They’re not just for fighting a wicked winter face freeze. Face coverings have always been summer staples too. Whether you call them gaiters, tubes, or buffs, here’s a quick rundown of what we’re wearing for comfort and safety.
It’s never been out of the ordinary for skiers and snowboarders to cover their faces. But suddenly, with new CDC recommendations to battle the coronavirus, we’re seeing more folks wearing face masks for warm-weather activities.
For cyclists, runners, and even people just walking around the block or going to the grocery store, neck gaiters (colloquially dubbed “buffs” or “tubes”) have become mandatory gear.
And although a bandana may work in a pinch, most outdoor athletes know the benefits of the purpose-built neck gaiter. They come in a wide array of performance materials, there are no pesky knots to tie, and they’re more versatile from season to season.
In short, we love them. And in the age of COVID-19, we’re using them as a matter of necessity. These are our favorite neck gaiters right now.
Which BUFF Should I Buy?
A quick note on nomenclature: BUFF is essentially the Xerox of neck gaiters. Though it’s trademarked brand name, it’s become synonymous with the product itself. But that’s not without reason; BUFF makes great neck gaiters — and a wide variety to boot.
For Comfort: Lightweight Merino Wool BUFF ($29)
This is one of the best we’ve found for summer and winter comfort. It’s super breathable but also stretchy enough to stay in place (a big plus). But the real magic is in the merino itself — this natural fiber is not only super soft against the skin, but it also boasts antimicrobial properties. So you can sweat in it and not worry about any funky odors.
For Sun Protection: CoolNet UV+ ($24)
BUFF’s CoolNet UV+ line advertises UPF 50+ sun protection. Being a synthetic material, it also incorporates a number of other performance technologies: Polygiene for odor control, REPREVE microfiber to reach 95% recycled material content, and HeiQ to help keep the wearer cool.
If long hours in the sun are likely, this option could be for you.
For Bugs: Insect Shield ($28)
Finally, for anyone in buggy conditions — think on the lake, or in hot, humid environs — BUFF Insect Shield purports to repel gnats, mosquitos, and other pesky insects. It’s not a perfect solution, and we’ve seen mixed reviews on its efficacy.
However, any covering is better than no covering to keep bugs at bay. Plus, this option work in tandem with BUFF’s CoolNet UV+ technology.
Neck Gaiters to Cover Your Face
BUFF may have the inside track when it comes to the name, but a lot of brands offer great neck gaiters. Here’s a few of our favorites, along with what some brands are doing to help the pandemic response.
Snowboarding brand BlackStrap has a couple cool things going for it. First, price. It comes in cheaper than a lot of the competition and still maintains features like four-way stretch and UPF 50+ protection. Second, it’s all USA-made.
The Daily Tube UV Sun Mask offers those benefits in just about every color and design you can imagine.
BlackStrap Civil Mask ($16)
While we haven’t tried this, the Civil Mask looks like an easy and affordable option to help keep yourself and others safe during the pandemic. Plus, the Civil Mask uses at least 90% recycled scrap material in its construction. Best of all, for every Civil Mask sold, BlackStrap will donate a mask to communities and individuals in need.
Turtle Fur Lightweight Totally Tubular ($69/3-pack)
Turtle Fur sticks with the “neck tube” designation with its Totally Tubular line. Like the others on this list, it’s stretchy and blocks up to 97% of UV rays. What makes Turtle Fur unique here is that it’s also instructing buyers on how to turn its products into actual facemasks.
So you can grab a three-pack, turn two into masks, and have one leftover as a neck tube. Plus, Turtle Fur will donate $1 from each sale to the Coronavirus Emergency Response Fund.
Columbia Freezer Zero II ($30)
Columbia developed this gaiter with fishers in mind. But it works great for anyone active in summer months. The brand claims its Omni-Freeze ZERO tech actually gets cooler as you sweat.
We’ve worn them and do think they do a great job of preventing the clammy feeling that comes with wearing a mask in the sun. They’re also plenty breathable and UV-protective. And the laser-cut shoulder curves prevent the baggy bundles that plague other gaiters.
The only downsides are price ($30) and a more synthetic feel than other options.
Phunkshun Phoundation Neck Tubes
Made in Colorado, Phunkshun makes popular masks and neck tubes for skiers, snowboarders, and anglers. The brand has built a solid following in the Mountain West, and its Phoundation Neck Tubes are a great place to start. It makes excellent gaiters in single, double, and triple fabric thicknesses.
We’ve used them in a variety of cool and warm activities and like the fit and, well, “phunkshun” quite well. For summer, the Single Neck Tube is a light, versatile option available in myriad patterns.
And last week, the brand launched its Personal Hygene masks ($20). Also sewn in Colorado, these masks use materials similar to those in neck tubes but are designed for wear in everyday situations where you need a mask for safety.
They are a simple face covering and not certified for virus protection but offer benefits similar to those of homemade masks. And the brand will donate a face mask to someone in need for each mask purchased.
Best Neck Gaiters
Looking for another roundup of the best options out there? Check out “10 Best Neck Gaiters in 2020.”