18

I'm considering replacing my North Face Gore-tex jacket as it's starting to get a bit tatty, some of the zips are breaking, etc.

I've seen quite a few Paramo jackets about. I'm presuming they're quite good as they are the jackets I see a lot of mountain rescue members and mountain guides wearing.

A mentioned this to a friend and he said, "they're the marmite of mountain equipment, some people love them, others hate them" but didn't elaborate further.

So what does a Paramo jacket do that's different to Gore-tex? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

  • 3
    Vegimite is better! (sits back and waits for flame war to start...) – ShemSeger Apr 20 '15 at 18:34
  • Did wonder if that'd translate! – user2766 Apr 20 '15 at 18:37
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    I got the reference, but only because I'm Canadian and have friends that moved here from the UK and made me try marmite. To me I thought it tasted a lot like the volts you get from licking a battery... – ShemSeger Apr 20 '15 at 18:40
  • I agree..... :P – user2766 Apr 20 '15 at 18:48
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    Many companies off out door professionals large (100% or more) discounts for a photo or two. Although function is of critical concern, once its "good enough" (Many products today meet that standard) , professionals are in it for money - not to make brand-whoring fashion statements - so go with the best deal. Them wearing a jacket is a statement that it's good enough and cheap enough at the price he pays. I once teamed up with a Marmot sponsored climber for a climb- all his gear cost him nothing. – user5330 Apr 20 '15 at 20:30
17

I have a high-end gore-tex jacket and my wife has Paramo. I also have Paramo trousers. They are quite different: Gore-Tex is designed to be a physical barrier that prevents water getting through, while Nikwax Analogy (the fabric in Paramo jackets) is designed to be highly water-repellent and wick water quickly from inside to out rather than being actually waterproof. Buffalo (pertex/pile) is a similar concept in some ways.

In practice, my experience is:

Pros:

  • Analogy is softer and quieter (no rustle)
  • Analogy is much more breathable than Gore-Tex
  • Analogy is less likely to wet out as the DWR is particularly good - so breathability in tough conditions is also better
  • Because it's not based on the idea of a watertight barrier, rips and tears are easier to repair - just sew
  • Paramo is an Ethical Consumer Best Buy company - the fabric can be (and is) re-used to make new garments, the process doesn't use PFCs (see this page for some references - biased but does link to research), the production directly supports social projects in Colombia link here, etc etc.

Cons

  • Nikwax Analogy is heavier than nearly all Gore-Tex fabrics
  • it also tends to be warmer (I guess could be an advantage in some conditions)
  • Analogy will let some water in under pressure (sitting on wet grass, leaning on wet rock, sometimes under rucksac straps), though it dries and wicks out very quickly
  • I think the Paramo jackets are pretty ugly.
  • less garment choice as fewer companies use Analogy (apart from Paramo, Cioch also use it - and they do made-to-measure/custom)

I really rate Paramo: many have been the times when I've been clammy sweaty and cold inside my Gore-Tex while my wife has been dry and comfy. I particularly like the trousers: they are so breathable and comfortable that they can be worn next to the skin all day (in cold conditions), saving the annoyance of dragging waterproofs on and off as the weather changes. However it is warm and heavy. For Scottish winter it's probably ideal; for mountain marathons less so!

It's worth adding that this relates to the standard jacket (Cascada). Paramo also do a line of tops with separate water repellent and wicking layers, so you can mix and match according to conditions - possibly saving some weight if conditions aren't too bad. I have no experience of those.

  • 2
    I would add to the Pros: Can be re-waterproofed as often as you like by washing in NikWax TX.Direct. – Paul Lydon Apr 21 '15 at 11:04
  • Exactly what I was after, thanks, very useful – user2766 Apr 21 '15 at 12:16
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    Another massive, massive pro is durability. My Cascada jacket is now 17 years old and still going - looking a bit beaten up and a mouse has chewed a hole in one pocket (stupidly left a cereal bar in there during a bothy night), but in principle repairable. In contrast, 9-year old event jacket that is hardly worn appears to be de-laminating, the taped seams are coming loose and it isn't waterproof. – Rob Jeffries Oct 22 '18 at 13:16
6

The accepted answer is an excellent summary, but I'd like to add my personal observations.

I do most of my walking in Scotland in "dreich", cold conditions. Paramo is the only thing that keeps me dry. Having gone through a series of GoreTex/Event/Triplepoint jackets beforehand, my experience was of being drenched in my own sweat even if they kept the rain out. The Analogy's water-movement mechanism away from the skin means that I have actually washed my baselayers, then put the jacket/trousers on over the top and they dry out while I'm walking!

Secondly, a word about durability. I am still using a Paramo Alta winter jacket that I bought 14 years ago. I don't think any Goretex/Event jacket I've had has remained serviceable more than 3 years. They seem to de-laminate and the taped seams come loose.

There are lighter Paramo options. I got hold of one of their lighter-weight jackets and trousers a couple of years ago for warmer weather use. They are of course ultrabreathable, but I think the thinner Nikwax analogy layer means that it is easier for water to penetrate (certainly true in the trousers).

5

Nikwax Analogy (Paramo) fabrics and Gore-Tex fabrics are very different, and in fact fall under two different categories: Nikwax is more of a softshell and Gore-Tex is a hardshell. That means Paramo is not 100% waterproof, even when treated while Gore-Tex fabric is (when well maintained).

The fact that Nikwax fabric is not completely waterproof means that it is much more breathable and comfortable to wear when active, but facing a down pour water will get through. Gore-Tex on the other hand is a waterproof/breathable fabric, but offers much less breathability compared to softshells.

At the end of the day the question is what you are trying to get: a waterproof shell or a comfortable and breathable softshell? That will depend on the conditions you are usually at, NW USA or Scotland, I'd go for a waterproof shell as the chances are very high for rain and temperatures are lower. If you are in warmer and drier (rare rain storms), a softhshell with a really simple (and cheap) emergency shell for those few minutes of rain.

It is important to remember that there are great alternatives to both fabrics: eVant is also a great breathable hardshell while most companies have a synthetic softshell that will work just as much.

Pick what you are going for and buy accordingly.

  • 1
    In my experience, because Paramo gear is quite warm, I wear Paramo when temperatures are 10 degrees C/ 50 degress F and below or Event when above that. Paramo is not waterrproof in the traditional sense (e.g. if you kneel on wet ground, water will be forced inwards, but will soon be expelled again on standing up), but if kept treated with NikWax TX10, I have stayed completely dry despite day-long downpours (including in Scotland!). Unlike other soft shells, you will remain dry using Paramo gear in heavy rain. – Paul Lydon Apr 30 '15 at 11:22

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