Dec 2, 2008 at 9:44 pm #1232369
Companion forum thread to:Dec 3, 2008 at 3:01 am #1461814
Great article Chris and definitely the best summary of how the waterproofing actually works.
Until I had some idea of the theory of how it keeps water away from you I couldn't bring myself to part with the cash. Hopefully your article will do that for many others.
Now that I use it, I also miss it greatly during the summer and everyone I walk with is slowly converting over to it for winter use as well. There's nothing like seeing someone remaining comfortable across all kinds of conditions whilst you sweat in a membrane to convince people it's not just marketing hype.
I've even been experimenting with just using a liner (+ separate windproof) during the summer.
I hear rumour Paramo are planning the same system to go into production in the next few months in fact.Dec 3, 2008 at 8:45 am #1461845
I've been using Paramo for about six years now, in exactly the same configurations as Chris.
It took me a long time to use it but once I did I stuck with it. Nothing is as comfortable in cold and rainy conditions. As Chris says, Paramo waterproofs are very robust. My Alta II Jacket is now on its last legs but has been worn every day during the winter for 6 years.
In the summer I go for a more conventional layering system but on next year's TGO Challenge I will use the Third Element.
On my first Challenge I used a Paramo Velez over a simple baselayer. On my second I used a conventional layering system. There was little weight difference between the two, with the Paramo a few grams lighter. When you see Paramo as an integrated part of a whole system you see that it is not a heavy option.
Incidentally, Paramo's other products are worth exploring. Their new warm weather range – shirts and pants – are very comfortable in very hot and humid conditions.
Simple windproofs are good as well. A Paramo windshirt smock saw me through several European mountain treks very effectively. Though only water resistant these dealt with the weather quite happily. These tend to be a little heavier material than very lightweight windproofs and verge more towards the waterproof arena.
But back to the waterproofs. On cold, wet days there is nothing I would rather be wearing!Dec 3, 2008 at 9:08 am #1461850
@maynard76Locale: New England
This sounds like it could work well in New England where winters are cold and wet.
How should the fit be? tight, loose, or does it matter?
I think I will at least try the pants.Dec 3, 2008 at 10:07 am #1461865
@jeremy11Locale: Exploring San Juan talus
A couple years ago I got a Paramo Aspira Jacket and Cascada Trousers (I live in Colorado) after reading about them in Chris Townsend's book Backpacker's Handbook, 2nd Ed.
They work amazing for anything cold, wet or dry. I wear the jacket all winter long here for everything from just walking around to backcountry skiing, aid climbing, winter biking,…. and it is marvelous no matter what. The Aspira Jacket is rather heavy but I got it for the pocket space, which is great in winter, and in winter I'm generally wearing it all the time anyway, and it works so well that an extra pound isn't an issue.
If you do much at all in cold conditions, wet or dry, Paramo is the thing to get.Dec 3, 2008 at 10:57 am #1461872
@arborrider08Locale: SouthShore of Lake Superior
Thanks Chris for the good write up.
Paramo rain gear and their warm/humid 1st layer tops are clothing gear that really interest me. Too bad no USA source.
The people in the UK seem to be one step ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to innovated gear materials or processes. Pertex, P2i, Paramo….Dec 3, 2008 at 11:40 am #1461881
An intriguing product, but too heavy for me to seriously consider it in my pack. Treating your rainwear as part of an intigrated system can work well in cold, dry conditions, but convincing myself that my heavy, warm, but WET raingear can act as a base or mid-layer in my sleeping bag is not at all appealing!Dec 3, 2008 at 2:10 pm #1461914
Well – as Chris says, you don't really intend to put it in your pack! That was one of the realisations that pushed me to try it. (And as mentioned above – I now love it).
And as for using it in a sleeping bag – well it would have to be very, very, very cold for me to consider that (and Chris too I imagine) in which case – there would be no liquid water available to make the Paramo wet. So it's not a crazy as it sounds.Dec 3, 2008 at 4:52 pm #1461941
>Well – as Chris says, you don't really intend to put it in your pack!
Agreed, I merely meant that, in NZ, there is no way to predict the weather far enough in advance to say "I won't want to take that thing off for the whole trip". Might be nice as a ski/snowbaord jacket or other cold weather single day use though! We can usually precict the weather at least half a day in advance…Dec 3, 2008 at 5:11 pm #1461945
Allison, predicting the weather a half day in advance is good going in Scotland! And that's where I mostly wear Paramo clothing. However I know that between October and May the weather will be cool enough for me to wear Paramo all the time, using the vents if its a little warm. Whether it's calm, windy, raining or snowing makes no difference – the Paramo stays on.
