Friday, 7 June 2013

It'd be easy if I had a labrador's coat ...

... 'cos Tilly has the original Paramo coat; double thickness, with a rain shedding outer and a soft, insulating undercoat all proofed with natural oils. Given that she perspires through her enormous tongue, her coat serves her well in all conditions. Dixie, oddly, has the lightweight summer version, so needs careful care in cold climes; but that's boxers for you - awkward (I love her really).

But I haven't ... so here's a bit of info about the gear I do wear when walking and travelling (really it's mostly the stuff I wear all the time). It's not an exhaustive list, more a series of jottings, but might help someone out there with decision making (about clothes that is, not life in general or choosing partners or whatever).

I've long been a fan of Paramo. Their stuff served me and Chrissie well in the foulest of conditions during the later of our years in mountain  rescue; I was instrumental in converting the team to this from the then-ubiquitous Gore-tex. Between us, Chrissie and I own more Paramo jackets than is good for us but our latest are Pasco jackets, a nice compromise between weight and performance. Please ... don't believe anyone who tells you Paramo jackets leak; read the blurb on their website and try to understand how they work. You may well get a little wet under certain circumstances but, provided you are wearing something appropriate underneath, which will still perform when damp, it doesn't matter. Believe me, I've worn Paramo in conditions more extreme than most walkers will ever encounter ... and I trust the stuff implicitly. I have an old pair of Cascada waterproof trousers I've had for yonks - they still function perfectly. Be aware though, all Paramo's Analogy waterproof kit needs regular reproofing; easily done with wash-in, water-based proofing stuff. I also have lighter, waterproof Velez Adventure trousers for warmer weather. I have two Paramo Mountain pull on shirts, one vented, one not, plus an ancient version of this shirt. These are my first choice of shirt in cold conditions, otherwise it's merino wool (see later). The old one must be fifteen years old and still looks as good as new and works perfectly. In addition I have a few Explorer pullovers and two, yes two, Taiga fleeces which work well underneath the Fuera Windproof Jacket (yep, got one of those too - actually two 'cos I use one as a motorbike waterproof over leathers).

Chrissie thinks her new Paramo Pasco's good but Tilly knows her coat's MUCH better. Meanwhile, Dixie turns her back and refuses to be drawn into an argument:

This was a cold spring day on Harris which is why I'm wearing my Paramo Taiga fleece and Rohan Striders, plus my Harris Tweed baseball cap, which sounds ridiculous but is nice and warm on a cool day (I ain't got much hair y'know). Tilly's wearing the usual .. smug as ever:

Similarly, I was a big fan of Rohan when the company was formed by Paul and Sarah Howcroft way back in the 70s (yep, I'm that old), in Airton, near Malham in God's own county (I still bore Chrissie by pointing out the building in Airton where they were originally based whenever we pass through). In the old days you were not considered properly dressed in the hills unless you were wearing Rohan's Strider breeches; to say they were revolutionary would be a gross understatement. Then Ron Hill's Tracksters appeared and trends changed, rapidly.

Having gone through a period of ownership by Clarks and a later management buyout, Rohan has reinvented itself as the go-to brand for serious travellers' clothing, overlapping neatly into outdoor pursuits. As well as being a hillwalker and mountaineer I've done quite a bit of long distance travelling by motorcycle and latterly, motorhome, not to mention the odd foray into backpacking and long-haul aircraft trips. All these forms of travel dictate, in my view, lightweight, packable clothing which is easy to wash and, very importantly, dry. I kissed goodbye to cotton knickers and T shirts many moons ago: I don't want to get up in the morning to last night's laundry still dripping wet. What? You DO? Well then .. DON'T bother reading on!

So, back to Rohan, I currently favour them for legwear and own several pairs of their trousers; Striders for cold weather and Trailblazers and Escapers for warmer conditions, both the latter being available as convertibles. They all work well, are comfortable and have plenty of useful pockets. I've recently bought a pair of their jeans which, though they have cotton in them, have a polyester mixed in, making them stretchy and more comforable than "proper" denim; plus they have serious pockets and ... dry quickly.

Having lost a substantial amount of weight recently (see earlier post) I've been doing quite a lot of spending on clothes of late, but experience has shown me where to shop. I bought one of Rohan's new Ether windshirts, primarily cos it reminded me of Rohan's Moving On tops from the 80s. I love this shirt. In the cooler weather we've been having this spring I've been layering it over a merino wool T shirt (more of these later) and it's so comfy, adding a light, insulating layer. And in anticipation of a trip to Islay in midge season, I recently purchased a long-sleeved, Rohan Overland shirt, which is a more traditional looking version doing a similar job to the Ether. In the last week or so I've worn these two a lot out walking and I like 'em.

