Paramo Valez Adventure Light Smock: Short Review
Pros: Light weight and convenient to carry; very comfortable to wear; easy to pull on and off; outstanding “directional” waterproof performance; windproof; quiet “low rustle” fabric; robust, despite it’s lightweight design.
Cons: A bit short on pockets compared to a full-on outdoor jacket — but apart from that I didn’t find anything to quibble about. The worst thing about this smock is that it will soon be winging its way back to Páramo.
Price: RRP c. €250 (GB£200)
Rating: Highly Recommended
View the Páramo Valez Adventure Light on the Naturally Paramo website.
A good quality waterproof shell is high on any wildlife enthusiast’s list of must-have outdoor gear, but you don’t necessarily want a lot of extra weight. The Valez Adventure Light smock from Páramo delivers outstanding waterproof performance and it’s “directional” Nikwax Analogy system actively “pumps” water away from the skin, so you don’t get damp from sweat or condensation either.
All of that in a comfortable, lightweight garment that’s compact enough to stuff in your pack.
It kept me dry, warm and comfortable in all sorts of conditions, and the thoughtful design and low-rustle fabric made moving around easy and quiet. It was a joy to wear in the field for extended periods. Whatever the Irish weather threw up, the Páramo smock was up to the challenge and then some.
Páramo gear isn’t the cheapest, but it is extremely comfortable, performs flawlessly and is covered by the company’s lifetime warranty. If you’re looking for a new waterproof shell that’s big on performance, but not on bulk, then the Páramo Valez Adventure Light smock is well worth considering.
NB. Páramo is currently offering a free base layer with every purchase of its Valez Adventure Light Smock until 24 February 2013 — click on the banner below for more details on the Naturally Paramo website.
Páramo Valez Adventure Light Smock: Full Review
In the past I’ve looked at smocks and thought “why would you bother”. I’ve routinely overlooked these pull-over garments in favour of more standard waterproof jackets. But perhaps I’ve been too hasty, because I really enjoyed testing the Páramo Valez Adventure Light.
When I unpacked the smock the first thing I noticed was how light and compact it was compared to other waterproof jackets I’ve owned. Superficially it reminded me of the pull-over cagoules that were so popular back in the ’70s and early ’80s. However, the Páramo smock is lined with a soft and comfortable Nikwax liner, and there’s a quality feel to the windproof and waterproof outer shell that hints at the fact that this is so much more than a cagoule.
One of the reservations I’d had about smocks in the past was the “hassle” of pulling them on and off. Not an issue with the Páramo. It pulls on easily, and by undoing the zips on each side it slides off easily enough too. So far so good, but how would it stand up to some Irish weather?
Braving the summer rain
This summer in Ireland rain has never been far away, so I didn’t have long to wait before putting the smock’s waterproof credentials to the test. I was a little sceptical that such a lightweight garment could really offer the level of wet weather protection needed for extended outdoor use in Ireland, where lots of rain is inevitable.
Over the review period I’ve worn it in pretty much every kind of rain you can imagine, from the perpetual soft drizzle that’s endemic to West Cork, to torrential cloudbursts that wouldn’t be out of place in a southeast Asian monsoon. It kept the water where it was meant to be: i.e. not on me.
The smock (and therefore its wearer) was equally at home hiking through a wet woodland, sitting on a soggy headland or cycling through the maze of country lanes around home. Try as I might I couldn’t induce a leak — even diving into wet undergrowth didn’t result in water ingress — it just made me look like an idiot.
Equally impressive is how windproof this smock is. As soon as you pull it on it instantly shields you from all wind chill — you can still feel the wind blowing against you and around you, but none penetrates the outer layer. Brilliant!
The Páramo “Directional” System
Páramo says that its garments use a unique “Directional” waterproofing system. The Nikwax pump liner actively pushes liquid outwards, keeping you dry from the inside. Coupled with a very tight weave microfibre outer layer that effectively deflects rain and wind you stay dry and warm, whatever the weather throws at you.
According to the blurb the Páramo site the Nikwax Analogy system mimics the way animal fur works to keep mammals dry and warm in very wet weather. I’m not sure exactly how it achieves that — and to be honest I don’t really care — I just know that, based on my experience you’re wearing it you don’t really care. It just works… and that’s all that matters in the field.
If you’re interested you’ll find more about the technicalities of the unique Páramo Directional fabrics on their website.
