Monday, 27 November 2017

Paramo Bentu fleece and windproof combination, review

I've a long history with Paramo stretching back 20 years. In 1998 I tested an Alta jacket and salopettes along with a mountain shirt, having been sent these as part of my research for equipping Kinder Mountain Rescue Team. We subsequently bought Paramo for the whole team and, some years later, replaced the Altas with Aspira jackets having been so pleased with Paramo's performance. It goes without saying that we wore the kit in every condition you can imagine, right up to full white outs and blizzards on the Kinder plateau. Chrissie and I equipped ourselves at our own expense with Paramo too and we've worn various items of their kit in everything from desert conditions in the Grand Canyon, up to proper Scottish winter in the Cairngorms. So, you could say I'm biased towards Paramo, but it's based on lots of experience.

I have a shameful number of Paramo items in my arsenal of outdoor gear at home but, now retired, I'm out every day, albeit sometimes only for a dog walk. So, of late I've found myself revisiting my older jackets and getting good use out of them. I am, however, still susceptible to being drawn to new items of kit, especially where technology has moved on.

Many moons ago Paramo sold the Fuera windproof jacket to be worn with their Taiga fleece. I bought both of them. The Taiga had the same pump lining as their Analogy waterproof jackets and, if used in combination, the Fuera and Taiga formed an equally waterproof jacket, though thicker and warmer than, say, their Alta. Great for a really cold winter day but serious overkill for much of the year.

Recently Paramo have revisited this concept and currently in their range is the Ostro fleece and windproof and the Bentu fleece and windproof. Whilst relaxing for a week with the van in Hawes last month, I tried both of these combos in a local retailer. They were being offered at a discount if you bought both items together. I found the, very light, Ostro a little too lightweight for my taste but was quite taken by the Bentu. I wasn't so keen though on the sage green colour, which was all they had in stock. 

Returning home, I ruminated for a while before giving in and ordering a blue Bentu combo from Gorge Outdoors in Cheddar for £171; a good discount. This was around 3 weeks ago now and whilst not a long time, we've had a wide range of weather conditions and temperatures here in the Peak District and I've worn the combo almost every day in everything from a mild, dry autumn day right up to the overnight backpack I did with Islay just last weekend in full-on wintery weather (read about it here).

Here's the fleece jacket.

My chest measures 40" and this and the windproof are sized large.

In addition to the two zipped side pockets there's a good sized chest pocket.

The sleeves have loose cuffs with no elastic. This makes them very easy to push up your arm for cooling, but they're a little long for me so I'm tending to turn them back.

The zip is backed with a light flap.

The pockets are backed with the latest, lightweight pump liner.

And here's the windproof, which I'm wearing over the fleece for illustration.

It has four zipped pockets, all of a good size.

Like the fleece, it's a shorter jacket but the back is dropped to cover your bum. Good for cycling.
I prefer shorter jackets, just aesthetically. If it's raining I'd always be wearing some form of waterproof legwear.

The hood is roomy enough for hats or a helmet, has volume adjustment and pulls in around the face.
It has a wired peak.

The hood can be stowed using a velcro tab, though I can never quite see the need. I like my hoods to be ready for quick deployment.

The hood and yoke are lined with the light pump liner, giving the windproof alone more potential to keep you dry than previous, completely unlined, Paramo windproofs.

For those of you unfamilar with Paramo, their Analogy garments have what they call a pump liner, which serves to move moisture, mainly sweat, out away from your base layer clothing, through the outer windproof layer to the air outside. In addition, they don't allow outside weather to get in through the two layers. The fabrics are rendered water-resistant by the addition of a water-based wax which is washed into them, which can easily be renewed, and the outer and liner become, effectively, waterproof. Hence Paramo garments can be rejuvenated almost endlessly. This, together with their ethical production facility in Columbia, makes them one of the most ethical manufacturers out there. Read more on Paramo's website if you're interested. With the combo garments, like my Bentu, the fleece functions as the pump liner. Neither the fleece not the windproof would give complete waterproofing but, together, they do. Such is the theory, but what about in practice?

Being a bit of a Paramo nerd enables me to make direct comparisons between the Analogy and combo garments. Chrissie and I have the Velez jackets, one of the lightest full-on Analogy jackets they currently make. We've used this successfully backpacking in Arctic Sweden this year and I'm very familiar with its functionality as the latest in a long line of Paramo Analogy jackets. 

