Staying dry is one of the most challenging aspects of wildlife watching in Ireland. Keen birder Colin Barton puts Paramo’s flagship Halcon waterproof shell through its paces during one of the wettest sea-watching seasons on record.
I’d been meaning to replace my old and by now rather leaky Berghaus Goretex jacket for the last two years, but somehow never quite got ’round to it. A few months back the imminent onset of another sea-watching season was just the catalyst I needed, as sitting in the rain for hours getting thoroughly soaked can wear thin quite quickly.
Apart from an innate apathy, the other thing preventing me from simply nipping out and purchasing a pricey big-brand Goretex replacement was the inability to find one. My ancient Berghaus shell was nice and long: not to put too fine a point on it, I could sit on wet ground for lengthy periods without getting a wet arse – bonus! These days though most Goretex jackets only seem to reach down to around waist level. According to the man in the outdoor shop that’s what “serious mountaineers” want — although it could also be a marketing ploy to force you to buy matching waterproof over-trousers.
Asking around the name Páramo kept being mentioned, so I eventually tracked some of their gear down in an Aberdeen outdoor shop and tried on the Páramo Halcon Waterproof Jacket for size.
This is an upgrade of the popular Páramo Pajaro, which I’d heard good things about from other birders. First impressions were that it was comfy and light, and it seemed well-designed and well made, but I wondered how it would perform in the great outdoors.
Based on that indoor trial, I bit the bullet and bought a Halcon jacket online from Basecamp in Dublin (very prompt service and no delivery charge). As luck would have it the day it arrived the rain was bucketing out of the heavens. I quickly opened the packaging, put on the jacket and dashed out into the torrential rain!
And stayed dry!
The attention to detail with the Halcon is very good. A fully adjustable hood keeps rain off my face, and little things like fleece-lined hand pockets and inner collar are a nice touch, and the fabric isn’t too “rustly”. And, the acid test… because it is a decent length, I can sit down on the ground and not get a wet arse. I liked it!
How does it work?
It’s a very different system to the Goretex approach. The blurb on the Páramo website explains:
” All Páramo garments use innovative fabrics engineered by sister company Nikwax – designed to actively ‘Direct’ water (liquid water as well as water vapour) to where you need it to keep you comfortable. This goes from our reversible, next-to-the-skin base layers to the outer weatherproof protection of Nikwax Analogy.
As a result of Directionality, Páramo gear outperforms all other outdoor garments – better than ‘breathable’, more comfortable than ‘waterproofs’, as supple and silent as ‘soft shell’, and, unlike other systems, working just as effectively whatever the temperature or humidity.”
The seawatching season has turned out to be quite a wet one, and I’ve been out on Galley Head frequently in heavy rain since purchasing the Halcon jacket. Lying on my back in the rain, squinting at the sea through binoculars, with rain pooling on the front of the jacket it never once leaked – it seems to be ideal.
There are lots of little features like underarm zips for increased ventilation while walking that I haven’t really tried out, but other people I’ve spoken to say they work well.
I suppose the biggest difference compared to a Goretex jacket is that the Páramo jacket does absorb water over time. It doesn’t let it through, but it does have the potential to get quite heavy in prolonged rain, and can take quite a while to dry out after a thorough soaking. However, the exterior coating of the jacket has good water repellancy when new, and is easily maintained by regular applications of NikWax Garment Aftercare products. Other people I spoke to said they’ve hardly ever needed to do this though.
Páramo clothing is not cheap. The Halcon jacket currently retails at €375 (GB£310). However, all Páramo clothing comes with a lifetime guarantee, which states “Any manufacturing defect will be rectified free of charge indefinitely”. You’ll find further details on the Naturally Páramo website.
Talking to other people who own Páramo before I bought the Halcon I found that they all really rate it for comfort and performance. It may not be particularly stylish, but as a waterproof jacket for birding or wildlife watching, the Páramo Halcon is a very good option. If you are serious about staying dry and comfortable when you are out watching things in the rain it’s well worth a look!
Photo Credits — Naturally Páramo product images
Páramo Men’s Halcon Waterproof Jacket Technical Information
(Information from the “Naturally Páramo” website):
- Fully adjustable, roll-away hood with wired peak for excellent field of vision and fit.
- Fleece-lined collar for extra comfort.
- Articulated shoulders and sleeves for maximum movement.
- Two-way reversed zip with poppered internal storm flap allows ventilation and access to inner layers.
- Upper arm vents allow venting and temperature control.
- Increased comfort when load-carrying from reinforced shoulder construction and removable foam insert strips in back.
- Easily adjustable cuff design allows sleeves to be pushed or rolled up for cooling.
- Excellent weather protection from 2″ drip skirt and scooped tail.
- Additional temperature control from single-handed concealed waist and hem drawcord pulls.
- Two external secure and ‘dry’ breast pockets large enough for field guides, OS map storage etc.
- A large and secure internal mesh breast pocket.
- ‘Dry’ storage from two large bellows pockets with secure fold-over tops with poppers.
- Two zipped and fleece-lined handwarming pockets located behind bellows pockets.
- Two low level capacious inner mesh pockets.
- Reduce the ‘carbon footprint’ of your Halcon Jacket and make a positive impact on wildlife. We’ve teamed up with Trees for Life, an award winning conservation charity dedicated to the regeneration and restoration of the Caledonian Forest in the Higlands of Scotland. For every Halcon Jacket purchased a sapling will be planted.
Average weight 967g
Richard Ellingworth says
I’m probably in the minority, but I didn’t really get on with the Paramo jacket I had. It was comfortable and warm but I found it got dirty really easily and then it was no longer waterproof. I tried cleaning it with the Nikwax stuff which I found rather tricky. You cannot use a washing machine because any trace of normal detergent will destroy the waterproofing so I used the bath, and, to be honest, I don’t think I got all the dirt out so it got trapped after I re-proofed it. It was never really the same again. I have friends who won’t even consider washing and/or reproofing a Goretex jacket. It almost seems more economical to buy a cheap waterproof jacket (such as Regatta) and throw it away when it no longer works. In my experience they work pretty well anyway and some of them are longer than the ludicrous “fashionable” waterproof jackets. Let’s face it – most of us aren’t professional mountaineers.
Joe Beard says
Hi, I opine: we use Paramo clothing. As I understand it from my wife, when doing the washing she doesn’t use the soap tray and instead uses a container that is with her washing liquid and goes in with the clothing. So when washing Paramo, she runs the machine empty, which removes any liquid soap residue, then if the Paramo is mildly in need of a wash, ie post walking, runs it through without NikWax. If eg muddy, she puts it in with the NikWax cleaning liquid, and once done, runs the washing machine again with the waterproofing.
I bought NikWax version for cotton, and have found, I opine, that cotton trousers and cotton hooded fleeces can be waterproofed; I have also waterproofed all my other coats.
One good thing, in my opinion, is that their garments wicker away moister so dry within as well as from weather.