I haven't yet used Paramo waterproof clothing for a two week backpacking trip as late as May though I know people who regularly use it on the TGO Challenge. Maybe next year I will.Dec 3, 2008 at 5:19 pm #1461950
@mad777Locale: South Florida
Great article Chris! I've been collecting information on Paramo for some time now as I am intrigued by the product. I do a lot of hiking in New England where, as other posters pointed out, might be an ideal use in winter where it can rain or snow or sleet.
The weight of the garments has been the one factor that has held me off from making a purchase. I am excited to hear that Paramo is heading toward a lighter weight line. The sooner the better, I say.
I have been looking (OK, drooling) over their Vasco jacket as it is one of their lighter offerings but mainly it has back vents in addition to the lines usual venting tricks. I think this would be important since this is a piece of clothing you would not want to take off and carry in a pack.Dec 3, 2008 at 6:12 pm #1461959
>predicting the weather a half day in advance is good going in Scotland!
>Whether it's calm, windy, raining or snowing makes no difference
Glad I don't live in Scotland. It sounds like you don't get unpredicatbly warm weather through the winter months ;)Dec 4, 2008 at 4:53 am #1462028
Scottish weather is always unpredictable! Our winters are marginal, in that temperatures are mostly between -2 and +5C but can drop much lower (the record low is -27C) or rise to +10. We usually have a succession of freeze thaw cycles even high in the mountains. Snow can last a day or a fortnight before almost all of it melts. Very strong winds are common (reaching 160+ kph every month at times on summits)and precipitation runs from heavy rain through sleet and wet snow to real, dry snow. I find Paramo ideal for this cold wet climate.Dec 4, 2008 at 7:49 am #1462043
There's something wrong with me. I found myself grinning at that summary of Scottish Winter weather Chris…Dec 4, 2008 at 8:27 am #1462051
David, you have to grin or you'd cry ……Dec 4, 2008 at 12:57 pm #1462107
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
So are the Creagh Dhu still around?
CheersDec 4, 2008 at 12:58 pm #1462108
Yup, Chris, the Scottish tourism industry will be drafting hate mail for you now as I type!!
New Zealand does not have a large temperature range, lacking the extremes found in most continental climates. However, New Zealand weather can change unexpectedly—as cold fronts or warm tropical cyclones quickly blow in. Because of this, you should be prepared for sudden changes in weather and temperature if you're going hiking or doing other outdoor activities. In some respects, it is better to carry 'too much' warm clothing rather than too little, but I'm always prepared for hot weather too, even in winter!
However, I still like the ideal of the Paramo clothing, but I wonder why it needs to be so heavy and thus warm? Maybe something to improve on in future. If it were lighter, it would also likely be less warm and therefore more versatile over a wider range of temps. I would dearly love a fully breathable lightweight waterproof jacket for hiking up hills in mild to warm rain…who wouldn't???
The technology kinda reminds me of the good old Swandri coats that outdoor workers used to wear. It was thick and rough, but the fabric's natural lanolin and semi-felted texture made it very breathable yet fairly water resistant (but warm and heavy).Dec 4, 2008 at 1:10 pm #1462112
@martycLocale: Industrial Midwest
I recently purchased a Marmot Dri-Clime softshell garment with a DWR outer finish and microfleece inner. I don't know if it has the v-shaped fibers that give the Paramo garments their pump action.
But it's easily available in the US, relatively inexpensive and might work almost as well? (No hood on the Dri-Clime but I have a bicycling gortex stand-alone hood that might work).
Can anyone make a comparison?
Thanks.Dec 4, 2008 at 1:21 pm #1462115
The Driclime outer fabric is not really waterproof at all. It wets out very quickly in light rain…Dec 4, 2008 at 1:30 pm #1462119
You do have to be realistic about the weather in Scotland! That said, I've had some wonderful snowy days out recently.
Allison, New Zealand weather sounds much like Scotland's, which I guess isn't surprising as both are maritime countries.
Paramo is as heavy as it is because the inner layer has to be thick enough to work. Admittedly a very simple garment with minimal features would weigh less than the generally well specified Paramo designs. The weight of the new lighter garments is lower.
Roger, I don't know if the Creag Dhu is still going. They're very quiet if they are. Their heyday was the 1930s and 40s.Dec 4, 2008 at 2:51 pm #1462139
>New Zealand weather sounds much like Scotland's, which I guess isn't surprising as both are maritime countries.
Indeed, although it doesn't sound like Scotland gets many tropical cyclones!
>The weight of the new lighter garments is lower.