So far, I have only worn the fleece and windproof together, but to be fair, that's probably the best test of its functionality as a waterproof. In milder, autumnal weather, around 11C, I've worn the combo over a thin, technical T shirt (Rab Dryflo 120) and it's been warm enough, though not too warm to cause discomfort. Taking the jackets off after a long walk wearing my day sack, I have found the back of the fleece still damp with sweat but no more than my Analogy Velez would have been.

On dry colder days, which so far have been down to minus 3C ambient, I've removed the jacket to find it virtually dry, my having sweated much less. I had been wearing a Montane Allez microgrid base layer.

On wet days the Bentu combo has functioned every bit as well as my Velez. I have sometimes found the fleece to be quite damp but no more so than the pump liner in my Velez would have been in similar conditions.

I'll digress here momentarily. Back in my MR days, whilst using Paramo we had maybe 2 team members out of around 60 who reckoned the jackets weren't waterproof. There are one or two people I know on social media who think the same. Here are my thoughts. I've worn every type of waterproof from the early days of non-breathable Peter Storm and B&H Cagjacs, where you always got wet through because they weren't breathable, through to the very best of Goretex. In my experience:

1. There are some weather conditions where ambient humidity is so high, no breathable garment will allow moisture to pass out through it, since there needs to be a lower humidity outside than inside for the breathable function to work. I remember one day, over 30 years ago, when, returning from a long day in heavy rain in the Lakes, wearing high quality Mountain Equipment Goretex waterproofs, every piece of clothing I was wearing underneath was completely wet through, so heavy and constant had been the rain and the humidity so high.

2. The transference of moisture from sweat is a constant, ongoing process, so, unless you're not sweating at all, when you remove your waterproof, the inside layer, and maybe your base clothing, may well still be wet with the sweat that has not yet been transferred out through the jacket. It is my opinion that this effect may be mistaken for leakage of the jacket from the outside in.

3. As I understand it, there is potential for rain to occasionally find it's way through the windproof outer of any Paramo. The outer on its own is not totally waterproof.  However, the pump liner will still continue to move any water away from the inside, back out through the outer. It's important to understand that it's the two layers together which provide the waterproof function.

What matters to me is, when wearing a waterproof in rain or snow, how comfortable are you underneath it. Which brings me to my most extreme application of the Bentu combo so far, this past weekend.

I had wondered whether or not to wear the Bentu since I know that, in the cold, when backpacking,  I've often taken off a Paramo Analogy jacket to find it damp on the inside (see point 2 above). Again, in the cold, this often does not dry overnight so you can end up putting a damp jacket on in the morning. But in practice this has never caused a problem since the jacket soon warms and the pump transference begins to do its job again. I could foresee having two wet layers kicking about in my tent overnight. But, I thought, on a short trip I'd give it a go.

I wore a Montane Allez microgrid baselayer again, below the combo. It's fair to say I sweat a lot when working hard, so I was not surprised that I could feel myself sweating on our initial ascent. If I'd taken anything off I'd have been cold. It was cold and snowing. I cooled a little, to the point of being more comfortable, when we hit higher ground and were, in effect, crossing level terrain. We experienced winds up to around 25mph, hail and heavy snow.

After four and a half hours of tramping we hit our camp spot. It took around an hour for me to set up camp, settle my precious pup and make a brew before I considered removing my clothing to, as usual, don clean dry clothes for the evening/night. 

The Bentu windproof was damp under where my rucsac straps had been, where, of course, it couldn't breathe. Otherwise it was dry. The fleece was only slightly damp with some very small patches wetted out. These seemed to be around the front of the yoke, below the level of the pump lining on the windproof. I laid out the fleece over my rucsac, which was lying inside my Terra Nova Southern Cross 2, and spread the windproof over the foot of the water resistant cover of my Rab down sleeping bag. But now the critical bit. Removing my Allez hoodie I found it to be totally dry except for some damp on the hood where it had been exposed to the elements before I'd raised the hood of the Bentu windproof. The Paramo kit had done its job and pushed virtually all my sweat out and not allowed any water from snow in, keeping my base layer, and me, warm and dry. I'd call that a success.

In the morning, unsurprisingly, the fleece and windproof were in the exact same state as the night before. It'd been cold, almost freezing. When I put them on again before decamping they felt fine, since the damp wasn't touching any skin and the Allez didn't transfer it.

