Sunday, 4 December 2011

On Being Warm and Dry

I learned quite early on how important it was to be warm and dry in the hills. I walked the northern chunk of the Pennine Way as a lad of fourteen with my ‘brother with the hair’, who was twelve at the time. We were wearing Blacks of Greenock cotton anoraks: Mine was a natty orange, and my brother’s  a tasteful blue. We were wearing ‘TUF’ work boots. I remember quite vividly the cold water seeping down my back and into my pants as we clambered down into the Hen Hole looking for a spot to put up the Good Companions single skin cotton ‘A’ tent… We were wet. miserable and knackered. We continued our walk as far as the Roman Wall before baling out to a warm & dry youth hostel.

I suppose, ever since then I have searched for outdoor clothes that would keep the nastier of the elements outside my skin.

When I was seventeen I invested in a bright red cagoule, which was great for the first half hour or so, until the humid air of the interior fug condensed onto the cold shell and then slowly soaked first my anorak, then my jumper and finally my shirt and of course, me.

After university, there was a gap in my outdoor pursuits of ten years or so as I had a young family. When I started to look again at waterproof coats (for Wainwright’s Coast to Coast some twenty years or so ago) Gore-Tex had been out for quite a while and I bought a bargain 2-layer job in bright red. It was a bargain, of course, because no-one else wanted it. It had a lousy floppy hood, was a size too big (I realise now) and because of its size, it flapped furiously in the wind

However! I did stay moderately dry and warm. The only water that got in really was through the gaping hood and the cuffs that wouldn’t do up tightly enough around my girly wrists.

My first Great Outdoors Challenge in 1995 demanded that I sorted out this deficiency. There were better funds available now and so i went straight out and without thinking too much about it splashed the cash on a Berghaus “Mera Peak” jacket. This was the business! But it weighed a ton. I had combined it with a 300 wind-stopper fleece (deep purple, very fetching) that could be zipped into the jacket. This assured a very clammy crossing, again being very damp, in the humid conditions of the crossing that year.

There then came a blinding flash of light! I was told i could ditch all this fleece and Gore-Tex and undershirts and just wear this stuff called Buffalo. (Richard Bannister, it was, I shall never, ever forgive him…) Unfortunately my walking mate at the time also believed this buffoonery and we spent a miserable two weeks walking across Scotland in the wild & wet Challenge of 1998. I damn near died of hypothermia and mould grew in great patches all over my skin for weeks afterwards that had to be treated with creams and pills from the doctor.

So – it was back to Gore-Tex, but this time with a lighter weight fleece and a lighter weight jacket, from Mountain Hardwear. It was a bad buy. I had gone for light weight but it was of a voluminous cut that billowed like a sail in the wind. Again, I had chosen a jacket with a crappy hood – unwired and flappy. The result was a sodden backpacker once again.

And then, along came my first Paramo Velez jacket.

GOC2004 1st Green Paramo

What a revelation! It had a sturdy feel to it, a detachable hood that fitted reasonably well and it was really breathable. It did come out at a hefty 950 grams though. It kept me reasonably dry, though you couldn’t lean on wet ground on your elbow as water would force it’s way though the fabric. But, all in all I was pretty happy and it lasted three years, with only minor niggles – holes were beginning to appear under the hip-belt and the Velcro tabs were wearing out so that the sleeves would gape. It was replaced in 2005; the new black jacket was 200 grams lighter.

LEJOG 2007 2nd Paramo

This jacket did sterling service: five years of TGO Challenges and a four month LEJOG in 2007. It was fantastic. It weighed 775 grams. In the end though it had to be pensioned off, as the side zips kept splitting in the wind, the Velcro cuffs gave up the ghost and I got fed up with the wind whistling through the gaps between the hood and the collar.

I replaced it with this Paramo Velez Adventure jacket in a natty ‘stealth’ green combination:

GOC 2010 3rd Paramo (Stealth!)

This jacket had the hood permanently attached and weighed in at 765 grams. not too heavy. I avoided the lighter weight alternative as I felt that the nylon covering was just too flimsy, having had two previous jackets develop holes through wear around the hip-belt area.

I have now been the proud and happy owner of Paramo jackets for ten years or so, but I was beginning to detect an unpleasant  pattern.

On my LEJOG, back in 2007, I was very, very aware that you really had to keep the jacket constantly clean and re-waterproofed. I kept to a regime of washing and proofing it every four weeks or so, which I felt was surely enough. Well, it wasn’t. On a few occasions later on in the walk I was soaked literally to the skin.  HERE is a fine example – and that was only four weeks or so after it had been totally re-proofed.

This year, on the TGO Challenge, there was Stormy Monday. I was soaked to the skin in the morning and after drying out in front of the fire in the Fife Arms, again in the afternoon. I had re-proofed the jacket prior to the PreWalkDaunder, so the jacket had been dealt with properly just four weeks prior to my soaking. I might just as well have been wearing my old Blacks of Greenock cotton anorak from forty two years ago, the amount of protection it offered.

Now I know that those conditions were pretty dreadful, but Phil Lambert had stayed dry in his Paramo because he had re-proofed his immediately prior to setting out for the Challenge.

On the recent trip to the Yorkshire Dales, Martin Rye was soaked to the skin in his two-piece Velez jacket whilst I was fortunate in staying dry, because I had spent the preceding days washing and proofing my Paramo.

The thing is, I am just getting fed up with the constant worry of washing and proofing the thing with the constant nagging doubt that if i don’t do it prior to every trip I am going to get a miserable soaking. I have enough hassle in my life and I don’t want to have to nanny my jacket on top of everything else. When it works, Paramo is an absolute dream. When it fails, it is a complete and utter nightmare.

The new Gore-Tex jacket weighs some 300 grams less than the Paramo Velez Adventure. I know i am sacrificing some warmth, but that just means taking a slightly heavier fleece, say adding half the weight saving back onto the weight of the replacement fleece. I also realise that I will have to keep the Gore-Tex jacket clean and proofed, but I am sure it won’t need the continual fussing that the Paramo jacket requires.

I am not doing this to shave a few grams here and there. I am going back to try Gore-Tex again to see if it is a more trustworthy system that I don’t need to nanny on a continual basis.

What do you think? Will this end in tears? (whichever way that is pronounced).

Have your say and leave a comment.


  1. It's a huge bother to waterproof a jacket, but before every walk? That would never do. Why does the DWR wear off so fast? Have you complained to the manufacturer and what do they say?

  2. Mmmm... I'm thinking much the same as you. Recently got very wet on Ben Ledi in my Paramo anorak. I've reproofed it, but the water is no longer beading on the surface. Also, I can only wear it in winter as I get too hot walking uphill in it in summer.

  3. Hi Philip
    No, I haven't complained to Paramo. I don't see what they can do to remedy the situation. Paramo is what it is. I can see no fault in the manufacture of the jacket. It is the system itself that is failing. I just thought I would post this to see if anyone else suffers from the same problem and also to let people know if they are presently considering a Paramo jacket that it isn't all roses.

  4. Hi Felicity: I never have a problem with overheating as I run very cold. I happily wear my Paramo mid summer in the hills.

    But it is interesting that you have had the same problem as me & Martin Rye.

  5. I got myself a RAB Drilium jacket in E-vent fabric for the PW and it is the only jacket that I've ever had that was truly and reliably waterproof. When others pitched up at Greenhead soaked to the skin, I was dry and cosy.It dealt with the intensest of downpours and did me proud. I absolutely love it and it was a bargain too from Cotswold. I'm a fan!

  6. The only Paramo garment I own is a pair of Cascada trousers which (until an enthusiastic afternoon spent gliassading down Beinn Bhreac) were my winter trouser of choice for their warmth and water repellency. Unfortunately I found the same problem as you with regard to wetting out to the point where, in persistent, heavy (a.k.a. Scottish) rain they would become worse than useless. This was getting worse and worse, despite re-proofings and Tech-washes, etc!

    On the other hand I have an eVent jacket (the Montane Venture) which is now three years old, has seen me through some pretty dreadful conditions and is still keeping me dry despite me never having done much more than wash and tumble dry it a couple of times. I've never tried Gore-tex but I do find that eVent is pretty decent stuff - good breathability and the surface treatment (at least of the Montane) seems to have lasted pretty well. I haven't washed or proof it at all this year and yet it is still beading quite happily. My only problem with the jacket is that the front zip isn't beefy enough and eventually leaks in that area (more of a soaking through than actual dripping though). I'm looking to get a eVent smock early next year to try and alleviate this problem. I'll also be replacing my winter trousers soon but have still to decide what with exactly.

    I hope the return to Gore-tex works out though...!

  7. Ah, the contentious Paramo debate.

    I remember being accused of lying on OM when I suggested that Paramo wasn't waterproof under all conditions.

    Proofing is an issue and I usually proof mine before a walk. Even so, I think several hours of driving rain can still overwhelm Paramo. Rucksack straps that absorb water can also lead to leakage as the pressure forced water throught the fabric.

    My view is that for 80-90% of the time Paramo works. But sustained heavy, driving rain requires a hard shell.

    My solution is to carry both. My Velez Adventure Light weighs 560g. I'm just in the process of acquiring an OMM Cypher smock (240g). This combo only weighs marginally more than my 3rd Element jacket (756g).

    I think of Paramo as a highly water resistent soft shell rather than a waterproof. If I'm out for a couple of days (and the weather forecast is not too bad) I don't mind taking a chance with just Paramo.

