The Vault Regulars

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Paramo the Enigma

About 3 years ago, maybe 4,  i went out of my way to track down a Paramo Adventure light smock in bottle green. I phoned around and eventually found one at Whalley Lancashire. When i got there i was told that the one in store had actually been sold but the assistant hadn’t realised it at the time.
However, after a bit of pleading i managed to buy it. I was over the moon.

My joy didn’t last long, maybe 6 months, when on a particularly wet day the left sleeve area started to leak, slowly at first until within a couple of hours my left arm base layer was wet through.

I was disappointed especially after the trouble i went to get the thing and at a cost of £180.

What was needed i thought was a reproofing. Which i did using the washing machine and low heat tumble dry method. It didn’t work. The left sleeve still leaked just as badly as if i hadn’t made any effort. Weird.

Now i have since read numerous accounts of Paramo leaking to the point of saturation and folk being highly disgruntled to say the least. And quite right i think.
One of the main points to come out of all this reading was that your washing machine must bear no trace of soap from previous washes and the garment must be cleaned with tech wash etc etc.

So not one to give up i decided to do it all by the book. I bought washing machine cleaner, tech wash, new TX direct  and set about carefully cleaning the soap box and the inlet pipe and rinsed it all thoroughly a couple of times. Then i cleaned the jacket with Tech wash and rinsed it twice. Then reproofed it and dried it with low heat tumbling.

Yep you have guessed. The left sleeve still leaked. Why just the left sleeve you may well ask. And the answer is ineffable.

I gave up with Paramo. It was unreliable and also seems to have quite an early wetting out time in comparison to other jackets i possess. It stayed in the wardrobe most months and only came out if it was a bitterly cold day with no rain forecast. I thought it a real shame as i do like the feel of Paramo and enjoy wearing it and praise it’s breathability.
What annoy's me more than anything is that some people absolutely swear by it. So why do some people find it fantastic and others find it poor? I just don’t get it and wish i had an answer because it’s £180 almost wasted.

About Mid November 2013 Sheila and i had been out for a day hike and our overtrousers were very muddy, so when i got home i soaked them in the car cleaning bucket in just warm water and left them there until the next day. After a couple of quick swills under the tap i thought it prudent to re-proof them while they were clean and wet.
I still had plenty of TX direct left and put about 50% more TX direct into the bucket of water than was instructed on the container. Well overtrousers take a bit of a bashing so i thought it would be ok.
I left them soaking for about 1/2 hr and then put them up on the line and let them dry.

The bucket was still half full of the mix and so chucked in a pair of gloves. I then thought “what about that Paramo jacket”, so i chucked that in as well. Giving it a good soaking and leaving it to sit for about 10 minutes, i then just hung it on the line.

Moving on a month or so….
The last couple of days have been very wet as all of you who read this will be aware. The UK being battered at the moment with heavy rain and high winds. Time to get the Paramo out and go for a local walk where it doesn’t matter if i get soaked or not because at worst i would only be an hour away from home. Well it rained and it battered the trees and the noise was quite deafening at times.

I was waiting for that tell tale cold arm as the jacket wetted out and water started to fill up my gloves but it never happened. Water just beaded off, except for one part of the flap which covers the chest pocket zip. I was amazed. I just couldn’t believe it, i kept checking my left sleeve for wet patches and nothing, so i stayed out longer just to see at what point it soaked through. It never did and the rain came down even harder as i walked home.

I didn’t wash the bucket out, i didn’t clean the jacket, i put too much mix into the water, i didn’t tumble dry it and it all seems to have worked.
Paramo is an enigma. I wish i understood it. Anyway lets hope all is ok on its next outing which will be another day hike, i still don’t trust it enough yet for anything longer.


afootinthehills said...

Hi Alan. I can only give you my experience of Paramo. I've used it since about 2000, my first jacket being a Cascada. Then I bought the Cascada Trousers, then an Adventure Smock, then an Aspira Smock and an Alta Jacket.

With one minor exception* I have never had problems with any of these garments leaking. For example, a few years ago we spent two weeks in September in Lochaber and it rained every day with strong winds. We were out on all but one day (Lynne wore her Cascada jacket and trousers and I wore my Adventure smock) and neither of us had any problems. Admittedly my wrists got wet because there is no liner on the cuffs, but that apart they performed perfectly as they always have done. We've both worn Paramo on all our trips this year, albeit local, and never got wet.

That said, I have heard of people having the same problem as you experienced (Alan Sloman for one) particularly with the more recent, lighter versions. It has to be said that Lynne is pretty careful when proofing them which I think is crucial - and a drawback for use on longer trips of course.

Alan Kimber (International Guide) uses Paramo almost every day in winter on Ben Nevis in some really harsh conditions and I know that at least one Mountain Rescue Team uses it. Of course that doesn't change the fact that yours leaked! I'd have sent it back to Paramo straight away. Trouble is once you've lost confidence in something it's hard to restore it.

