are exposed). – funwhilelost Dec 14 '12 at 1:22
People with long hair will put it on just to keep the wind from blowing their own hair into their face. – Roflo Aug 14 '15 at 17:30

I know a few people who say they're useful - and they are certainly very versatile. There's nothing very complex about them, it's just a section of stretchy material that you can wear however you like.

They can be used wet for cooling, or dry underneath a hat for a bit of extra warmth, or as a scarf.

If you're on a gentle hike or a fun backpacking trip then there's no harm in having one, they're cheap and if nothing else a bit of fun! I wouldn't say they're an essential piece of serious gear though - kit dedicated to the task it's meant to do will almost always do a better job (a proper scarf will likely be a lot warmer than a buff as a scarf for instance.)

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