    On the TGOC I think I will be taking the VAL/OMM Cypher combo. I'm reluctant to give up Paramo completely as I find it so comfortable to walk in.

  8. I find that cleaning the washing machine thoroughly before washing and proofing the Paramo is the biggest faff. After that I use a small amount of already dissolved soap flakes (which are increasingly difficult to find in the shops) and then use the Nikwax proofing stuff.
    The reason I stick with Paramo is that I find other waterproofs perform no better and Goretex shell (for example) has three major failings (for me). They are sweaty, rain water runs off and onto my trousers, and there tends to be some flapping and rustling....
    I'll definitely have to stay with the Paramo for now.

  9. Janet: You can't get a better testimonial than that! A bargain too. That makes it very worth-while!

  10. Now I,m a fan of Buffalo and bought it to use while canoeing and found it nice and warm and after a few accidental swims it warmed up quite fast. I tend to wear it more when hillwalking in the winter. I did get wet last Monday but not cold. Having said that I have not worn it day after day and I have not had the courage to be naked under it - a thin top seems fine.

    I also bought a Rab event cag and so far this has been ace for keeping the wet stuff out and no condensation to speak of.

  11. Nick: I realised very early on about Paramo not liking being leant on on wet ground and that's why I have never even considered the material for trousers! You would never be able to sit down! Whereas wearing my trusty old Paclite over-trousers meant I could sit in a puddle and remain dry.

  12. Robin: That sounds like a good plan. I remember that debate on OM very well as I contributed to it as one idiot tried to convince everyone that you could lean on wet ground and remain dry. Applied pressure with wet stuff means that the system can fail unless it is freshly anointed in gloop and even then it gives up the ghost.

  13. Laura: Surely if your Paramo is working properly the same amount of water will end up running off onto your trousers?

    The flapping & rustling seems to be a thing of the past with Pro Shell - it's a very quite fabric and the cut is actually slimmer than my Paramo so there is no flapping.

  14. I've had my Paramo Vasco for several years now and it has been in the main excellent; however, it failed quite spectacularly a couple of times (once on the West Highland Way and once on the TGOC). My Dhobi Wallah points out that it was her failure each time as she didn't re-proof it before we left.

    On this year's TGOC my Montane Venture eVent jacket failed where the straps from the backpack were in contact with the jacket (the dirty X is quite visible) and no amount of washing has restored it to waterproofness.

    My Berghaus Paclite Extrem has been the most reliable but it is starting to get a tad long-in-the-tooth (like me) and now leaks a bit (like me).

    So I've been quite wet in Gore-Tex, eVent and Paramo.

    I'm thinking a going for the Rab Neo jacket next to see if I can get wet through in one of those, for a change.

    Word: trish - never heard of her.

  15. The "Crackerjack!" pencil must go to Mick for having been soaked through in every conceivable garment!

    That Neoshell stuff - I have heard comments querying it's longevity - and that's with a brand new material! Sounds risky....
    Still - can't be any worse, eh? Sounds like you are keeping the economy turning over single handed Mick. Well Done Sir!

  16. Alan, is it recommended that Paramo garments are washed first with the tech-wash product and then a second time with the wash-in solution? I'm asking this from a position of ignorance as the only Paramo item I have is a Fuera smock, which is an excellent windproof and shower resistant up to a point.

    I have a Sprayway Commanche, bought back in the days when (at about 750 gms) it was considered to be relatively lightweight. It's double-layer Gore-tex and remains obdurately indestructible, despite my itch to justify a replacement. I've never known it to leak, but I tend to run quite hot and the breathability of it gets quickly overloaded, even on sub-zero days.

    I can't say that I notice any appreciable improvement in the breathability following a wash.

    It's not the quietest of jackets, and the main zip is a faff. I've never yet come across a hood I was completely happy with, but a hat (which I prefer) can mean water down the neck.

  17. Byeways: I always use the Tech-Wash followed by the wash-in Nikwax. This is the recommended treatment suggested by Paramo.

    I buy the double packs as it's cheaper that way, but still quite pricey if you do it four or five times a year!

  18. Here we go then, Daywalking in winter Paramo, either original 3rd Element or Viento. Both leak, but out for the day, I can cope with that. Daywalking in spring, summer, autumn, Rab Event, Alpine (I think) never ever leaks, but a very slim fit so even at 65 kg I can't wear much under it! Backpacking I use a Berghaus Paclite smock (no longer made) breathable enough for me (not in the same league as event) and crucially only 263g. Golite Reeds (old style no zips) except for snow/crampons then ME Drilite fullzip.
    Paramo is a victim of it's own success, I don't think they ever claimed it to be "waterproof" I don't wash/re-proof my jackets anything like as often as others it would seem, and I get out a fair bit.
    I personally wouldn't carry a paramo and a waterproof, I'd take an extra thin fleece and windshell, alot lighter.
    So there we are hope that's of some use!

  19. Al
    I am astounded you have got away so long without using a lightweight waterproof jacket.
    Buffalo was oversold but was/is a good product for certain uses, as indeed is the Paramo Velez, a jacket to be admired but my understanding of the technologies means I dont expect FULLY waterproof performance. I use the same technologies but as separate layers from a variety of brands but still need a fully waterproof jacket with a min 10m hydrostatic head ( my and the industry's definition of waterproof) to be used in heavy rain.

  20. I used only one waterproof jacket for almost 5 years - a Rab Bergen. Dog's whatsits in wind and rain in all sorts of winter conditions. Even when the water wasn't beading it still kept me dry other than a slight dampness at the shoulders where the pack had worn the fabric...and the normal soggy cuffs.

    I think it weighed in about the 500g mark. My typical winter rig was a winter smartwool base layer...a cheapy NorthFace fleece and my Bergen. Never ever felt cold or wet in that combination.

  21. I own a Paramo Velez and the first (genuine) goretex jacket I bought was a ME Changabang XCR. The latter soaks me from the inside out but is totally waterproof from the outside in.

    The former, does exactly as Alan says - ok if reproofed recently, but on a sliding scale the performance deteriorates the heavier the rain or the longer after the treatment.

    Oddly I still love the Paramo, and it is by far the most breathable out of the two. But at what price?

    The Changabang is a great winter waterproof - a wee bit short, but I really rate it. In summer though, I may as well be wearing a bin bag!

    I can't afford to go out spending £'00s on a new jacket only to find out its no better than something I already have!

    I recently switched to using a pertex windshirt and have to say that it performed at least as well as an XCR in summer, or the Paramo in a constant deluge.


    Goretex ME Changabang Goretex - £300 (!)
    Paramo Velez - £90 - a bargain at the Outdoor Show about 5 years ago.
    Montane Featherlight Marathon - £38

    On a £s v dryness rating, it is Paramo then Montane then ME

    ...unless it is Winter!

  22. I did have a similar problem to Felicity but I found out that you need to deep clean Paramo garments once every year or so. What you do is wash it in biological detergent, this gets rid of any old proofing, then wash it in tech wash and then proof it. Since I started doing this I've had no problems with getting wet in my Paramo. One other bit of info Nikwax have recently released a new version of TX Direct proofing which they claim lasts up to 5x longer.

  23. Al: It's interesting that you (& others) use different systems for different times of the year and different durations of walks. I have never felt the need for that - or felt the need to spend loads of money on anoraks all to be worn alongside each other. I bought an anorak & thought that "That should do the job." I bought a new one when it wore out.

  24. Mike: I have never seen it suggested on the Paramo website that their products anything other than "waterproof."

    If they think they are not waterproof they should be up-front about it and say so.

    I agree about the ten metres of hydrostatic head, by the way. You need that level of protection with storm-force winds battering rain into your jacket.

    I *did* take a Gore-Tex jacket with me and the black Paramo on one Challenge that had promised atrocious weather but at the time felt it was overkill... I must have proofed the Paramo immediately prior to leaving as it stood up to everything okay...

    It is interesting that Paramo, in their literature, really major on all the Mountain Rescue Teams that they supply jackets to. This really does give the impression that this stuff is bomb proof, when in fact is certainly isn't.

  25. Hmmm.

    My winter waterproof for the last five years has been a Cioch-made hybrid smock thing, constructed from Paramo's waterproof fabric combination. I've never had a problem with it failing, and that includes repeated exposure to seriously unpleasant Scottish weather. It's only been washed and reproofed about once a year - although as I say, it's my winter coat.

    I've just treated myself to a Velez Adventure Light to use in other you've got me worried now.

    Maybe some comparative testing is in order. Has to be worth filling a blog post or two, eh? It'll be a genuinely impartial review process, having funded both garments myself. Expensive, but impartial.

  26. Ken(WTFDW): Any sane person would only have one or maybe, at a pinch, two waterproofs. If I am spending money on kit I want it to work, and lately I have become disillusioned with Paramo.

  27. Carl: Great comment. I have often wondered about the 'bang per buck' of waterproofs. (I probably can't go wrong with the latest jacket on this basis, as it was given to me...)

  28. Ian: That's interesting - a biological wash followed by a tech-wash followed by a proofing wash.

    I think I would lose the will to live doing all that. Besides, I have been following the manufacturer's instructions to the letter in a washing machine that is so expensive it could probably land men on the moon. I might try the the Bio/Tech/Proofy wash cycle in one last sad throw of the dice.

