As an alternative to a traditional hard shell, Tom Ripley has been putting Páramo's top-end technical jacket and trousers to the test all winter. So how did he get on with them?
A long time ago [err, not so long Tom, Ed.], when I was a callow youth, still relatively new to the world of winter climbing, I purchased a Páramo Velez Adventure Smock and Aspira Salopettes from a shop in Ambleside. I lived in them, using them for many of my early winter exploits. Whilst the cut was basic and both items were heavy, they performed excellently and I remember being comfortable in the awful weather our little islands can throw at us. The problem was they didn’t look cool and as an aspiring alpinist that simply wouldn’t do. Before discarding my smock and salopettes for an ever changing smorgasbord of soft and hard shells, I remember thinking that if they ever made a jacket in the image of a well-cut hard shell then they’d be onto a winner. This year, that is exactly what they have done.
"The fabric is so breathable that I struggle to think of a situation where I would carry it instead of wearing it"
How does Páramo work?
Páramo waterproof garments have two layers: a proofed outer shell layer, which is highly wind resistant, very breathable and weather proof; and a wicking inner layer that effectively acts as a pump, driving any sweat through to the outer layer. In fully torrential rain, it uses your body heat to drive any precipitation that gets through the outer layer back out again. One of the best things about Páramo's use of Nikwax Analogy directional waterproof fabric, especially if you’re a clumsy climber like me, is that these garments can easily be repaired with a needle and thread. As long as you don't stitch the inner layer to the outer layer this will not compromise either waterproofness or breathability.
What have the Enduro Jacket and Trousers been used for?
So far I have used this Páramo combo for three weeks of ski touring in the Alps; a slog up Snowdon’s Llanberis Path in driving rain and for three weeks worth of winter climbing in Scotland, where these waterproofs have experienced everything from horizontal rain, to blue skies and everything in between. What has impressed me most is how comfortable it is. Never once have I had to remove the jacket, despite wearing it whilst racing my mates into crags and skinning hard up hill - a situation where a conventional shell would have got much too sweaty, been removed and put inside a rucksack.
Is it waterproof?
In the conventional sense of Hard Shells and Soft Shells the answer is probably no. However in three months use, in all weathers, I am yet to be soaked through - neither cold and wet nor hot and sweaty. For UK weather these are by far and away the most comfortable outer garments I have used. After slogging up Snowdon in driving rain the side of me facing the rain was damp; this was mainly through water leaking through the zips. As with any waterproof garment the more recently it had been reproofed the more effective it was at keeping out rain.
"Despite being out in some of the worst of the UK weather I have yet to be either soaked through or uncomfortable, thanks to Páramo’s use of the excellent Nikwax Analogy fabric"
Enduro Jacket £370
The Enduro Jacket is quite a short cut mountaineering jacket. I've found the cut to be generally excellent, and it never pulls out of my harness when climbing. I'm generally size medium in most outdoor tops and in size medium this Páramo jacket fitted perfectly. The jacket is not particularly light - on my kitchen scales it came out at 802g. My jacket came in a blue and red combination, which as a bright colour addict I really liked, but several more fashion conscious friends commented that I looked like I'd walked straight out of the 1990s! [is that a bad thing? Ed.]
"I've found the cut to be generally excellent, and it never pulls out of my harness when climbing"
One of the first things I noticed about that jacket was how many pockets it has: two hand warmer pockets, which act as secondary vents and are also big enough to fit skins in; a large zipped chest pocket, which is big enough for a map; and a second smaller chest pocket, with Velcro closure. This has a small plastic tab with a loop on it, which is handy for larks-footing a compass onto. It also had a small internal zipped pocket for valuables and small zipped pocket on the left sleeve to store a lift pass. Although I have used all the pockets I would probably have preferred a lighter jacket with fewer pockets, if that tradeoff had been available.
The venting on the jacket is excellent; even in perfect weather I have not resorted to removing it when walking in. There are two zippered vents on each arm, which are very effective for dumping heat. However I did find that in driving rain they started to let water in. The two hand warmer pockets also provide good ventilation. The main zipper has an internal storm flap running behind it. This has poppers running up it, allowing the jacket to be closed but the main zipper left open. I found the poppers to be especially helpful for preventing overheating when walking in good weather or even very light rain or snow. The sleeves are also quite wide and can be rolled up when one is working really hard. I have a slightly positive ape index and found the sleeves to be plenty long enough, covering my wrists when my hands were above my head.
