Gear Review: Buffalo Systems Special 6
Buffalo Systems Special 6 Shirt & Trousers:
The Buffalo concept diverges from the traditional ‘layering’ clothing system that stipulates the requirement for a three-pronged attack, geared towards tackling sweating, insulation and waterproofing. The Buffalo Pile & Pertex system, (Double P/DP), is NOT waterproof, but is highly water resistant, wicking and breathable. It is designed to be worn next to the skin, i.e. with nothing underneath! Whilst this might sound a little crazy to some of you traditionalists, there is a well-backed up body of evidence that supports the use of this kind of attire in certain inclement conditions, and this concept has been copied and allegedly refined by some well-known brands.
I bought my Special 6 smock second hand, (I’ve now purchased a brand new Special 6, see new review here), I believe it to be around 20 years old, (estimated from pictures of the logo, this one being the old style, without the red/any text). Despite this apparent age, the smock looks brand new, with literally no flaws in the Pertex 6/Classic material whatsoever. The heavy-weight fleece/pile has suffered some age-related flattening of the pile but isn’t too far off as lofty as it was when new, (compared against a brand new pair of the Special Six trousers).
Performance-wise, I’ve used this on many occasions in the Peak District, (one example at the link), on Kinder in snow, down to ~-10 Celsius, and 40-50 mph winds, in gales and heavy rains in the Yorkshire Dales, and also some use in Halifax, Nova Scotia, down to ~-20 Celsius supplemented by biting, 30-40 mph coastal winds. In each case, the smock/trouser combo is pretty much ‘bombproof’, feeling like a sanctuary against the forces of nature. One caveat being that Pertex is not water-proof, but is highly water-resistant due to it’s construction however, the level of warmth and windproofing negates any coldness, even when wet through. The handwarmer pockets in the smock run all the way through, allowing you to fasten your rucksack hipbelt through the pocket. There are hook & loop fasteners on the drop tail and also a webbing-type pull-fastener in the hand warmer pocket, which allow you to take up any slack across the waist and torso, thus keeping you feeling snug and preventing any stray wind getting up your top!
The hood has a detachable nose/mouth cover but the whole thing is sold separately, and the trousers lack crampon patches, (these only being available on the H.A. Salopettes), however, due to a little nick I acquired last winter, I might consider DIY’ing some on this year. The hood can be annoying at times, the nose/mouth cover is difficult to attach/easy to lose and there are little in the way of adjustment options. With my new Special 6 I have decided to buy the Montane Extreme hood, which fits the Special 6 well, has three-way volume adjustment, a wired peak and has soft-feel fabric over the nose/mouth area.
When the going gets tough, and your activity levels rise, the full-length side zips on the trousers & the smock’s side vents allow ‘complete venting’ if worn as recommended, i.e. next to skin. The older smock I have lacks baffles on the side vents, so a little wind gets in at these points when they are closed, (I believe that this has been rectified on more recent models), but other than the latter, the Special 6 is a veritable citadel when on the move.
Some people argue that perhaps Rab’s Vapour-rise range is more versatile and Montane’s Extreme range, whilst serving the same purpose, is more refined however, for what I need and use them for, I personally have no real problems with the Buffalo system. Physiologically, I sweat considerably when active, but begin to freeze quickly when inactive. As a direct result of this, I figure that, for those like me, or those that ‘run cold’, the Special Six is perfect in temperatures below ca. +5 Celsius where exposed, if windchill is present and/or you are relatively inactive. Or is perfect for temperatures around & below 0 Celsius for anything but the highest activity levels. Plus all their stuff is still hand-made in Sheffield, now that’s not something you hear everyday. Badass!
n.b. I recently purchased a new Special 6 smock in red and I will update the post with new pictures and correct the text for features.