    The last time I proofed the Velez Adventure I *did* use the "5xlonger" Nikwax, thinking to myself... "Yeah, right..."

  29. Hi Alan,

    I'm with Ian here.

    Seems to me you are overlooking something here.

    I started out with my Viento jacket on my first Challenge in 2007. You have seen me wearing it on al my crossings . Apart from that I have been using it every day for 5 years now. I learned following the hard way and after consulting Paramo.

    There are two reasons for the system to fail. First one, very well known, is UNDER impregnation. Too little or too late. But the other one is much less known but much more often the case. Especially with people being thorough and neat with gear. This is OVER impregnation. Even with every day use impregnation is needed only once every year or 1,5 year MAX. This is 4 to 5 times washing before you need to reimpregnate.

    Your story of every 4 weeks washing and impregnating is far far too much.

    I did start out like you, but after worries of failure after 6 months on advice of Paramo Customer service I deep cleaned, with normal wash powder , (with no softeners). Wash one time with Techwash then impregnate. And you'll be surprised. The jacket will perform as new. Furthermore after that one simple wash with Techwash (no impregnation) will each time restore original performance up to 4 or 5 times.

    You are just being to cautious. A well impregnated jacket will keep performing
    even when dirty,. It may wet out slightly earlier, but will not leak. An over impregnated jacket though will leak. Paramo system is much more forgiving in the department of cleaning as any membrane jacket is. Most of you worry too much.


    (word is "restings" : good avice)

  30. Scott: That *would* be interesting. I tell you what I would find really interesting: A hydrostatic head test on the various Gore-Tex's, E-vent, Paramo - side by side and aged tests as well. Alongside those tests should be lab-tests on breath-ability with perfect materials and wetted out materials.

    That would give us all a set of numbers so we could make our own minds up.

  31. I am reading this in secret because if I buy any more new kit, it could end in divorce.
    Since 2004 I have had 2 jackets. A Rab Latok that is still fine and a Paramo 3rd Element, which I do proof each time out. Probably why I have just had to buy a tanker of Nikwax.
    I love the Paramo at the moment, but it does not work for me unless I am moving .
    I will continue to read this debate with interest (in secret). Maybe 2013 Challenge when the double dip recession is over.

  32. interesting, Ive had my third element for near 2 years now with only one application of Nikwax since new, and it's still beading water off nicely. Maybe Rolf has a point about over washing?

  33. Hi Alan

    Loved the post and the ensuing discussion. To keep things short you have, in a nutshell, summarised why I would never put my faith in Paramo. If it fails it will fail spectacularly (and possibly hypothermically!). I would rather put my trust in a system that, if it lets you down, will generally only do so gradually unless badly torn. Even then, Gore-tex (and other, similar) fabrics provide a modicum of protection.

    In the past, the two most weather-proof jackets I have ever used were made by Lowe Alpine - one in Gore-tex and one in Triplepoint Ceramic. Not the lightest or most packable of jackets but kept me dry through pretty much everything. I'm not a tent-carrying backpacker, but do LDP via B&B quite a bit. Weight is perhaps not quite the same issue for me, but I would say my first criteria would always be bomb-proof protection. And, having invested a good sum in a garment, I want it to last!

    I know membrane fabrics have their problems (perhaps not to the extent they once did, though) but I would rather run the risk of getting a bit wet from the inside than soaked from the outside! ;-)

  34. Hi Alan,

    If only there was the perfect wet weather protection!

    My Cioch tops have not let me down so far, but it is concerning to read of being soaked to the skin in Paramo. I did think Paramo type gear was 100%. I still rate the Cioch stuff for Winter.

    I too have gone back to hardshell for the TGO and rate the PHD Alpamayo smock very highly.

    But, what waterproof suits one will not suit another.

    And, I'm convinced that the gear manufacturers have that perfect waterproof!
    But, it would kill the market for other waterproofs, so it's kept under wraps!
    Did I ever tell you about my other conspiracy......................... theories? .........................

  35. Rolf: Thanks for that very interesting comment. I have read and re-read Paramo's care instructions for their waterproofs and note that the water based Nikwax finds where it needs to go to reproof the weaker areas - which makes sense because slippery gloop won't want to adhere to existing slippery gloop. I wash my jacket in a very good washing machine using the products that they advise to use. I cannot see that you can "overdo" the waterproofing, as any excess will simply not attach itself to the outer fibres of the jacket.

    As I see it, the problems are all to do with the waterproofing agent wearing off all too quickly.

  36. Andy: I hope you were reading this in secret under the bedclothes or the light from your laptop will wake Lucy up. If she does wake up, then all is not lost as you could persuade her that you were just being amorous.

    Once safely back on the sofa downstairs you will have all night to ponder on whether or not the double dip will last even more years.

  37. David S: I just cannot see how washing and re-applying the Nikwax can lead to a jacket that ends up completely porous to heavy rain. In fact it doesn't: If the jacket has been recently re-proofed it withstands heavy rain effortlessly - mine did in the Dales, whereas Martin Rye's was like a sponge.

    It really seems to be a problem with the proofing wearing off.

  38. Thanks, Alan, I read this post with great interest as my Haglöfs Gore-Tex jacket is coming to the end of its lifecycle and needs to be replaced by something. As you know I've been considering a Paramo jacket as well. Now this discussion means I will need to think things through once more.

    The Haglöfs has been a good jacket, the only real problem is that it is a tad too hot in the summer and gets me sweaty (and chilly) easily. But that's the same with most membranes.

    As to your question: it depends very much on whether you will find any barbed wire along your route. If you do, it might very well end in tears (whichever way that is pronounced!) ;-)

    (Sorry, couldn't keep myself from adding that...)

  39. Jules: I agree with you. When Paramo works it is a sensationally good bit of kit. When it fails, it is complete rubbish. When it fails you get very wet and consequently very cold - not a good situation to be in in the hills along way from the warm & dry!

    I have been a "Paramista," evangelising about Paramo for many years but recently with one too many cold, miserable soakings I am looking elsewhere.

  40. Hi Gordon: When the thermometer plunges below zero, Paramo is fantastic as it is not dealing with rain. In fact is it behaving like a softshell - one of the best there is. It's warm, wind-proof, soft and quiet.

    I think the styling leaves a lot to be desired though - there are some quite garish colour combos out there... (Apart of course from my beautiful stealth green combo... cough.

  41. Maria: The Barbed Wire.... I still have the scars... and a slight dud finger to show for that.

    I have thought about tearing the jacket of brambles and wire etc.. but have come to the conclusion that it doesn't matter too much. I have a pair of very tatty Berghaus Paclite over-trousers that have been literally shredded below the knees by burnt back heather stalks on the TGO Challenge in 2009 an nicked by barbed wire on the thigh and crotch. But a bit of black tape does the job and the resultant very slightly impaired breath-ability is not noticeable at all. I just look even more like an old hobo...

    I just want a jacket that I can rely on to stay warm and dry, and frankly I have come to the conclusion that after ten years or so of wearing Paramo, that that won't include Paramo.

  42. Alan, I tried out my new Cioch trousers yesterday - I see you saw my post. The weather was truly awful. Heavy rain, hail,sleet and blizzards. In the 6 hours I walked I only think I had about half an hour of dry weather. The trousers were damp around the waist, but I think this was because my 3rd element jacket leaked (needed to be cleaned I guess). I was very warm with this combination and I would not want to give up on Paramo. I think I am with Robin on this one and would carry a minimalist eVent jacket,just in case. Sounds a bit over the top but I love the comfort and warmth of Paramo.

  43. Hi Mark.

    I have never seen the point of Paramo/Cioch trousers as you can't sit down in them on soggy ground as the pressure just forces the water through the material.

    Am I completely wrong here? Loads of people swear by them.... but then again, I used to swear by Paramo...

  44. Hi Alan,

    excess nikwax will start to "grease" out the inner liner. compromising the capilair "push" of water resulting in one wet boyscout.

    Do not take my word for it, but be fair you started this. So either try or call Paramo customer service. They do state on their website: If after proofing it still leaks , call for further advise. In the FAQ section they state clearly you can over impregnate.

    Point is you're so worried the jacket will fail, you wash and impregnate till it fails. Just restart with a deep wash. Stop messing around with your washing machine. Stop trying so hard to be a good boyscout. The stuff does not need so much attention.


  45. Rolf: Thanks for your thoughts on that. I hear what you say, but it cannot be correct for the soakings I have experienced: To take it to the extreme: If I had completely saturated the wicking inner layer with Nikwax it would at the very worst act like a polythene bag so the only wetting I would receive would be from my own body's humidity. I can assure you that I was so soaking wet, within half an hour of leaving Stan & Bill's at Callater Lodge that that was not humanly possible.

    Quite simply, the water proofing had failed, and failed completely. This cannot be put down to a compromised inner layer.

  46. Hi Alan,

    it can, since there is no membrane or other barrier , if there is more water coming in, then can be pushed back, you will get wet.

    Just call Customer service, give them a change.


  47. Hi Rolf

    I have sent an email via their contact page as follows:

    "I have owned Paramo waterproofs (2 x Velez's and a Velez Adventure) for over ten years. Recently i have noticed a disturbing trend of getting completely and utterly soaked whilst wearing my jackets in heavy rain: Please see my blog post for details:

    Please read it *in full*, including the comments for a complete picture of the problem. What do you suggest the problem is?

