I’ve owned my Buffalo Systems Special 6 shirt for around 7 years now and it still looks like new. That’s partly a testament to the quality of the garment – this isn’t some hyperlight flimsy clingfilm jacket – but mostly it’s down to the fact that it’s just so warm! Opportunities for using the Special 6 in anger are few and far between here in the South East of England with its relatively mild climate but that’s not to say it doesn’t pull it’s weight, earning it’s place year after year in my arsenal of kit and clothing that help me get (and stay) outdoors whatever the weather.
Before I get to the specifics of the jacket, it has to be noted that the makers – Buffalo Systems – are themselves a fantastic organisation. Based in Sheffield, Buffalo are a proper British company with proper British values. The kit is made in the City of Steel and – by their own admission – rarely changes.
This is a good thing. There’s no “this seasons latest” model line to keep up with, just good, honest, time proven kit with changes made only if they meaningfully improve the performance.
Indeed, internet forums and social media pages are awash with Buffalo afficionados bragging about how old their respective Buffalo shirts are, many seeing multiple decades of use from new or recycled on the second hand market, often in the form of military surplus where the British Army – and in particular special forces – seem to have a fondness for these shirts.
Coupled to a solid product is a first-rate approach to customer service. Whilst their website hosts a large amount of useful information and FAQs about the Double P (as in Pertex and Pile) clothing system that Buffalo are known for, I must admit to having initially been a little sceptical about the approach.
Coming from a “traditional” approach to outdoor clothing – layering according to temperature and topping the outfit off with a hard-shell rain jacket – the concept of a non waterproof, next to the skin garment was at first a tricky one to get my head around. I now own three Buffalo items (two shirts – a Special 6 and a Teclite and an Alpine Jacket) and prior to each purchase I’ve contacted Buffalo with queries about suitability for my intended use. Each time I’ve received quick, informative and tailored responses from Adam at Buffalo, which have in all cases helped confirm my decision making. You’d be lucky to get that from The North Face!
So onto the Special 6 itself then…
Although 7 years of ownership would suggest this is a long term review, in reality the number of outings probably runs into no more than a couple of dozen over that period. I wear my Teclite far more regularly but I guess you could liken the Special 6 to a nuclear bomb. You hope you never have to use it, but you’d rather have it in your arsenal than not.
When things do get (d)icy, I know I can depend on the ‘6 to keep me warm and (despite not being technically waterproof) dry. OK so it’s not as warm as my Phantac down jacket. And sure, it’s not as waterproof as my hard-shell. But my down jacket doesn’t keep the rain out. My hard-shell doesn’t keep me warm. The Special 6 on the other hand does both.
It also keeps me comfortable – when I’m working hard on the bike, puffing my way up a steep and muddy track I can simply undo the large side zips and dump excess heat. Conversely, if I’m stopped to read a map or mend a puncture, I can batten down the hatches and know that the windproof Pertex outer will keep any chills at bay whilst the thick Pile lining will keep me toasty warm.
Regarding “waterproofing”, this is something I touched on in my review of the Teclite shirt and whilst the Pertex outer does serve to repel water, it’s the Pile lining where the magic really happens. When worn as intended – i.e. next to the skin – the pile wicks away moisture as well as providing insulation. Buffalo say it best:
To be comfortable in adverse conditions you need to be dry and warm. The concept behind the Buffalo DP System is to keep the wearer comfortable no matter what nature has in store.
Moisture causes chilling – so rain and perspiration need to be kept away from the skin. To do this clothing must repel moisture from the outside, whilst eliminating it on the inside.
Whilst insulating the wearer from the cold, our pile fabric lining wicks moisture away from the body onto the outer shell. This densely woven fabric then disperses the moisture over its surface area, where it evaporates.
In turn a micro climate is created within the garment – where overheating is controlled through the venting of side zips.http://www.buffalosystems.co.uk/advice/how-works/
The ‘6 then is a functional bit of clothing in terms of keeping you comfortable outdoors but it’s also functional in terms of features. In addition to the full length vents, there’s a large zipped chest pocket, opened on the horizontal and perfect for stashing maps (an OS Explorer will fit), gloves, keys or snacks.
A joey style, pile lined pouch, ideal for keeping your hands warm whilst also providing an additional venting option rounds out the pockets. As an added bonus this pouch is compatible with backpack waist belts.
If I had one complaint about the ‘6 it’s the lack of a hood. Granted, you can buy and attach a Buffalo hood using the integrated Velcro but given these shirts are billed as being the only layer you need, I think a hood as standard would be a nice touch.
I guess this does give you the option of speccing a hood as required – you can either opt for the standard DP Hood or the Expedition Hood designed to fit over a climbing helmet – so there is an element of modularity and customisation depending on your needs but I think Buffalo would be on to a winner if they included the base DP Hood with the option to purchase something else if required.
If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere where winters are actual winters (snow and bluebird days) then you’ll probably get by just fine with a cosy down puffy. However, if you happen to live in the UK or somewhere else blessed with a similar climate (rain, hail, howling winds, snow, ice and more rain) then you really should have a Special 6 in your gear shed. But maybe not a red one. Unless you’re mountain rescue. The red is quite bright!
|Insulation||AquaTherm pile lining|
|Outer shell||Pertex Quantum|