Good! Otherwise I'll be forced to keep my old Swandri!!! Yikes. It gives me a rash.Dec 4, 2008 at 3:03 pm #1462142
Thanks for another great article and read! I'm really glad you reviewed these here; although the weights initially seem heavy, the garments are well worth it.
I have an old Patagonia Infurno jacket, same basic concept. Love the thing. It's consistently the most comfortable piece in my winter wardrobe. Toss on a light wool layer under it, and I'm good for just about anything. It breathes well enough, and manages moisture well enough, that even hiking at a decent clip doesn't overheat me–bizarre for me! And even in that 32*F rainy/sleety weather I stay dry. Good stuff.Dec 5, 2008 at 2:58 am #1462273
An excellent summary, Chris.
Firstly I should declare an interest here: I worked for Paramo in the early 90s and now have a business, FurTech, making similar products.
I don't run quite as hot as Chris and find that I can use these systems over quite a wide range of temperatures. For example the Alta trousers were my only leg wear (except for shorts) on a summer crossing of the Haute Route a few years ago. Temperatures probably ranged from 30C to -5C. I find that the systems temperature flexibility, due to its breathability and venting options, to be one of it's greatest strengths (along with drying quickly). On that trip I carried a sack with kit for me and my wife, which many times included my Paramo garments and her's.
I'm not saying there aren't lighter systems, but weight can't be viewed in isolation without factoring in all those other aspects of performance. However, I did a comparison of weights some time ago, inspired by one of Chris's articles that can be seen here: http://furtech.typepad.com/furtech_used_for/2007/04/furtech_for_bac.html
Finally I'd just like to point out that the dry clime system is very different, because the lining is hydrophilic, constructed differently and designed to wick. The pump liner design is hydrophobic and is almost the opposite knitted construction.
For more information on breathability and drying please use this link: http://furtech.typepad.com/furtech/2006/11/phases_of_breat.html
Best regards, Andy Davison.Dec 5, 2008 at 3:02 am #1462274
The stated performance (maximum breakability with excellent weather protection) appears to be the manifestation of all of the “softshell” claims that caused me to get a closet full of Epic, Powershield, Schoeller, etc.. jackets that never lived up to their advertising claims.
I have to reiterate something Allison said- if the jacket’s outer gets fully saturated, it shouldn’t be dried out by wearing it in a sleeping bag. If this occurs in winter, how the heck to you keep it from freezing at night?
Martin, the Marmot Driclime will wet out (but won’t Paramo as well? You just don't feel it?) and you’ll get wet. It excels at wicking, wind-blocking and breath ability. Worn next to skin, with a tight layer over it, it eliminates flash-off completely. I use one with a schoeller dry skin jacket for winter backpacking and climbing. Still need a hardshell as a back-up.
What I find interesting is David Wood’s liner jacket- it seems like the liner is the real mechanism at work here, so with one of those I could use an Epic or Schoeller jacket overtop and have a very versatile system. David- would just about any jacket work over the liner?
Why isn’t any American company using this?
Why are the designs so darn ugly? Seriously, my Gamma MX even makes me look good… some of us need the help.Dec 5, 2008 at 4:28 am #1462277
Paramo works far better than Epic, Powershield or any of the Schoeller fabrics. Which is not to say that these fabrics don't have a place but none are adequate as shell protection in cold wet conditions and Paramo is.
Paramo waterproof clothing dries very fast, as I found when my trousers got wet on the river crossing described in the feature. If the outer becomes saturated then it needs reproofing. I certainly agree that getting into a sleeping bag in a wet Paramo jacket would not be a good idea. I have only once slept in a Paramo jacket and trousers and that was on a hut to hut ski tour in Norway where we failed to reach a hut due to a blizzard and high avalanche danger. I spent the night under a group shelter in a -10c/+14F sleeping bag and a bivi bag. The temperature fell to -25C/-13F and I needed all my clothes (and my pack under me as well as a foam pad). Sleeping in Paramo was not comfortable. The garments have too many chunky zips, drawcords and seams. I would only sleep in Paramo again if I absolutely had to (as on that occasion).
I wouldn't wear a wet fleece or synthetic or down filled jacket in a sleeping bag, all of which could freeze at night if wet. With Paramo I would put it on in the morning and expect it to thaw out and dry quickly once I started moving. As it is, if Paramp is damp it's usually above freezing and I keep it on until it's dry or mostly dry.
I have no idea why no American company has taken up this idea.
As to the aesthetics, that's subjective! Personally, I don't like the look of the Gamma MX, and I quite like some of the Paramo designs (but not all of them!).
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