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Páramo Vista Rain Jacket Review

An incredibly breathable full-zip rain jacket that manages to fend off precipitation without using a membrane.

Recommended

Overall Rating: Recommended

The Páramo Vista jacket is a unique waterproof-breathable shell that makes do without use of a membrane. The nature of this design lends itself to creating what is likely the most breathable yet still waterproof shell on the market. Only its weight, though comparable to a light fleece and winter rain jacket combination, and dependence on user maintenance prevent it from being highly recommended.

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by Chris Wallace |

Overview

The Páramo Vista is a full-zip rain jacket that forsakes the traditional membrane for a Nikwax Analogy Pump Liner. The idea behind the liner is to mimic the fur of an animal and push water out. This is done to protect the user and the user's insulation from the typical precipitation, condensation, and perspiration. The Pump Liner is then combined with a Directional microfiber outer fabric whose purpose is to deflect both wind and precipitation. While this sounds like a bunch of marketing lingo, my experience has been that the Vista lives up to the hype.

Páramo Vista SpotLite Review - 1
Wearing the Vista on a winter trip to Mt. Rogers in Virginia.

I have been wearing the Vista for a couple of months now and received it just prior to winter here in the southeastern U.S. For the most part, every time I've been out in any kind of precipitation, the Vista has been along for the ride. We've seen freezing rain, hail, sleet, snow, and high winds. I've been interested in the Páramo concept after hearing how well regarded it is in parts of Europe that share a similar climate. Unlike the western U.S, here in the southeast we're more likely to experience freezing rain than snow, and if we do get snow, it's a usually a sloppy wet mess.

Páramo Vista SpotLite Review - 2
Features clockwise from top left - two large front pockets, a single large mesh interior pocket, Velcro closed cuffs, and a double zipper.

Given its weight and combined use of both a liner and shell, the Vista is best used in winter. While not much heavier than some more traditional rain jackets, this is definitely no 6-ounce (170-g) pullover. What the Vista offers for that weight, though, is an incredibly breathable jacket, and the liner adds enough warmth for it to take the place of both a mid-layer and shell. The Vista also offers a large variety of features, including a reverse double zipper backed by snaps, two large and well placed hand-warmer pockets, adjustable Velcro cuffs, and a single-pull hem drawcord. The Vista also features a scooped tail, reflective piping, and a fully adjustable hood with a wired peak and rear retainer that allows it to be stowed away. While both the hand-warmer pockets and main zipper have redundant closures, which definitely adds weight, the design allows for increased ventilation while still offering some protection from the elements.

Páramo Vista SpotLite Review - 3
The Vista hood is fully adjustable, stows away with a rear retainer strap, and has a wired peak.

Based on my field use, the Vista lives up to the Páramo reputation. Even when the microfiber outer fabric completely wetted out while waiting on friends to pack up camp during a snow storm (I was very worried), I found it to be completely dry after a mile or two of time on the trail. I never found my base layer (usually a lightweight merino hoody) to be damp and usually felt just on the cool side of warm. On a few occasions when I did start to feel too warm, I found it very easy to adjust the zipper while leaving the snaps closed in order to gain a little extra ventilation. For what it's worth, Páramo does offer a lighter jacket called the Quito, which also features pit zips. However, when speaking with Páramo they suggested the Vista was a better match for backpackers due to a reinforcement on the shoulders (to prevent water ingress under the load of pack straps). Páramo products can maintain water repellency throughout the life of the item, but this requires periodic use of Nikwax products for replenishment.

Specifications

Year/Model 2011 Páramo Vista
Style Full-zip hooded rain jacket
Fabrics Nikwax Analogy Light
Weight Manufacturer Specified: 19.82 oz (562 g) assumed size M
BPL Measured: 19.8 oz (561 g)
Features Two large chest pockets, one large mesh interior pocket, adjustable Velcro cuffs, stow-away fully adjustable hood with wired peak and retainer tab, two-way reversed zipper, scooped tail, single hem drawcord pull
MSRP US $332 (at time of writing)

Disclosure: The manufacturer provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge, and it is owned by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to the manufacturer to review this product under the terms of this agreement.