Our walk back was in very similar conditions to the day before and, once home, taking the jackets off revealed them to be in pretty much the same state as the day before, with only slight dampness. Once again, my Allez was dry. Excellent.

I'm impressed with this combination and it will take it's place among my armoury of waterproof jackets for all conditions. In particular, I'm hoping it will make a good option for this cycling adventure in France next summer. Once the warmer weather arrives I plan to see how the windproof alone functions, in rain, over different base layers, including the T shirts I plan to cycle in. I'm not expecting total waterproofness, but I'll experiment nevertheless. I will take the fleece on my cycle adventure in any event.

But wait. 
"Is this the perfect jacket for all occasions then, Geoff?" I hear you ask.
Well...maybe not. 
When it gets silly cold I'll still use my trusty Aspira smock. It's, as they say, bombproof. But, I reckon the Bentu combo could probably be used in a very wide range of conditions, especially once you factor in using each garment on its own.

But, I need to add the few negative thoughts I have about the Bentu...and they are only few.

1. I'd prefer a light elastic around the cuffs of the fleece.

2. The lower pocket on both garments are just slightly too low for use with a hipbelt. Though you can just manage to access the top of them in the windproof. Not used the fleece alone yet.

3. The chest pockets on the windproof lack cord pulls on the zips, meaning some difficulty using them with thick gloves (don't get me started on my cold hands). I'm gonna add some this afternoon.

I'm glad I bought this jacket combo and, for clarity, despite my being a Paramo addict, I paid for it with my own brass and have no connection with Paramo (I used to, in my MR days, but that's many moons back).

Make your own mind up. Gear's a very personal thing and we're all different, but I reckon I'd be happy to recommend the Paramo Bentu windproof and fleece.

Smile and, above all, enjoy!


  1. Very good write up Geoff. Some years back I had a bad experience when kitted out in Paramo. However, I still have a few Paramo items and like their quality. My suggestion is that Paramo ought to reward you for such a fine write up? However, your wardrobe is probably well stocked already!!!!!!!!!!!!!??????????Now I await,the Crowther winter sales???

    1. 😂 😂 I rarely part with Paramo Dawn. I find I'm out so much I can just about justify all my wardrobe of jackets...and trousers...and shirts...and jumpers...and...

  2. Yes, good write up. If I was looking for a new wind proof I would consider it. Fleeces, I only ever buy cheap as they are a muchness. I would never consider anything over £20.
    Paramo, you love it or hate it, I am a bit in the middle, my Velez smock leaked every time it rained but only on the LH sleeve, never anywhere else.

    1. Thanks. Glad you found it useful Alan. Wish you luck with it. BTW if it's any help re your Velez, the process of washing and reproofing can be critical. Let me or Chrissie know if you need any advice.

  3. Excellent review and photos Geoff. Hope you are well. 👍

    1. Cheers Andy. We're both well thank you. Best wishes to you and your OH.

  4. Hi Geoff.

    Enjoyed the review and photos, although I had a bad experience with paramo. Many years ago I bought a Cascada Jacket fully waterproof and I found it to be excellent, so some years later I bought a similar combination of a Taiger fleece and windproof outer jacket promising if worn together they would be waterproof, unfortunately first time out I got soaked to the skin (not sweat). I got in touch with paramo and they didn't want to know. In the end after many phone call they re-proofed both garments but again I went out in the rain in my garden and again got absolutely soaked to the skin ( again not sweat)I phoned Paramo once more, but this time no joy. I did managed to get the money back from the supplier who was great, but I have never bought Paramo since, due to their terrible after sales experience.

    Best Wishes


    1. I've come to the conclusion based on my own experience and anecdotal evidence that there is an issue with some garments at manufacture and they'll never be 'right', regardless of the reproofing procedure.

      I've had a well-used Vasco that always looked dirty but kept out heavy rain. I've had a Cascada that looked clean, was reproofed, was further reproofed by Paramo yet never stood up to much. I have a Pasco that seems to lose waterproofing much more quickly in one spot. Confusing and frustrating if you get one of the 'iffy' ones.

      That said, I've stuck with Paramo as the most all-round comfortable option.

  5. Great write up, I have a few Paramo myself and always find them great. I run cold so the combo can be a lite cool for me.
    TIP at night put your damp fleece in your sleeping bag it will be dry in the morning and the bag should be able to pass any excess moisture through.

