I’m currently gear testing for Holme Valley Mountain Rescue, who are currently fundraising for waterproof jackets for team members.
This is a significant cost to the team, in the region of £5-6000, so we need to know what we’re buying is built to last and able to withstand the worst of the British weather.
I’m reviewing the jackets we get to test, raising the profile of Mountain Rescue teams and the need for practical kit built to really withstand the weather.
Second for the test is Paramo’s Aspira Pro Smock, a heavy weight Pro version of the popular smock.
I’m already a fan of Paramo, but I know that it can be a marmite choice – you either love or hate it. The principles behind their technology is for fabrics which require regular waterproofing but keep the wearer warm when they do wet out. They are typically heavier than Event or Gore-tex and therefore require less layers underneath. For regular shell users this can be confusing and lead to people feeling that they are too warm to wear.
I already own a men’s Aspira smock, but not a pro version, so it is a lighter weight than this. I also own a Ventura, the women’s winter jacket, which has kept me very warm in Scotland in horrific weather (for a review of that check out womenclimb). So I’m definitely a fan of Paramo.
I trialled the jacket in a variety of conditions, to see how it performed on durability, breathability and most importantly on its ability to keep me warm and dry.
I’m a fan of good pockets in a jacket and most women’s versions of jackets have fewer pockets than the men’s versions of the jackets (as if we somehow carry less stuff!), they’re often also smaller pockets. The standard Aspira smock has a large horizontal pocket, which I refer to as a ‘nose bag’, as it is big enough for a map and plenty of snacks. The Aspira Pro however has more traditional vertical pockets but they’re still huge, big enough to stuff a map, phone and whatever else you might want to hide in there.
The jacket didn’t wet out on me and kept me warm and dry in the driving rain in Yorkshire, although for it to truely pass the Mountain Rescue test it could do with being out with me for a day standing around in endless rain.
The hood on the jacket is also great, large enough for a helmet and kept me snug and dry without one on – it didn’t seem too big or baggy.
As with all smock tops this is quite a baggy fit. It didn’t help that I had a women’s size medium to try which in Paramo sizes means it was already a little too large for me, but either way it would be quite baggy due to the smock style.
I’m also not a fan of the arm pit vents. Most jackets with pit vents have a zip which runs on the underside seam and runs part way down the arm and body to allow heat out while you’re wearing a rucksack and moving around. The Aspira Pro however has a vent which is on the front of the jacket and only on the arm section, which even when fully open didn’t seem to let much heat out when I was moving about, and it did make the jacket look very loose and baggy around my arms.
It also has two reinforced panels on the back of the jacket which I presume are to aid carrying heavy rucksacks and prevent the back of the jacket from wetting out in heavy rain. They can be removed from slots at the bottom. I’m not sure I see the point in these, although I haven’t tested the jacket in heavy winter conditions with a heavy winter pack, but I’ve never had either of my other Paramo jackets wet out on the back.
My overall opinion:
A great smock jacket but not one that can be worn all year round. In true Paramo style it is a thick jacket, designed to be worn with little underneath. This means however, that in spring/summer it would be too warm to wear.
I’d really like to test it in Scottish winter conditions to see how it fairs compared to my Paramo Ventura jacket as I’m sure that it is what it was designed for.