Dave puts the updated, classic Alta III jacket from ethical brand Paramo to the test.
Some outdoor companies spend a lot of cash splashing their green credentials all over Instagram and TikTok and some companies have been quietly producing high quality, ethical and green products for 30 years with no need for an excessive social media presence. They’re doing very nicely thank you.
You’ve only got look around on the hill or trails to see how popular UK brand Páramo is celebrating their 30th birthday in 2022. The brand have been producing quality outdoor clothing that absolutely works for the UK mountain environment for 30 years and are still going strong.
Their ethical and green credentials are second to none – they have always used their propriety branded Nikwax coatings that have always been PFC free and their Directional system shouldn’t work when you look at it but does. Socially they are outstanding. Since 1992 Paramo have been working with the Miquelina Foundation in Colombia to provide opportunities for vulnerable, at risk women with training and employment. If your product has Made in Colombia on the label you can be sure you have done your bit to help some of the poorest and most exploited women on the planet.
In 2022 the company has become an international employee owned trust by joining with the Miquelina Foundation and bringing 150 of the Colombian women workers into the fold. To be honest if Páramo were a public company they would top any list in an ESG Investment portfolio and I’m surprised they haven’t applied for B Corp certification, they certainly deserve it.
My first introduction to Páramo was working as a Mountaineering Instructor (I’ve retired now) I was a three layer Gore-Tex user who eventually got cold and wet and some were Páramo wearers who generally stayed drier and warmer. Note drier and warmer – ever since reading an Andy Kirkpatrick article about layering I’ve accepted that being warm and damp is the best I can expect when hiking in the UK. The Páramo Directional system suits that well. I’ve generally been dryish and warmish throughout the testing.
So onto the main event – the performance. The Páramo Alta III is the latest version of this popular jacket. It is designed to be used in cold, damp conditions when hiking in mountainous terrain – well we get a lot of cold and amp here in the UK.
With a one liner spoiler alert, I’ve been perfectly comfortable in the jacket in all types of conditions except on warm days when the jacket was overkill.
In the typical cold, damp and changeable weather conditions we experience in our mountains the Alta III worked exceptionally well and the jacket never leaked rain. There are plentiful features and pockets and the longer length worked well to keep me warm.
The cut of the Alta III is generous – I’m 5’7” (170cms) and a 39” chest and a size Medium fitted well with room for a layer (more on that later). The sleeves were at little long – but then that is a problem that has plagued me throughout my adult life. The robust cuff tabs kept the sleeves in position without any problem. The jacket also has a longer length which was nice as it kept me warmer but needed a little getting used to from someone who has used performance kit for such a long time. I did have some problems with the hard warmer pockets as they felt very low down, but they did work well when I used a hip belt on my pack as I was able to use them unimpeded.
You get complete 360 degree movement with the jacket including with a climbing harness as well as a loaded pack. The generous hood is fully adjustable for all situations, it easily fits over a climbing helmet. I often wear a cap for hiking as I find wooly hats too itchy, so I rely on a well fitting hood to keep me warm. The hood neatly adjusted over my cap including the peak (which often doesn’t on other jackets). This kept rain off my face and kept me warm and dry in all conditions. In full winter I wear a Keela Polar Cap, once I had adjusted the hood and zipped the chin guard over this I my head was fully encased in a fully central heated , toasty zone (except the exposed nose and eyes). The hood folds away into the collar using press studs to keep the jacket neat and tidy in more benign conditions. Top marks for the excellent hood!
Now the Páramo Alta III is a warm jacket, for those who are new to the Páramo Analogy system it works using a double layer. The outer is a very tight weave material that is treated with a DWR and the inner is a wicking layer that helps direct perspiration towards the outer layer. The Alta III also has somebody mapping with thicker, more wicking, in key areas such as the back, shoulder and chest.
Like many jackets when worn from new this worked very well and I’m sure like those great ads you may have seen with water vapour escaping through Gore-Tex it works perfectly in lab conditions. But, fortunately, reader, your tester runs hot is a sweaty beast (remember my Andy Kirkpatrick philosophy) and was able to fully test the Analogy system in the field. The test period ran through early through into late spring in a variety of conditions including plenty of good old UK rain.
I wore the jacket with either a light or medium weight base layer. That was all I needed for cool, spring conditions. Some days I got too warm with the medium weight base layer and struggled to regulate my temperature even with the ventilation features such as pit zips, two way zips, and press studs on the storm flap (so you could have the main zip fully undone and still close the jacket). I often overheated in ‘uphill mode’ but then I always have done. One of the real selling points is that when I stopped to eat, take in the view or just mess around looking at rock features I still remained warm, this isn’t always the case when wearing a mid + hardshell combination. I can often get cold very quickly.
There are plenty of pockets on the Alta III, all various sizes. Firstly the large, zipped left-hand chest pocket easily swallowed a laminated OS Explorer map and was easy to put in and get out even with gloves on. Totally brilliant! The right hand zipped pocket was smaller and had a hook and loop fastening. This was great for stashing gloves, hats, food, etc. The opening tab is stiff as its plastic and it also worked well with gloves on. There are also two interior and zipped pockets. The LH one is smaller so I always kept my phone in that one as I have a cracked screen on my iPhone so it’s vital to keep it dry. The RH is larger so suitable for keeping gloves warm or food. There are the two handwarmer pockets I mentioned earlier. Perfectly fine for keeping hands warm but I found them a little too far down the jacket when wearing it without a pack hip belt.
All of these great features and the way the system works does have a major effect on the jacket. That being weight, the jacket weighs in at over a kilo and does fell heavy – but not when I was wearing it. It is also bulky so not the sort of jacket you’re going to keep in your pack and throw on when the weather turns. It works like a piled pertex jacket such as the Rab Vapour-Rise, you put it on and keep it on.
In the unlikely event that the jacket becomes unusable it can be returned to Páramo as part of their recycling scheme in return for a voucher towards a new one.
On a final note, the Analogy system does work well, even though the jacket did ‘wet out’ in full on rain I still remained dry(ish) inside. It does however need regular maintenance, this is true for any hardshell as they need to be clean to work properly. The main reason jackets start to leak is that they are dirty, everything gets clogged up with sweat and grime and the DWR (dry water repellant) coating becomes degraded. The Atla III is no exception and will need washing and reproofing at least three times a year (if not more with heavy use). There are plenty of Nikwax products to bring the jacket to a good waterproof state. TX Direct and Tech Wash are the main two and as long as you follow the instructions the jacket should offer you many years of solid use. No delamination or peeling tape seam issues here!
If you are influenced by Fast and Light, FKT, TikTok videos of people having buckets of water tipped over their heads wearing overly technical jackets and being obsessed with seeing water bead off a brand new, never used Gore-Tex, then I feel the Páramo Alta III may not be your cup of tea.
If, however, you do the majority of your hiking and mountaineering in the UK and sub artic temperate conditions; and you want to remain relatively warm and dry using a product that should last and perform throughout your lifetime; is easily repairable and has the very highest ethical and customer service ideals then the Paramo Alta III will definitely be your cup of tea. In fact it will be a flask full of hot piping tea every time you wear it.
There is a specific female version that costs the same, comes in 4 colour ways and sizes XS – XL
Cost: £310 and comes in sizes S – XXL and five colour options.
Disclaimer – CGR reviewers and writers are never paid to provide a review and the website does not take advertising or link to affiliate sales. We are a bunch of keen climbers and travellers that accept sample products and offer an honest and independent review of the item. The reviewer will often keep the sample after reviewing it for both hygiene and safety reasons and more often it’s in no fit state to return!