10 Useful Ways to Wear a Buff (2022)

People hiking in the snowy mountains
Table of Contents

    Most campers can relate to the feeling of being completely addicted to buying new gear. With so many cool camping gadgets and gizmos on the market, all promising to offer convenient and ingenious solutions for all your needs, avoiding new purchases is difficult. While some items may seem a little unnecessary, there are a number of camping staples you absolutely must-have. Certain pieces of gear can completely revolutionize your camping experience, and one of these is the buff. 

    If you’ve never heard of a buff, prepare to have your mind blown. In this article we’re going to explain why every camper, adventurer, and outdoor person loves the buff, and why you need one in your backpack. We’ll share 10 different uses for this single item, each one comes in incredibly handy on a backcountry adventure. Read on to discover all the wonderful ways to wear a buff. 


    A hiker wearing a buff in the snow

    When you’re hiking in cold weather, keeping out the chill is a necessity.


    What is a buff? 

    A buff is a piece of multifunctional headwear, also called a neck gaiter. While the term “buff” is now a catch-all for any tubular headgear, this is actually the name of a brand found at buffusa.com. Plenty of different outerwear companies now produce their own version of this multifunctional clothing, but Buff Headwear remains the most popular as the original. A huge range of different buffs now exists on the market, including merino wool and microfiber options, UV protective and windproof buffs, and more. There’s even an Insect Shield buff which is embedded with mosquito-repelling materials. 

    Buffs have several properties that make them ideal for a whole host of outdoor purposes. They have moisture-wicking properties, so they can help remove sweat and help you control your body temperature. The seamless tube-shaped design means they’re comfortable to wear under helmets or other gear, while the microfiber material won’t itch or irritate your skin. Wearing a buff will help protect you from cold and heat, wind, rain, and sun, and all in a tiny packable package. This lightweight headwear is an amazing thing to have on hand in so many outdoor situations. 

    10 useful ways to use your buff 

    The entire premise of a buff is to serve as multifunctional headwear. That means no matter the season or activity you’re enjoying, a buff can probably help. Whether it’s the coldest or hottest day of the year, no matter if you’re hiking up Mount Marcy (the highest peak in New York) or settling down for a night of peaceful sleep, the useful ways you can use your buff are astounding. Without further introduction, let’s explore 10 of the best ways you can put your buff to good use. 

    1. Neck Warmer

    The most straightforward way to wear a buff is as a neck scarf. This can either help keep out the cold chill or protect the back of your neck from sunburn. Wearing a buff as a neck gaiter is far better than a traditional scarf, especially for camping purposes. There’s no extra tail ends flapping around, which not only can get in the way but could actually be quite dangerous if they become entangled in something. 

    Unlike a normal scarf, a buff won’t start to itch your neck and become uncomfortable after a short period of wear. It’s breathable while still keeping out most of the cold, and the tubular shape means there’s no chance of unraveling or loosening and letting in a chill. To wear your buff as a neck scarf, pull it over your head and tuck in the lower end inside your coat or other clothing. This will help create a seal so the wind can’t enter, and will also protect your neck from potential chafing or irritation from the collar of your jacket. 


    2. Beanie

    Another classic function of the buff is as a beanie, or cap hat. To turn your buff into a beanie, first, reverse your headwear so it’s inside out. Then, twist the buff in the center several times, before pulling one side over the other to create a hat. You’d be surprised at the warmth two thin layers of buff material can provide. The double lining of this buff beanie style offers good insulation without too much thickness, so it can easily fit under a helmet or hood. 

    A second way to wear your buff as a beanie involves turning it into a bobble hat. This creates headwear with only one layer of material, ideal for slightly warmer days. To create a bobble hat, pull the buff the correct way around onto your head as a hat, leaving the additional material to hand down the back. Then, simply tie a knot in the excess to create a stylish and convenient bobble hat. Because this style features a knot at the back, you can’t wear it comfortably under any additional gear. 


