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What is a Buff®?

Yak above base camp

What is this “Buff®” that’s listed on all of your gear lists? Why do I need one? Do I need one? What about bandanas?

The Buff® 101

First created in 1991, the Buff® is a 20 x 9.5 inch tube of stretchy fabric designed to help you cover your head, neck, and face in the outdoors. Since it’s creation, the Buff® has become ubiquitous in the climbing & trekking world- no guide is ever without at least one Buff®! We use them when climbing Mount Baker, trekking to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, and even teahouse-to-teahouse on our Everest Base Camp Trek. This little piece of synthetic fabric is cheap, weighs an ounce, disappears into a pocket, dries quickly, and can be worn in dozens of different ways. A Buff® is more versatile than an old-school bandana, and complements both lightweight gear lists (for activities like warm-weather trekking) and heavy-duty gear lists (for activities like climbing in the Alaska Range or on Mount Rainier!).

How would I wear a Buff®?

You can wear a Buff® in countless ways. While each item in your climbing or trekking kit should have a specific purpose, versatility is also key. Check out these photos of longtime Alpine Ascents staffer Joe Kluberton– high on a ridge during an Everest Base Camp Trek– unintentionally showing off the versatility of his own Buff®!

Whether conditions warrant full face coverage, ear coverage only, or simply a little extra warmth around the neck, a Buff® can quickly transform to keep you comfortable & just warm enough.

Why not use a bandana or balaclava?

Simply put, a Buff® beats out a bandana. It weighs about the same amount, and yet is simpler to use (no more tying your bandana around your neck), with more versatile ways to use it. A Buff® also works well as a substitution for a balaclava in mild conditions- where the protective armor of a balaclava isn’t necessary, but some light neck and face protection is necessary. Lastly, in very cold or challenging conditions (like what we find on Denali or Aconcagua), a Buff® is the perfect supplement to a balaclava- to attain the necessary 100% skin coverage to stave off frostbite.

An AAI Kilimanjaro climber group pictured wearing Buffs.
A Mount Kilimanjaro climber group festooned in Alpine Ascents Buffs, high on the flanks of the mountain.

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