The Buffalo Special 6 Shirt is one of my absolute favourite items of outdoor clothing.
Being comfortable outdoors in all conditions requires you to keep warm and dry. The principle of layering is well known.
Rather than one thick layer, you wear many thin layers in order to regulate your temperature during the day and remove moisture from your body.
Also each layer has it’s unique place in the system. A base layer to wick sweat away quickly is donned first, followed by a thin form of insulation such as shirt or fleece. Depending on the conditions a light wind-shirt can be used followed by a waterproof jacket.
This layering system gives you a huge amount of flexibility to alter your clothing to match the changing conditions.
But what if one layer could do all that?
This is how the Special 6 Shirt works. It’s called a shirt because you wear it next to the skin. That’s right, no base layer involved.
It’s what Buffalo call the ‘DP System’. The AquaTherm pile lining that lies next to your skin wicks moisture away from your body and through the outer shell. The Pertex Classic shell material disperses the moisture across its surface area so that it can evaporate.
This system creates a sort of microclimate, keeping you warm and dry in some seriously nasty conditions.
I have to admit, when I tried it out for the first time many years ago I was a little apprehensive about going out on the hills wearing only one layer. I can remember packing my usual layering system into my rucksack just in case it didn’t work.
A cold day on Dartmoor wearing my Buffalo Special 6 Shirt.
I needn’t have worried as it performed exceptionally. It kept me warm and dry all day and I didn’t miss all those extra layers. It’s been my ‘go to’ winter jacket ever since and has joined me on various trips around the world.
Primarily I wear it during the winter and spring when walking or hiking in the hills of the UK. Conditions can change quickly and it’s fared well during hailstorms and torrential rain as well as in more clement weather.
Buffalo are very proud to be a British manufacture and still make all of their garments in the UK at their factory in Sheffield. Something which they make clear on all of their products.
Buffalo manufacture all of their products in Sheffield where the company first started in the 1970s.
Ventilation is achieved by opening the two zippered vents down either side of the jacket to let a breeze through or by using the neck zip. I’ve needed to do this on days that turned out warmer than I was expecting or during times of more intense physical exertion.
I find that in temperatures above 8 or 90C the jacket can get too warm but that is only what works for me. Some people run warmer or colder than others, so it comes down to personal preference. Buffalo also make a Teclite Shirt which has the same features but has less insulation for use in warmer conditions, though I have no experience with it.
Ventilation zips on either side of the jacket.
There is a tape and buckle waist adjuster so that you can cinch the jacket more tightly in order to prevent drafts. Also the back is cut slightly longer so that it keeps you warm and dry when you sit down.
The hand warmer pockets give you access to the waist adjuster as well as allowing you to thread a rucksack waist belt right the way through. The advantage being that you can use the pockets while you’re wearing a rucksack.
There’s also one large pouch pocket right on the front. As it spans the whole width of your chest there’s plenty of room in it for storing a map and gloves or a spare hat.
The large pocket on the front is great for carrying maps and other items.
The outer layer is exceptionally windproof and also highly water resistant. I hesitate to describe it as waterproof as I have found it to wet out in severe conditions though it can be improved for a time by using Nikwax Spray. Due to the unique way it works even when moisture has got through it’s always kept me warm.
In fact that’s the main reason I take it with me on all my canoe trips. If I fall in I know that I can quickly put on the Special 6 Shirt, run up and down on the spot for a bit to generate some heat and be warmed up in a few minutes. It also works great for just throwing on during chilly mornings or evenings around camp.
Waterproof jackets that use a membrane just as Gore Tex will eventually wear out, usually after a number of years but there are plenty of stories from people having worn Buffalo jackets for over 15 years that are still going strong.
As with everything there are some limitations or at least things you need to consider. I find when I’m active that it will keep me warm all day, however, if I stop moving for a while I start to cool down quickly.
That’s not a problem or a fault with the jacket, just something you need to be aware of. In the winter I always carry a light belay jacket just to throw over the top when I stop for lunch. Then when I start moving again it comes off and goes back in my pack.
The other limitation is the lack of a hood. Buffalo make and sell the hood separately and there’s a velcro fastening around the neck to allow you to attach it. For the price of the jacket I always feel that a hood should be included and I’ve yet to go out and buy one for it.
Generally I use a waterproof hat with it when the rain gets bad and only occasionally has water got in down my back as a result. Every time it happens I say I’ll get a hood but I’ve never got round to it.
Finally, some people find the styling to be less than flattering and it’s true that the design has changed little over the years. It’s a personal preference and aesthetics is one of the last considerations on my list when choosing outdoor clothing.
I’ve been really impressed with the jacket and it’s served me very well over the years. It’s often one of the first items of clothing that gets packed for a canoe trip and I wear it all winter for walking in the hills of the UK. It’s this flexibility that makes it a very versatile item of clothing in varying conditions and for extended use.