    3. Face Mask

    A buff makes the ideal face mask or face covering because the thin and breathable material won’t collect too much moisture from your breath. Outdoor activities are just as fun in the winter as in the summer, but your extremities including your nose and mouth can catch a chill easily. As well as being a staple on the ski slopes, using your buff as a face mask is also fantastic for biking and generally stepping outside. Your buff face mask helps protect against the elements including the cold, wind, and rain, but also from dust storms and smog. 

    Wearing your buff as a face mask is simple. Firstly put it on in the neck gaiter style, then pull it up to cover your nose and mouth. You could also pull this multifunctional headwear further up the back of your head, so your ears are also protected from the cold. Keep the lower end of your buff tucked into your clothing to keep the chill out. Alternatively, you can achieve more protection and better air filtration by doubling over your buff and wearing two layers over the lower half of your face. 


    4. Balaclava 

    For the highest level of facial protection that a single buff can offer, wear it as a balaclava. The highly elastic and lightweight material is perfect for this comprehensive face covering, leaving only your eyes unprotected. We highly recommend this option for any outdoor activity in the cold, particularly winter sports or mountain biking. You’ll likely wear a pair of goggles that will cover the remaining exposed skin, creating a fully protective layer on your face. 

    Firstly, don your buff in the face mask style we explained previously. Then, take the bottom part of the buff which will be at the base of your neck, and pull it over your head like a hood. In this style, either the face mask or hood part of the buff will be reversed, so decide which part you want to feature its design. While it’s only a thin layer of protection, all the most sensitive parts of your head will be shielded from the wind in this style. As always, it’s ideal for wear under a helmet, hat, or hood, as the comfortable material is free of seams or labels. 


    A person snowboarding.

    Winter sports are much more enjoyable when your nose isn’t freezing off. 


    5. Headband

    Given its tubular shape, the buff makes a perfect headband. You could also call this style a bandana, and it’s the ideal sweatband too. Use it to keep your hair out of your face when completing outdoor activities, and prevent sweat from dripping into your eyes. Depending on personal preference, you can scrunch up the buff, placing it around your neck and then simply pushing it up until it reaches the ideal position on your head. 

    Alternatively, you can fold the buff over on itself, to create a neater multi-layered headband. Fold it over two or four times to create a bandana, or eight times to make the perfect sweatband. The absorbent material will prevent any sweat from making its way down your face and can be easily unfolded and left to dry quickly. You can also pull the buff on over your head rather than starting from the neck position to create an ear warmer. 


    6. Scrunchie

    Forgotten to bring along a hair band on your adventure? Don’t worry, your buff can serve as a stylish scrunchie! The elastic material works perfectly as a loose hair tie, securing your ‘do in place without pulling too tightly on your scalp. To make a scrunchie from your buff, start out with it around the wrist. Gather your hair as you usually would, and pull it through the buff. You’ll need to keep doubling the buff around your hair until it feels comfortable and secure. 


    7. Sleep Mask

    Buffs are something of a travel staple, so remember to bring yours along next time you catch a plane or take a long bus ride. When it’s time to take a nap, your buff can help block out light and make it easier to fall asleep. The soft material and tubular shape of the buff mean it’s an incredibly comfortable sleep mask; it won’t itch or irritate the sensitive skin on your eyes, nor come loose, as it’s secured around the back of your head. 

    To wear your buff as a sleep mask, we recommend folding it over four or eight times. Buff material is thin and won’t block out 100% of light, but doubling the material will make it much more effective. As a bonus, the wrap-around effect can help keep earbuds secure too, so your sleep can go as undisturbed as possible. Any potential bad smells can also be reduced by pulling the mask down over your nose. 


    8. Sun Protection

    Wearing a buff isn’t always to keep you warm; this lightweight material is also ideal for keeping harmful UV rays off your skin. Buff Headwear even makes special buffs that have anti-UV properties, offering even better sun protection. To protect yourself using this multifunctional headwear, pull on the buff over your head and down to your eyebrows. This will protect your exposed forehead. Then, let the rest of the buff material hang loose down the back to shield your neck on hot days. 

