Is Paro the next Gore-Tex?
Have you heard about the latest craze in the U.K.? It's called Paro clothing, and the claim is that you'll be throwing away all of your Gore-Tex outerwear when you start using it. What gives? A friend of mine who is a guide in Scotland lives by the stuff. Do you have any thoughts on the stuff? Is it all that it says it is? Arthur Long Valley, New Jersey
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I’m not sure I’d call it the “latest” craze, as Paramo stuff (www.paramo.co.uk) has been around for ten years or more, although it’s a little hard to find here in the U.S. It’s designed around the principle that just repelling water isn’t enough; clothing also has to manage moisture next to your skin for both cool and warm conditions. So Paramo clothing relies heavily on fabrics that wick water away from the skin and all the way through the outer layer. Base layers are reversible, and when reversed they actually hold moisture near the skin for cooling, a clever idea that nobody in the States seems to have considered. Paramo uses a lot of fabric made by Nikwax, known here for leather treatments but in fact a prominent European maker of performance fabrics.
In the U.S., Paramo’s influence is very clear in garments such as Patagonia’s Infurno Jacket ($250), which works along the principle of getting moisture out, rather than keeping it out. Naturally, any number of fabric and gear makers are trying to do the same thing. Polartec’s newer fabrics, such as PowerDry, are designed specifically to move moisture away from the body, while most rainwear makers are adding extra vents. Actually, Paramo clothing relies to some extent on the gimmick of venting the hell out of it and including roll-up sleeves. I mean, at that point just take the damn thing off!
I’m reluctant to say Paramo is “all they say it is” because I don’t know who “they” are or what they’re saying. But, it makes perfect sense, and all reports I’ve received are good, particularly for aerobic activities in cold, damp weather. I think in the U.S. we’ve been too heavily influenced by the “weather armor” conceptthe idea that we can buy one garment and stay dry and comfortable. The Gore folks, of course, have helped foster this idea. But in many cases, sweat and condensation are more soaking than rain. Paramo stuff recognizes this, and works with it.