Paramo Alta II jacket

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 Alta II

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.

Pit zips for venting the arms of the jacket, again secured by pop studs.

Main zip lowered showing pop studs for venting

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. 

Hood up, not the retainers for the adjustment cords.

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. 

Front chest area of the jacket.

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.

Size tested:Large

Advertised weight: 849g (average)

Tested weight: 900g


24 Responses to Paramo Alta II jacket

  1. jkhjk says:

    I don’t think the ‘map’ pocket is supposed to be waterproof. i have the same jacket and it always leaks afer heavy rain. The rest of the jacket however, performs fine.

  2. Dave says:

    I have an old casscadda which I swear by. 16 years old it is heavy and bulky but keeps you dry and warm. Alas my Alta is newer and made of a lighter fabric that rips and catches. In addition the top 2 pockets leak as you describe. The other major issue is that there is no storm flap OVER the zip as on the casscadda. In short, in a effort to save weight I think that Paramao have made a design mistake. The new casscadda still has storm flaps OVER the zip and pockets. Guess what I will be buying next time!

  3. Nick Lord says:

    Swapped my old Alta for the new Alta 2 as it’s half the weight and tis the Alta 2 that nearly every Mountain Rescue team uses – including the one I’m in. I also run my own business as a professional mountain instructor and have used my Alta 2 in winter, as well as my MR one, heavy rain and sunshine. It surpasses by far anything made of gore-tex (horrible stuff that only works under certain conditions and has a shelf life of about 2 years when used regularly) and no leaks anywhere, not even in pockets and no-one else in the team has experienced pools in the pockets!

  4. DaveB says:

    I have had the same jacket for a few years now and have always had water pools in the pockets. I am also finding it difficult to keep the whole jacket waterproof. Washing with Techwash and reproofing with Nikwax seems very hit and miss. Just today I’ve come back with wet shoulders and shirt front after only 40 mins in heavy rain. I only washed and proofed the jacket a couple of months ago. The problem is you only find out there’s a problem when you really need the waterproof properties! Its a shame as it is comfortable to wear and I like only having to wear a thin shirt under it in most conditions.

    • DaveB says:

      This is an update on my comment of Jan 16, 2014
      I sent the jacket back to Paramo who cleaned and reproofed it. The jacket still leaked so it went back a second time. It was cleaned again, reproofed and tested. Paramo were unable to stop it letting in water. With no prompting from myself they honoured their guarantee that the garment’s properties could be maintained for the life of the jacket and replaced it!
      You cannot fault that for customer service.
      So far the replacement has been ok, but have not been out in prolonged heavy rain over the summer. I hope it will be ok. A very old Paramo Viento jacket, I own, still works ok. However, it is made from heavier fabrics (may be a factor?). Both jackets have been washed/ reproofed regularly.

      • DaveB says:

        This is an update to my comments (DaveB) of Jan 2014 and Oct 2014
        I am at a loss as to how the Alta II jacket can be kept waterproof. Yet again the replacement jacket started leaking and all attempts at cleaning and proofing with the Nikwax products eventually were unsuccessful. Earlier this year I was going to Wensleydale for a long weekend followed by a week in St Davids. In preparation I specifically hand washed (to avoid any chance of contamination from washing powder in the machine) and reproofed my jacket . In light, but steady rain with no wind the whole jacket let in water over an hour long period. Paramo agreed to have the jacket back and pay the postage (which they haven’t!). They reproofed it and returned it. I have only been out in light short showers so far and it has passed that test. My great concern is that I cannot rely on it being waterproof, so if I was unfortunate enough to be caught on the hill due to an accident or whatever, I could be stuck there soaking wet.
        My experience suggests this jacket is only really waterproof when new and that it soon becomes less than showerproof.
        Needless to say I am looking for a replacement for this expensive/high maintenance jacket.

      • jester1970 says:

        Hi Dave, I’ve been using Paramo waterproof trousers for a while now and have been impressed by them. I think that the material is good, it works well and performs as it should. The real problem is with the design of the Alta Jacket. It’s simply not good enough to have a waterproof shell jacket with such a basic design fault as a leaky pocket.

  5. Chris Walton says:

    I owned a ladies Alto 1 for 4 years before simultaneously losing it and succumbing to very early OA.
    All i can add is that it was a fantastic cosy quick to dry coat in all weather conditions. The zips on the pockets did need you to check them as closed as they don’t show as being left open and the silence of the jacket overall means that you dont go through the rustle and pocket checking of a goretez jacket – had 5 of those. I soon got over my senior moments of leaving pockets open and spent many a Xmas in thr Lakes on the hills dry and cosy.
    When I recover enough from
    ops I will buy another Alta and my hubby, initially dubious, once he saw how mine performed, wants one too.
    I am sure you must have had a faulty one and it wasnt senior moments due to silent fabric and concealed zips – and the service support was good. not going to list those Goretex garment companies who were rubbish when i had problems with leaking seams – they know who they are

    • jester1970 says:

      Hi Chris, Perhaps the Alta didn’t have the map pocket on the chest. Paramo assure me the jacket isn’t faulty. I certainly trust the fabric, but not the design of the pockets.

