It is hardly surprising that bandanas are once again popular amongst hikers and backpackers as they are perhaps one of the most versatile pieces of clothing they could wear.
Bandanas can be worn in 12 different ways depending if you want protection from the sun or something to absorb your sweat.
Buffs can also be worn in 12 different ways and some people prefer them to the traditional bandana but the only real difference is that buffs have their ends sewn together whereas bandanas need to be tied.
As well as being versatile as a piece of clothing, bandanas can also be used for a multitude of other tasks, such as washing or drying your hands or face or perhaps even as a tourniquet in an emergency situation.
As bandanas are usually colorful and can be bought with a wide variety of designs, a hiker or backpacker can also make a fashion statement at the same time as they hike or perhaps get a design with hiking tips detailed on it in print.
Best Bandanas for Hiking
As buffs are now becoming more popular, I have included a couple in this list of perhaps the 10 most popular bandanas for hikers and backpackers available today.
Colter Co. Cypher Survival Bandana
The Colter Company’s bandanas are all made and printed in the US. The Tactical Survival Bandana is made from 100% cloth and printed orange with reflective ink that glows when placed in a light source at night.
Not only can the glow save you from an emergency situation but also printed on the bandanas are details that could help you if you get in an emergency situation.
The printing ink used for Colter bandanas do not run, even if machine washed. The Colter Company also makes bandanas which have been pre-treated with insect shield to protect its wearer from bugs.
Buff Original Multifunctional Headwear
These buffs are made from recycled plastic bottles to create a 100% microfiber blend which is both hand and machine washable.
The buffs are woven in a way to have no annoying hems or seams, providing maximum comfort to the wearer.
These buffs have a UPF 50 rating and provide 98% protection from UVA and UVB sources, making them suitable for all seasons and as their designs and colours are unisex, they are also suitable for both men and women.
Although the materials for these bandanas are made in France, the bandanas themselves are made in Spain with 20 different colours or designs to choose from.
UST Survival Bandana
These bandanas are sold in single packs and are made from 100% cotton. Although sold by a US survival company, the bandanas are made in China.
On each bandana basic survival, tips whilst hiking are printed on top of a reflective orange, making them informative as well as practical.
The tips include some on knots, safety, navigation and first aid which may be particularly useful for kids when hiking.
Each bandana is coated with a bug repellant which should last for up to 40 or 50 washes.
ExOfficio BugsAway Woven Bandana
The 100% cotton fabric this bandana is made from has been coated with an Insect Shield which is odourless yet can provide protection for up to 50 washes.
The fabric of this bandana has been woven and is full size, meaning it is larger than most other bandanas.
As well as offering protection from bugs with its Insect Shield, this bandana has 97% blocking of UVA and UVB rays with UPF rating of 50. There are multiple designs, all with unisex colors.
Printed Image Topographical Map Bandanas
These printed image Topographical Map Bandanas are made from 100% cotton and printed with lead-free, reflective ink.
Both made and printed in the US, these bandanas feature choices from over 7 different US National Parks each displaying realistic details of topographical maps.
The ink on these bandanas does not bleed when washed by hand or machine and they come with a guarantee.
Levi’s Men’s Cotton Bandana Set
These 20” bandanas are sold in packs of either 2 or 3. Made in China these bandanas are made from 100% high quality cotton.
The material of the bandanas is designed to absorb moisture and sweat and so can also be used to wash or dry hands.
Printed on both sides, each side depicts a western cowboy style paisley design. At a cost of under $10 per bandana, there are more than 20 different designs to choose from.
OHSAY USA Cotton Bandana Set
There are over 15 different designs for these bandanas which can be bought in sets of 3 per pack.
The Camo, Tie Dye, Skull and Flag designs are made from a material which is 50% polyester and 50% cotton whilst all the other designed bandanas are 100% cotton. The bandanas have hemmed edges to help avoid fraying.
The bandanas are hand-sewn in North Carolina by a company that has 70 years’ experience and is marketed by a veteran’s organization.
Tough Headband Buff Headwear
Sold in packs of singles and made in China, these buffs are made from 80% polyester and 20% polyamide, microfiber mix.
Differing designs are available which are suitable for both men and women and the buffs have been designed as to quickly be able to wipe away sweat and moisture.
Woven and stretchable these buffs fit the vast majority of men and women who are able to wear them in 12 different ways. They have a UPF rating of 30 and have the capability to block 95% of UVA and UVB rays.
