Hamish Hamilton, Buffalo Founder and Pertex Inventor, Dies

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We’ve just heard that Hamish Hamilton, the man who invented Pertex, and founded Buffalo (of jacket fame), has died. As yet, we’ve not seen an official obituary – just an announcement by Buffalo on social media – and the internet is a little scarce on information about the life and times of the man whose creations changed the face of outdoor gear.

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It is a sad day at Buffalo as we learn of the death of our founder Hamish Hamilton. Inventor, climber, yachtsman and genuine outdoor lover.
Hamish who died yesterday was the inventor of Pertex and the Vango Force Ten tent both of which revolutionised the outdoor industry.
Hamish originated the Buffalo Double P System Clothing and Sleeping Bag range which was such a unique concept.
We will miss him immensely and our hearts go out to his family Trudi, Nick and Kate.
It is often quoted but never truer than now, “We will ne’er see his like again”.

Buffalo Systems Instagram

I know that many of you have fond memories of Buffalo jackets, and lots of us are still using them to this day, so I figured you might enjoy a space to share your recollections of Buffalo assisted adventures. They’re still made in Sheffield – a fact I only just discovered, but which perhaps explains why something that feels like an intrinsic part of my outdoor history here in the UK draws blank stares from my American husband.

In the late 1970s mountaineer Hamish Hamilton, already with the legendary Force 10 tent design behind him, began thinking about sleeping bags. Being discontented with the bags and clothing he had been using in winter in the Scottish highlands, he became intrigued by how the indigenous people of the Arctic Circle kept warm, utilising animal hide with the fur on the inside. By reversing the hide so that the tips of the fur were in contact with the skin, they found that moisture laden air was able to circulate and escape through the porous hide.  Even in heavy rain, and after vigorous exercise, their skin remained dry and safe from freezing as the fur’s properties ensured water was removed quickly from the garment. This interested Hamish as unlike other outdoor designers, Hamish was concerned with comfort from the inside rather than waterproofness from the outside.

Buffalo Systems Website

Here are my Buffalo memories:

My dad always cycled to work, and I think it would have been some time in the late 1980s that he got his first Buffalo. It was a game changer for someone commuting in all weathers, and living a very outdoors life in something of a frost pocket. There aren’t many photos of my childhood that don’t include some sort of manual labour, or a woodpile, or a dog walk, and my dad is wearing a Buffalo in many. I’m pretty sure this picture of me on stilts has me wearing one I’d poached from my dad that day – or maybe it’s a copy? It doesn’t have the classic kangaroo pouch layout. If you lived an outdoorsy life in the UK around the same time, I suspect you have a similar collection of photos somewhere. There was one jacket that got ruined with Deep Heat and lanolin, after an open water swim misadventure (Deep Heat and lanolin are not as effective as an actual wetsuit!) that saw me bundled up into my dad’s Buffalo and hugged by a group of adults in an attempt to warm me up. Eventually they put me in a sauna! The Buffalo was sadly for ever more scented of Deep Heat, and slightly greasy on the inside.

These days, I have a giant Buffalo that’s really way too big for me, except it’s the only jacket I’ve got that fits over my oversized flannel shirts. Putting it on, the rustle of the fabric and the feel of the inner fleece liner always takes me back to my childhood, and I half expect the smell of Deep Heat to come wafting out.

A staple of the UK outdoor wardrobe, fabric technology may have moved on in many ways, but the Buffalo will always have a certain place in my heart. I doubt I’m the only one, so as we bid farewell to Hamish Hamilton, head to the comments to show your appreciation for his creations.

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Hannah Dobson

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I came to Singletrack having decided there must be more to life than meetings. I like all bikes, but especially unusual ones. More than bikes, I like what bikes do. I think that they link people and places; that cycling creates a connection between us and our environment; bikes create communities; deliver freedom; bring joy; and improve fitness. They're environmentally friendly and create friendly environments. I try to write about all these things in the hope that others might discover the joy of bikes too.

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Viewing 24 posts - 1 through 24 (of 24 total)
  • Hamish Hamilton, Buffalo Founder and Pertex Inventor, Dies
  • neilupnorth
    Full Member

    Had a Buffalo jacket for about 20 year from the early 90’s. It did everything, from across the Pennine way from Edale to Crowden on my cyclo cross bike, up Snowdon on my ‘no suspension’ Trek MTB, paddled down rivers all over the place, a few Alpine climbing expeditions, to just keeping me warm sat outside round the fire in winter. What a wonderful piece of kit xxx

    Full Member

    Force 10 tents and Buffalo clothing were a key part of my initiation into doing stuff in the wilds as a teenager. Thanks Hamish!