I've no axe to grind re Paramo and there are other things about the jackets and smocks that I don't like - the drawcords and poppers for example. Once into March/April I'm back using my ME Morpheus which is now 6 years old and has proved to be a superb jacket.

*the exception was with the Cascada trousers which needed re-proofed but even then I didn't get very wet and they dried quickly once the rain stopped. More importantly perhaps, I didn't feel cold. Oh, and the shoulder areas can also be a problem where the (saturated) pack straps compress the fabric.

Anyway that's my experience for what it's worth.

Martin Rye said...

Is this a April fools joke early ? It cannot be true. We need more tests to establish whats happening here. Go backpacking next week when it raining hard for two days and update us if your still dry. This is interesting Alan.

Al said...

Hi Alan
Very interesting...I'm a neutral in the Paramo debate.
I own 2 Jackets and a pair of trousers, all of which I've bought with my own hard earned cash! I have only had 1 incidence of leakage in almost 10 years, on the day of the West Cumbria floods, the rain that day was as they say biblical. The leakage was under the pack straps as I struggled into the wind driven rain.
I probably only reproof the jackets approx once a year....I rarely wear the trousers, to warm for me. I must say I've never used a dryer, just letting them dry naturally. I do use tech wash first and clean the powder drawer.
The thing that baffles me is that all the folk I know who use it are completely satisfied with it, these include "Professional" users (MRT, SARDA) etc.
As I tweeted recently, I don't use it for backpacking these days as its simply not adaptable for me in the climates I would use it in.
Thanks for the thoughtful post on what seems to be, as you say an emigma!

Greg said...

Yes I have the Cascada trousers for winter and quite like them. I did see lots of negative comments about paramo from another blogger a year or so back and wondered at the time if he was over proofing the garment. I also thought it strange as Chris Townsend often recommends paramo and I really rate his opinion. I couldn't believe he would recommend something if it was n't any good.

Andrew W said...

Oh the Paramo Dichitomy.
I have 2 Paramo 3rd elements.
Love them.
But have on a couple of horrendous occassions been thoroughly wetted out.
I clean mine a couple of times a year.
Once a year I do the full wash thing.
I use Tech wash.
But... I don't wash them with TX Direct.
I hang it after spinning wet and Spray it with TX direct.
I find that seems to make the proofing better.
But as you say..... Paramo is a weird contradiction.
Of course you can always send it back to Paramo for factory reproof.

It is a great Soft Shell.

I am sticking to my PHD :-) from now on.

Anonymous said...

I stopped using the washing machine and use the utility room sink/bucket method and then line dry for my Gore Tex jackets and trousers and find it works much better (when using nikwax wash and reproof.) And I did always wash and rinse the soap drawer of the washing machine. I see Salomon have a new sole on the mark 3? version of the XA pro 3D. I'm thinking of writing to Salomon about the miserly mileage I've had out of my pair. In contrast I have a pair of Salomon x-ultra GTX which seem to be wearing much better but they are sold as an approach shoe rather than a trail shoe.

Martin Rye said...

I was out backpacking with: Alan Sloman, James Boulter, Andy Walker and all in Paramo. All got wet and some soaking wet in it. There are plenty of people who have had issues with it. The debate on OM rages on about it. I am harsh on Paramo as a result, but I am open to debate and looking forward to seeing what happens to Alan's top now.

AlanR said...

Thanks Gibson. Would i be right in saying that if the shoulder areas leak under compression that in a short time of it starting you would end up wet through?
You are right of course that lots of MRT’s use Paramo and therefore it is either very good or they are getting gear for free. I’m not sure which is true.
But. if Alan Kimber swears by it then as i said in the post, i get most annoyed that me and others have found it wanting to the point of not using it.

AlanR said...

I’m not sure about next week Martin but very soon. Do i take it that you are in the negative Paramo club from your comment?

AlanR said...

Thanks Alistair, Like Gibson found, if it leaks under strap compression then it leaks. It’s an enigma for sure.

AlanR said...

I’m with you on that Greg. I always respect Chris’s views on gear. My own thoughts on over proofing was just about breathability.

AlanR said...

I’m looking forward to your blog review on the “Orange” shell. At least everyone will know its you from a distance.

AlanR said...

Mine are still going strong. I am light footed though. I should have gone and had a look at the Mk 3 yesterday but i forgot. I will go next week.
You wouldn’t think the material for a trail shoe and an approach shoe would be different. They both go into the same terrain.

AlanR said...

I also remember watching Bob Cartwrights TGO challenge video where his two companions were soaked wearing Paramo. I think it was last year’s crossing.

afootinthehills said...