  6. Baz says:

    Many thanks for the honest review. I plan to get out more next winter and so a similar jacket may be on the cards. It looks like the Alta III will be out this year:
    Most of my walking is in Derbyshire, so I tend to wear my Valez light. If it is cold, I wear a Mountain Pull-on underneath.
    There seem to be so many combinations with Paramo, the decision is a logistical challenge in itself. I do find, however, that the Mountain Pull-on works well with a waterproof smock for mild days and so the Valez light, the smock and the mountain pull-on give a really good range for most conditions.

    • Martin says:

      I was in a Paramo store the other day buying a windproof but had a chat about the new Alta III. A much better cut, better pockets, just a better looking jacket. Look forward to the reviews. Btw, the Bentu fleece looks great, too – the shopkeeper demonstrated by pouring a cup of water over it… the water just runs off. Very nice!

  7. Ben vasey says:

    The map pocket is definitely not waterproof. I put my work pass and phone in it but they are in plastic waterproof bags. The rest of the coat has kept me dry on countless occasions.

    • jester1970 says:

      I’ve had to have the entire back panel of the jacket replaced. The elasticated waist cord creates a point of friction and wears through the fabric.
      The back panel is being replaced- minus the offending cord. The jacket as it comes off the shelf isn’t suitable for use with a rucksack for that reason.

  8. Russell Baker says:

    I have owned one of these for five years and worked it hard in the worst weather the Peak District has to offer. It is without doubt the best jacket I have ever owned challenged only by the lighter weight Quito which I use from April to October. The only downside I have found and it is a problem with all soft outer fabrics is that it tears too easily when in contact with brambles. Yes Paramo have a repair service but it happens on most day trips walking on little used country footpaths where regular maintenance is now unfortunately not carried out. Any suggestions what I should replace it with?

  9. jester1970 says:

    The Paramo fabric is susceptible to getting nicks from brambles, barbed wire and the like, and it’s something to bear in mind before setting out. There’s a few places I walk where I just wouldn’t dream of wearing it and would opt for a harder shell from something a bit more tear resistant.
    I would be loathe to suggest a particular jacket, but would say that you really have to know yourself the kind of walking you would be doing, and you would have to decide whether to go for something cheaper that you perhaps wouldn’t mind so much if it became damaged or whether you prefer something with good performance which is a bit tougher.
    Having said that, for general rambling about where there’s the likelihood of snagging or abrasion I use the Diawa Mission All-Weather Jacket:

    It appears to be no longer made, the nearest equivalent I can see is this:

    It looks to be a slightly better version with a wired hood. The hood on the Diawa Mission being one of the worst I’ve used, being akin to a plastic bag waving in the wind.

  10. Martin says:

    Note that the latest version of the Alta is now in the shops and it looks like quite a design leap. Personally I have adopted more of a layering approach these days with a Bentu fleece, Cambia t-shirt underneath and Fuera windproof smock over if needed. The Valez Light still comes out, but until things really get cold I find it a bit too warm.

  11. Phil says:

    Hi Jim, Just alighted on your website and read your review of the Alta II which I also have. Although your original comment and this issue is now a little dated it may be worth mentioning that I also discovered that the map pocket is not waterproof following a full day out on Lake District fells in torrential rain. I contacted Paramo who advised me that the map pocket was indeed not, yes not, waterproof! Maybe something to do with the fact that this is the only pocket without an outer lining. Something of a design fault I think. After all, who wants soggy maps on a wet day! If I’d been quicker at the time I might have mentioned Trades Descriptions etc. Otherwise apart from some small seepage up the cuffs in heavy rain the rest of the jacket is fine. Had it now about 10 years. Perhaps I’ll check out the Alta III. Especially the map pocket. Or of course buy waterproof maps.

  12. jester1970 says:

    Hi Phil,
    Sometimes it’s nice to see that I’m not the only one with this problem. It affirms my thoughts that it was a flaw in the design, and I’d be interested to see if this is replicated in the Alta III. I see they have continued with the use of a drawstring at the waist; I wonder if it is formed of flat elastic as opposed to round cord elastic? If it’s the latter I would have it removed immediately.

  13. Pete. says:

    I thought the Alta was meant as a lightweight walking jacket for moderate climates? Not what I would have chosen for a Scottish winter. I use a Paramo Pajero jacket and trousers, and they have been bomb-proof in everything the weather has thrown at me.

  14. Tom Barkas says:

    The only pocket you can trust to be waterproof is the inside one (mobile phone destroyed in map pocket; hat and gloves wet in others) and Paramo accept this as normal and completely unrepentant!. In addition, they claim it is windproof, which isn’t right – the small print shows they only check it at 30 mph ! Beware the elasticated drawcords around the hood – it’s quite easy to catch one between two fingers without realizing, stretch it to the limit and then have it slam back into your eye! Having said that, I still use it

    • Philip Mervik says:

      That made me chuckle. I’ve had the elasticated draw cord situation happen to me before a couple of times, very painful and confusing. The first time even manage to bypass my spectacles, like it was showing signs of intelligence.

  15. DaddyB12 says:

    Re water in pockets, someone did suggest a while ago that it was sweat coming out and accumulating in the pockets as opposed to water getting in. Just a thought

  16. jester1970 says:

    Definitely not sweat I’m afraid. If it was, I would weigh about 6 stone!

  17. DaveB says:

    Well, I’ve finally given up with the Paramo Alta II jacket and consigned it to ‘garden leave’ Its replacement is a fairly basic Berghaus gortex jacket. Spent an 8 hour day out in pouring rain and was completely dry. Also, not a drop of water in any of the pockets. Wish I’d made the change years ago.

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