    Could you get back to me either by email or by leaving your response on my blog.

    Thank you

    Kind regards

    I will be fascinated to hear what they have to say.

  48. Alan, I generally carry a sit mat so I don't sit on soggy ground, but I guess if my backside was soaking wet, this may happen ! I have been pretty wet from condensation wearing over trousers as well - what is worse I wonder?

  49. I have received this reply from Paramo:

    "Dear Alan,

    Many thanks for your email.

    Sorry to hear that you have experienced this problem with your Páramo garment. All of our garments come with a lifetime guarantee so the zips and Velcro cuff tabs you have had problems with in the past could have been fixed by our workshop team if they were manufacturing faults. The wearing of the fabric can also be repaired by our team but this would more than likely be a chargeable repair.

    We recommend washing the garments roughly every 3 months with Techwash (depending on use) and re-proofing every 4 – 6 washes. The average person will perspire 1 litre of water on a days walking on the hills and this perspiration will be moved through the garments with the directional fabric, this will affect the proofing on the garment so if you are wearing it regularly you will need to wash on a more regular basis.

    All water proof garments should be cared for with aftercare products regularly, even Gore-Tex garments as they will eventually break down and delaminate if they are not regularly cleaned and re-proofing will enhance the performance and breathability.

    If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact us again.

    Kind Regards
    Nicola Link
    Customer Service Specialist
    Páramo Directional Clothing Systems"

    Whilst this is a very nice letter, is does not address the problems that I have experienced. It seems that I have been washing my jacket in accordance with their recommendations: On the LEJOG, where I was wearing it continuously, I was washing it every four weeks or so, and outside that, I wash & reproof it two or three times a year.

    I will ask her to tell me why it is failing so spectacularly. Watch this space.

  50. I have sent this follow up email to Paramo:

    "Hi Nicola

    Many thanks for getting back to me so promptly.

    Once the zips and Velcro had given up the ghost on the old jackets the outer shell was shot anyway, so I just thought it wasn’t worth the hassle of getting it fixed. I had had really good service from the garments and thought it would be disingenuous to claim on the guarantee. But thank you for letting me know that you would and that you could have fixed those problems. That sounds like great customer care.

    The real problem I am having is with complete and utter failure of the system.

    If you had read through all the comments in that post you would have discovered that this was not a problem of condensation within the jacket. I was completely soaked to the skin, twice in one day, with the wind & rain coming from behind me. I was soaked in about half an hour of setting off from indoors. The garment literally acted like blotting paper and I was utterly saturated through to my very soggy shreddies. This happened TWICE in one day.

    The first time that day, I was walking down hill with the wind behind me so was not generating heat at all.

    Please: Tell me why this is so. Please re-read my post and comments and tell me what you believed happened. It seems I have been following your guidance in washing and reproofing my jacket, so as far as I can see, it is a total system failure.

    Could you get back to me?

    Many thanks


  51. Interesting discussion. I've been using Paramo since the first jackets came out 20 years ago. I have occasionally got damp in garments but never soaked through. I only reproof garments when water starts coming through somewhere (usually knees and elbows) and only wash them when visibly dirty. I only wear Paramo from the start of winter to the finish (which means anytime from early October to late April - the start was December this year) as I overheat if the temperature is much over 5 degrees. I've never even considered wearing Paramo on the Challenge - I've always used a light windproof and a light waterproof combination. Whilst I like the jackets it's the Paramo trousers I wear most, every day I'm out in winter, as I don't get sweaty and they are much more comfortable than wearing two garments. A sit mat solves the wet backside problem. And in winter a sit mat is a good idea anyway. The Cascada trousers I have are many years old and have been back to Paramo for repair so I don't get good performance just because I'm always testing new products. I haven't tried the new TX.Direct meant to last 5x longer but I have a bottle and will be trying it soon. I then have to wait until a garment leaks to find out how long it lasts!

  52. Another vote for RAB eVent from me. I keep my Momentum jacket and Drillium trousers for backpacking best and use old waterproofs for everything else. Those old waterproofs, Triple Point, Paclite and possibly H2No all respond well to Tech Wash.

    I sweat heavily so Tech Wash waterproofs often but rarely use TX Direct as it seems pretty useless. Also, heavy sweating while flogging my carcase up the side of some big Munro means I can't expect to stay dry, but what goes up... My slow, careful descents mean I'm always comfortably warm and dry by the time I've got the tarp up and twigs gathered.

    eVent seems poor at holding on to a DWR but that doesn't stop it from being brilliant. TX Direct doesn't seem enthusiastic about sticking to any fabric for long.

  53. Hi Alan

    Some really interesting comments here - and worrying as I went in for Paramo last winter with an Alta II jacket, have liked it more than Gore Tex, and so have just bought the velez Adventure Light smock and trousers at significant expense. It never occurred to me that the trousers would not keep my backside dry if I sat down on a wet rock. And I am not yet so woosy that I plan to carry a sit mat.

    Anyway, the advice from Paramo re washing stuff every 3 or 4 months and reproofing every few washes. I had seen this advice too but it makes no sense to me. Does it not depend on the frequency of use over the 3 or 4 months and the conditions at the time? Wearing it daily for a couple of weeks on a wet TGO Challenge must take more out of the waterproofing than the occasional day on the Sussex Downs over a period of a few months? I assume it doesn't need a wash if it has spent 3 months over summer in the cupboard. So I wonder why they do not say, for eg., "wash after its been worn about half a dozen times (or whatever) on the hill". And if it has not experienced much in the way of very wet days can it go longer? I assume Paramo have rigorously tested so they should be able to be far more specific. Or am I missing something?

    The comments re "catastrophic failure" now have me worried. It is essential that a waterproof jacket can be relied on in winter conditions. I had assumed that any deterioration in performance would be gradual over several wears. If this sudden failure is possible Paramo ought to provide better guidance and information about how it performs before purchase. But that would not be good business I guess.


  54. I have had a very positive reply from Nicola at Paramo:

    "Hi Alan,

    I believe this is a proofing issue, it may have been that your jacket has picked up some contamination along the way that the Techwash is not removing in the wash. I would recommend that you either have the jacket dry-cleaned and then Techwash and re-proof afterwards (can send complimentary products) or you can send the garment into us for treatment, this will of course be free of charge and we would refund your postage. We aim to turn the garments around within 5 working days.

    If you wish to do so please use the attached questionnaire and send it in for my attention. We will restore the garment back to the performance that we expect.

    I hope this helps.

    Kind Regards

    Nicola Link
    Customer Service Specialist
    Páramo Directional Clothing Systems"

    I am not sure how my jacket could have picked up "contamination" when it failed so spectacularly on the Challenge yet performed so well in the Yorkshire Dales last week, but I am willing to send my jacket back to Paramo for them to take a look at it.

    It's great when a manufacturer takes an interest and is willing to sort things out like this.

    So, I shall send it off to them and see what they think. I am impressed by their customer care here.

  55. Hi Chris: Thanks for your comment.

    I have always raved about Paramo and for 99% of the time it has been excellent. I wear it on the Challenge because, due to a medical condition, I run very cold indeed - I am usually found in a thick merino base layer, a 100 Chally fleece and my Paramo jacket when others are in T-shirts.

    I don't sweat much at all - (tall fit, thin blokes tend not to) so Paramo, for me, is perfect Chally attire!

    So - I am sending the jacket back to Paramo for them to have a look at it. We shall see what transpires!

  56. Zed - it seems to me that your perfect backpacking trip would be to take a chair lift to the top of your Munros and then amble down gently to your camp.
    Come to think of it, that sounds perfect for me too. That should sort it then!

  57. Enjoyed reading this. Very interesting reading all folks points of views.

    I adore Paramo products. And like others, I use the Cascada trousers more than anything else in truth. Never ever had a problem bar a wet arse.

    It's been a while I've been out in a top though - may dig it out again soon. It does sound like something aint right with this garment though.

    As for talk about it good for 90% of the time etc. What???!

    It either works or it don't. Simple. Why bother?

    Besides, no matter what garment you take there are limits to what it will withstand anyway. Atmospheric pressure within and outside the garment being two major factors - be it condensation/wicking or in your case wind and rain. Must be some strong wind mind to really get a garment soaked. Even the likes of eVent or Gore.

    Besides, I'd rather be a bit damp in Paramo than any other garment LOL Much warmer. Even so, your tale of woe does suggest something aint quite right.

    I look forward to reading your response after Paramo have given it the once over mate.

  58. David100etc: I do agree that the instructions on after-care from Paramo leave a little to be desired. But I took it to mean four weeks or so of continual use (ie on my LEJOG which lasted thirteen weeks). Afterwards I sort of pro-rata'd it. When it's had about thirty days of wear I wash & proof it, unless I am going on the challenge which is a solid two weeker, so I wash & proof it beforehand. That seems sensible to me, but it has patently not worked.

    We shall have to see what Paramo come up with.

  59. Terry Big'n'Daft: Being 90% waterproof is a bit like being 90% pregnant. If it was my girlfriend I would want to know if it was 100% or zero % pregnant...

    Same with my waterproofs, really...

  60. Very interesting.
    I will wait to here what Paramo say before I get too paramoid . Sorry I couldn't resist. What does interest me is whether Ian's deep clean then Techwash then Nikwax is better every now and again than just Techwash.
    Since he lives in Paramo I am willing to give it a go.

