For those readers that have been following this blog for awhile, chances are you already know I’m a big fan of the merino wool buffs. It was one of the handiest things I brought with me when trekking around the Himalayas, and is versatile enough for everyday situations, such as weekend walks or evening climbing sessions at the gym.
So when Kit Shack got in touch and asked whether I would be interested in trying out a buff in one of their other ranges, I jumped at the chance. Having already tested and proven the reliability of their merino range, I decided to go on the other end of the spectrum and chose the Kew High UV Insect Shield buff.
With an upcoming race I’m preparing for, summer hiking trips around Scotland (also known as the midge capital) and Peru, not to mention a city break and numerous hikes and climbs, I knew I was going to put it through its paces. After a month of testing it with various activities and excursions, it soon became apparent that just like my beloved merino buff, the Kew proved itself to be a handy addition to my summer rucksack gear list.
Buff’s company name originates from the Spanish word ‘bufanda’, meaning scarf. The company was started by Juan Rojas, a Spanish off-road trials motorcyclist with extensive experience in the textiles industry, who was looking for an accessory that could double has neck and head gear in any riding conditions. After experimenting with a propriety knitting process that created a seamless design, the Buff was formed in the late nineties in Spain, and has continued to be manufactured in its home country ever since.
The buff is essentially a seamless, tubular length of fabric that can be twisted and manipulated into 12 different designs.
Its multifunctional capabilities make the buff a good option for those travelling light, or any easy accessory to slip on or off when exercising.
Measuring approximately 53-62cm in diameter, the Kew buff provided a relaxed fit around my neck, and a snug fit around my head. Unlike my merino buff in the past, I found the Kew buff left a slight bunching of fabric at the top when twisted into a hat, but this presented no issues and could easily be attributed to the lighter weight of the fabric of the Kew buff or my twisting capabilities.
The buff range comes in a ‘One Size Fits Most’ sizing range, but there are options available for a slim fit for women and children’s sizes. For myself, the Kew buff was an ideal size in proportion to my size measurements.
Another good feature of the Kew buff is its seamless design. It was a relief to not have to worry about chaffing on my face or neck whilst wearing the buff during running, or causing general discomfort when wearing it in casually.
The Kew buff is constructed from man-made polyester microfibre, which is handy at wicking sweat away from the skin. Whilst most man-made wicking fibres heavily absorb body odour, the Kew buff has also been treated with Polygiene Odour Control technology, a natural silver salt solution that prevents the micro-organisms that cause odours from growing on the material.
What makes the Kew buff different from the original buff range however is its UV and insect repelling capabilities. Buff claims the UV Insect Shield range can offer at least 93% protection from UV rays, and the insect repellent technology is good for 50 washes. Buff uses an insect repellent chemical naturally found in chrysanthemums that is undetectable to humans, but repels mosquitos, ticks, ants, flies, midges, fleas and chiggers.
I initially tested the Kew buff multiple times on my commute run home from work, which is approximately 10k through London’s tourist spots, parks and residential areas. It proved very useful in keeping the sun off my neck as a scarf, and later keeping my head warm as a beanie after the sun had gone down. Whereas my merino would begin to feel heavy and damp after several miles, the Kew buff quickly wicked the sweat away and remained lightweight throughout my commute.
Later on I tested it on several climbing sessions, where it provided my neck a good amount of protection from the wind, and was also a useful item for wiping sweat off my hands during brief pauses!
I also took the Kew buff with me on a weekend break to Prague. With the weather report alternating daily between sunny days and winter storms, and with only hand luggage allowed, the Kew buff proved an invaluable accessory that weekend, particularly when we decided to have an open-top vintage car tour of the city in the freezing weather! Not to mention, it also proved valuable when John was required to cover his head visiting the religious sites in the Jewish Quarter.
Finally, I took the Kew buff along for various weekend hikes, including the Mid Wilts Way and the Dollis Park Greenwalk. Given the sunny weather and all the insects that had congregated around the fields from the rain the night before, the Kew buff did a decent job of keeping the mites at bay. However its benefits were really felt on the summit of the ridges for several miles along the Mid Wilts Way, with the wind howling and the rain spitting intermittently. It did such a good job of keeping my head warm that John wanted one for himself!
At £21.00 the Kew buff is £6 more expensive than the original buff range, but contains additional insect repelling and UV protection capabilities. After testing it multiple times in various environments and sports, the Kew UV Insect Shield buff is a handy and multifunctional accessory for spring and summertime sports and travel. Its insect and UV ray protection technologies appear to work decently well, and its lightweight, seamless construction makes it comfortable to wear. A good piece of kit for travellers wanting to save space in their luggage, athletes looking to keep the elements at bay with carrying multiple items, or those looking for a cheap and simple gift for their adventurous recipient.
Where Can I Get One?
Kit Shack provides an extensive collection of buff lines and patterns, plus a loyalty discount scheme, but it is also possible to buy buffs at high street outdoor retailers.
Do you have a buff?