Here I am in my Paramo Pasco jacket and Paramo Velez Adventure waterproof trousers, and my ancient Paramo shirt. Tilly's wearing ... the usual. Please, no comments about my hair, or lack of it!:

On a slightly milder day it's my Rohan Ether windshirt, Icebreaker merino 150 T shirt, Rohan Escapers convertibles (with the zips opened at the front for ventilation ... cool) and Tilley T5 Airlight hat, with custom made (by me) hat band. Tilly's wearing ... oh, you get the drift by now:

And, on a much warmer day, I'm grinning like and idiot in my Tilley T5 Arlight and another Icebreaker merino T; this time 200 weight:

Back to merino wool. I owe this revolution in my wardrobe to Chrissie. I can't believe we ever managed travelling without these. Not only are they warm in the cold and cool in the warm but, amazingly they never seem to stink. I once wore one for 7 days, for both walking and travelling, then got fed up with the experiment and changed, despite it still not smelling at all. In reality, this means less time spent on laundry when travelling with the motorhome or motorcycle, and less need to carry more garments (that sounded daft Geoff ... I know ... never mind). I have versions in two different weights, 150 and 200 (please don't ask me what these numbers mean; I don't know - Google it) made by Icebreakers (some with posh printed designs) and Rohan. Plus I have long and short sleeves in both weights. I understand Decathlon do much cheaper ones too, but I haven't tried 'em yet.
I love merino wool shirts!

Boots? I currently run three pairs. For everyday shorter walks I have some cheap'n'cheerful Karrimor fabric and leather KSB Aspen Mid IIIs. These were bought by price, less than £30 from Go Outdoors, they're ok but the Karrimor waterproofing is useless! They don't seem to make 'em anymore; not surprised. My second pair are Raichle and these are proper 4 season walking boots. Can't remember the model, but they're leather, Gore-tex lined and Vibram soled; good, solid, comfy boots. My third pair are Meindl, fully stiffened, leather, crampon-compatible, winter-mountaineering boots, which have had little use over the past two winters for a number of reasons which I won't bore you with.

Knickers! Look away girls, this is bloke stuff and be aware that if you  DO follow the link you WILL see pictures of very scantily clad men! As I said earlier, I don't do cotton, nor will I pay the silly prices demanded by outdoor manufacturers for my underwear. For years I've stuck with good old M&S who, for a long time, have sold an active range of knickers. Just this last month I've purchased a dozen pairs of their Autograph minirib slips (that sounds rude ... sorry) to replace the old ones I had which were YEARS old. Well done M&S. These new ones cost £12.50 for 2 pairs; only available online. They're really comfy and make me look VERY sexy (and if you believe that you'll believe ANYTHING). In case you missed the obvious, they're NOT cotton.

Getting to towards the end of this "list" now. my hankies are all American cotton bandanas, bought over many years' travelling in the US of A, but Chrissie says you can get 'em here online. Good; some of 'em are nearly worn out. Just realised, they're cotton ... but very thin and they DO dry quickly. So there ... thought you'd caught me out didn't you?

I've got loads of hats; being a bit of a hat nut, but I won't drone on about 'em. What I will do is recommend Tilley hats. I've got an original cotton one and a super, duper lightweight one which does well protecting my thinning pate from the sun. They're wide brimmed and very posey!

What else d'you wanna know about clothing? Well, you only have to ask ... I have an opinion on most things, including clothing.


PS I bet you're really glad I resisted the temptation to post a pic of myself in my M&S knickers. Truth is ... you girls just couldn't handle the excitement.

Hey ... THAT, Geoff, is sexist!

You're right Geoff. Ok, the fact is, the guys couldn't handle the excitement either!


  1. Its not just me that's found how poor the waterproofing of Karrimor KSB boots is.

    I've also found them not to be very durable, £ for £ compared to what I paid for my Scarpa SL's eight years ago, which, complete with crampon scars, are still going strong today.

    Paramo, I really must try some of their gear.

  2. Yes, even at the low price, won't be buying KSBs again. On the lookout for something similar but better quality; hopefully an offer from Go Outdoors or similar since I'm not in a rush.
    And yes, at the risk of repeating myself, Paramo really is the best for all-weather protection, in my humble opinion.


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