Paramo's Alize Fleece and Alize Windproof Jacket for women are mutually complementary, designed to be worn either as separates or both together to create a versatile system that's as changeable as the weather. As a stand-alone piece the Alize Fleece offers, in Paramo's words, 'protection against the elements while remaining cool because of its high permeability and exceptional breathability.' Used alone it shrugs off a light shower, but if more protection is needed then the Windproof (and showerproof) jacket can be added on top, giving you a waterproof system comparable in performance to Nikwax Analogy - as used in Paramo's waterproof jackets. I have tested these jackets both individually and combined in spring/summer conditions (April, May and June) hillwalking, running and rock climbing in the Scottish mountains. I've got mixed feelings.
Alize Fleece £125
The Alize Fleece is made from Nikwax Fleece which is water-repellent, wind resistant and 'directional' – which basically means that the fabric actively pushes water and water vapour out, away from the body, thus keeping you feeling dry beneath. The jacket is close-fitting but without feeling at all restrictive as the material has a slight stretch to it. The body of the jacket is a generous length and is long enough to cover part of your bum, meaning that it doesn't ride up under a rucksack or when wearing a harness. The sizing seems accurate which isn't always the case for women's outdoor clothing, where the sizes often seem on the small side.
The Alize Fleece has the following features:
1. Simple, close-fitting hood: This fits well under a helmet and I would imagine that it will work well as a winter climbing mid layer as the zip comes up very high (just under the eyes) when zipped right up, and the snug fit will keep out spindrift. I have only used the fleece in spring and summer conditions so far but definitely plan to wear it this winter.
2. Five pockets, all with a mesh liner to help remove moisture:
- Two 'handwarmer' pockets which are deep enough to get roughly half of your forearm inside (depending on the length of your arms…).
- Two internal drop pockets. These don't have zips but are deep enough for small items not to fall out. Useful for snacks and sweets.
- One zipped, secure internal chest pocket which is sized for a compass or valuables.
The pockets (especially the handwarmer ones) are all a decent size.
3. Off centre zip: This is to avoid bulky areas when layering up and for more comfort round the mouth. I think these points will make this a good fleece for winter.
4. Low, curved back hem: This is designed to protect your lower back. It's a comfortable fit under a harness, and doesn't tend to lift out when you raise your arms.
5. Simple stretchy cuffs which can be pushed up for cooling.
I have worn the Alize Fleece in a variety of conditions including cool and windy weather in the mountains. I think it's a fantastic fleece: it fits really well, it's comfortable, it has been designed very well (in particular the deep handwarmer pockets, the high-zipping hood and the decent length body) and it is warm for its weight. Being slightly shower proof while at the same time very breathable is a great combination - think working hard on a drizzly day. It is also a smart-looking fleece for everday wear and has very quickly become my favourite jacket. I really can't think of a fault with this fleece.
The Alize Fleece is for active women who swap between activities and environments. Unpredictable weather can cause a predicament for backpackers, trail runners, cyclists and walkers. It is a challenge to pack light and still be prepared for all possible conditions.
The Alize Fleece offers a solution: worn on its own, it is highly breathable, provides warmth, and repels moisture thanks to a PFC-free water-repellent treatment. When conditions turn windier, wetter or cooler, the Alize Windproof is quickly added on top for good weather protection. Together these two garments create a versatile waterproof system.
- Sizes: XS - XL (for women: men's version is the Ostro fleece, S-XXL)
- Weight: 325g (average)
- Simple, close-fitting "Ninja" hood that fits well under a helmet.
- Five pockets, all lined with mesh Pump Liner® to help move moisture.
- Off-centre zip prevents discomfort around the mouth and avoids bulk when layered.
- Fabric: Nikwax® Fleece is both water-repellent and wind resistant, plus it is directional - actively pushing liquid water away from you to keep you dry even in conditions of high humidity. The fleecy fabric traps still air to warm you. If combined with a Nikwax Windproof outer to deflect raindrops and cut wind chill, Nikwax Fleece will provide full weatherproof protection and remove perspiration very effectively, working well in all temperatures and humidity conditions.
For more info see: paramo-clothing.com
Alize Windproof Jacket £85
The Alize Windproof Jacket is made from Nikwax Windproof. This is described as using 'closely woven microfibre fabric which cuts windchill and protects your insulation but still provides excellent moisture vapour transfer.' The Windproof can be made water-repellent if protected with a Nikwax durable water-repellency treatment; without this treatment it's not shower proof, as I discovered when I had to peel it off myself after a rainy run. However, as I've said above, when treated and used in combination with the Alize Fleece you end up with an effectively waterproof system. The jacket is quite a loose fit with good movement in the shoulders and arms. As with the fleece, the body of the windproof is a generous length.
The Alize Windproof has the following features:
1. Helmet-friendly hood: A decent size for fitting over a helmet and with a dual adjuster so that you can have a snug fit.