Citation

"Páramo Vista Rain Jacket Review," by Chris Wallace. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/paramo_vista_rain_jacket_review.html, 2012-03-13 00:10:00-06.

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Páramo Vista Rain Jacket Review
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Páramo Vista Rain Jacket Review on 03/13/2012 11:03:07 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Páramo Vista Rain Jacket Review

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Páramo Vista Rain Jacket Review on 03/14/2012 05:44:14 MDT Print View

Very nice review, Chris. What you write very closely matches my own 15 year long experience with a number of different Paramo products (have you tried their cap? Works very well). As you say, it is the weight, and sometimes the warmth (but less so for me) that keep it from being perfect, but nevertheless no matter what else I've tried, I always return to Paramo. Plus my 15-year-old jackets and pants are still working as good as new!

Damien Tougas
(dtougas) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Gaspé Peninsula
Fit on 03/14/2012 10:28:38 MDT Print View

What is the fit like? Is it baggy, trim, or somewhere in between?

joe newton
(holdfast)

Locale: Bergen, Norway
Re: Fit on 03/14/2012 10:42:00 MDT Print View

Damien,

The fit on the Paramo jackets is what lets them down for me. The sleeves could do with being an inch or so longer and there is quite a bit of 'flappage' in the arm and body, although this does allow for a belly pack or storing gas canisters in the pockets, ideal for winter touring.

As others have done, having Cioch make you a custom fitted jacket from the Paramo fabrics is the real deal.

Paramo is a 'winter only' option for me. The double layer of material is just too warm over about 35C. Ski touring it shines, replacing a mid-layer and windshirt which gives you a very simple, no-fussing shell layer. Cleaning/reproofing regularly is required.

Manuel Espejo
(manuel.espejo) - F

Locale: La Cuchilla de los Santa.
Paramo. on 03/14/2012 11:59:11 MDT Print View

I own a Quito Jacket, a Fuera Smock and a Mountain Pull-On. Paramo is a on the heavy side, but usually I carry less garments when using Paramo. the fabric is really tough even the Quito jacket outer, I use the Quito regularly for bushwacking in the Paramos near my hometown in thick brush, I take the Fuera smock with my Golite umbrella in the dry season, and the Quito for the rain season(there is no seasons in Colombia).

Some of my Paramo hikes begin really low in the Cloud Jungles of the Central Andean Range, Gore-tex and other WP are useless because the high humidity but Paramo works well for this conditions, during a tropical downpour I unzip all the ventilation options, a bit hot but breath very well, when I reach higher altitudes I just zip all the ventilation, now my R1 hoody and my ID windshirt stay in home in favor of the Quito, my only complain is that Nikwax products are difficult to get in Colombia.

Excuse my English.

John Kuhfahl
(kuhjoh) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Páramo Vista Rain Jacket Review on 03/14/2012 13:18:13 MDT Print View

Are there Paramo distributors in the US? If not, what would be the easiest non-US source to purchase from?

Martin RJ Carpenter
(MartinCarpenter) - F
Distributors on 03/14/2012 14:11:36 MDT Print View

Nothing obvious from Paramo's website. They've always tended to go with small independent distributors, partially because they can take the time to explain how it works etc.

I'm sure that some of them would ship, but think it'd be very worthwhile looking at Cioch (or Hilltrek although they've got less styles) for the made to measure. Very small (amazingly so really) premium over Paramo's standard stuff and much safer as regards fit.

anders ahrsjo
(anders.ahrsjo@gmail.com) - M

Locale: Sweden
Re: Páramo Vista Rain Jacket Review on 03/14/2012 15:00:45 MDT Print View

I've had my Velez Adventure light smock since it arrived four years ago. Since then I would never buy a goretex jacket (except for going to work i town). I use it for bicykling, hiking and cross country skiing. I live in Stockholm, Sweden but often go north to the mountains.

Once in a scout competition it rained heavy for 6 hours. The outer shell got wet but I was dry inside.
Best is the side zippers that really ventilates. And that its quiet. I sometimes have it on sleeping in my bag.