    This was my Special 6 Shirt:

    Buffalo S6 Shirt

    It was retired after 19.5 years and I couldn’t just bin it – as I said at the time:

    “I am having great difficulty parting with my aged Buffalo S6 Shirt… Since my 16th birthday it’s followed me all over the place, making night exercises less unpleasant, getting wet and muddy playing in the outdoors, keeping winter bike commutes cosy and for the last few years I’ve lived in it during the week thanks to our freakishly cold business unit. RIP.”

    It then took up a new home in the spare wheel well of my car, and is now in a cubby hole in the subsequent car due to the absence of spare wheel. It’s there in case of crash/breakdown emergencies but a couple of years ago it came out on a weekend away when canoeing and wild swimming in the Ouse. Still great, even with dying zips, various rips and the velcro falling off!

    Living on the south coast now it’s hardly ever cold enough for me to justify a new one! I had the sleeping bag too, sold that for a profit after 25 years. And the trousers (only viable in snow) and the belay jacket. And I’ve still got some mitts.

    Full Member

    Bought one of their jackets in 1999 and its still going strong and getting regular use. Amazing bit of kit.

    Free Member

    I’ve had an S6 since aged 17, I’m now 44, I wore it to work this morning, best peice of clothing kit I’ve ever had, every year I think about buying another.

    I bought one for an ex as a birthday gift, she wears it a lot 4 years later.

    I really should grab another RIP

    Free Member

    Kept me warm on many a cold stag..

    Full Member

    Loved mine (until it was nicked out for my car). Never got around to buying a new one though.

    Full Member

    Never owned a Buffalo but plenty of them in my riding group so there must be some attraction. As someone there said, RIPertex.

    Hamish; now I know the name of the man responsible for helping keep my nips toasty in many a cold miserable hole whilst aggressively camping and various countries for most of the 90’s into the mid to late 00’s.

    The Buffalo was the kit of choice for any service person who knew their onions for sure. Especially in the era where warm kit consisted of a wooly jumper and the Chinese fighting suit.

    Go well good Sir.

    Kept me warm on many a cold stag..

    Absolutely this. I remember arriving at my first unit and going on exercise to Hohne training area and seeing all the senior toms and sweats wearing them and realising why I was freezing my arse off.

    Classic bit of warmers kit.

    Free Member

    “Still great, even with dying zips, various rips and the velcro falling off”

    My buffalo knock-off (Montane) is basically a long collar, everything that can be opened is opened so I don’t overheat.

    Full Member

    He also had a hand in Force 10 tents i beleive and a good few other innovations.

    Mrs_oab and I were friends with his daughter for many years when we lived in Sheffield.

    Full Member

    did any of you guys have the modular Buffalo sleeping bag?

    I always wanted one when I was at uni but could never afford one

    Full Member

    Been wearing my Buffalo top this winter for early morning dog walks (first winter with a dog.)

    Bought back in ’95 / ’96 and still going strong.

    I’m a bit gutted actually that the Highland weather is warming up so I’ll not be able to wear it again for the above until this coming Autumn / Winter.

    RIP HH

    Full Member

    did any of you guys have the modular Buffalo sleeping bag?

    I had 20 of them! At my last outdoor centre.

    Very bulky and heavy, particularly if it was winter and you added the extra layer. But, superbly comfy too sleep in and really rather good on longer, wetter trips like some of the canoe trips down the Spey in November…

    Free Member

    Still use my Force 10. A proper double cotton one.

    Free Member

    Proper legend and kept his manufacturing in the UK. Huge inspiration. Had the pleasure of working with his son Nick a while ago so my thoughts with the family.

    Full Member

    “did any of you guys have the modular Buffalo sleeping bag?”

    We had some of the 4S Inners at school that we’d use inside the (awful) army issue down bags when it was cold. And inspired by them I got the 4S Outer. It was at its best in those unfortunate situations where everything was wet and muddy – it probably peaked at Glastonbury ‘97 and ‘98 when I don’t believe I changed or removed any clothing between arriving on Wednesday and getting home on Monday!

    “kept his manufacturing in the UK”

    It’s so impressive that they’ve managed to do this – there can’t be many outdoor gear brands who have!

    Full Member

    “kept his manufacturing in the UK”

    Probably a lot to do with the military contracts? Similar to Snug pack/Brett Harris who still manufacture some stuff in the UK.

    I never had the Buffalo tops, but I have two of the Montane clones that are superior in many ways. Fantastic kit if you like the warm fug feeling.

