Everything is covered by low-hanging clouds, it’s raining cats and dogs and I’m really starting to wonder what I am doing here. Oh, right. I’m hiking. Why in the pouring rain, you ask? Well, I’ve got some clothes that I’m dying to try out… They’re from Páramo, a British brand that is still relatively unknown in Germany and first appeared in our shop not too long ago. The most interesting thing about this brand is the material they use. It was developed in collaboration with Nikwax and is called “Nikwax Analogy”.
But, more on that later. In the following, we’re not only going to give you some background info on Páramo, but also provide a nice little review of the clothing we had the pleasure of trying out.
Before we begin, we’d just like to say that our opinions of these products are in no way embellished and are based solely on our personal experiences with the products. Of course, we’ve passed on our review to Páramo as well.
Who or what is Páramo?
Páramo is a British outdoor brand that has been developing, designing and manufacturing clothing for a wide range of outdoor activities, demands and climates since 1992. The company is known for its new, innovative approach to manufacturing clothing that has been driven by ethical and ecological practices since the very beginning – long before the market had even begun to play with the idea of combining functionality and sustainability.
In fact, Páramo has even managed to do without PFCs all this time and produces under fair conditions.
Páramo also has a partnership with the non-profit Miquelina Foundation in Colombia, a foundation for the order “Las Religiosas Adoratrices”. Here, both young and older women who have been freed from the clutches of forced prostitution are trained to work as seamstresses in order to build a free, independent and structured life for themselves.
Today, Páramo has over 80% of their clothing manufactured at the Miquelina Foundation, and all the products in the Directional Analogy series are manufactured there. Of course, all of their other products, which are manufactured in East Asia, are made under fair conditions as well.
Páramo is part of the same group of companies as Nikwax, which is known for washing and textile care products. Together with Nikwax, they developed Analogy technology, which makes the brand quite unique.
How does Nikwax Analogy technology work?
Nikwax Analogy technology is supposed to offer a more effective removal of water than conventional membranes, thanks to something they call ‘directionality’. This is due to the fact that whilst membranes can move small water vapour molecules very quickly to the outside, they often reach their limits when it comes to liquid water and condensation. This results in an accumulation of water and ice forming on the inside of hard shells.
Páramo’s Analogy technology is supposed to prevent exactly that by moving larger amounts of water to the outside at quite a rapid rate. You can see this amazing technology at work in this video:
How is Analogy fabric constructed?
The principle is based on proper layering: Páramo clothing (layers 3 and 4) should be combined with functional underwear (2). The functional underwear absorbs sweat from the surface of the skin (1) and transfers it to the first layer (3) of outer clothing. This keeps the skin dry and the body warm. Sounds familiar, right?
Here’s where things get a bit different. Páramo calls the third layer the “Pump Liner”. Why Pump Liner? Probably because layers 3 and 4 lie loosely on top of each other and are only sewn together at the main seams. When you move, these layers shift towards and away from each other, which “pumps” moist air outwards. The outer layer (4) is made of densely woven, windproof polyester that has been treated with Nikwax for durable water repellence. To ensure it remains effective over time, keep in mind that the water repellent treatment must be reapplied every now and again.
Our first impression
At first, we were a little sceptical. The fabric just didn’t feel like we were expecting it to. It feels so much different than traditional hard shells.
Nikwax Analogy is very soft and flexible and almost feels like those good ol’ silky tracksuits from the 1990s. Remember those? Of course, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does take time to get used to. And, I must say, it made us even more curious to find out how the products would perform.
We really put the clothing through the wringer, testing them while cycling, hiking, freeriding, mountaineering, camping in the winter, in hours of rain, in heavy hailstorms and at temperatures of +8°C as well as at -18°C.
All in all, we can say that we were more than happy with the weather protection provided by the products with the Nikwax Analogy. They kept us completely dry in long, drawn-out rain storms where many other membranes would have probably failed.
Overall, we really enjoyed the functionality of the products, that is, the combination of windproof, waterproof and breathable properties. The two-layer, membrane-free system worked flawlessly and definitely has what it takes to become a major competitor on the market.
Which Páramo products were tested?
The following products were put to the test:
- Men’s Velez Jacket: a waterproof jacket for general outdoor use
- Men’s Cascada II Trousers: waterproof walking trousers for the most demanding walker.
- Men’s Torres Activo: a versatile synthetic jacket that is both windproof and warm designed for winter sports, mountain sports and winter trekking.
- Men’s Enduro Tour Trousers: These warm trousers are an all-rounder for high mountain activities such as skiing, ski touring and ice climbing.
- Men’s Enduro Jacket: a waterproof alpine jacket with a light insulating effect. Made for ski touring, mountaineering and alpine climbing.
- Grid Tecnic Hoodie: A light, fast-drying fleece hoodie with waffle grid zones and integrated hood.
Apart from the Grid Tecnic Hoodie and the Torres Active, all these products are part of the Nikwax Analogy series, so they are windproof and waterproof, but have no membrane and are free of PFCs.
And what do the reviewers think?
Velez Jacket (Jörn):
I have to admit, I was really sceptical of the way the jacket felt at first, with its odd, loose outer… That’s supposed to be durable? Well, let’s slip it on and see. It was a little big, but when is the fit not an issue? Personally, I’d prefer the Velez to fit a little more snugly.
The pockets on this jacket are particularly interesting: It comes equipped with what Páramo refers to as dual phase pockets that work as both vents and pockets. The first zip opens the vent, while the second zip opens the pocket. Pretty nifty. This along with the vents on the upper arm allows you to adjust the ventilation according to your needs. The hood fits comfortably and is easy to adjust. The other drawstrings work perfectly as well.