Anders

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Páramo Vista Rain Jacket Review on 03/14/2012 16:58:01 MDT Print View

Keep in mind that part of the reason for the loose fit is the the whole system can fit over any layers you put under it and still work... it is not dependent on the warmth generated by your body. Also the loose arms are intentionally designed so that you can easily roll up the sleeves... the material is so soft and pliable (it feels like heavy silk) that it can easily be rolled over upon itself.

Edited by butuki on 03/14/2012 21:15:35 MDT.

Tjaard Breeuwer
(Tjaard) - MLife

Locale: Minnesota, USA
Cioch for one will ship to USA on 03/14/2012 20:53:37 MDT Print View

I have ordered from Cioch no problem to the US, for my most recent purchase they did remove the VAT.
I have not tried Paramo themselves or Furtech.

I second the remark about the supple hand of the fabric, it is really very noticeable, especially if you have one with the thinner shell fabrics. This just add tremendously to it's 'wear it 24/7' comfort along with the breathability.

My only regret is no stretch fabrics(yet?) for ice climbing, and some lighter facefabrics and construction methods to reduce the weight a bit.



-

Edited to update VAT situtation

Edited by Tjaard on 01/31/2013 20:55:05 MST.

Nigel Healy
(nigelhealy) - F

Locale: San Francisco bay area
Paramo - temperature range on 03/14/2012 23:52:42 MDT Print View

I own plenty of Paramo and wore it a lot the last 2 days in rain around home mostly biking, having not worn for some months due to local drought. It is too warm, so easily. When it was raining heavy, the chill from the rain, either in the ambient air temperature or via conduction close to the skin, balanced nicely the insulation of Paramo and I was fine happily for some hours, but then the rain eased off to a drizzle and I became too warm, I ended up probably as wet from my own sweat as I would from anything else. Breathability is good but if the garment is sodden from drizzle and you're sweating from too-much clothing, the humidity has nowhere to go and you're just damp skin - but admittedly never cold.

Paramo - it needs to be cold, and then its the best that exists. In the UK where Paramo originates, it spends a lot of time a few degrees above freezing and a lot of that time it is wet, with the short northern winter days its either raining or cold which is perfect for Paramo. In USA, the more extreme temperatures, I'm not so sure it has such a relative market strength, where I live in NorCal a lot of the rain is too warm for Paramo unless I get to altitude.

I own two shells both lighweight I picked for cost/cheapness and I carry and wear when its actually raining, but far far far more times I'm simply using one or two windproof type items to handle light rain and for a bit of insulation.

The more recent change in Paramo is the lightening up of their fabrics (VAL, Quito, Velez) which means more viable to pack Paramo. That is an important change. I now see Paramo as an insulation which happens to be waterproof, rather than the marketing which is a waterproof which happens to have insulation, which might sound just a play on words but means if I'm packing for a trip if its cool enough I'll pack Paramo, knowing that solves any rain, if its not cool I'll pack a shell just in case of rain and some non-waterproof insulation like a Primaloft just in case of cold. Notice these end up practically the same weight packed - about 500g - just the Paramo is a single item I adjust venting vs a shell+insulation 2 items. The difference is a shell can be over a base and handle warmer rain better than Paramo whilst Paramo handles colder rain better.

If you're spending a lot of time outdoors and so many hours fit in that cool/damp condition then Paramo is worthwhile considering. Here's mine:

Paramo Quito
Paramo Velez trousers
Paramo Fuera Ascent
Paramo Summit Hoodie
Paramo Fuera Pants
Paramo Torres (Primaloft) gilet, sleeves, trousers.

UK distributor. I've had excellent service from Foothills. They don't officially sell to USA off their website but if you place an order to give them your creditcard and then email them to explain you're in USA they'll quote USA postage, which is very reasonably price if you're getting high-end stuff like a Vista which is not too heavy. Due to not charging VAT, it works out usually lower cost than if buying inside UK and typically about 1-2 weeks to delivery.

