Best buffs

Outerwear

Having multiple buffs with differing materials and thicknesses can help keep you prepared for different activities and situations.

BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details.

Which buff is best?

Whether you’re looking to keep the winter chill off your neck and face, protecting yourself from harsh sun or attempting to keep pesky insects at bay, a multipurpose buff should be a go-to option for anyone spending time outdoors. The best buffs are both convenient and easy to wear, resting comfortably around your neck like a scarf.

However, there are several buff options from which to choose, differing in material and purpose. BUFF Lightweight Merino Wool Multifunctional Headwear is a popular choice due to its versatility and functionality. 

What to know before you buy a buff

Usage

One of the main reasons buffs are gaining in popularity is because of their multifunctional aspect. Buffs can be worn in both cold and warm weather, depending on the material, keeping the user toasty in the winter and cool and dry during the summer months.

Commonly worn by hikers, campers, skiers, athletes and those spending any length of time outside, buffs aren’t designed just to be worn around the neck, but rather in whichever way is appropriate for your specific situation. Some people may choose to pull the buff to cover their mouth and nose, others may use it to cover their ears and some may wear it as a headband to wick away sweat and protect their head from sun exposure. 

Materials 

The most common materials used to manufacture buffs include wool, cotton, polyester and fleece.

Wool, especially Merino wool, is soft and undoubtedly the warmest option, making it an ideal option for cold weather. Wool also features natural antimicrobial and anti-odor properties but often comes with a higher price tag. 

Cotton buffs are another soft and comfortable option that can provide decent breathability in warm weather, helping to keep you cool. However, they aren’t the best for extreme environments or cold weather. 

Polyester is a great lightweight option that provides a good warmth to weight ratio. Polyester is a breathable material helping to wick away moisture and keep you dry. It can sometimes start to thin after heavy use and washing. 

Fleece buffs can be very warm and are surprisingly lightweight, but the material tends to be slightly bulkier than other buffs. 

Buff benefits 

Why should you choose a buff over a hat or scarf?

  • Buffs tend to be highly packable and compact.
  • They can be worn in whichever fashion seems fitting.
  • They can help wearers reduce dust or pollen exposure when cleaning the house or working outdoors.
  • Many options feature stylish designs and colors.
  • Some are both UV-resistant and insect-repellent.

What to look for in a quality buff

Size

Buffs can vary in size, with some being shorter and others offering long full-face protection. Depending on your activity or specific needs, choose a buff that provides adequate protection and coverage. 

Moisture wicking

Merino wool and polyester buffs provide the best moisture-wicking abilities, which make them the preferred material for high-energy activities in which the wearer benefits from staying dry and sweat-free. Moisture-wicking buffs are typically quick-drying. 

Warmth

You wouldn’t want to wear a buff made of thin, drafty material when heading out on a winter ski trip, so be sure to check the material and warmth rating before making your decision. 

UPF rating 

Many buffs feature built-in UPF protection, blocking harmful UV rays when out in the sun for extended periods. Look for buffs with a UPF 50+ rating to get the best overall sun protection.  

Insect repellent

Not all buffs include this feature, but for summer trips in buggy locations, a buff with built-in insect repellency definitely pays off.

Minimal seams

Since you’ll be wearing a buff around your face and other sensitive areas, those with a relatively seamless or flat seam construction provide the most comfortable fit and produce minimal irritation. 

How much you can expect to spend on a buff

The price of buffs can range from as little as $4 to as much as $120 for high-end brands and materials. You can usually find quality buffs in the $25-$60 range.

Buff FAQ

How should I wash a buff? 

A. Depending on the material and style, each buff may have slightly different care instructions. For some buffs, it’s recommended they be hand-washed only and laid out to dry, while others can be thrown in the washing machine without issue. Before washing, be sure to check the label to prevent damage. 

Are all buffs unisex? 

A. The vast majority of buffs are unisex and are designed to fit anyone. If a buff claims to be specifically for men or for women, the sizing may be slightly altered when compared to unisex options. 

What’s the best buff to buy?

Top buff 

BUFF Unisex Lightweight Merino Wool Headwear

BUFF Unisex Lightweight Merino Wool Multifunctional Headwear

What you need to know: This option is a soft and comfortable buff that can be worn all year long. 

What you’ll love: The 100% Merino wool construction provides excellent warmth and wind resistance on cool days and superior breathability when the temperatures rise. This is also an eco-friendly option, made from the wool of humanely raised sheep. 

What you should consider: It may be too large for some users. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Backcountry 

Top buff for the money

BUFF Unisex Original Multifunctional Headwear

BUFF Original Multifunctional Headwear

What you need to know: Made from 95% recycled materials, this buff is a great multipurpose option for runners, bikers and casual wearers. 

What you’ll love: The recycled REPREVE microfiber material is stretchy, breathable and seamless for a comfortable fit. It also features a UPF 50+ rating for maximum sun protection when used in bright and sunny conditions. 

What you should consider: A few people have found the material to be overly stretchy. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Backcountry 

Worth checking out

Smartwool Unisex Merino 250 Wool Neck Gaiter

Smartwool Merino 250 Neck Gaiter

What you need to know: Designed for maximum warmth retention, this neck gaiter reduces unnecessary bulk. 

What you’ll love: Made from 100% Merino wool, this double-layered Smartwool model keeps your face, neck and head protected from freezing winds and cold winter conditions while still remaining odor-resistant and breathable.

What you should consider: It tends to slip or fall down on those with smaller heads.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Backcountry

 

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Matthew Young writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.