We’ve already said enough about the material’s functionality, but allow me to say that I am absolutely thrilled with the technology. However, I did feel like the loose layers resulted in more insulation than expected. In other words, you could get too hot, so be sure not to wear too many layers.
Cascada II Trousers (Jörn)
The feel of the Cascada II is similar and the fabric performed just as well as the fabric used for the Velez Jacket. I even sat on a wet bench for a long period of time, and the trousers didn’t mind one bit, and neither did I!
The trousers fit much better than the jacket, and the ventilation options are quite generous thanks to the nearly full-length side zips. When they’re completely unzipped, the buttons hold the trousers together.
I have to admit that I didn’t really think a pair of waterproof trousers was necessary for a hike in the rain with temperatures between 6-8°C. I thought it was a little much. But I was sorely mistaken – the Cascada II delivered in every way. I didn’t even get too hot on the uphills. Granted, I did only have a pair of short underwear on underneath.
Torres Activo (Jörn)
My favourite garment in the Páramo range and a must for cold weather. It’s like it was tailor-made just for me (a bit more athletic than the Velez). Plus, it allows for plenty of freedom of movement. When the cuffs, hood and drawcords are sealed up nice and tight, the jacket keeps you warm and comfortable.
In temperatures around -6°C and a wind that could freeze you stiff, I wore this jacket over a stretch fleece and a long-sleeved merino base layer and felt as comfortable as could be. It’d be nice if the puller on the zip were a bit bigger. They’re not very easy to use with gloves on. The side pockets are perfectly placed, making it easy to access them even when wearing a harness.
Páramo recommends wearing the Torres OVER a waterproof jacket, which may sound strange at first. But, the synthetic fibres have the ability to insulate even when wet, and I reckon it’d be quite a challenge to put on a hard shell over the rather voluminous Torres Activo.
For ski tours, winter hikes or snowshoeing, the Torres Activo is definitely a good choice!
Grid Tecnic Hoodie (Jonas)
What I loved most about this hoodie was its slim fit, low weight and the practical zipped chest pocket. Plus, waffle-like structure not only traps air and provides excellent insulation but also moves water away from your body to keep you comfortable. The large chest pocket is great for storing a smartphone or battery for your camera. Because of the warmth in this area, you’ll notice your battery lasts longer as well.
Another great thing about this slim-fitting hoodie is that the hood fits very well under a climbing helmet – perfect for moderately windy conditions.
The only downside to this hoodie is that there seems to be no odour-inhibiting treatment. True, nobody has ever stunk to death, but the Grid Tecnic Hoodie did reek a bit even after a short period of use.
In sum, we can say that the hoodie is extremely versatile. You can wear it as your first layer, mid-layer or outer layer. It performs best in cool to very cold temperatures and is perfect for those higher-intensity activities that make you sweat.
Enduro Tour Trousers (Jonas)
A warm, weatherproof choice for alpinists that also happens to be pretty versatile. The long leg zips allow for rapid temperature adjustment. With or without functional underwear, the trousers are a viable option for spring ski tours as well as for high mountain activities in temperatures around -20°C.
The trousers not only provide enough freedom of movement for climbing but also fit extremely well thanks to the high back panel and the loop for braces, which are, unfortunately, sold separately, but are still a nice feature.
I was surprised by how soft the Dyneema crampon patches were, and the snow gaiters were almost too small and there was no metal hook to secure them to my laces.
Another downside is the lack of any cords on the zips to make them easier to use with thick gloves on, but this is something that a lot of mountaineering trousers lack. All in all, these trousers are a very comfortable and versatile option for high alpine activities and can be used all year round.
Enduro Jacket (Jonas)
At almost £ 418, the Enduro is one of the more expensive jackets to say the least. In this price range, Páramo is forced to compete with the likes of Arc’teryx and other high-end manufacturers and does well – for the most part. The jacket definitely gets high marks for the functional fabric and great weather protection it provides, even in long, drawn-out rain storms. The pockets are harness-friendly, too.
But it’s not all kitty cats and rainbows, the Enduro Jacket does have some flaws. I found the zip on the inside chest pocket much too small and my field of vision much too narrow when wearing the hood. On the plus side, the hood does fit nicely under a helmet. Weighing in at 780g in size M, the Enduro is certainly not the lightest jacket on the market. And, after only two days of freeriding with an avalanche backpack on, I could see the first signs of pilling around the shoulder and armpits. Páramo will definitely have to do something about that.
Our final thoughts on Páramo
All in all, we were very impressed by Páramo’s products, especially when it came to the weather protection provided by Nikwax Analogy technology. The overall feel of the fabric took some getting used to at the beginning, but those concerns were long gone once we put them on.
We did run into some minor issues with the fit and quality, but this is not at all uncommon in the outdoor industry. We notified Páramo about the pilling we experienced when wearing the Enduro Jacket, and they promised to have a closer look at the issue.
On a more general note, we believe the sustainable and ethically sound production of Páramo products is worth mentioning as well. It has been an integral part of their identity since the very beginning, and there are no signs of that changing any time soon, which we think is a very good thing. The Páramo line up includes base layers, mid-layers and outer layers, so both hill walkers and ambitious mountaineers alike will find exactly what they are looking for at Páramo.
Who were the reviewers?
Jonas (left) works in the content department and takes care of product descriptions. In his spare time, you’ll usually see him up in the mountains either mountaineering, climbing or skiing.
Jörn (right) is in charge of our Base Camp blog and social media channels. So, when he’s not glued to his keyboard or camera, he’s usually out enjoying some kind of endurance or mountain sport or a combination of the two.