Browsing around in Google Reader just now, I saw that my pal Andy Howell has posted some thoughts on the new Paramo Velez Adventure Trousers. He had the chance to fondle some at the Paramo Store in Covent Garden last week.
The new pants are apparently more tailored than Cascadas, and made from a combination of Paramo’s (i) standard and (ii) lightweight Nikwax Analogy fabrics. Andy says they feel considerably lighter than Cascadas, and certainly the ‘average weight’ figures produced by Paramo suggest that they should be, the blokes’ Cascadas weighing in at 572g whereas the Velez trousers apparently bound off the scales at a sprightly 398g.
All this sounded very interesting to me, and so I shot across to the Paramo site to check up on the pricing. When the price hoved into view, though, I made a bit of a strangled gasping sound and reached for my inhaler. £137.50 is the RRP for the Velez trousers, as opposed to £110 for the Cascadas.
I’m still wearing the Cascadas I bought in Braemar on the Chally in 2006, but even though I’ve not worn them loads (I didn’t do the Chally in 2007 or 2008, and naturally I didn’t take them to the Pyrenees or Corsica) they’ve already each developed a small hole near the bottom of the inside leg. I’ve never used them with crampons or knowingly caught them on anything, and I wash and proof them regularly. It seems to me that they’ve simply worn through, as a result of ordinary and inevitable rubbing as I walk. That may be partly due to the relatively baggy nature of the lower leg that Andy refers to in his post.
Before I bought those Cascadas in Braemar I bought a used pair on Ebay. They were made from the heavier materials that Paramo used to use, and I still have them somewhere in a drawer. Sadly, they soon split at the crotch… oops… but I put that down to operator error and happily bought the second pair in Braemar.
To be honest, I’ve been a bit fed up to see my second pair develop little holes so quickly. After all, Paramo purports to be fairly hard-wearing stuff, and it’s quite expensive. Until now I haven’t though of asking Paramo to repair them free of charge, though, probably because I’ve simply been too idle to contact them about it. Seeing this morning, though, that their new and considerably more expensive trousers are made from *even lighter* material I’ve been spurred into action.
Casting my mind back, since I bought them in 2006 I’ve worn the Cascadas (i) for the last 3 days of the 2006 Challenge, (ii) on the Coast to Coast in 2007 (12 days), (iii) on the Pennine Way in 2008 (I only did 10 days of it) and (iv) on the Dales Way a few weeks ago. I’ve also taken them on some weekend backpacks, and if it’s raining I wear them in the woods when I’m walking Piglet. All that doesn’t seem to me to add up to a great deal of use.
I’m going to email Paramo to ask them how durable their Cascadas and Velez Adventure trousers are meant to be. I need to send the Cascadas back for a repair in any event, because one of the side zips has broken (a problem that I also had on my Viento jacket), and I’m going to ask them to take a look at the wear holes at the same time.
The Lifetime Guarantee as it appears on the Paramo website is worded as follows.
I have a problem with my Páramo garment, what does my Lifetime Guarantee cover?
1. Any manufacturing defect such as stitching, poppers, zips, drawcords, Velcro cuffs – these will be rectified free of charge indefinitely.
2. Damage to the garment by accident or normal ‘wear and tear’ can be repaired by Páramo at reasonable cost.
3. The weather protection systems employed by Páramo, maintained correctly, will outperform membrane and coating based systems.
Clearly the wear holes constitute ‘normal wear and tear’, but should it be normal for Paramo Cascadas to develop holes in each leg after the equivalent of no more than 2 months’ continuous use? I don’t think so; and at the prospect of being invited to spend £137 replacing them with an even less robust pair of trousers I begin to feel that things are getting out of hand.
Did the old-style heavier Paramo materials begin to disintegrate quickly in this way? I can’t say, because I’ve only been using Paramo for a few years. I’d be surprised to learn that they did, though, because if they had then I can’t see how Paramo could ever have built up the reputation it currently enjoys for producing not only effective but also hard-wearing kit that has the potential to last a lifetime.
It’s not just some Paramo products that seem to me to be distressingly flimsy. I still use Inov8 Roclite 315s for much of the year, because ultimately the most important thing about a pair of shoes is that it has to fit, and the Inov8 Roclites do fit my rather weirdly shaped feet quite well. As many others have observed, though, the Inov8s are not as robust as some of the other trail shoes on the market.
I think I started using the Roclites for walking in 2005/6, and I’m now on my 4th (or is it my 5th?) pair. The sole began to peel off the pair pictured at the top of this post within days of my first starting to use them in the Pyrenees in 2006. That struck me as dangerous, considering the ground I was walking on. When I got home I sent them back, and eventually Inov8 replaced them. I was told that there had been a design flaw, and that it had been fixed, but although the new pair didn’t develop the same problem the brand new pair I bought for the GR20 in 2008 went exactly the same way. I intended to send them back for a replacement, but in the end I had too much other stuff going on when I got home, and so I didn’t get round to it.
I’m prepared to pay a bit of a premium for comfortable walking, and I certainly don’t expect trail shoes or waterproofs to last forever. It’s beginning to feel to me, though, as though we’re entering an era of almost semi-disposable kit at vastly inflated prices. I’m still regularly using some bits of kit that felt expensive when I bought them almost 20 years ago–a couple of Helly Hansen T shirts, some Sprayway fleece pants, a Lowe Alpine Mountain Cap and a Lowe Alpine Contour Runner day sack, to name just a few–but is it likely that I’m going to be using the things I’ve bought recently if I’m still walking in 20 years time? It doesn’t currently look that way to me.