Posted on 2 Comments

Exploring far and wide – Our humble shores to the top of the World

I am 62, retired and have been active in the outdoors since my teens, particularly hillwalking, trekking, camping, cycling and running. Latterly, I have been running ultra-marathons and having fast packing and bike packing adventures. I’m not exactly sure when I first became aware of Páramo, although I had used the original Nikwax in the tins for my leather boots.

Above Glen Loyne, The Cape Wrath Trail

The challenge

As I approached retirement in 2014, I began to think of a way to celebrate this milestone. Major anniversaries like my fortieth and fiftieth birthdays had involved physical outdoor challenges and I considered walking Lands End to John o’ Groats, but felt three months was a bit much. Then I learned about the Cape Wrath Trail, which was described as the toughest trail in Britain. What was obvious was that this was a serious undertaking, worthy of a retiral curtain raiser, but requiring a huge amount of planning, and best of all buying lots of shiny new gear. I enjoy the planning stages of an expedition almost as much as the walk.

At some point in this process Páramo reared it’s not so ugly head. I began scouring articles about this product which seemed more of a ‘Marmite product’ than Marmite itself. Online or in magazines, no-one sat on the fence, it was completely polarised; you either love or hate it. The nagging longing started but how do you know you’ll like it or whether it will work for you? It’s quite a lot of money to test something that you may not like, and is so radically different to everything else that you have owned over the years.

The first test…

First up was the Páramo Pasco jacket after swithering about the Quito. A stunning deep blue and red and I remember the dirty looks my dog gave me as I took her for a walk in the park in absolutely torrential rain to test it successfully. The itch was well and truly there and my next item was a pair of Velez Adventure Light over-trousers. My plan was to wear these most of the time, utilising the long thigh vents to aid comfort.

Three pairs of Cambia Boxer Shorts soon followed, as did a Cambia top and short gaiters. The final part of the layering system, the fantastic Mountain Vent top, was purchased after drooling over it several times in an outdoor shop. The vent zips on the upper arm matching those of the Pasco gave some additional justification and attraction. That was how I started my Cape Wrath Trail in May 2014 and the items mentioned were worn continuously apart from when it got hotter and I occasionally managed to wear shorts.

Cape Wrath Lighthouse

All of the clothing worked superbly, it felt as if it was all working together as part of a system and I felt it ensured the success of my trip. Totally windproof and I was never wet or cold and was able to dissipate heat well too. I was able to roll up the legs of the Velez Adventure Light trousers as well as using the thigh vents making them usable in a wide range of temperatures. These are all still going strong and are regularly washed and reproofed with Nikwax products. They have years of life left in them, and they have accompanied me on many treks and adventures.

But I wasn’t finished and my Páramo kit continued to grow. I acquired a black unlined smock as a freebie for subscribing to an outdoor magazine, followed a bright yellow zipped version which is my cycling jacket. Again, both are brilliant. I also tracked down a pair of lightweight Parameta trousers – very comfortable. Next was an unlined cotton jacket, the Halkon Traveller – A casual jacket and again worn regularly up to the present day. It is particularly useful for photography with all the pockets, and is a real favourite.

Beinn Eich near Loch Lomond

In the last few years, I have volunteered at a number of ultra-marathons, including multi day events. Whatever my duties have been, whether setting or retrieving checks points high on the hills, or being stationary, my Páramo gear keeps me dry and at the appropriate temperature. Some events are sponsored and I have been supplied with jackets, but at one such event I noticed, yet again, that on foul wet windy days, the people wearing Páramo came off the hill looking far more comfortable than folk with laminated waterproofs. This led to me buying a Velez Adventure Light Smock which I could hardly justify given the number of jackets I had, including freebies, but which nonetheless was highly desirable. As expected, it certainly deserves it’s place in my outdoor wardrobe – a fantastic top that I wear running, particularly when at altitude and in cold conditions.

My final Páramo purchase (for now) was a pair of Grid Long Johns. I bought these to wear in my sleeping bag when I took part in the 2019 Original Everest Marathon, and then and in subsequent adventures – they have been great.

My trip to the Himalayas with Mt Everest left of centre

I don’t think I initially picked up just how good Páramo’s environmental and social credentials are, but it wasn’t long before I did and I have been trying to avoid PFCs for a number of years now, and obviously Páramo and Nikwax helps with that. However, to me, the Miquelina Foundation in Columbia really sets Páramo apart – I love the idea and am proud that I’ve played my part by buying the garments.

I love my Páramo gear for its performance, looks, sustainability and ethical stance and I’m sure I’ll be tempted again.

Matt Gemmell

2 thoughts on “Exploring far and wide – Our humble shores to the top of the World

  1. Lovely article by Matt who came on the Original Everest Marathon, that I organised. I wore my Paramo salopettes on the event, up high as we approached Gorak Shep and at the finish at Namche Bazaar. I’ve been wearing Paramo for more than 20 years. Do you want me to write an article?

    1. Hi Ali! We always welcome a good Páramo story and yours sounds epic! Please do email in to us.

Leave a Reply