We’re in that seasonal interlude of autumnal days unable to decide between frosty mornings, driving drizzle and surprisingly sunny spells. If, like me, you’re in gloves and coat one minute and reaching for the sunglasses the next, it’s time to update your outdoor kit with some not-quite-winter wonders.
Until recently, I had no Páramo kit – a transgression I pledged to put right on more than one windswept group hike whilst listening to fellow outdoor obsessives extol the virtues of their Páramo products. Now I’m the very satisfied owner of three layers, finally seeing for myself why the brand keeps popping up time and again in synonymity with quality, reliability and comfort. Here are my recommendations!
Women’s Cambia reversible tee, £40
After years of running, I’ve only recently had the confidence to say ‘I’m a runner’ and believe myself worthy of investing in ‘proper’ running tees (goodbye, fraying cotton tops!). Páramo’s Cambia short-sleeved tee is a silky-soft, quality tee-shirt that even has reversible technology to suit the weather! That’s right, the Parameta T+ fabric works differently depending on which way it faces, so in warmer conditions, the smooth, water-attracting face of the fabric (in the case of mine, a sophisticated charcoal grey) should be worn next to your skin, allowing sweat to evaporate and cooling you down. In colder temperatures, the textured, polka-dot face is worn next to your skin, directing water away for maximum drying and greater insulation.
The marvellous material also provides UV protection of SPF 25+ equivalent, which came in rather handy when I wore the Cambia for my recent virtual Merthyr Half Marathon. I chose a late September Sunday that promised to be suitably autumnal but, in fact, quickly warmed the Taff Trail to a micro-heatwave. Two hours and 22 minutes after starting to plod, uphill, away from Pontypridd, my face was as red as an autumn berry, yet my tee shirt remarkably sweat-free (I’m not claiming to have smelled very nice, but at least my back wasn’t soaking under my Camelpak).
The Cambia has flat seams to ensure comfort whichever way it’s worn, while a lovely touch is the inclusion of a label on both sides, one black and one white. The fit is flatteringly slim without being tight, and I was pleased to find that, over such a long distance, it didn’t ruck up around my waist under the pack, as some tees do. At £40, it isn’t a budget option, but certainly a good quality investment that, I’m convinced, will last me many more years than that shameful cotton attire. Guaranteed Fair Trade and fully recyclable through Páramo, the Cambia comes in a range of lovely shades, including carmine (hot pink) and adriatic. And it comes beautifully boxed, making it an ideal gift for Christmas or for anyone facing an impending, locked-down birthday… just saying (I do like those bright colours!).
Women’s Alize fleece, £125
With the Cambia as a worthy baselayer, next up is the Alize fleece, a highly breathable and light, yet toasty warm, zip-up hoodie. Available in cyan marl or pink clover – which is actually more of a plush purple – it’s designed to be worn alone or with the Alize windproof (below) when the trail turns colder or wetter. As a stand-alone layer, it repels light moisture, thanks to the Nikwax® Fleece water-repellent fabric that keeps the wearer dry in high humidity, while trapping still air to keep you warm.
There are several thoughtful and stylish features to this fleece, including an elasticated ‘Ninja’ hood that sits well under a cycle helmet, and an off-centre zip that goes all the way above my nose for very cold days (and is handy as an extra barrier in the strangest of years). It has five pockets, namely two huge hip pockets and three mesh pockets inside, including a zipped compartment for keys and a phone. And it’s so gorgeously soft that I’m in danger of losing valuable hiking time by simply standing in a field, stroking my own arms.
If I have the slightest gripe, I’d question the sizing. My fleece is a medium; it’s a snug fit and I’m a size 10, and I hotly debate whether anyone over a 10 should be categorised as large. And, maybe this is more a gripe about my body than Páramo, but the Alize is not made for shorties. It fits comfortably width-wise but is a little too long, yet if I went down a size to match my height, I suspect it would be too much of a squeeze to zip up. It’s a wonderfully snuggly, autumn-warm layer, but perhaps designed for svelte taller types, rather than your average girls doing their thing out on the hill in all their lovely shapes and sizes.
Women’s Alize windproof, £95
Team your fleece with the Alize windproof and you have the perfect waterproof system for light showers and drizzle, as well as good protection from windchill when resting or in an emergency. As with the fleece, the windproof uses lightweight fabric from Páramo sister company Nikwax®, which has been treated with a water repellent. Available in the same striking reds and cyans found throughout Páramo’s women’s range, it also comes in a two-tone indigo and midnight that suits my ongoing penchant for blue.
The windproof has two cavernous internal pockets, with large openings that I initially fear won’t keep belongings from falling out, but, no – my phone sinks safely into the depths and isn’t going anywhere. There are no external pockets, but two large zips give good ventilation, as well as access to the pockets of my fleece underlayer. There’s also an internal stuff pocket in which to pack the windproof down.
The hood is really superb – probably the best of my (many) outdoor jackets. A real niggle of mine is that hoods often fit well until I put my hair up into a ponytail – almost essential for running – which then causes the hood to pull backwards. The Alize fits closely around the neck, with headspace roomy enough to accommodate my ponytail without slippage and drawing up comfortably with elastic toggles to keep the hood perfectly in place. It also has a small but effective peak.
I’ve worn this windproof on several misty trail runs and now always carry it on my longer runs even in good weather, in case of those emergencies. We’ve been fortunate with our lockdown sunshine so I’ve yet to test it in the bleakest conditions a Welsh hillside can spit out, but it’s so far certainly stood up well in fine drizzle, while, warmth-wise, it gives me a nice glow with just a tee-shirt underneath (and I’m a freezer).
The fit is again long but, in an outer layer, this is no bad thing, giving extra protection when you sit down for a refuelling flask of tea and a snack. At £95, it’s again an investment layer; not a cheap choice for fairweather walkers, runners and cyclists but a strong contender on the coat rack of any obsessive who gets outdoors in all weathers and needs exactly the right layer for each circumstance.
… and the science bit
Páramo’s eco-credentials are reassuringly sound, it being the first outdoor brand to both sign up to the Greenpeace Detox Campaign and to completely eliminate perfluorinated chemical treatments from its clothing range. I love that it’s also been the leading supplier of weather protection for UK mountain rescue teams for more than 15 years; our MR volunteers have never been as stretched as during 2020 and it’s good to know they are being taken care of in the small ways which make a huge difference.
Don’t forget to renew your gear with Nikwax® cleaning and waterproofing products. You can treat your kit with Nikwax® in your washing machine or by hand; they are environmentally safe to use and to prolong the life and performance of your new investments.
My Páramo tee, fleece and windproof were kindly gifted. They are available in the UK from Páramo Clothing, which offers a £15 discount when the fleece and windproof are bought together and includes free shipping in the UK. Follow Páramo on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.