  61. Andy: "I will wait to here what Paramo say before I get too paramoid"

    A "Crackerjack!" pencil to Mr Walker, for that one, too.

  62. Interestingly, James of Backpackingbongos fame found that his Paramo Velez trousers also failed catastrophically in half an hour's heavy rain. Find out more by clicking

  63. I have a 5 year old Alta II jacket and the same age Cascada trousers. I wear them both virtually every day working on the croft on the west coast in Sutherland. They only ever let any water in, and then only a bit, when they are dirty and then washing and reproofing sorts it out (probably after 2-3 months use every day and really dirty because I am working rather than walking). The zips leave a bit to be desired now and I keep meaning to send them for repair but can't bear to be without them.

    I don't usually find the trousers let water in when I sit down but it has happened once or twice

    I also bought a Velez adventure light smock and some new cascada trousers for 2011 challenge. The smock was great and particularly useful given the on/off nature of the weather many days. It didn't leak on stormy Monday, which surprised me, but the cascada trousers did. I was walking from Tarfside to N Water Bridge that day and the wind was behind my right side. The trousers were soaked from hip to toe but only on that side. My rucksack will have given the jacket some protection.

    I shall be interested to see the outcome of Paramo's treatment. You also clearly have many years happy experience with paramo, so your disappointment is not a knee-jerk reaction.

    I personally am still very very positive about it, but then the worst I have had is half a wet leg on a particularly nasty day.


  64. Interesting. Paramo isnt cheap but recommending that their stuff needs regular washing and reproofing sure bangs up the after market sales. Question is have they changed their business model to drive more after market sales? The products are lighter these days so may be they are leveraging on this fact. Drawing in a new market segment who've heard what paramo stalwarts have to say about how bomproof it is but considered it too heavy. Then deliver a sucker punch by having to buy their re-proofing product to keep the garment working every couple of months. But with the newer garmentd more so because it is thinner therefore needs more care?

  65. I note that the "catastrophic failures" on The Challenge were associated with visits to the Fife Arms and Stan and Bill's.
    Could it be that the drenching was due to you failing to remember to put the jacket on ?

  66. Still an interesting debate!

    As I understand it (and forgive me if I'm wrong) the fabric that Paramo use is not at all waterproof, and they don't claim it as so. The "waterproofing" comes from the addition of Nikwax products, which it then relies on to keep water out of an otherwise porous material. Hence, if the additional proofing fails, the garment leaks like a seive!

    So, if for some reason the Nikwax won't take, then you have a problem. At least with a Gore-tex/eVent type hardshell fabric you get a modicum of inherent water resistance from the face fabric itself, even if the Gore-tex/eVent part isn't working properly.

    In this case, Paramo seem very keen to see that they have another happy customer, which in this day and age is admirable. So good on them. But I still think that if you DO get a problem, it's likely to be a very wet, very unpleasant one!

  67. David entered into the world of Paramo before me, when he got his Velez smock I went for a Montane Quattro.
    He too suffered a severe wetting and was none too pleased as he had done the whole Tech Wash and proofing bit. He also emailed Paramo for advice and was told to do the Bio wash, Tech wash and reproof thing and if that failed, send it to them. After doing all that washing and proofing, he hasn't had a problem, so now I have a Velez smock...
    My Quattro doesn't breathe enough for me, but it's ok on a day walk. I have had a few walks now in my Velez in fairly grim conditions (not quite Stormy Monday) but I haven't felt the need to wash/proof it yet. I shall Tech wash every so often, once in a while proof aswell and maybe occasionally do the Bio wash palaver. But you do have to make sure the soap compartment is scrupulously clean first.
    I'm still feeling quite positive, even after this interesting debate.
    I think...

  68. Alan you have stirred me up so much i had to do a post. My comment got too long to put here. Hope you don’t mind.

  69. Vanessa: A great comment. If all you have had to contend with is half a wet leg, you must be doing something right! That made me grin.
    :-) Paramo will repair your zips (see their email to me earlier in the comment thread) so it might be worth your while sending them in for a repair?

  70. Baz: You might have a very good point here. I do not recall my original Velez jacket (weighing in at almost a kilo) EVER failing in this way. The outer shell of the jacket was of a much heavier material - which I presume acted as a much better barrier to thrashing rain and presumably held onto more Nikwax repellent.

    This would lead me to seriously doubt the weather-tightness of the even lighter Paramo jackets that are available, that I chose to disregard because of wear worries.

  71. Oldmortality: you may well have a point... Both locations have a frightening effect on one's memory function. It gets worserer with age too...

  72. Jules: As I understand it, the Nikwax doesn't act as the chief repellent - it just protects the surface of the fabric from wetting out so that the capillary action of the pump liner can work effectively.

  73. Louise: Interesting. There is a pattern here. I am wondering if the whole problem is how Paramo are advising us to look after the jackets. It seems to me that if we wash in the Nikwax in the washing machine, then we MUST be washing it into the pump liner as well. I am wondering if this clogs up the pump liner, so that it loses its ability for the capillary action to work.

    IF this is the case, the washing instructions given out by Paramo are disgracefully wrong.

    By asking us to "deep clean" the jackets, what they are in effect doing is asking us to deep clean the liner: ie, to get rid of the Nikwax build up in the pump liner.

  74. AlanR: has written a really good overview of the perennial waterproof jacket question: Breathe-ability versus water-proofness versus durability versus features. A good read over on his blog.

  75. Hi Alan,

    The nikwax is used as the prime agent in Paramo Analogy.

    1. to make the outer water repellent, not needed for waterproofness but for breathability. A wetted out outher will impair this. The main funktion of the outer is to get the speed out of any incoming water. It is speed that forces water trough.
    2. to reverse the capilair working of the inner liner. This has a fluffy side facing the inner. This fluffy side provides the capilairs. But without treatment it will suck water in by capiliar suction. The brilliant idea is that if you make the capilairs water repellent, as this is the funktion of the wax, they will push any water ingressing the capilairs back out.

    Some clues on when a Paramo jacket leaks:
    1. ripped outer Water is hitting the inner with speed and force enough to overcome the capilair repellent pumping
    2. Loss of water repellancy on the flufy side of the inner: no reverse capilair pumping, water is sucked inside.
    3. loss of capillairs them selves on the fluffy side of the inner. No capillairs meens no reversed capilair working even if there is water repellancy.

    Loss of repellency can occur when the nikwax is not holding because of dirt, Loss of capilair can occur when the inside of the liner is "greased' see it as hairs sticking together.

    Techwash does remove dirt but no Nikwax residues. That's why washing can restore water repellancy. But it is in the same time also the reason why over proofing can cause loss of repellancy.

    Deepwashing will remove all dirt AND all nikwax residues, Techwas will then remove any detergent residues from teh deepwashing. Proofing will then restore funktions as new, because structure of inner is restored and nikwax will hold again on clean surfice

    So there you go, enough answers now?


  76. Seeing that you're a bit short of comments on this post, I'll share my experience too:

    I'm in the 'love' camp when it comes to Paramo, and live in the stuff throughout winter. It is just the comfiest stuff!

    However, I would never use it again on a Big Walk. I got very wet (after weeks of dry weather, during which I didn't get any hint that the time was ripe for reproofing) in my Velez Adventure Light on our K2CW. That was clearly my own fault, and the jacket has performed fine since (well, except for the internal stitching of the jacket rubbing holes in the shell material after a few weeks of use!).

    Then there's my standard Velez, which I couldn't get to be reliably waterproof no matter how many times I did the detergent/TechWash/TX thing. After Paramo's advice (incidentally, they also offered to clean my jacket, but at a charge to me of £30, plus the cost of me posting it to them), I took the jacket to the dry cleaners and waterproofness is now restored.

    I expect to be wearing Paramo on next year's Challenge.

    (Word: citin. Talking of sittin', I have two pairs of Cascadas and also get around the wet-rear issue with the use of a sit mat.)

  77. "a chair lift to the top of your Munros and then amble down gently to your camp"

    Sounds like Switzerland. I still remember the glares those immaculately clad, perfumed, Swiss chaps, fresh from a chairlift, gave as I backpacked the Alpine Pass Route. They glowered particularly fiercely when they caught me opening a can of sardines with an ice axe. As far as waterproofs are concerned, I think the Swiss press theirs.

  78. Christ! Epic comments! Generally I only wear my PVAL in winter, but have never had any issues with it. I watch with interest though, keep us posted.

  79. So Al.
    Does this mean that as a control experiment we need to do another jaunt in nasty wet wind conditions (once Wendy is repaired).
    You take your new nice new jacket.
    I have my Paramo after a deep clean and reproof and we give Dave your uncleaned green Smock as control. :)

  80. Rolf: Thanks for that. I appreciate your patience.

    To summarise: :-)

    1)Deep clean it to get rid of all the Nikwax as there might be "too much" waterproofing agent.

    2)Wash in Tech- wash to get rid of the deep cleaning agent

    3) Wash in Nikwax co it's magic stuff that repels nuclear warheads, evil faeries, witches and nasty heavy rain.

    Sounds a bit like a fairy story to me. I don't understand why Paramo don't actually publish EXACTLY how the stuff works, with diagrams, just like Gore-Tex do. I am in intelligent bloke yet I am asked simply to "BELIEVE."

    Well, that's not good enough.

    I also want them to explain exactly what the cleaning regime should be and also WHY we have to do it this way.

