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Reversible Polar Buff: A Versatile Winter Layer

I’m always experimenting with my winter layering system, and one new item that I’ve started carrying on really cold winter days when I go hiking or snowshoeing is a Reversible Polar Buff.

While the Reversible Polar Buff can be configured in several different ways, as Henry demonstrates above, I mainly use mine as a neck gaiter in winter, because I find that it keeps my head and core warm, even when I want to keep my arms and legs cool relatively cool.

When worn as a neck gaiter, the two layers completely seal the top of my jacket and prevent any warmth from escaping, while the fleece helps keep the back of my neck and the blood flowing through it warm. It’s surprising how much extra warmth you can feel by simply insulating your neck in cold weather.  I often carry an Insect Shield Buff during the cooler shoulder season months for much the same purpose, since I get so much extra warmth for very little extra weight.

Wearing a Polar Buff Reversible on a really cold winter day when it was 3 degrees at the trailhead. Note frozen moisture in mustache.
Wearing a Reversible Polar Buff as a neck gaiter on a really cold winter day when it was 3 degrees at the trailhead. Note frozen “moisture” in mustache.

Reversible Polar Buffs differ from regular Buffs because they’re made using two different materials, the regular lightweight synthetic buff material and a thicker layer of warm fleece. Tubes are formed with each material and which are sewn together one inside the other, so you can have the fleece on the inside with the print on the outside or vice versa, in the simplest configurations. You can also fold the buff into a hat, balaclava, or facemask with a little practice as shown in the video.

Reversible Polar Buff folded several different ways
Reversible Polar Buff folded several different ways

While I could just carry a Reversible Polar Buff (2.7 ounces) instead of the small hat and balaclava collection I do carry in winter and reconfigure it as needed, this is a garment I mostly throw into my pack as a “secret warmth weapon” for really cold days, when it helps to augment my heaviest hat with a neck gaiter for greater warmth.

Disclosure: Philip Werner purchased the Reversible Polar Buff reviewed here with his own funds. 

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  1. Moisture?
    Come on Philip, we all know that’s snot in your moustache.
    I get it myself and I too, have a buff. A very handy handkerchief :-)
    ~ Fozzie

    • I am a snot rocket man myself, which may explain the frozen snot. I have friends who blow their noses into bandanas in winter and you can imagine what they (the bandanas) look like. I say, keep your buff clean and it will take care of you.

  2. You always look pissed in your photographs, almost like “why am I here, and why are you taking my picture!” Why don’t you smile- you’re ding the thing you enjoy most in the world?

  3. So what would be a really cold day for you? Sub-zero?


    • Anything under zero is a cold day (this doesn’t even include wind chill) For example,.I hiked the Hancocks in 20 below weather a few years ago and it’s the first time I experienced cold-induced asthma.. That’s actually my biggest concern now, not keeping warm. That’s relatively easy to control if you’re moving vigorously.

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