One interesting aspect of the Marathon des Sables is that each of the awards is named for a sponsor. I and the rest of Dreamchasers USA team were awarded the Buff Trophy for finishing third. In a beautiful coincidence, I and others in the American contingent fell in love with the enormously versatile Buff during the race. I’d previously used the Buff as a makeshift hat and ear warmer, but put the Buff to many other uses during the race, including as a dusk mask, sleeping blinder, and wash cloth. (Buff’s website provides instructions on many additional more conventional uses for the Buff.) Both the top American male, teammate Michael Wardian, and the second place overall woman, American Meghan Hicks, were big fans of the Buff at MdS. They’ve been kind enough to share their thoughts on the Buff below. Please leave a comment to let us know how you’ve used the Buff, too!
In the course of being the second fastest woman that 2009 Marathon des Sables, Meghan Hicks of California became a born again Buff fan:
Years ago, my interest in The Buff halted when it appeared on the popular television show Survivor and in the catalogs of the cooperative-turned-box store REI. The Survivor girls were wearing them as tube tops as they negotiated the challenges of a reality game show, and REI catalog models accessorized their well-appointed camping outfits with them. The Buff was assimilated into the world of mainstream consumerism, and it was advertised as something to look at and not use. Thus, the Buff had no apparent function in my utilitarian existence.
In the spring of 2009, my attention shifted back to The Buff. I was training and preparing for the Marathon des Sables (MdS), a 7-day, 6-stage, 250-kilometer running race through the Sahara Desert of Morocco. I sought a piece of lightweight gear that would help me weather the desert’s occasional sandstorms, and The Buff seemed to fit the bid. In my convivially-climated California home, I conjured a plausible Sahara Desert sandstorm plan. I would already be wearing a hat and sunglasses as I ran; in the event of a sandstorm, I planned to protect the rest of my face by pulling The Buff over my ears, nose, mouth, and neck. I took this theoretical plan and a buff into the desert in March of 2009.
Well, I’m just back from MdS and I’m here to sing The Buff’s praises. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t have the opportunity to employ The Buff in a real sandstorm, but I used it in many other ways. For sleeping in camp, my buff was a hat and sleeping mask. It performed during the race as a neck sun shield and a face cover when wind and dust kicked up. In the afternoons and evenings of camp lounging, The Buff functioned as a washcloth and headband.
Simply stated, I became a buff convert out there in the Sahara Desert as I realized that The Buff, indeed, has innumerate practical purposes in the backcountry. You still won’t catch me trying to wear The Buff as a fashion piece, and I hope I don’t catch you, either!
Here’s what Michael Wardian had to say about The Buff after placing 8th and the Top American at 2009 Marathon des Sables.
I have never been a huge Buff fan, but I used my Buff a lot during the race as a hat, headband, pillow, neckwarmer, and finally as toilet paper. It was a useful addition to my gear for MdS and I would recommend it to others as a multifaceted piece of gear that is flexible, light weight, and useful.
I would not attempt MdS or similar races without a buff or something similar as you could do it, but you would need three pieces of gear to have all the angles covered. In race like MdS you want gear that is light and is able to be used for many things and Buff meets both of those parameters.
Have you ever used a Buff? What did you think? How did you use it?
[First two photos by George Velasco. Third photo provided by Michael Wardian. Last photo by Cimbaly.]