  81. Gayle: Another bright walker who has received a complete soaking wearing Paramo.
    It really is not good enough for Paramo to expect people to have to go to their website to find out why their jackets are failing so spectacularly and then be told to go through a right old rigmarole to try to sort it out.
    If the instructions that came with the clothing told you all this beforehand, perhaps it would be forgiveable. The fact that we re not told verges on sharp practice.

    The more I think about it, the more I think we are being treated like idiots by Paramo.

    It's like buying a car and being told it 'll need a minor service every 15,00 miles and then when it breaks down being told that in fact you missed an expensive major service that should have taken place months ago - and then being told to pay for it to put the problem right.

  82. Zed: You didn't eat the sardines with the ice-axe, did you? That'll be it then. Don't you press your over-trousers???

  83. McAl: It's fascinating. I just cannot understand why Paramo don't give a decent explanation of how the system works, with diagrams, like Gore-Tex do, and also a clear explanation, with reasons of the after-care that is required in the product's life-cycle.

  84. Andrew W: I want my Paramo jacket to be fixed by Paramo but just as inportantly I was a decent, reasoned response as to why it is failing so badly.

    Saying it is "contaminated" is just not good enough.

  85. I was caught up in thunderstorm in cockbridge area 2009 TGOC i was using the latest paramo gear, by the time i had put rucksack cover on the only part of me that was dry was my socks. Please note latest plastic jackets have a lower hydrostatic head to allow them to breath more! Yes you are correct in saying that lightweight Paramo will degrade under rucksack use. good luck with your search will stay tuned in to see how much you spend on this project.

  86. Byron: I was leased to learn that your socks remained dry. That's a novel experience for a chap who has lately taken to wearing plimsolls... I think you might have been drier if you had been stark naked. At least after the storm had gone you could have put your Paramo on to get warm and be nice and dry.

  87. I was seduced into buying a velez adventure light after trying the cascada pants for winter walking. It hasn't had too much stick but hasn't failed as such. On the challenge driving rain wet out the side zips and the water got in ,there only being a smallish storm flap on the inside.
    Does the standard velez have a storm flap on the outside Al ? I'm sure an external flap would have eradicated that particular problem.

    My other jacket is a ME ogre in pro shell, never let me down ,superb.

    I'll second or third what Ian,Rolf and paramo seem to be saying about 'deep cleaning' the idea seems to *ahem* hold water. I've seen that touted more than a few times on t'interweb,for membrane jackets too once the manufacturers DWA has worn out

  88. Alan, being warm and dry is grossly over rated you know.

    In all fareness to my ten year old velez smock it has been pretty good, you just need to know its limitations. After the Dales walk I was slightly damp underneath but not too bad considering the conditions. My baselayer sleeves however were wet round the cuffs but that was more down to the velco on my jacket being knackered.

    The Velez trousers on the other hand are simply awefull in the rain. Pants would be the word, simply pants. Within an hour of heavy wind driven rain last Jan I had water trickling down my legs. When I got back to my vehicle I took off my underpants and wrang them out. A rubbish garment if there ever was one.

  89. Adrian: My two Velez and Velez Adventures have all leaked through the side zips: The backing material to the zips being worse than useless in driving rain as there is no gutter effect at all, just a loose flap that sometimes flips round the other way so the zip has no backing at all...

    It's the same with the 'normal' weight as the lightweight jackets.

    The other thing, while I'm having a whinge, that annoys me is the loose flappy hem-cords that thrash against you bare hands when it's very cold and blowy. ... WHY??? They have been like that since the year dot - such an easy thing to have put right...

  90. James: It is interesting that even loyal Paramo users (we both have over ten years each wearing the stuff) are very pissed off about aspects of the range.

    I can't recall ever hearing anyone having a good word to say about those Velez trousers...

  91. Alan, I think Paramo does give a good explanation as to how it works here:

  92. Chris: That's hardly a scientific explanation! "Nikwax Analogy® got its name because of the way it mimics animal fur in providing both insulation and water-shedding which works in all conditions.

    In the same way that seals, otters and bears keep warm in very wet conditions, the Nikwax Analogy® Pump Liner pushes liquid outwards to keep you warm and dry inside."

    I want to know how the Nikwax and the pump liner work together. I want to know why a "contaminated" garment fails. Rolf has come closest to an explanation, so how come Paramo cannot tell us about this in a technical grown up way?

    This is nursery rhyme stuff. They'll be telling me all about Father Christmas next.

    As far as I can see this is absolutely no different to how Buffalo is supposed to work. At least they had the honesty to say that their system was not waterproof. Paramo are claiming their system to be waterproof, when in fact the only thing (according to the description given) that keeps the external water (ie, rain) a bay is the outer nylon layer smothered in Nikwax and the hope that the inner pump layer can cope with shoving the rain back fast enough.

    No wonder the garments give up in heavy rain - It's just thin Buffalo!

  93. Hi Alan,

    maybe it is time you dig this one up:

    start reading at page 6, with a post by Nick Brown, the inventor of nikwax and Paramo. Then work your way down to the end.

    If you're finished and have contemplated it all you will realise that this is way to much information and that in the mean time Paramo has offered to correct the problem for you at their costs.

    What more do you want? That every gear manufacturer supports its gear by scientific proof and explanation?

    If this is your quest, please Alan can we go back to hillwalking instead ?



  94. Hi Alan,

    on page 9 first post of Nick Brown he adresses your question.

    Start walking now


  95. As it happens, Rolf I am a technical chap and I understand completely Nick Brown's theory on Page 6 of the thread. I really don't understand why he can't put that on his website.

    The absolute, massive, problem though he mentions, in passing, just *once* in the entire thread is this (in his words):

    "As long as the pumping function exceeds rainfall, you will stay dry in the rain"

    And there's the problem. In torrential rain the pumping function is overwhelmed. In the man himself's own words.

    I *will* send the jacket back to Paramo, as per their kind offer, but I am pretty certain that it is *not* contaminated as they suggest, as I have done all the washing and proofing myself and have been scrupulously careful about detergent contamination.

    In my own mind I am now pretty well convinced that in torrential rain the jackets simply become overwhelmed.

  96. As I see it, the next serious flaw is described on Page 9 by IMcK:

    "One problem I have had with both a Scala and Alta jacket is that in constent rain I get a wet bottom. My theory is that the rucsac wets out and transmits the water thru the jacket. Similar to sitting in a puddle when wearing Paramo trousers."

    I have also experienced this very unpleasant characteristic. This also applies to rucksack straps that hold moisture. This has been gone into in some depth over on Robin's (Blogpackinglight) blog.

  97. It's very different to how Buffalo works. Buffalo doesn't mimic animal fur or claims to do so. My words from a piece I wrote for Backpacking Light

    "Paramo waterproof garments consist of two layers of material: a windproof water repellent polyester microfiber outer and a very thin polyester fleece lining, known as the Nikwax Analogy Pump Liner. The inside of the pump liner, facing the body, is smooth; the outside, facing away from the body, has fine V-shaped ribbing with the open end of the Vs away from the body. This liner is designed to mimic animal fur and push water away from the body, hence the name directional. It works because water molecules form spheres. As there isn’t enough space to do this at the base of the V ribbing they move outwards to where the diameter of the space between the ribs is large enough.

    The pump liner on its own isn’t windproof and water can easily be forced through it by pressure so an outer layer is needed to deflect wind and break the force of rain. Even so the two layers combined don’t meet hydrostatic head tests as there is no solid barrier to the pressure of a column of water. However garments have been tested on a dummy in the rain room at the Leeds University Textile Department in the UK where they withstood the equivalent of hours of heavy rain.

    To work both layers need to be non-absorbent so they are treated with Nikwax water repellency. In fact, the whole of a garment is treated like this, including zippers. This water repellency can be replaced when necessary, making the garments very long-lived.

    The lack of a coating or membrane means that Paramo garments are very breathable, far more so than any other rain wear, and can transmit liquid water as well as moisture vapor so sweat will pass through. Seams don’t need to be taped or sealed and punctures or tears are not a problem as there’s no barrier to damage."

  98. Wow, this has inspired some passion - great post. I can only comment for myself, I have never tried Paramo but I have tried eVent and Goretex. eVent rocks on the breathability stakes but like Paramo I have found you have to keep it clean and proofed for it to perform at it's best. Currently using an ME Kongur for winter and Goretex pro-shell seems to me to be the most consistent waterproof breathable layer. There are perhaps more breathable options but if I am careful (no more peat bog diving), it doesn't need much looking after.

  99. A minor point, but my old day sack (A Lowe Alpine) was heavily padded - over-padded if anything - on the shoulder straps and they soaked up water like a couple of sponges in heavy rain.

    The Commanche never, to my recollection, allowed any water through when used in conjunction with that pack.

    Good turnout, by the way. Wigan Athletic don't get this many for a home game.

  100. Hi Alan,

    Alas we do not live in a perfect world, nothing is perfect. Paromo, both company and products,has served me well. Better then others I might add, and I can live with its niggles.

    It is time for a walk now. Might be some rain though,

    If you will follow up on Andrew's suggestion for a control experiment I presume we will hear of it in due time.