Example link to the Vista below

http://www.foothillshiking.co.uk/index.php?cat=Paramo_Waterproofs_Unisex

No link to Foothills, just I've made about 5 orders the last 4 years and had good service.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Cioch for one will ship to USA on 03/15/2012 11:49:06 MDT Print View

I've ordered a number of Paramo, and other, garments from Jackson Sports in the UK (http://www.jackson-sports.com/). Quick shipping, they exclude the VAT when shipping to the US (in fact, choose the US as your default and the website prices will be in US dollars minus VAT), reasonable prices.

I can highly recommend them from the several different orders I've made from them.

Nigel Healy
(nigelhealy) - F

Locale: San Francisco bay area
Re: Paramo. on 03/16/2012 00:25:07 MDT Print View

I know this thread is about the Vista but my comments apply to the Quito too, which I own.

Anecdotal evidence. Today, its wet in NorCal bay area and the weather about 60F at sealevel. The forecast was for dry afternoon, 10% chance of rain, and with heavy rain forecast tomorrow, I took the "window" opportunity to bike into the hills on what turned out to be 4 hours of continual rain. Aside - so much for weather forecasts.

On the ascent up to 2600ft, there is nothing neither windproof not waterproof which lets warm air escape well enough so in rain I simply let myself get wet, my heat output high enough I was steaming in just a baselayer. Rain being just cleaner alternative to sweat.

At the peak, I took off my base, squeezed all the water out of it, put it back on, and I donned a Paramo Quito. The chilling effect of the descent, approx 2000ft in 10mins, meant I was needing a fair degree of insulation both during descent and then about 20mins after as I got back up to warm again. The Quito kept me warm enough, the significant reasons being the Velcro sleeves (not elasticated, so tight), the cinch cords around the waist, the hood with cinch cords at front and rear.

Once I felt warm enough again at the bottom of the hill, I then removed the Quito to check the baselayer, it was dry. The breathability of the Paramo design and my body heat had dried out a rain-sodden baselayer in about 30mins.

I kept on the Quito but vented it a lot, all the zips open, sleeves up for a generally lower-output return home, in the rain.

At home, I removed the Quito, shook it then put it back on and in about 30mins it dried fully from body heat then removed to use another day. I accept if I were to enter a tent all that damp would be dumped into condensation.

The downside of Paramo is the too-much-insulation problem, but once you learn it has immense breathability which only needs body heat, that insulation becomes part of the system which leads to comfort.

With a shell, you have to avoid overheating, the shell fabric cannot breathe enough if you're overheating, but with Paramo a different set of issues, you can delay putting it on til you are about to be chilled, over wet clothing, and then let yourself get too warm, that heat then dries yourself skin-out. Paramo also creates the problem - you have to delay putting it on due to its too-warm insulation problem. Just a different approach to using a shell.

Generally, Paramo is too warm for my home area. I wear it far far less than when I was in UK, but it still has a useful role. If I did not own Paramo I'd have done things differently, probably added a windproof earlier in the ascent to reduce soaking of my baselayer, then added an insulating layer like a thin Primaloft layer and then removed that insulation later. I'd have carried similar insulation to the Quito but not have been as comfortable.

Daniel Sandström
(sandstrom.dj)
Design on 03/16/2012 03:32:24 MDT Print View

Páramo does have loyal followers so I'll thrust their opinions. It does look like a splendid shell/insulation in colder environments. Sadly however, the fit seems baggy - although that might be a good thing in winter - and the main point, I really think they're quite ugly. I can wear clothing in bad color combinations, no problem, but the design of paramo just screams 50+ years old to me. :) I know this is a bit silly, but it puts me off.

wander lust
(sol)
design, drying it out on 03/16/2012 04:35:15 MDT Print View

the newer jackets do not look too bad. the quito also doesn't have such a baggy cut.

the garments are made in a wider cut for a better layering and the pump liner shouldn't be squeezed. otherwise paramo jacket might not work.


in regards to drying out a parama garment:

this won't work in very humid conditions (96% +) without body heat or a fire. Nothing just dries by itself in such weather.

