I had high hopes for the Paramo Alta II jacket when I began using it late last year. Paramo have a great reputation, with many people swearing by their products. I found myself swearing at their products…
Paramo isn’t sexy. It’s not the kind of sleek, slick gear which you’ll see splashed over a full page advert in glossy hillwalking magazines. It’s known for being functional, dependable, long lasting but heavy. A favourite for elderly dog walkers everywhere. Not having a dog, my reasons for buying this were the first three. I wanted a good ‘winter’ jacket, something which would withstand the worst a Scottish winter could throw at me, so when I saw this on sale I jumped at it.
The jacket is heavier than what I would usually wear, no doubt about it. The material is soft and not as ‘rustly’ as a conventional shell jacket. Unlike many modern jackets it isn’t a “bum-freezer”, going well below waist level. It can also be vented using a combination of pop studs and venting via zips, either on the arms or the main 2-way zip at the front, so if you are putting in the effort you don’t have to bake.
There are 4 outer pockets, two zipped hip pockets and two chest pockets, one map sized, one smaller, as well as one mesh inner pocket. The way I wear my gear means I don’t always use the pockets, and indeed depending on what pack you wear means you may or may not be able to access the hip pockets. As for the 2two chest pockets, the left (as worn) pocket is large enough to hold a map and has a zip with a storm-flap. The right pocket is small, large enough for a compass or GPS unit, and has a Velcro closure with a plastic D-ring type loop next to it. My initial thoughts were that this pocket may be a weak point and that moisture could creep in, but this hasn’t been the case. The wired hood, which can be adjusted for volume through three elasticated cords, sits neatly around the face, moving well with the head so that the view isn’t obscured by voluminous fabric. The two cords at the front are retained through fabric loops, helping prevent them from slapping the face when it’s windy. It isn’t immediately what the pop studs on the outside of the hood are for, until you find the corresponding ones inside the hood, allowing it to be rolled neatly away. The cuffs have a strange layout, whereby when the Velcro flap is undone it withdraws inside a fabric sheath which stops it from hanging loosely, should you want to push the sleeves up if it’s hot. The other strange feature is that there are two foam pads inserted in the back of the jacket, the idea is to give a small amount of room for moisture evaporation when wearing a rucksack. I can’t say they has had any noticeable effect, but I’ve kept them in anyway.
Surprisingly it’s the map pocket, the only one on the jacket with a storm-flap, which has given me grief. Taken straight from the bag brand new, and worn on a trip to Corrour in which the rain came down in buckets, I quickly noticed a small pool of water formed in the pocket, after less than an hour in the rain. This was one of those “have I left the gas on?” moments where you can’t say with any certainty that you did or didn’t carry out a particular action. In this case I couldn’t remember whether the zip was up or down before I put my hand in the pocket. I made a mental note to pay attention to this in future. In Scotland you generally don’t have to wait long for heavy rain, and the weather duly obliged. This time the zip was up. 100% positive. Again the water pooled in the pocket, so I arranged for it to be returned via the retailer to Paramo. A few weeks later the jacket arrived back, with a note that it had been cleaned and reproofed. That’s right, cleaned and reproofed! A jacket which leaked on it’s first time out. I wasn’t pleased but thought I’d give them the benefit of the doubt. Then a combination of not walking through injury and milder weather meant that other than stand under the shower I couldn’t see if the reproofing had worked. Then a thunderstorm which would usually have me diving for cover came to my aid, and 15 minutes later proved what I thought. Water pooling in the map pocket.
This time I contacted Paramo directly, who stated that this was unacceptable and to send it back to them, which I did with a covering letter explaining all of the above. Three weeks later a package arrived from Paramo, which I opened to find my original jacket, once again cleaned and reproofed. Either this isn’t showing up in testing or it’s normal for this type of jacket, which I very much doubt. If all the pockets leaked I could perhaps assume that the rain is at a level greater than the jacket can cope with, but that’s not the case. Repeatedly one pocket, the same pocket, pools with water.
The map pocket issue aside, it’s a very good jacket. It could do with ditching the hip pockets, which are usually blocked by a rucksack hip-belt, but other than that it’s a fairly well thought out piece of kit, as is anything from the Paramo stable. Comfortable, practical and overall very waterproof, it’s not cheap with an RRP of around £250, but is available from various retailers for much less, so shop around. So long as your pockets don’t leak it’ll be worth every penny and should last you for years to come.
Advertised weight: 849g (average)
Tested weight: 900g