No matter whether you call them buffs, neck gaiters or neck tubes, these tubular pieces of material are incredibly versatile, handy pieces of gear to have in your arsenal.
They help keep the sun, wind and cold at bay and can often be worn in a variety of different ways. But what makes something deserving of a place on our best neck tubes list?
Firstly, it has to be comfortable. If it has seams they need to be flatlocked, but the fewer the better. Elasticity is key, too, as you want something with enough purchase to stay in the position that you’ve moved it into.
Materials also matter. You can get neck tubes in bamboo, Merino wool or synthetic fibres. Bamboo offers a luxurious amount of comfort, Merino wool is naturally odour-resistant and delivers exceptional warmth, and synthetic fibres can sometimes wick moisture better and last longer.
With all that said, it’s important to find a garment that’s breathable, especially if you’ll be pulling it up over your face. This may be particularly vital if you plan to use your neck tube for both exercise and covering up when abiding by any Covid rules.
Best neck tubes for running and cycling
Buff Original EcoStretch
Buff is the original neckwear brand, so much so that it’s still the term that most people use to describe neck tubes or neck gaiters over 25 years since its birth. To this day, the brand continues to set the standard.
On test here is the Original EcoStretch. It’s made from 5% elastane and 95% polyester, which is obtained from plastic recycled bottles (it takes two bottles to make one Buff), giving the garment great sustainability credentials.
Comfort and performance are equally as impressive. The Original EcoStretch offers sun protection (UPF 50), wicks moisture away well and retains its elasticity after multiple uses. We also found it plenty warm enough for our bike and run sessions. It’s breathable, and there are a huge number of designs available to purchase.
Verdict: Exceptional performance as expected from Buff and decent green credentials too.
Bamboo Clothing Luxe Bamboo Neck Tube
As a material, Bamboo has a lot going for it. It’s soft (and we mean really soft), is naturally anti-bacterial and offers good temperature regulation. All of these properties are on show in this neck tube, which is made from 68% bamboo, 28% organic cotton and 4% elastane.
In fact, aside from the Buff featured above, we’d go as far to say that this is one of the most comfortable neck tubes we’ve ever worn. It’s long and super stretchy, though others seemed to hold their elasticity slightly better.
There’s a good amount of warmth on offer and we like how breathable the product is, but this means it’s certainly not windproof. This didn’t matter to us so much, but it’s worth bearing in mind. In our experience, bamboo also isn’t the greatest at wicking moisture, often on par with many Merino wool products.
Verdict: One of the most comfortable options on the market.
Dhb Merino Neck Tube
You can always trust dhb to throw an option in the ring no matter what the type of product is. On test here is the brand’s Merino Neck Tube. As the name suggests, it’s made of 200gsm Merino wool, which delivers the most warmth out of everything on test.
That’s great if you’re looking for a neck tube that delivers when the mercury really drops or on those frosty morning rides, but we found it a bit warm on milder autumn runs. Being constructed of Merino wool, the product is naturally anti-bacterial and stays warm than wet.
At times, we also found the Merino slightly itchy, as you sometimes do with such a material, meaning the Buff and Bamboo Clothing options won out in the comfort stakes. Breathability and wind protection was impressive, while elasticity also showed no signs of faltering.
Verdict: A great option for colder climes, but not quite as comfortable as a couple of the others on test.
Artilect Darkhorse Neck Tube
Artilect’s Darkhorse Neck Tube is made from a combination of nylon (10%) and Nuyarn Merino wool (90%). The latter is a fabric we’ve not had experience with before, but it’s claimed to dry five times faster than conventional wool, have 35% more elasticity, have 50% more tensile strength and 35% more thermal retention.
Without running controlled scientific tests we can’t verify all of these claims, but we can comment on how the fabric feels for the end user compared to other products on the market.
On that note, the Darkhorse Neck Tube is certainly comfortable to wear, with none of the itchiness you sometimes get with Merino. The presence of flatlock seams is also welcomed, but the number of them does mean that competitors such as Buff and Bamboo Clothing edge the Artilect where comfort is concerned.
In terms of warmth and breathability, the Darkhorse Neck Tube performed exactly as we’d hoped. It ventilates well, too, thanks to special mesh panels that make it easier to breathe through. Like most Merino, it’s naturally odour-resistant, stays warm when wet and dries incredibly quickly.
Verdict: Very expensive for a neck tube, but the Nuyarn fabric works a treat.
Buff Merino Wool Functional Headwear
As we mentioned in our review of the Original EcoStretch, Buff likes to give consumers options. In addition to having dozens of colours or patterns available, the brand also has a huge range of nuanced products.
This Merino wool option is like many of the brand’s other neck tubes except for the fact that it’s made of Merino wool. Knowing the material’s properties, this should mean greater warmth to weight, natural odour-resistance and the ability to stay warm when wet. Though, on the flip side, we’ve also found this to mean slower drying times.
Given the warmer material, we’d suggest Buff’s Merino options are better suited to activities in colder weather.
Mountain Warehouse Merino Neck Gaiter
Made from Merino wool, this neck gaiter from Mountain Warehouse is another option for those looking for the extra warmth on offer over synthetic materials. As we’ve mentioned several times in this article, Merino is naturally odour-resistant, stays warm when wet and offers great warmth for the weight.
This Merino Neck Gaiter is made from 80% Merino and 20% polyester, which may make for greater durability when compared to pure Merino options.
It has an RRP of £29.99, which would make it one of the most expensive options in this list, but it’s often in the sale and can occasionally be found cheaper.
Dhb Windslam Neck Tube
If you’re looking for a neck tube that delivers greater warmth and wind protection then you may want to consider dhb’s Windslam Neck Tube.
It’s designed to provide a warm, wind-blocking seal around the neck to help eliminate cold air sneaking down your neck – something which can be particularly uncomfortable on cold runs or rides.
Part of the neck tube is constructed from a windproof, fleece-backed fabric for warmth and weather protection, while there’s also a mesh panel to help improve breathability when it’s pulled over the mouth.
Top image credit: Getty Images/Dima_sidelnikov