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Re: Paramo. on 03/16/2012 06:55:51 MDT Print View

Wish the manufacturers would skip the reflective logos and piping. Just messes up photos. No cars on the trails. Certainly added for the urban wilderness experience.

I'd like to try the Velez Adventure Smock, the lightweight one.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: design, drying it out on 03/16/2012 07:25:18 MDT Print View

The pump liner doesn't need body heat to work. It is a mechanical process in the physical design of the hairs on the liner. It literally draws moisture from the non-haired side to the haired side due to capillary action, not with heat as other systems do. You can lay the pump liner on a cold table, drop a spot of water onto it, and watch the water drop get sucked to the other side. That's why it's called a "pump liner" and the marketing calls it "Nikwax Directional Wateproofs". It is fundamentally different in how it handles moisture compared to other systems.

Wikipedia explains it in detail..

It works the same way as you see on a dog's fur, when the water drops collect at the end of the hairs.

Edited by butuki on 03/16/2012 07:27:24 MDT.

Nigel Healy
(nigelhealy) - F

Locale: San Francisco bay area
Re: Design on 03/16/2012 10:36:08 MDT Print View

The medium Quito I own has the same amount of spare fabric to cinch in the chest/belly as say my medium Marmot Mica and less than say my Montane Litespeed.

Ugly - I just pick black.

My criticism is they aren't sized for outdoors people. When Tolkien wrote of middle earth, the Hobbits were all employed at Paramo, with relatively short+wide torso+arms. The Quito is probably a size 0 Hobbit, narrower torso+arms slightly longer sleeves but about 4" too short in the torso, forcing use of waterproof trousers or get soggy rear. The large Quito is substantially larger than the medium, I could probably use it as a shelter and I reckon I could have got another Hobbit inside. I used to own a Velez and I needed large to get the arm length, at least the Quito allowed me go down to medium.

A degree of bagginess makes the garment function better, the sleeves on the Quito are just wide enough to get a through-breeze in the arms if I un-velcro the wrists and open the pitzips when biking, but not so baggy its annoyingly flappy. A few inches spare in the chest allows for a through-breeze down the back.

Nigel Healy
(nigelhealy) - F

Locale: San Francisco bay area
Re: Re: design, drying it out on 03/16/2012 10:53:42 MDT Print View

The pump liner simply has a strong tendency when its clean to keep water on its outward face, and the weave is so loose you can easily blow air through it, that is why its a very breathable waterproof. The outer layer is a windproof with little water resistance which is intended to blunt the velocity of rain so it can't push past the resistance of the inner layer. I have a kind of separate inner+outer in the Summit Hoodie + windproof and I can hold some inches of static water as bucket of the hoodie.

However, you're still talking a fleecy like outer surface of the inner layer and a non-waterproof outer layer meaning the garment becomes sodden heavy with rain and without body heat will take a long time to dry. The body heat is the key - the immense breathability means body heat passes right through the inner layer and is largely trapped inside the outer layer so lots of evaporative heat there trapped. That is not a good thing if this is your insulation layer to straight from rain to a tent. Typically hence Paramo wearers are not camping but day hiking to end indoors. A fleece+shell, you can shake dry the shell and your fleece is only wet from sweat, less water held than the inner layer of the Paramo.

Paramo came out with synthetic insulated layers and these perfectly balance the sodden tendencies of the waterproofs, if you're not warm enough to dry out the waterproof, e.g. you've stopped moving, then overlayer and the drying will occur of the waterproof and your overlayers become damp. So a typical Paramo context is wearing all day, as very comfortable, the waterproof and when stopping overlayer which is carried. Paramo make separate overlayer vest and sleeves which gives a lot of flexibility, I prefer to a jacket for backpacking as the sleeves can be added/removed without removing backpack and stash in a backpack side pocket.

4 days non-stop rain in NorCal, I'm sat indoors wearing my Quito to dry it having done the bike school run.

Edited by nigelhealy on 03/16/2012 10:58:32 MDT.

Diplomatic Mike
(MikefaeDundee)

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Function on 03/16/2012 10:56:42 MDT Print View

As Miguel said, Paramo doesn't depend on body heat to keep you dry. It's a mechanical process.