2. The hood can be rolled and secured with an elasticated hang tag: It's a good idea, but in practise I don't find it works that well; I've rolled the hood up when running in the jacket and found that it keeps escaping from the hang tag. Maybe I'm doing something wrong but I've found it a bit of a faff.
3. Two internal pockets, accessed via ventilation zips: I am wary of putting anything in these pockets; because the material is so lightweight I wouldn't be confident of items not falling out. The ventilation zips are well-designed though, and work well in conjunction with the pockets on the Fleece so that you can vent effectively when wearing both layers.
4. Internal stuff pocket: This works fine.
5. Elasticated cuff closure: This gives a precise fit without being too tight, and the sleeves can be pushed up easily if you're too hot.
6. Reflective patches on sleeves, shoulders and hood: Good for running or cycling on the roads in the winter.
7. Excellent sleeve and shoulder articulation for full movement: The jacket is definitely a comfortable fit and doesn't restrict movement at all when you're climbing or running.
8. Concealed hem drawcord: This can supposedly be tucked out of the way. However I've found that it keeps emerging from the bottom of the jacket, which is real nuisance when you're climbing, as you don't want to be accidentally clipping your gear into a stray loop of elastic.
9. Scooped tail for protection: The length of the back is spot on, and won't lift out of a harness when you raise your arms.
A lot of the features of the Alize Windproof Jacket are well designed, including the length of the jacket, the elasticated cuffs, the helmet-friendly hood and the ventilation zips. Some of the features, however, don't work so well: I've found that the hood tends to unroll from its hang tang when I try to fasten it away; the hem drawcord often hangs down and gets in the way; and I don't quite trust the internal pockets. The Nikwax Windproof fabric may be both shower-proof and highly breathable, but it's arguable that by making it so light and breathable some windproof performance has been sacrificed. My biggest criticism of it is that it seems too lightweight to really be of that much use on a cold, windy mountain. This is the lightest jacket I have ever worn, which is great for high output activities like running, but when the weather turns I've found the material feels barely windproof. I think this is simply the result of the bellows effect of that ultra thin fabric moving in the wind. As a fair weather windproof (breeze-proof?) it has its niche, but when the going gets really cold and blowy a traditional shell feels more protective.
The Alize Windproof offers packable protection for runners, cyclists and walkers.
For high energy activities such as running and cycling, it's important to have a lightweight windproof on hand for protection from windchill when at rest or in an emergency. For walkers, it is useful to have a protective layer that uses minimal space in your bag.
The Alize Windproof uses lightweight Nikwax® Windproof fabric with a TX.Direct water-repellent treatment for shower protection. It compacts into its own pocket and combines with the Alize Fleece for good weather protection in wet or cold weather.
The Alize Windproof is specifically designed to be compatible with the Alize Fleece. Together these two garments create a versatile waterproof system.
- Sizes: XS-XL (for women: men's version is the Ostro windproof, S-XXL)
- Weight: 158g (average)
- Internal stuff pocket with loop for attachment for transportation.
- Stowable helmet-friendly hood with low profile peak and dual adjustment.
- Temperature control from ventilation zips that also provide access to internal pockets.
- Fabric: Nikwax® Windproof cuts windchill and protects your insulation but still provides excellent moisture vapour transfer, allowing perspiration to escape. The fabric is light but very durable and UV resistant, so providing excellent protection in all environments. It also deflects rain thanks to a Nikwax waterproofing treatment. It can be worn alone, or combined with Nikwax Fleece to create a fully directional waterproof system, equivalent to an Analogy waterproof.
For more info see: paramo-clothing.com
"I think that for the Fleece and Windproof to be complimentary they would need to be more similar in weight. However if it's wet but not particularly windy, the fact that the two garments worn together create a fully waterproof system does add versatility to your layering options"
Fleece and Windproof combination - the verdict
I like the idea of a fleece and windproof which work together, but in my opinion the Alize Fleece and Windproof Jacket are something of a mismatch.
The Alize Fleece is warm for its weight, breeze-resistant and shower-resistant, and in itself works well in cool, dank and windy conditions in the mountains. This well-designed, comfortable insulating layer will be excellent for Scottish winter climbing too. It has fast become my new favourite jacket, and I can't fault it.
The Alize Windproof Jacket has some nice features too, and I think it makes a reasonable windproof for running in a cool breeze - but not much more than that. Overall it seems just too lightweight to keep a strong wind at bay, and in wilder conditions its limitations are soon felt.
I think that for the Fleece and Windproof to be complimentary they would need to be more similar in weight and warmth. As they are, I found that if I was wearing the Fleece and it was cold and/or windy enough to need a shell, then it was already too wild for the Windproof to add much and I would instead put on one of my old heavier waterproofs. If it's wet but not particularly windy, however, the fact that the two garments worn together create a fully waterproof system does add versatility to your layering options.