Buffalo, or Buffalo Systems Ltd, at a small, but well known made in the UK outdoor brand who sell a small range of activewear for outdoor use.
In this brand profile we will be taking a look at Buffalo, the products they sell, and their suitability for long distance walking.
The History of Buffalo
Buffalo was started by Hamish Hamilton in the late 1970’s. Many other outdoor brands were starting around this time (North Face, late 60s, and Patagonia, early 70s). However Hamish was discontented with the gear he had been using in the Scottish winter.
He has an interest in how the Inuit kept warm using animal hide and fur. They reversed the hide so the fur was in close contact with the skin. This air trapped between the fur and the hides outer skin warmed up as the body warmed, yet it was able to circle and escape through the porus skin.
However skin, which is also hydrophobic remained dry in wet conditions, making animal fur an excellent, yet heavy insulating and waterproof layer.
Hamish at the time had been working with pile fabrics, and was impressed with their performance. However to achieve the same effect as animal fur, he needed a shell fabric.
Pertex was born. A breathable, woven fabric. Pertex was developed at Perseverance Mills in Padiham, Lancashire and became the shell of choice for the first Buffalo Products – the pile sleeping bags.
A small workshop was established in Sheffield, and Hamish began to pionieer his sleeping bag system. This modular sleeping bag worked by adding and removing layers, which could make the bag adapt for different conditions – from casual camping, to Scottish winter.
The sleeping bags, designed without down, as many competitor bags were, were ideal for wet conditions.
Eventually as Buffalo grew in popularity, the applications of the product range grew. This lead to clothing products to cater for a range of pursuits.
The brand continues on today, with manufacturing still done in Sheffield, UK. While many other brands have moved their manufacturing overseas, Buffalo maintains, “We are proud of our workshop in Sheffield. And are happy to keep alive the heritage of British manufacturing. The reason we only produce here is simple, we can constantly control and refine our processes ensuring our production is superior.”
Buffalo Clothing for Long Distance Hiking
Buffalo don’t make the lightest clothing, especially when it comes to insulated clothing – which is the forte of this company. The lack of down in the range is the reason for this, but as mentioned above, Buffalos founder, Hamish Hamilton found another way to keep users warm in dry conditions.
You will notice with Buffalo clothing that the construction is slightly ‘blocky’ rather than the smooth, and somewhat space-age styles you see with many brands now.
The Mountain Smocks are good pieces for hikers who are less concerned about weight, but rather would have durability. The benefit of a smock is this. With a lightweight down jacket, if you get a rip, your fillings come out – unless you have some repair tape on hand. With buffalo, theres nothing to come out, and the jacket will keep going.
This style, trapped in time, rests on its laurels – its durable, reliable, and it works. So why change it?
Moving away from smocks, which weigh in at around 6-700g, Buffalo also offer a lighter weight shirt with a similar technology.
Like other buffalo layers, this garment works particularly well when worn next to the skin.
A note about waterproofing
Most outdoor brands, even Paramo, produce waterproof clothing. By waterproof, I mean garments with a certified Hydrostatic Head (HH) which keeps x amount of water at bay, measured over the course of 24 hours.
The minimum a fabric needs to be considered waterproof is 4000g
Buffalo garments are not waterproof. However they do very well when wet simply because, unlike down, the loft of the garment (the bit which keeps the air trapped, and therefore warm) isn’t lost when wet.
It may take some getting used to, using a garment which isn’t waterproof in wet condtions, but bear with me here. The system works.
The water which will get into the garment is drawn away from your skin by the pile, which in turn keeps you feeling dry even if the item is wet.
Ever taken a fleece out a washing machine and wondered why it almost feels dry? Thats my point, its a wonderful fabric.
It may also feel strange wearing layers direct to the skin, rather than using a traditional ‘layering’ system. However what this allows is for your skin to work with a single garment which allows you both to breathe (by breathe, I mean having moisture pulled away from your skin), and remain warm.
Extra layers actually reduce the effectiveness of the buffalo system as they create a moisture trap between your skin and the buffalo system.
Picking good quality clothing for long distance hiking is often tricky. One of the requirmeents is that the garments you use must hold up to rigerous use, day in, day out.
They must be made to a high quality, and perform in a range of environments.
Buffalo jackets achieve this in spades.
Sure, they are not the lightest garments. They also don’t use the latest and greatest technology, but they are tried and tested.
Really, you cannot go too far wrong with investing in a piece of outerwear from Buffalo.