The Enduro Jacket has a large wired hood. This easily fits over a polystyrene climbing helmet and can be fully zipped up. Worn with a climbing helmet the hood offers a good range of movement and excellent protection from the weather. The hood also works well without a helmet and can easily be reduced in volume. I have also been able to squeeze the hood over a ski helmet, however the range of movement is greatly reduced and it is difficult to zip the jacket up fully. One of the drawbacks of the jacket is that with the hood down and the jacket fully zipped up, an option I often choose when winter climbing, it is slightly too tight around the chin.
My only other niggle with the Enduro is the Velcro tabs at the end of the sleeves. These are too short and easily come undone, especially if they have snow stuck to them.
Enduro Tour Trousers £230
The Enduro Tour Trousers (not 'pants' - thanks Páramo) are a pair of low waisted winter mountaineering trousers, with a zippered fly, two hand warmer pockets, three quarter length side zips and internal gaiters.
Like the jacket the Enduro Tour trousers work well at keeping the weather out thanks to the use of Nikwax's waterproof Analogy fabric. Even when sitting/kneeling on wet snow my legs remained dry. However there are a number of problems with both the cut and the features on the trousers which makes it difficult for me to recommend them.
Despite Páramo's reputation for baggy tailoring, the cut of the trousers is best described as trim. I had to go up a size from a medium to large to accommodate my large thighs, and they are still quite tight, despite the waist being far too big. The trousers have a gusseted crotch and articulated knees, which allows good freedom of movement when climbing. They do not however look particularly flattering, something several of my climbing partners have commented on. Unusually, especially for a trouser designed with skiing in mind, the lower leg is also trim and I have not had any issues seeing my crampons when climbing. Whilst the trim cut works for climbing they don't really look like ski trousers, which should have more volume in the lower leg to accommodate bulky ski boots. This makes the name Enduro Tour something of a misnomer; perhaps they should be called the Enduro Climb instead?
At the back of the trousers there is a triangular piece of fabric designed to keep your back warm when using braces. However the Enduro Tour trousers do not come with braces (nor do Páramo yet sell them as extras, though we're told they will be available from this coming autumn) and without them the triangle of fabric falls down useless. For Scottish winter climbing I find braces invaluable as they help eliminate cold spots and help keep me warm and dry. Thankfully I was able to cannibalise some braces from another pair of trousers, which worked excellently.
At the front the Enduro Tour Trousers are best described as low waisted. I think for cold weather activities, like winter mountaineering and ski touring, a slightly higher cut waist (what is often termed a low bib) is useful for helping to keep one warm and dry. The waist can be adjusted by an internal webbing belt, which works well. There is also a zippered fly with two sliders, which I am always grateful for when trying to answer calls of nature in a blizzard.
One of my favourite things about the Enduro Tour Trousers are the zip-out internal gaiters. These are very simple, with an elasticated hem. When climbing I've found it easy to tuck them inside my mountaineering boots' external gaiter; this works really well for keeping snow and slush out of my boot and I also don't look like an idiot with my trousers tucked into boots! When ski touring I was just able to squeeze them over my bulky ski boots. I think you would struggle to do this if you had a pair of bigger, freeride orientated boots. That said, free-riding in Páramo might raise a few eyebrows!
On the knees and lower legs Páramo use a slightly more durable version of the fabric. I was impressed with the weatherproofness of this fabric and never had wet knees despite spending substantial amounts of time kneeling in snow with them. However I was less than impressed with the durability of the fabric. The first time I used the trousers I managed to tear the knee, thrutching up the granite walls of Hells Lum's Deep Cut Chimney. Due to the fabric being non-ripstop, and quite fine, the cut was quite ragged. I was able to sew it up, but due to the repair being in a high movement area it kept ripping. I was able to solve this by applying seam grip to the repair, but once dry it left a hard lump which was less than ideal. The original Aspira Sallopettes I owned featured much tougher patches on the knees. If Páramo added these to the knees of the Enduro Tour it would be a great improvement.
The trousers come with three quarter length side zips, allowing you to put them on without removing your boots. The zips feature double sliders, which allow them to be used as vents. I've found this especially helpful when walking in or skinning. Unlike waterproof trousers based on big-name membrane fabrics, which in benign weather I often carry until the snow line, the fabric Páramo use is so breathable that I struggle to think of a situation where I would carry it instead of wearing it. With this in mind I think it would be an improvement to remove the 3/4 length zips and replace them with a zipped vent on each leg.