    You can take it one step further and wear your buff legionnaire or saharaine style. To wear your buff this way, firstly turn the headwear inside out. Lay the buff flat on your head, so one opening is just above your eyebrows. Then, put your hand inside the tube to hold one layer of the buff against your head. Use the other hand to pull back the top layer of the tube around the back of your head to create a cap. The additional material will cover the back of your neck in a more secure manner than the option we mentioned above. 


    9. Headscarf

    Wearing your buff in the headscarf or hood style is great for cold days when you want to warm your ears without covering your mouth. You can do this style starting from the headband position, but this may push your hair into your face. We prefer starting with the buff off the head and then pulling it on carefully. Put the buff around your whole head so that the material covers your face. Then, pull down the front side of the buff leaving the back part as a hood on top of your head. Tuck the front of the buff under your chin, and adjust the material so it covers your ears and the edges of your face. 

    You can wear a hat over this buff style easily for additional warmth, ensuring your ears stay warm. This is also an ideal form of helmet protection as it covers all the most sensitive areas of the head. The headscarf style of buff is also effective at blocking the sun in the summer, but we prefer legionnaire style for this purpose as your neck will be allowed to breathe. For warmth purposes, where’s no better option as covering your head, neck, and the sides of your face is highly effective. 


    10. Wristband

    Wearing your buff doesn’t need to be limited to your head. As a comfortable and absorbent material, your buff can serve nicely as a wristband. It’s perfect for wiping sweat away when you don’t want added warmth around your head during exercise. For transportation, you can keep your buff stored on your wrist and it’s easily accessible whenever you need it. Just remove it and twist it into a cap, headband, headscarf, or whatever you need. 

    On a hot day, you can even twist an ice cube into the buff so it’s held against your wrist. This is very effective at helping you cool down, by holding the cold cube against your pulse point. You can achieve the same effect by soaking your buff in cold water. There are so many ways that a buff can be one of the most useful things you bring on an outdoor excursion, and keeping it on your wrist is an unobtrusive way to always have it when you need it. 


    Other fantastic uses for your buff

    You don’t need to be wearing your buff for it to be useful. As an elastic material, there is all manner of different purposes that can put your buff to good use. For example, a single buff is large enough to serve as a makeshift sling for children. Simply place it around the child’s neck and slide in the injured arm, pulling the material around the elbow for additional support. Adults will need two buffs to create a sling, but if you’re hiking with friends then it’s likely someone else is carrying their own buff too. You can interlink the two buffs, placing one around the neck and the other around the injured arm. 

    Any open wounds and injuries need to have pressure applied, to stop the bleeding as soon as possible. Your buff can be used easily as a makeshift tourniquet, where this multifunctional headwear could literally save your life. Put the buff around the injured limb just above the wound, and then use a stick to twist it tighter until the blood supply is partially cut off. Sprains and twisted joints can also benefit from a buff; tie it or twist it around the injured area to limit mobility and provide support. 

    A buff can serve as a carry strap to attach additional gear to your backpack, or a makeshift armband to hold your mobile phone. You can even put a knot in one end of the headwear creating a bag that can be used to carry small items. There are endless possibilities for this truly multifunctional piece of gear, which is why so many avid outdoors-people never leave home without one. 


    A person hiking in the snow

    Next time you brave the outdoors in cold temperatures, remember to bring along your trusty buff.


    Final Verdict:

    The buff is arguably one of the best additions to general backpacking gear this century. There’s nothing more valuable than a single piece of equipment to keep your head warm in cold weather and provide UV protection in the sun. Hikers, bikers, and winter sports fans definitely need a buff in their gear, as this truly multifunctional headwear comes in useful in more ways than we can count. Next time you head out on a camping trip or set off to do some snowboarding, bring along your buff. It’ll keep the worst of the weather out, and make the rest of your gear more comfortable as well! 


    Bonus tip: Check out this video to see more ways you could wear a buff! 



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    Riley Draper

    Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.