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BUFF Headwear - Who Is That Masked Man?

Article and Photo by Jim Stuard


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I've been steelheading up on Lake Erie quite a few times. Most of my visits to the area are greeted with weather that falls squarely into two categories. First, are the calm, peaceful and low water conditions that make catching fish almost impossible. The second variety are why I'm writing this review. You arrive on Friday evening to sleet followed by plummeting temps, horrendous lake-effect snow and 14 of totally unfishable conditions, which usually only occur after you decide to get out on the water. No wonder the rates of suicide and alcoholism are higher in cold weather countries. My last visit was under the latter, horrid conditions. My buddy, Tom was wearing something called a neck gaiter. Essentially, a tube of fleece worn around the neck that acts like a tight fitting scarf, without the added bulk of an actual scarf. The effect of wearing one, keeps moisture and cold from seeping down your back while you're outside. I picked up a couple neck gaiters over time and came to the conclusion that while they did the job, I was still looking for something that would help out with the space left between the gaiter and whatever headgear I was wearing. The piece of gear most folks buy as a full head covering is called a Balaclava. Basically, a form fitting mask that only left holes for breathing and seeing. Not my idea of a good time and most of the balaclavas I tried on simply wouldn't fit my enormous noggin. Add to that the fact that I wear prescription glasses and it wasn't an option.


That's when I came across a company called Buff Wear and decided to take a look-see at their stuff. Upon receiving a selection of different headgear for everything from warm weather to the coldest polar weather, I set to work. First lets talk about the original Buff or more accurately, the High UV Protection Buff. It's a seamless tube of stretch fabric that resembles a typical red cotton bandanna. Appearance is where the similarities end. This is a high tech piece of gear designed to keep your head from getting completely scorched in the sunny environment of the tropics. I'm guessing you could use one on a shade-free ski slope, but more on the warmer versions later. The UV Buff has all the properties of a typical neck gaiter but the company also offers other uses such as a hair band, bonnet, headband and my personal favorite from the packaging, the pirate hat. You get the idea. It's best use is as UV protection while out in a boat. Yes, you can look like a redneck terrorist  but, at the end of the day, you won't be applying aloe to your face and ears after spending 8 hours on a Florida flat or in the high desert, hiking. The fabric is a breathable wicking microfiber that keeps you dry and comfortable. While wicking moisture isn't as important in the tropics as it is in polar conditions, being comfortable is a desirable side effect.


Next were the Polar Buffs. They come as the original microfiber attached seamlessly to a polartec fleece neck section. The Polar Buffs are where the rubber meets the road for cold weather fishing. Editor, Joe Cornwall wore one for six hours in January, on a bitterly cold day (high teens, low 20's) on the Mad River (see image above) and was completely comfortable, if not a bit difficult to recognize. Finally, came the Cyclone Buff. I wore one on the same trip and quite frankly, it was almost overkill. It has the same wicking microfiber tube attached to a fleece neck section with an added Gore, windstopper lining. Needless to say, it was quite effective. Moisture was wicked away but it was very warm and would probably have been effective in far colder temps. The nice part is when you're finished using the Buff for it's intended purpose, they make fine winter hats. They don't interfere with glasses in either configuration and are comfortable for long periods of time.  This is the last piece of winter head wear that I will own. 


Being someone who's carried a bandana in my pocket for the last 30 years, I was intrigued by the Original Buff. The microfiber tends to catch on a couple days beard growth but it's not a deal breaker. It's other configurations, make it a handy three season piece of gear. The same thing happens with the heavier versions. The neck fleece can be a bit tight but that's what makes the gear effective. The cold weather Buffs work as advertised and do the job admirably. The Original Buff retails for $19.50. The Polar Buff retails for $27.00 and the Cyclone Buff sells for $38.00. A small price to pay for the last piece of head gear you're ever going to buy. Highly recommended. See their entire line at Planet Buff.

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