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Backpacker Magazine – Fall Gear Guide 2013

Gear Review: Buff Wool Balaclava Headwear

A super-thin model that can fit under your helmet or stand up to cold on its own.

by: Tracy Ross

(Andrew Bydlon)
(Andrew Bydlon)

Face Protection
If you’re a balaclava lover you’ll fall for the Buff Wool, which our tester called “my favorite of the six or seven I’ve worn in the past decade.” He prefers super-thin models, because they breathe well and fit under a helmet. This 100-percent merino wool model outperformed all others, particularly in fit and coverage. “The big thing is how well it holds its shape, so I’m not constantly adjusting it to get it back up over my nose or feeling wind gusts sneaking in where it’s gapping,” he says. It wrapped around his face “like a skinsuit,” staying in place even as he fidgeted with his hood, helmet, and sunglasses. It’s ideal for hiking, skiing, mountaineering, and cycling in temperatures ranging from 0°F to 20°F in light winds. Tip: Try it on before buying, since face skin can be sensitive to wool. $37; 1.3 oz.; one size; buffwear.com



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I recently ordered two items, via the internet, from the Buff website; (1) Wool Neckwarmer Buff and (2) Wool Balaclava Buff. I plan to use them while riding my motorcycle this winter so I ordered them both in the color of black to match my jacket and helmet. I was very disappointed after receiving these items to find that each of the items has an ironed-on Buff corporate logo and below it the words “100% Merino Wool” prominently located on the outer surface of the black garment. The logo is tan in color so it is in complete contrast with the black material and the logo size is approximately one and one-half inches in diameter. While wearing the Balaclava, the logo will be located atop my left cheek. The logo on the Neckwarmer is centered at mid-length and it may but, most likely, will not be concealed by the mandarin collar of my riding jacket. I find the location of the logo and the color of the logo to be poorly considered. I even question why Buff needs their logo to be displayed on the outer surface of their garments at all. The two items that I ordered did not show an affixed logo on their website display.

I did wear both while going for a four hour ride on a sunny, but cold winter day. Starting temperature was about 38° F and ending temperature was about 46° F. Travel speed was generally 45 mph, but I did have one section of highway where speed was 60 mph, resulting in a wind chill temperature of 29° F. Using both garments in combination proved to be very satisfactory. I could feel a little cold air creep through the layers against my neck and chin, but it was not uncomfortable or distracting. I believe that for the indicated weather conditions, using either of the garments alone would not be sufficient to block the cold air as each of the garments are constructed of rather thin material.

I am pleased with the performance of these items, but I am not pleased with the large distracting logo. If I happen to find a similar product without a logo, I will likely buy it to replace both of these items. So, overall, I am not a satisfied customer.

Dave McWhirt
Richmond, VA

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