Hoo-Rag Mossy Oak Seamless Buff Bandana
Stitched in the US and providing 97% HVA and HVB protection with a UPF rating of 30, these seamless, buff bandanas are made from a 80% polyester, 20% polyamide mix allowing for a good moisture absorbency.
Sold individually, although these are made in a large variety of designs, all with a lifetime guarantee, the most popular is the Old Glory American Flag.
Soophen Cowboy Bandanas
These 100% cotton bandanas may look like they have a rougher stitch than others but it perhaps adds to their intended look of being the “Old School Cowboy Bandanas”.
With a length of 22” and a price of under $1 each, these bandanas still provide good value for money and are sold in packs of 12.
All the bandanas have the same design however they do come in different colors.
Best Bandana for Hiking Buying Guide
Before you buy a bandana it is best to decide what you think you may use it mainly for.
A bandana can, of course, be put to many uses so concentrate on what properties it may have that will be of the most use to you, head protection from the sun, sweat rag or just as an adornment.
Once you have determined that, you can decide if a traditional bandana, buff or perhaps even a similar item such as a scarf may be of the most value to you.
If you decided that a bandana would be the most appropriate item to buy, you will have to decide which of its attributes you should look for.
- 100% Cotton is often used to make a bandana, as this is soft and can absorb moisture, such as sweat easily
- 50%/50% mix of Polyester/ Cotton mix is the other material usually used to make bandanas and it too can be soft and the inks used for the print is lead-free and does not run
- Buffs are usually made from an 80%/20% mix of Polyester and Polyamide which, whilst absorbing moisture, is less prone to also absorbing grime and dirt can be coated with anti-bacterial
Most bandanas materials can be washed by hand or machine and can be treated with an insect repellant but they may cost more.
As with anything related to hiking or backpacking, size and weight are important and whilst you ensure you get the lightest one possible, you should also ensure it is large enough to fulfill its primary purpose.
- Bandanas – A popular size for a bandana is similar to that of a hand towel, approximately 20” and of course, bandanas are square or triangle
- Buffs – Although a buff can be stretched, to avoid getting one which is too tight, you should get one which is originally at least 19”
Color and Design
Perhaps the first thing you should remember when considering the color and design of your bandana is one of its potential uses and that is as a signaling device if you find yourself in trouble.
If you think that it may have to be used for that purpose, it should perhaps be bright and of course, if you intend to hike at night, being reflective could be beneficial. You should also make sure to bring a flashlight with you.
Some designs and colors may be fashionable but, especially if you are a novice, a design depicting safety tips or a topographic map may be more important to you than a fashion statement.
UPF means Ultraviolet Protection Factor and materials offering the best protection will come with a rating of 50 but most bandanas will be rated between 15 and 30.
The UPF is the rating for protection of both UVA and UVB rays and as a general rule of thumb, a UPF rating of 30 will provide protection of up to 95%.
You will probably notice when looking for a bandana to buy, some come with a warranty.
A warranty will show that the bandana is made from quality materials which are designed to last and so are probably suitable for most tasks you have in mind, despite how tough those tasks may be.
As bandanas are so versatile there are of course other factors you may want to consider, such as personal preferences and price but if you are serious about making the most use of your bandana, perhaps these other factors are less important.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do hikers wear bandanas?
As a bandana can offer good protection from the sun’s rays, many hikers and backpackers wear them on their heads or perhaps around their necks in order to stop their head from getting too hot or their neck from getting sunburned.
They can also be worn as a headband to stop hair falling in front of the eyes and in case of accidents, be tied as a tourniquet for a wound.
How do you wear a bandana when hiking?
A bandana’s main purpose is usually to protect its wearer from the sun or to assist with absorbing sweat.
To this end, there are 12 different ways a bandana can be worn, depending on what purpose it is to serve but basically it can be worn to protect the head, neck, eyes or mouth.
What is the point of a bandana?
A bandana is a triangular or square piece of cloth designed to offer its wearer protection from the elements.
A bandana was originally another name for a kerchief that originated from the French word: couvre-chef, which means headcover and so now a bandana has been associated more with headcover than an actual kerchief.
How is a bandana used whilst camping?
Whilst camping, a bandana can be tied like a headband with a mini light attached to it, and then tied again to the top of a tent to provide hands-free lighting in your tent at night.
How do you tie a bandana around your head?
If it is square, you first fold it into a triangle. Starting at with the flat end you repeatedly fold it to a width of about 1”, finishing at the pointed end.
You then place it around your forehead and tie the 2 ends together. If you fold and then place the bandana higher on your head, it serves as a hairband.