The Buffalo Special 6 is a “smock” and not a jacket. Whatever it is, it is the best piece of outdoor clothing that I have bought.
For three years now, I have headed to the winter hills wearing a Buffalo Systems Special 6. This is a picture of me wearing it on Beinn Fhionnlaidh in 2016.
So what is special about a 3-year-old smock? In that picture above, there is only one thing between my bare skin and sub-zero conditions. It is the Buffalo Special 6 and it works.
I am no gear reviewer, but I have just spent a weekend camping at Loch Affric when it was approx. 1 or 2°C (not far below the snowline) and it was raining. I was wearing the Special 6, which is not waterproof. The smock gets heavy when wet and it was all that I was wearing, but I was still warm - it is quite remarkable.
The Special 6 consists of a pile inner (like the fur on a teddy bear!) with a Pertex outer. The pile absorbs moisture (sweat) and your body heat pushes it away to create a warm microclimate at the skin, so even though the pile is wet, you are warm. The Pertex outer is breathable and disperses the moisture to the atmosphere. There is a video on Youtube of a man jumping in a cold lake wearing a Buffalo Systems smock and trousers. After 15 minutes of walking, he is again dry and comfortable. My own experiences in the rain, although not as radical, corroborates this.
My Buffalo Special 6This picture shows the dark pile which goes against the skin. The Pertex keeps the wind off whilst allowing the smock to breathe and disperse moisture. A Winter Selfie on the Ochil HillsWhilst I may not look particularly stylish, I have been standing up a Scottish Hill for half an hour in winter taking pictures of a sunset. Being comfortable in these conditions means that I can concentrate on taking pictures
I bought my Special 6 from Sports Warehouse in Edinburgh and I had gone to their shop to try it on. I am glad I did this as I left the store with a size smaller than I would have otherwise ordered online. For gear like this, it is important to get the right fit.
Since then I have worn my Special 6 on many winter trips up my local Ochil Hills. I have also worn it further afield to stay at bothies and on Munro's in winter. I have stood on a windy summit with a frozen water bottle and yet I have felt as warm as sitting in my house.
It is not perfect, there are draughts that have made me feel vulnerable in high winds on Munro summits. The wind can whistle up the gap between trousers and shirt, but it has never been a problem to affect comfort and there are straps to adjust the tightness around the waist. I do not wear the Special 6 trousers, so I am unsure if this is also a feature of the full system.
The Special 6 actually relies on draughts to keep you cool, it has side zips that open to let excess heat out. I have used these zips in sub-zero temperatures with a high wind-chill factor and you adjust them to stay warm. I find that the smock is too hot for prolonged climbing above 5°C.
The Special 6 does not come with a hood, but you can buy one. I have seen this hood criticised in some reviews and I can understand why. I use the hood with a beanie and snood(or scarf) around the neck. The hood also comes with a face shield and this protects my face from the winter excesses of wind and spindrift. The picture below shows me checking my watch with my face shield and ski goggles on. You can see why a beanie is necessary, but this combination works well for me.
My Special 6 also has its scars, I burnt it on a stove in a bothy and I have covered that with a bit of duct tape - it doesn't like fire! It also has paint on it from a bothy work party where I was too comfortable on a snowy April morning to care about the odd splash of masonry paint.
These scars give my smock history and mean that the Special 6 has served its purpose - It has kept me warm and allowed me to do things and avoid faff. After 3 years of usage in a variety of conditions, I am confident in its ability to keep me warm on multi-day winter trips.