    1. Thanks. I do put damp stuff in my bag sometimes but would be reluctant to do that with the fleece. Better a damp fleece than a damp down bag.

  6. Hi Geoff. Thanks for the detailed and insightful review.

    I'm a landscape photographer and have been looking into getting the Bentu combo for a while. I came across The Gorge Outdoor website (can't quite believe the saving on the combo from them) and was wondering what you thought of the company for ordering and delivery?

    Many thanks


    1. Hi Peter, although it's a while back now I don't remember any problem with the order or delivery from Gorge. Good luck and thanks for visiting.

  7. My biggest problem with my Paramo jacket is the dampness on overnight trips. Where my goretex jacket would get a wipe down and by dry inside by morning, as would my fleece, the Paramo Helki is heavy and damp all the way through and not nice to put on.and if the weather warms up the next day it gets stowed in this state and stays wwt.

    1. Yep, you're right, as I've said, but, on balance I'd rather Paramo than Goretex any day. It's a personal choice though. Thanks for visiting.

  8. Late to the party here but thanks for the considered review. It's always good to read a proper try-out of gear.

    Given your extensive Paramo experience, I'm wondering whether you see a specific 'use case' for the Bentu combo? I'm especially interested in the 'half-lined' windproof but am struggling to see where it would be really useful. Perhaps I just already have too much Paramo kit (is that possible?!) and the differences are marginal/personal preference?

    The difficulty I'm seeing is that presumably the liner adds some warmth, so it may limit the pure windproof case. I'm guessing that if it's raining enough for the liner to be required, you then really need to also be wearing the fleece to stay dry? Will it really see off more of a shower than the other windproofs? As you've mentioned, you can then end up with two jackets with wet exteriors. As for the combo, is that warmer than a standard Analogy jacket/smock?

    Would be interested in your take on the real-world advantages over using other Paramo windproof/Analogy alternatives.


    1. Hi, I've worn the combo in heavy rain and snow and it's performed well but, given I have so many jackets I now tend to use the Bentu in conditions where I'm unlikely to have lots of rain, where I can get the benefit of each element on its own. For example, it's my go to jacket for spring and summer cycle tours where sometimes I want a windproof, sometimes a little warmth but only occasionally the two together.
      Cheers and sorry for the delay in replying.

  9. Hi Geoff,

    Thanks for a brilliant write up.

    I was looking to try out Paramo and was comparing the Ostro with Ostro Fleece version. I think you have helped me decide on the Bentu for Scottish season: Spring to Autumn.

    Is the Bentu Fleece better than the Ostro Fleece? Could one not just swap the Fleece and use Ostro Fleece with a Bentu jacket as effectively as you have done?

    I have not tried your base layer, but have Odlo that I was considering to use for colder climate days.

    The Bentu range 2020, are still similarly priced. The jacket now come in 3 Colours, dark wine, moss (you so loved) & the blue with slightly different zips.

    In terms of size, did you go for a Large? What size chest do you have and therefore which size was best? My assumption is they remain true to size and for me 103cm chest, a Large would be suited.

    I do like a tight cost fit. The Paramo seems very baggy style. I am used to Salewa Goretex, tighter fitting slicker ski layers.

    I hope you and your family are safe, during these unusual global times. Stay well & healthy.


    1. Hi Niaz, thanks for visiting.

      My wife has an Ostro fleece and I'd say the fabric is the same but Ostro has a hood. Hence I'd expect the performance to be the same.

      It works with any base layer. I've been using it every day in recent weeks, the weather being so changeable. I'm currently wearing Alpkit technical t shirts.

      I'm the exact same chest size as you and both my Bentu layers are size large.

      We're just about coping right now. At least we live in the countryside so have been out every day with our dogs.

      Keep safe.

  10. Fascinating review.
    I have the Bentu combination in green for spring/autumn birding outings and I fully agree with everything you have said.
    I have just bought a blue Bentu windproof for summer walking - nice colour and comfortable



  11. Very helpful review. It's great to see and read about real world useage. Thank you :)

  12. I have the Bentu fleece and am thinking about the windproof (I currently use a light Rohan wind shirt over the fleece if windy but it's not water resistant). I haven't worn it in heavy rain though. Your review was helpful.


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