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.

  • 2
    Most important use: face cover for autonomist/anarchist demonstrants like here ;D Aug 6 '14 at 13:42
  • 2
    I have three Buffs, I like them a lot and wear them almost daily. The most important thing I've learned since buying the first one is getting the size right: when I use one as a headband, if it is too tight, I start having an annoying headache after a while - taking the Buff off solves the problem. I think this applies to any headwear: hats, caps, knitted stuff, headbands, helmets, headlights etc.
    – Akabelle
    May 13 '16 at 8:32

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.

  • 1
    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). 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.)


The primary advantage of the buff (an continuous loop of fabric) is the versatility (and fashion ability) of the item over a standard scarf or hat.

Features In addition to the wearable methods it can also be used as

  • Eye Mask
  • Facecloth
  • Microtowel
  • Face mask when travelling, snowboarding, desert etc
  • Self-securing bandage/pressure pad

All of which can be achieved without the need of a sling, complex knot or additional tying aid.


  • Less likely to be lost / stolen / dropped since fabric is physically around your body
  • No need for knots causing discomfort/hot spots
  • One item rather than two (scarf and hat/cap)
  • Lightweight
  • Far thinner material than a standard scarf or hat (particularly for males)
  • Multi-activity use
  • Reversible

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I have a couple of buffs - one is made of polartec with a piece of thin fabric attached, and another one is just the same thin fabric. I've found the first one to be very useful in winter because:

  • it is very easy to put on and off; on a hike you can put it off for while you're moving and take on for a stop; this also comes very handy on climbing routes where I don't like to mess with a traditional scarf - having a thing that could be applied/removed with one hand only is nice;
  • this piece of thin fabric doesn't look serious, but it helps me a lot when my chin and nose become too frozen - I just pull this part of a buff on my face and it gets warm pretty fast;
  • it is not as bulky as a scarf and if I want to put one more layer of clothing, I still be able to zip a collar;

As for that small thin buff, it is just nice to have it for chilly days.


I use Buffs a lot. If you are out on the water fishing, a buff worn like a bandit mask combined with a big hat will save you a sunburn. I wear a one as a headscarf during long hikes. It keeps the sweat out of my eyes and I soak it in organic bug repellent to keep the gnats away. For winter hikes, I again use as a bandit mask to keep my face warm and prevent windburn. The advantage is you can easily pull it up/down. To be honest, I never travel without it.

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