Designed for active use
The smock is thoughtfully designed for active use. It features articulated shoulders and sleeves for maximum freedom of movement. The high collar with its deep chest zip and adjustable fasteners is great for keeping wind and driving rain out, while the fixed hood is excellent. It’s roomy enough to be comfortable, and fully adjustable with draw-cords at the front and a volume-reducing draw-cord at the back, so you can get it just-right for you. A decent wired peak helps to keep the hood’s shape and keep your face dry while giving you a very good field of view. Somehow the clever folks at Páramo have managed to design a hood that, unlike many I’ve used, actually turns when your head does. It means that you end up looking at what you want to look at, rather than at the inside of your own hood: a real boon for wildlife observation.
One thing I did find troublesome at first was a lack of pockets.
There is a large, dry external chest pocket that’s perfect if you carry a map around, but I rarely do, and I’m not a huge fan of storing loose things in a pouch on my chest, which is where my binoculars naturally sit. There is also a “tube” type lined hand-warming pocket that runs below the chest pocket on the inside the smock, accessible through a couple of zips just inside the large side ventilation zips. The pocket is actually much larger than it seems at first, and will hold quite a bit — it just takes a bit of getting used to having things swinging around your midrift. If it’s cold outside and you’re wearing a mid-layer (like a fleece) with decent pockets then you’re fine — because the ample zip-up side vents give convenient access to pockets inside the smock. On warmer days though, if you’re wearing your smock directly over a base layer, then you’ll have to make do with the chest-pocket / handwarming tube combo.
All of the adjustments, draw cords, flaps, zips and velcro fasteners are quick and easy to manipulate with just one hand — and that’s a real boon when you’re carrying lots of gear around with you (as is so often the case with optics, camera and all the other paraphernalia associated with wildlife observation). The low rustle fabric lets you to move around behind suitable cover without scaring more cautious creatures away, and the muted tones of the “moss” colour I reviewed helps you to blend into the background. For mountaineering, mountain-biking and other more boisterous outdoor pursuits the Valez Adventure Light also comes in a selection of bright two-tone colours. For wildlife though you’ll want to stick with the muted green “moss” shade.
Keeping your waterproof waterproof
The waterproof properties of the Valez Adventure Light smock are really quite astonishing — and all of the indications are that this is a high quality garment that should perform well for a long time. If the waterproof properties do start to wane a bit, they’re easy to restore indefinitely by simply washing in the relevant Nikwax treatment.
In terms of durability, despite its lightweight construction, the Nikwax fabric seems particularly tough and hard wearing, and importantly, it seems to shrug off snags in brambles and undergrowth with ease. Astonishingly Paramo says that the Nikwax system is also impervious to puncturing — retaining its waterproof and windproof properties even if something sharp breaches the outer layer. Obviously I didn’t test this — but it’s good to know.
Páramo offers a lifetime warranty on materials and workmanship on the Valez Adventure Lite smock — which also helps give you peace of mind that you’re investing in a product the manufacturer believes in.
The Valez Adventure Light smock from Páramo is a remarkable waterproof outer layer that delivers exceptional weather protection, keeping you dry and comfortable in all sorts of conditions. It’s light, comfortable and a joy to wear, whether you’re out on a headland seawatching, walking the dog or on a cycle with the kids — and whether you’re physically active or sitting still for long periods. I think it’s easily the most versatile waterproof shell I’ve ever worn, and would recommend it very highly to anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors.
Taken from the Naturally Paramo Website:
- Fully articulated shoulders and elbows for maximum freedom of movement and optimum fit.
- Two-way twin reversed zip design with inner, poppered baffles for maximum temperature control.
- Cropped front for maximum freedom of movement.
- Drop tail for maximum protection with draw-cord.
- High collar with central, single-hand adjustment to prevent wind, rain and snow entering the neck area.
- Easy adjust Velcro cuffs so sleeves can be secured to keep out the weather or rolled/ pushed up for ventilation.
- Double-layer lining either side of spine and on shoulders, for technical rucksack use.
- Excellent field of vision and protection provided by fixed hood – fully adjustable, wired and roll-away.
- Single hand adjustment throughout.
- Nikwax Analogy Light fabric performance guaranteed.
Average Weight: 584g
I’d like to thank the folks at Páramo for sending the Valez Adventure Light smock in for review on Ireland’s Wildlife.
NB. Ireland’s Wildlife has no specific affiliation to any optics or gear manufacturer and all reviews on the site are completely independent, unbiased and objective. If you’re an optics or gear manufacturer and would like to submit your product for review on the site please drop us a line using the contact form and we can take things from there.