  101. Hi Chris: Many thanks for your comment - Since writing the 'same as Buffalo' comment Rolf kindly steered me to the OM thread from years ago where Nick Brown explained in some detail how the system works.
    Why he doesn't do this on the swing tags of his garments, Lord only knows, as it would dispel all the confusion surrounding the Paramo system, Also, in that thread he explained why a base layer is needed to be worn beneath the jackets (but then doesn't explain why you don't need one for beneath the trousers).

    I now understand thanks to your and Rolf's efforts and Nick's own explanation how it works.

    But what is abundantly clear is the system can be overwhelmed by rain backed by strong winds or sopping rucksacks / ruckack straps pressing against the material - all things that I and many others have experienced.

    I *do* think Paramo is an excellent product - after all said and done, I lived with it for ten years or so. There are minor design niggles - flailing toggles, poorly designed backing strips to zips etc.

    These small niggles in the overall picture don't add up to much at all and we can live with them.

    What doesn't cut-it for me though is the fact that the product can be completely overwhelmed in conditions when it might be vitally important to remain warm and dry, which is where this whole thread started.

    Paramo should be up-front about this (a little bit like Patagonia are with their down-sourcing problems) and let people know that there are conditions where there is a problem.

    Having said all that, it might just be that there has been something wrong with how I look after my jackets (I very much doubt this as I am fastidious with looking after my kit) and returning the jacket to Paramo for them to have a look at might sort the problem.

    I hope so, as at the moment I am very loathe to take Paramo on any long backpacking trip as I don't relish another miserable soaking.

    I would love to be able to come back on here and say my doubts had been squashed!

    Thank you everyone who has contributed to this thread - especially Rolf & Chris for their technical input and for pointing me to Nick Brown's own explanation over on OM.

    I think we have done it to death now, so until I get my jacket back from Paramo, lets leave it be!

    Thanks again

  102. Hi Alan, You may recall meeting me at Braemar on the TGOC 11 and asking about my Paramo (Hoody/Fuera) combo that is sold as equivalent to the Aspira Smock in terms of weatherproofness (note - Paramo use that term). Well, on both the Saturday followed by THAT Monday, I got partially soaked on top - prob to do with straps. Moreover my previous experience of Paramo is that although generally good, it can be overwhelmed. So since then I now I also carry a very light Haglofs windproof which worn with the combo in times of v heavy rain seems somehow to blunt the incoming, allowing me to remain dry. Why go to so much trouble? You may also remember meeting me at start of TGOC 11 when I was using a heavy thigh length Rohan cagoule (which I had the opportunity to switch half way through - I misread the weather!!)? It kept the rain out, but internal condensation developed over time. I truly doubt any clothing system will perform in all circs, but the point about Paramo (esp the combo- which I love) is that (speaking for myself) even if wet I remain warm, it dries very quickly once rain stops, and provides insulation for little weight cost/internal condensation. Am presently intending to use Paramo combo on TGOC 12. As an aside, I was once advised by Paramo that for a deep clean before starting over with re-proofing, to get garment dry-cleaned.

  103. Robert: Welcome to the blog!
    Of course I remember you... I walked with you for two days! I can never forget those rucksack straps of yours...

    I think it's sort of settled that Paramo gets overwhelmed and its a good idea to take a lightweight outer to take the sting out of the incoming stormy weather

    I thought your Paramo combination gave more flexibility to the system too.

  104. I picked up my first Paramo from their seconds store on ebay this autumn. I went for the full on Velez rather than the light version as it suited my needs better.
    I have to say I'm not super enamored (sp) with it either. Despite following their proofing guidelines it has let me down a couple of times when it's been consistently wet. Especially on the back between my pack and on the shoulders where my straps are. Is it okay to say that's a known flaw with Paramo? On a claimed waterproof outer then I'd say not.
    I only paid a best offer price of £78 so I don't feel too hard done by, I can probably recover that on ebay again.
    I'm switching between Paclite and Proshell again now, even dabbling with my OMM Kamleica smock which so far hasn't let me down once. After Chrimbo I'll be looking at Rab's eVent offerings I think, the Spectre for one.

  105. Paramo - do a deep clean with bio to er, deep clean. Use a washing machine by all means. Then, rinse by hand, like the wind... you cannot risk even a few particles of bio powder at this stage. Washing machines are not very good at this, your rinse water may be contaminated - there are always remnants of detergent in the machine. Use Tech Wash by hand and rinse by hand. Finally do the final proofing by hand - if you do this, you should have no problems. When you wash, do it by hand for reasons stated above. Hope this helps!

  106. Adge said : Use Tech Wash by hand and rinse by hand. Finally do the final proofing by hand - if you do this, you should have no problems. When you wash, do it by hand for reasons stated above. Hope this helps!

    That's exactly what I did the one time I washed and reproofed my Paramo Alta jacket (and TNF goretex trousers) during the last 4 years. Am waiting for heavy rain now for testing.

  107. Thanks to Shewie, Adge & Theo for your comments.

    I think washing and proofing by hand sounds to be the fail-safe way of doing this.

    But.... What a faff for a walking jacket!

  108. Hi Alan,

    the washing drill for any membrane or coated breathable jacket is exactly the same. Even the frequentie of washing and proofing is about the same. So no surpises here on the Paramo side of things.

    Furthermore if you do contaminate microporeus membrane with detergent it is very difficult to rectify. (the restore of water repellancy is in all cases easy, but the microporeus membrane it self can be clocked by detergent.) Dermizax (nonporous membrane) and Paramo and the likes of Buffalo etc. (no mebrane) are easy to with a deep clean.

    You can not seriously say washing a pAramo garment is more work , or more trouble then any other. You just are getting grumpy here.


  109. Hi Rolf: Yes I am being grumpy about the performance involved. It might well be the same with a Gore-Tex jacket but with Paramo you are repeating this performance one hell of a lot more times than you are with a Gore-tex jacket. If you don't, your jacket will be as waterproof as blotting paper as I, and a host of others on this thread, have found to our misery.

    So yes - Suppose, Very Grumpy Indeed! (and the capitals are important here)

  110. Alan,

    this is simply not true. all types have almost simalar wash cycles and proof cycles. And given the same use the same number of cycles needed to keep perfomance at level.


  111. Rolf:
    I am sorry, but that is Complete Rubbish: The Analogy system relies totally on on Nikwax to waterproof the outer layer so that the pump liner can stand a chance of pumping against the pressure of the incoming rain.

    As soon as the Nikwax wears off - which it seems to do very quickly indeed on Paramo garments - the system, not to put too fine a point on it, is Bolloxed. And that capital is Very Important. You are then pretty sure of a soaking in heavy rain. I have experienced this, first hand, too many times.

    On the other hand, if the DWR wears off on a Gore-Tex jacket you still have the membrane to keep you dry - it won't breathe as well, but you will not get a soaking from the rain.

    You certainly DO need to wash and reproof Paramo a lot more than you do with Gore-Tex with similar usage.

  112. Hi Alan,

    in a not proper breathing membrane jacket in the same circumstances you get wet as well. You'll find out.

    From Goretex offical product website:

    Quote: “Wet out” can put a real damper on your day. That’s when liquid saturates your garment’s outer fabric layer above the GORE-TEX® membrane, leaving you feeling damp and clammy - as if your garment were leaking, even when it’s not." End quote



    From official eVent website care instructions:

    Quote: "Please Wash me often" Endquote



  113. Many many years ago I used to work in Forestry. Money was short and we all used to buy ex-MOD chem suits and use them as 'water-proofs'. They weren't waterproof but if we wore a cheap nylon tee shirt under them we kept warm without being to wet. Along came a guy in a very beaten Volvo estate and told us if we washed our chem suits in his 'wax' we would be very happy indeed! Indeed we were. Time went by and we started to wear very cheap nylon 'windcheaters' over out chem suits and we found if we washed them in 'Nick's wax' we all kept reasonably dry and warm. Bingo we all thought, thats just the thing we need in a very poorly paid and weather exposed job. After a couple of years we saw less and less of 'Nick' and we all ended up in Goretex and lamented for days of 'Nick's wax' and our (now defunct) chem suits. You 'go do the math' about what happened to Nick and his wax!

    Back then the wax was thick as Lyons golden syrup and I think we never had to 're-proof' our chem suits.

  114. Rolf: You are missing the point: (perhaps for fun?)

    When the Paramo failed I was completely and utterly soaked to the skin - this is nothing like getting wet from condensing water vapour from the inside of a shell garment - this is driven rain penetrating my clothing and soaking me completely.

    As I say: at least with a Gore-Tex that rain is kept on the outside. In a failed Paramo you might just as well be swimming in a river of cold water.

  115. Anon: I also recall almost sticking my Blacks cotton anorak in a jam pan full of very sticky gloop mixed up with warm water to proof it. It seemed to make the anorak much more weather resistant.

  116. Oh woe is me! I have recently bought 3 extra Paramo items and then I read this!

    Having read the description given of how Gore-tex works many times, I was interested when I later found a rather more scientific discussion in terms of surface energy and the effects of contaminants at

    Similarly I also came across a simplified explanation at

    I hope that others will find these as interesting as I did.


  117. Alan, I am amazed at the length of this debate! You lot must be snowed in or something? :)

    Until sometime in 2009, I had never heard of Paramo, and only came across it because of the Challenge. Eventually bought some for the Challenge. Prior to this, here in Australia I have mostly used Goretex, but I have to say Paramo is now my favourite because it is so comfortable and doesn't suffer from the condensation issue of goretex.

    I've not had a leak and I have been in some decent rain (yes, we do get rain here) but must have been not as much as required to overpower the system.