My final niggle is that the only colour option for the Enduro Tour pants is navy (with reinforced black patches) which doesn’t go with the brightly coloured Enduro Tour Jacket, or anything else for that matter. Hopefully Páramo will make the trousers in conventional black again, like they did in previous seasons.
The bright and distinctive Páramo Enduro Tour Jacket is both well cut and sensibly featured for climbing, mountaineering, winter hillwalking and ski touring. As a lightweight fanatic, personally I would prefer a slightly simpler design with fewer pockets if that might save me some weight. Despite being out in some of the worst of the UK weather I have yet to be either soaked through or uncomfortable in it thanks to Páramo’s use of the excellent Nikwax Analogy fabric. There are couple of small problems, like the neck being tight when the hood is down but the jacket zipped up, and the cuff tabs being on the short side, that prevent it from being perfect. If pushed to give it a score though, I'm going for a very impressive 4.5/5 thanks to the excellent cut and uniquely effective fabric.
I really want to like the Enduro Tour trousers too, as I think the fabric works amazingly in British weather. After all, I have yet to be either soaked through or uncomfortable in them. However I think the design of these is far from perfect, especially as they not supplied with braces. The cut also needs improving. If Páramo could redesign these as low bib, supplied with braces as standard, with a more flattering cut and more durable fabric on the knees, it would be the ultimate leg wear for Scottish winter climbing. In the absence of all these improvements, I'd have to award these a reluctant 2/5.
Enduro Jacket - Páramo say:
The Enduro Jacket is for high mountain enthusiasts or professionals, who are outdoors for long periods in varying conditions.
High mountain activities such as climbing, alpinism and snow sports involve moving with exertion across a range of environments for long periods. To remain comfortable, you need efficient moisture and temperature control to minimise changes on the mountain, freedom of movement and good functionality.
The directional Nikwax Analogy® Waterproof fabric gives dry comfort, with stretch panels for unrestricted movement. It offers excellent temperature control, a helmet and harness-compatible design, and a great choice of pockets. A new, improved fit offers even better comfort on the mountain.
The Enduro Jacket has an improved athletic fit, great ventilation and technical features.
- Price: £370
- Fabric: Nikwax Analogy Waterproof
- Sizes: S - XXL (men's sizing only)
- Helmet-friendly hood with large peak offers vertical and horizontal adjustment to optimise vision
- 180° shoulder/ arm articulation and stretch panels in shoulders, sleeves and sides for unrestricted movement
- Generous arm vents can remain open in the wet without water ingress
- Practical, glove-friendly pockets: Two large, harness-friendly handwarming/storage pockets in torso; secure ‘fast access’ chest pocket; ski pass pocket on left upper arm; large external working pocket for map storage; secure, internal pocket on chest for valuables
- Eco FreemagicTM cuff closure repels snow
- Reinforced back panel for enhanced comfort and protection when wearing a rucksack
- 2” drip skirt and scooped tail for excellent weather protection
- Reflective piping front and rear
For more info see: paramo-clothing.com
Enduro Tour Trousers - Páramo say:
The Enduro Tour Trousers combine the Nikwax Analogy Waterproof System with stretch panels and an improved design and an articulated fit for unrestricted freedom of movement. ¾ length side zips and a poppered internal storm flap enables effective ventilation during high energy activities even in wet weather. An internal built in but removable snow gaiter and crampon patch reinforcement provide optimum performance for high mountain activities. When wearing a harness, the secure fit at the waist and hips ensures minimal bulk.
- Price: £230
- Fabric: Nikwax Analogy Waterproof
- Sizes: S - XXXL (men)
- Improved, tough and durable design with strong, stretch fabric for seat, articulated knee panels and crampon patches.
- Minimal bulk under harness from secure fit at waist and hips.
- Handwarming and secure storage from two zipped hip pockets.
- Two-way zip fly with popper at waist – functional when wearing a harness.
- Additional insulation from high back panel with ‘double pull’ halfbelt at the front.
- Loops for braces (braces not supplied).
- Easy and rapid temperature adjustment provided by ¾ length side zips with internal poppered storm flaps.
- Zip-off snow gaiter, elasticated at the base for secure fit over boots.
For more info see: paramo-clothing.com
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