Hi Alan. Yes shoulders get wet, or damp at least. Paramo is not waterproof when compressed in my experience - it's the nature of the beast as they say - but I've never really had a major problem with this. I just accept that all 'waterproofs' have limitations, but I wouldn't use Paramo at all if I'd had the experiences you and others have had.

It's the Velez smock I have, not she Adventure btw.

AlanR said...

Well thats good to hear. I will do some more testing before going the whole hog and backpacking as Martin suggests. I don’t like to be soaked through these days.

Gayle said...

Whilst I wash our Paramo in the machine, I long ago started proofing them in the sink. One reason being that using the sink requires half the amount of TX Direct, but I also thought that there must be variability with the amount of water used in various makes of washing machine in various suitable cycles, and thus it must be more reliable to use a known amount of TX Direct in a known amount of water.

Unfortunately, I can seldom find a pair of rubber gloves, so I do end up with waterproof hands for a while!

AlanR said...

That all makes good sense Gayle and I will remember it. I know you guys have used Paramo for ages and I often wondered what you thought.

Gayle said...

My thoughts on Paramo - now, there's a subject on which I could write an essay! Maybe I should do that sometime.

AlanR said...

We look forward to it. You should be able to manage it in between the storms. Ha

Andrew W said...

Ah YES this year I will be mainly Tango'd.
Just done a full blown from start to finish reproof on my 3rd Element.
BUT, no rain forecast until Mon/Tue, so the success or otherwise of my efforts are unknown...

I gave it the proper machine wash with NON BIO.
2 x rinse cycles.
Then a Hand rinse

A Hand Tech wash and multiple hand rinse
And a Hand Tech Direct (I am with Gayle on this one, and I too have completely waterproof hands)

I await a suitable deluge to test and see if it works or not.

AlanR said...

So there's no chance of it leaking then. And no need for gloves.

Dawn said...

My trust in Paramo was severely damaged some years back. On the Scottish hills in severe winter conditions wearing Paramo gear. basically I got soaked to the skin. Yes conditions where appalling but in standard waterproofs I may have got damp but not soaked. Currently I have a pair of Cascadas but wear light waterproofs over the top in wet conditions.

AlanR said...

Being honest Dawn my thoughts are similar to yours. Its a distrust i have in the long term. Would i take this Paramo on a multi day hike, NO absolutely not. But respected people seem to find it second to none. WHY? I’m not stupid, although its debatable sometimes, so why is there such a huge discrepancy from users in similar environments. I wish i could find out the answer.

Findon said...

Very interesting and timely. As I start to rebuild my outdoor gear following a disastrous decision a few years ago I'm really interested in the experiences people have had. many thanks for this.

Simon said...

The debate goes on even 4 years later. After buying a pair of paramo pants I was quite impressed so invested in a jacket. It’s failed me miserably and within half an hours my sides were soaked and cold on a rainy day in the Lake District. It’s only 2 weeks old and I really cannot trust it now over a hard shell where the only thing I’ve had to worry about is a bit of perspiration. Really liked the jacket as an all in one option and it was exceptionally good at managing perspiration. No way I can trust it on anything longer so I’ve invested in Arcteryx goretex

AlanR said...

It doesn’t surprise me Simon. I cannot understand why some people say they have no problems and yet others do. Which includes me.
I understand how water can get through with rucksack strap pressure but mine leaks badly on the arms where there is no pressure.
If I was going to buy a new jacket today it would be Dannah.

Unknown said...

I have had an adventure smock and light and never got caught out in wet weather until last year. I was wearing my adventure light and ascending scafell on a night camp at Burnmoor Tarn.
Within two minutes of a torrential downpour not predicted by met Office, I had running water all over my body. This was a new jacket!
After many back and forth with paramo I spoke to a manager on the phone. He admitted that pressure on the surface fabric will lead to failure but the pump liner will deal with the wetness. He admitted that a constant deluge would need to stop to give the pump liner any chance.
So the answer is....Paramo will get a soaking if weather is bad enough but will dry out once rain a gortex Pro!

AlanR said...

Unknown, Couldn't agree more.

feemackenzie said...

This debate will endure ice ages I fear. I'm a Smock wearer and echo the second last remark: in driving rain, the outer wets out, the pump struggles but with a short break it dries. In the meantime, I'm not cold, something I have struggled with wearing goretex. I adore the silent material, love the design... I'm a supporter but recognise like a goretex (feel like it's a sweat in a bag fest), Paramo has limitations

AlanR said...

Feemackenzie, thanks for the comment. Since 2014 I have altered my initial opinion just slightly more positive. For all the reasons you have written. I still get wet in my Paramo adventure light but I do in any hardshell anyway. I tend to run hot so I do get a bit of condensation in hard-shells. I find I cannot wear Paramo above about 3 degrees C. However, as you first sentence says, the argument will last for ever. Happy New Year.

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