    First Tent I ever owned was the classic Force Ten Mk4. Went halves on it with my brother and bought it from a mini chain of shops called Wilderness ways. Well I think they had more than one shop. Took the Tent to Europe on a canoe trip and ended up trapped in the Oetz (sp) valley in a massive storm that flooded the campsite. We correctly pitched the tent and because it was new, the tub style groundsheet with the fancy welded seam was watertight. Waterbed heaven, with slight worry that the flood level would start to overwhelm the groundsheet.

    RIP HH

    Full Member

    A blue and white Buffalo kangaroo top and later, for the Round Britain and Ireland race as a pimply 17 year old, the midlayer salopettes. I remember being vaguely impressed when sailing with someone from Signals in the early ’00s and seeing his green one – I’d always assumed they were just outdoors and sailing things, and never twigged the military connection.
    I think the salopettes are my longest-serving bit of sailing kit – it just goes in the bag (or on) every time it’s 12 degrees or lower. The top was and is super-toasty all the time – possibly too warm for sustained exercise. But at 3am, beating at 7kts from Lerwick back down to the mainland in the pitchy dark, it was (and is) perfect. I supplemented it with a Gill knockoff about ten years ago, but it didn’t quite do the same, even though it lost the rustle Hannah mentions.

    Free Member

    I have a Buffalo sleeping bag outer (with the yellow/blue pertex and red fleece) which has been used fairly recently as a summer bag.

    Full Member

    4S ? liner here too, must be over 30 yo now great as a liner in cold weather or on its own in hot.  Its slowly getting a bit frayed and tatty but still in use. no other bits of buffalo yet

    Free Member

    several decades ago I was on Stanage on a Winter day when no-one else was daft enough to be up there and found a dirty grey jacket hanging on a barbed-wire fence. I washed it and the label said Buffalo. Knowing nothing about it I just used it, over a base layer as I didn’t know it was supposed to be worn next to the skin and under a waterproof when it rained because I didn’t know it was supposed to be worn without a waterproof. When I later saw one in a climbing shop and read the blurb I tried using it as intended but found it still needed a base layer in mid Winter.

    It was annoying on the road bike because whatever was in the pockets flapped around but became a favourite in grotty conditions on the MTB. In higher mountains it wasn’t warm enough but anywhere damp and dismal it was great. A decade later the pile was flat and the rips beyond repair so I bought a new one which is still going. But things have moved on and it rarely leaves the cupboard. Compared with the kit that’s replaced it it’s heavy, voluminous and not waterproof. The not waterproof is fine until you stop or even slow down, it’s then not long until you’re shivering.

    Full Member

    Mine is about 15 years old now. Maybe more. Still going strong. It’s been the nearly-daily wear for years walking the Lab between October and April (I’m actually on the 3rd Lab but still 1st Buffalo).

    Only recently usurped by a light Paramo Smock as that’s a similar design in terms of zips and pockets but has a hood and is a tad less warm (and I run warm)

    Full Member

    My outdoor life began in a force 10 tent as a scout in the wilds of Dunham Park.
    It was a tent to inspire confidence and if shared within the 4 that could squeeze into it was manageable on the hill.
    I had a Buffalo smock as well as it became my “trusty” top on my first trips into the Peak District, Lake and then Scotland.
    I wore it on my walk into Culra Bothy to climb Ben Alder and Beinn Bheoil in 1984 when you could drive to the end of the loch.
    Johnny Scoles, Billie Beecroft, Bills dog Ben and myself pushing through the dark and arriving at the bothy at 23.00 hrs.
    Waking up into minus 15 temperatures we set off into the day.
    The day remains in my memory so clearly of walking over frozen lochs, traversing deep cornices on Ben Alder and heading back to the bothy to set a fire and enjoy the evening.
    Incredible days with my “trusty buff”, thanks Hamish

    Full Member

    Hannah, that blue top in the stilts pic looks a lot like the Buffalo B.A.S Parka – an extreme cold weather piece, developed as an overlayer for scientists of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). https://adventuresbyq.wordpress.com/2019/04/17/buffalo-bas-parka-review/

    My own pecial 6 shirt from the late 80’s is still working well. Sadly I washed my Tech top in Nikwax wash in waterproof (Nikwax instructions still suggest that such items can be treated that way) maybe 10 years ago and no matter how many times it’s washed the “pile” isn’t working right. Hamish was helpful but, basically, I’d knackered it.

    My Curbar (Pertex Equilibrium – slight cloth-like feeling inside so OK next to skin) wind top is ace and goes with me on almost every ride. Unless it’s raining at the start!  Great windproof, almost the perfect bike top.

    RIP Hamish and thanks so much

Viewing 24 posts - 1 through 24 (of 24 total)

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