Being the keen hill walker that I am, I enjoy being outdoors and taking pictures throughout the seasons, whatever the weather. Because of this I have tried and tested many different outdoor garments ranging from poor to excellent. Walking requires several layers of clothing to fend off the bone chilling cold that comes with visiting open moorland in the depths of winter. The temperature may be just a few degrees below freezing, but add wind chill to this and the fact that I may be standing around for a while preparing to take pictures, and the experience can get uncomfortable.
My favourite manufacturer of outdoor gear is without doubt Paramo. The first item I purchased was a green Cascada jacket and what attracted me to it (apart from colour) were two large external pockets. Intended for keeping the hands warm, I could see them being very useful for popping lenses into when it was too cold to fiddle with a bag. Cascada jackets are exceptionally light and have a small footprint when rolled up, allowing easy storage in a back pack during warmer weather. Their lightness belies just how rugged they are; Manufactured from a very durable and rugged dual layered material, they are very wind and waterproof due to the use of Nikwax Analogy technology, which fundamentally mimics animal fur by wicking moisture away from the skin.
For such a light jacket, it is surprisingly warm and can easily be worn with nothing other than a shirt underneath. A spacious map pocket is provided that easily swallows up larger laminated maps with room to spare. The wired hood is generous allowing a second hat to be worn underneath. It can also be rolled up and hidden beneath a flap in the collar.
Typical of other Paramo products, the Cascada is almost indestructible. I have slept in it on bitterly cold nights camping on the Derbyshire Moors and Kinder Scout, and it kept me warm enough to enjoy a good night’s sleep. When it looks worse for wear, a wash in soap flakes and subsequent waterproofing restores it to its former glory. I have been wearing the green one for several years now and recently purchased another (blue) one simply because I am fed up of the same colour! Technically there is nothing wrong with the old one, but I fancied a change.
There are times, particularly in warmer seasons, when I do not need to take a waterproof jacket with me. In situations like this, I have a Paramo Taiga fleece (in Lentil). It is not windproof but does a reasonable job of keeping the cold out, and is fairly waterproof so can be used during showers without much concern.
The two lower pockets are roomy enough to get your hands in and there is a large chest pocket that will accommodate a small camera, such as my Leica X1, and a map. Another smaller pocket on the opposite side is useful for keeping keys and other personal effects in.
Like the Cascada it is now several years old and showing minimal signs of use. This is more to do with the lining which has ‘bobbled’ over time. There is a small tear to the external fabric caused when I got hooked up on a fence. And like my original Cascada I am getting fed up with the colour, so a replacement blue one is on my list of purchases (or may make my 2013 Christmas wishlist).
On bitterly cold days I will pair up the jacket or fleece with a Paramo reversible trail shirt. It offers excellent wind protection using press studs instead of buttons, which are far easier to do/undo in cold weather. The arms are loose enough to roll up and secure with studs making a great option to wear in warmer weather when no coat is need. This is another item that can take the rough and tumble of regular wearing without showing signs of use and again, I only buy new ones for a change of colour.
Surprise, Surprise; I have yet to try out Paramo trousers! For exceptionally cold days I use a pair of Joe Brown insulated nylon trousers that have been going for donkey’s years. They are well passed their best but are so comfortable I am loathe to part with them until they fall apart. A second pair of zip-off Berghaus trousers are what I use for warmer weather. These offer a minimal amount of insulation but are not as windproof as the Joe Brown’s. In hotter climes I favour Royal Robbins ‘Zip ‘n’ Go Pants that are exceptionally light and easily zipped off at the knees to make a decent pair of shorts. These are an excellent trouser providing large pockets which are secured by zips and Velcro. When used as shorts, the legs can be stored in a small pocket near the waist belt.
Based on my experience with Paramo so far, I will certainly be trying out their Cascada or Parajo offerings in the future. Expensive yes, but spending as much time as I do out on the field, it is wholly justifiable.