    As far as re-treatment goes, its not a faff if your washer has the outdoor fabric cycle. I just load it up, pour the techwash and proofer in their respective dispensers and let it rip. Amusing that here in the colonies we have machines built around retreating outdoor fabrics that are made in the EU. :)

    You should see the price of Nikwax over here! I bought some litre packs from the UK via epay and saved a bundle this year.

    I'll stick with it, its the best walking gear I've had so far, but I may try an event jacket at some stage to see if its any better than my goretex.

    Hope Paramo get you sorted and you can be happy again. Life's too short!

    Aussie Mike.

  118. I have a 12 year old Paramo Alta jacket that has never let me down despite being dragged down the road at 30mph after getting stuck in the car door, being covered in holes caused by burning embers landing on it, and a lazy owner who only washes and reproofs when it actually looks like it needs cleaning. I have used it in torrential downpours, high winds, (and the shower, testing) and it has never let me down. I also have a pair of Cascada trousers that I think are truly brilliant, that have also never let me down. I have used this combo when walking, scrambling, back packing and mountain biking in all weathers, have come home covered in mud, then been hosed down and been completely dry apart from being a little wet around the cuffs. The only drawback being the heavy weight of the clothing, which seems to get heavier as I am getting ever so slightly older.

    On the strength of the above, six years ago, I purchased the Taiga Fleece / Feura Windproof combo. This combo can only be described as shower proof as despite washing and reproofing it wasn’t long before I would get wet around my shoulders and back. Never got a wet head though, the hood worked flawlessly. This I could tolerate in the right situations like when I used this combo canoeing in Sweden in late March, and although I did get wet, I stayed fairly warm. I used the Feura with a Paramo shirt underneath whilst active and only put the taiga fleece on when resting and I felt a little cold. The Cascada trousers again couldn’t be faulted, keeping me dry unless fully submerged but this again was not a problem as they dried out very quickly indeed…. But I still find myself using the old Alta most of the time.

    Three years ago I decided to buy something lightweight and after a great deal of research I purchased a Rab Drillium and Rab Neutrino Down Jackets, big fail. At first the Drillium was brilliant, but after time, maybe a year, the jacket became badly delaminated around the neck, back and elbows and became worse than useless as when I got wet I was cold and miserable unlike the Paramo. I have written off these items as an expensive mistake and won’t be investing in Event fabrics again… Back to the trusted old Alta.
    I have to agree with the process of deep washing, tech washing to remove any detergent residue then reproofing as this has worked for me. I do however believe that not all Paramo gear performs as expected. Perhaps it is down to the weight of the materials as in my experience the older gear performs better. But I also have to say I haven’t found anything that performs any better.

    I look forward to reading the outcome of your dealings with Paramo, in the meantime the search for that perfect waterproof goes on.

  119. Hi Ben & Aussie Mike: Thanks for your comments. Those technical bit's & bobs were interesting Ben - thank you. I have also been doing a bit of digging around and noticed that on the Furtech website (whose clothing works on the same principals as Paramo) they admit that their waterproofs can be overwhelmed by heavy wind-driven rain.

    Ady - I have also noticed that my oldest Paramo Velez (which is quite a bit heavier than the next two models I bought) was never overwhelmed. I wonder if Paramo, concerned about all the comments about the weight of their jackets, decided to cut down the wight of the face material and pump liners to get it to a more "acceptable" weight but at the cost of weathertightness?

  120. I have noticed that many products that were initially of excellent quality seem to go downhill in later production runs - presumably as the manufacturer seeks to reduce costs by paring back materials etc.

    Something I have been wondering is why Mountain Rescue teams would tolerate Paramo products if wind driven rain can overcome it?

    If Mountain Rescue teams update their coats quite frequently then perhaps the DWR doesn't have time to deteriorate sufficiently to "expose" the pump liner deficiency?

    However if the system is flawed in that wind driven rain can overcome the pumping action, I would've thought that Mountain Rescue teams would experience this quite quickly given the conditions they operate in.

    Does anybody have any experience of those Mountain Rescue teams who endorse Paramo?


  121. Fellows,
    A recommendation from across the Pond...
    I live in Cleveland, Ohio so am unable to compare Scottish rain to ours, but we do get cold, hard, wind-driven rain on occasion.
    I too have tried softshells (not Paramo) and Gortex jackets but may have found a better solution. It's called the Packa.
    It is a combination of a poncho and a jacket, with sleeves, big pit zips and a good hood. It comes both in non-breathable silnylon and very breathable eVent. I own the eVent one.
    One great advantage is that it goes OVER the pack. There is an extra piece of fabric, elasticized at the perimeter that covers the pack. Thus there is no wearing of the eVent material from pack straps and hip belts. All that is under the Packa.
    I've found this to be far more breathable than any waterproof jacket, very durable and keeps the pack completely dry too.
    It's sold by a fellow who hiked the Appalachian Trail and designed it enroute. He sells it himself. I have no affiliation with him, other than as a satisfied customer.
    You can find more at:
    Good hiking.
    Marty Cooperman
    Cleveland, Ohio

    1. Thanks for that link Marty - It looks interesting.
      One small query: How do you get at stuff in your pack if it's raining? Do you need to take off your waterproof so that you can get at, say, your food in your rucksack?

  122. I've come across an interesting technology "System Dual Protection" whose creators claim that research at Leeds University has shown that all single layer waterproofs stop breathing after an hour.

    They seem to have won some kind of innovation award.

    1. I am not going to comment on the Paramo claims as I bought a load just before reading this article when it first came out and have been cautious about using it ever since!

      No it is your comment about Tuff work boots. Whatever happened to them. I remember my first pair. Thought they were the business. They cost a fiver and were bought to replace my suede "Spanish fell boots" that had cost 30 shillings. These weren't much use on Cader Idris when I first wore them - and probably weren't much use on Spanish fells either.

    2. Hi David
      I think it was "Tuf" workboots, wasn't it? My very first pair of boots.... Sigh.... I moved on to Scarpa Bronzos after them... serious blister bastards!

  123. Personally, I have had nothing but problems with Paramo and do feel they should be more up front about it's "waterproof" statement. You can get a standard nylon jacket and techwash it to make it as "waterproof" as paramo. I agree they are the most breathable, but in my opinion that is only because they are not waterproof.

    My two jackets I tried both worked great in a light shower walking the dog down along the river, but both let go dramatically in heavy rain on Dartmoor.

    I take a lightweight event shell no, which is sweaty, but most of the time it only comes out when it pours down , in the lighter rain I just get a little damp in the windproof.

    1. Hi Wes
      I've come to the conclusion that Paramo is great as a softshell, but always take a waterproof hardshell if you are expecting a downpour, or you will be very very wet and miserable!

  124. Well Alan - did you ever deepclean your jacket OR send it back to Paramo? What wa sthe result if so.

    1. Hi, Anon.

      Short answer: No. My experience of Paramo over 12 years or so has led me to be convinced that Paramo is not "waterproof" at all. It beats off rain up to a point by the directional "pump" liner, but this becomes overwhelmed in heavy wind driven rain.

      I do still wear my Velez Adventure occasionally, when I know the forecast is not for conditions I have described - on day walks. In my opinion the product is "heavy shower-proof" and not suitable for multi-day backpacking trips where you wish to remain warm & dry in the wild places.

      As I no longer use my Paramo for these sorts of trips, I saw no good reason to waste my time & effort applying lipstick to a pig. So I did not bother deep cleaning it or sending it back to Paramo.

  125. Picking up the comment about weight....
    Typically I have generally worn just Mountain Pull-on plus an older style Paramo 'waterproof' for
    winter hill walking. I would carry eg a merino baselayer in case it got very cold but often wouldn't
    need it. Later I got one of their big gilets for back up warmth.
    This combo never really let me down.


    I bought some new Mountain tops about 2 years ago online. I thought they were fakes!
    Contacted Paramo who said they had been redesigned and made lighter after extensive
    consultation with customers. This is the sort of thing companies always say when trying
    to sell you less for the same price. The newer tops are very disappointing in quality all

    I also have been wearing my new Quito jacket a lot recently.

    My point is:- in no way can this new lighter combo of mountain + Quito compare to
    the old heavier one. It can certainly be overwhelmed in extensively damp conditions
    in a way that the older heavier combo wouldn't be.

    When I bought the Quito I didn't really realize just how much I was being asked to trade off
    for the extra breathability. In fact I assumed it would be just as 'waterproof' as the
    traditional jackets. (My fault I suppose).

    Also, the new thin mountain pull ons result in feeling the cold very quickly once they do start
    to get even slightly damp. I think the thicker style of mountain top is much better in this
    regard and I wish they could still be obtained.

    For comfort in these situations I find a true base layer (eg a parameta top) makes a lot
    of difference if and when the mountain top starts to get damp in places.
    Tony H

    1. Hi Tony
      Until now I had not heard of anyone who didn't wear anything beneath their Paramo jacket. I would imagine after a while your jacket got quite smelly!

      I do agree with you - my very first Velez (olive green with orange flashings) weighed in at just over 950g and was considerably more weather proof than then my subsequent lighter versions of the Velez and Velez Adventure.

      I still maintain that Paramo are in breach of Trading Standards. Their jackets are certainly not "waterproof." Water resistant, yes.

      I would always wear a base layer beneath Paramo.


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