When you're testing a lot of waterproofs, it can start to become difficult to tell them apart. Not so the Paramo Velez, which has plenty of distinguishing features that help it stand apart from the rest of today's best waterproof jackets. Key amongst these is the fabric – rather than the crinkly, slightly stiff material you'd typically associate with waterproof jackets, this uses a soft and slippery Nikwax Analogy Waterproof fabric, and there's a mesh lining inside, both of which make it ultra-comfy to wear. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
First, the facts. The Paramo Velez is available in men's and women's versions, with an RRP of £300 for either. It comes in black (men's only), red, or a natty two-tone blue – which is the one I tested. Paramo calls it "a lightweight, high performance and comfortable directional waterproof jacket for high energy outdoor activities in temperate climates", and suggests it would be good for activities such as mountain walking, cycling, climbing and backpacking. So how did this waterproof perform in my tests? Read on for my full Paramo Velez jacket review.
Paramo Velez jacket review: fabric and waterproofing
Let's take a closer look at that unusual fabric. The outside is slippery and soft to the touch, allowing for total freedom of movement, and none of the noisiness you can often get with traditional technical waterproof fabrics. Paramo calls it Nikwax Analogy Waterproof fabric; a collaboration with the waterproofing specialists. It's designed to be not just breathable but directional too. That is, it'll push the sweat from the inside of your coat to the outside, where it can drain away. Sounds gross when you put it like that, but undoubtedly a preferable to it all collecting inside.
On the inside, you'll find a mesh liner, which despite being designed to sit close to the outer fabric, to minimise the amount of still air that'll get trapped between the layers, still generates a certain amount of warmth. It's certainly not unpleasant, but I wouldn't pick this jacket for the height of summer.
It's hard to gauge how well this really works. I did find myself getting slightly clammy when wearing this on milder days, but then, it has two layers, which means it's going to be warmer than an unlined shell. Because it's so slippery, the fabric also sits closer to your skin than a stiffer fabric would, which exacerbates the effect. Paramo says it's suitable for "intense activities in warmer temperatures", but I'd only choose this for chilly days. It should also be noted that it's on the heavier side as waterproofs go.
The outer fabric itself just doesn't feel like it should be waterproof. But it is – water beads up on the surface just as you'd expect, and I had no issues with staying dry during my wet-weather tests. The shoulder and back panels have extra mesh reinforcements to prevent water creeping in when you're wearing a backpack, too. All this has been "rigorously tested" in the intriguingly named 'Leeds University Rain Room', and should be good to keep you dry for at least four hours in a downpour.
There's nothing terribly exciting about the design, although the two-tone blue option does have a bit of a retro vibe that I'm a fan of. The Paramo and Nikwax logos also feel slightly old fashioned, although, to me, in a good way. And they certainly have more character than many minimalist outdoor brand logos achieve.
Paramo Velez waterproof review: extra features
The Paramo Velez jacket has some very effective vents; two on the upper inside arms and another two along the sides of the torso. These can be unzipped to reveal the inside mesh and allow a breeze into the jacket. The thin, flexible fabric means they don't add much stiffness or bulk, and the arm ones are forward facing and set on your inner upper arm – close enough to your armpits to cool that area, but avoiding the uncomfortable bulkiness that can sometimes occur with pit zips.
Paramo has combined the torso vents with this jacket's hand pockets. This does minimise the number of zips exposed to the elements, but also means that when you open what you'd imagine to be a pocket zip, you're in fact only opening the torso vent; to get into your pocket you then need to hunt for the second zip, within the mesh of the vent. It can be a little annoying. They are roomy enough to fit a map in though.
There are no internal pockets. For valuables you don't need to access regularly, there is yet another zip pocket on the inside of the right hand pocket (at this point it is starting to feel like pocket Inception).
The hood has a wired peak that provides necessary stiffness in the floppy fabric, and can be adjusted at front and rear via toggles. It's helmet-compatible, for anyone wanting to take it on a more high-octane adventure, or rolled away and secured with a hook and loop tab when not required.
There are more design flourishes that make this jacket particularly outdoors-friendly, too. For example, stiff zip pulls with a raised ridge on the back are easy to grip even with bulky winter gloves on, and strategically placed reflective flashes will provide a body outline in dull conditions. A minor quibble is that the velcro wrist adjusters are tricky to move single-handedly, because the fabric lacks stiffness.
Paramo Velez waterproof jacket: alternatives to consider
Our best waterproof jacket guide includes plenty of alternatives, but we've focused mainly on shell options, which are typically more lightweight and packable than the Velez, but also don't have that soft, comfy fabric (I haven't come across a waterproof jacket that feels anything like Paramo's). Our current top pick is the Arc'teryx Beta jacket, which is an outstanding all-rounder from a well respected brand. It's a shell, so you'll need to layer over a base layer and/or fleece jacket if it's chilly, but it'll also see you through on milder drizzly days. We also rate the Adidas Terrex Myshelter Active Waterproof Jacket extremely highly. It's very high performing, and looks pretty darned cool too.
Paramo Velez waterproof jacket: verdict
The Paramo Velez is unlike any other waterproof jacket I've tried, mainly due to the fabric, which is slippery and soft, yet still holds rain at bay. There are plenty of touches that'll appeal to outdoorsy types, from the reflective flashes for visibility to the glove-friendly zip pulls. Mesh lining means adds warmth, weight and bulk, but effective vents ensure airflow through the jacket when required. If you're looking for something ultra-comfy but still super functional for cooler weather, this is an outstanding pick.