Paramo and the micro minority

I read on Andy Howell’s blog that Paramo are going to discontinue the 3rd Element jacket. The reason given is that it has been difficult to convince people to buy such a strange garment. However, as Alan Sloman points out, commenting on Andy’s post, it has been quite difficult to find the 3rd Element in the shops. I bought mine online.

 If you are wavering, you really ought to snap one up before they are gone. They are probably the most adaptable and flexible jacket ever produced. The good thing about Paramo is that they last for ever.

I seem to be a bit of a curse on Paramo jackets. Whenever I suggest that a jacket is good, e.g. the Viento, the Vasco, the 3rd Element, Paramo seem to get rid of them. Will the curse work on the Velez Adventure Light?

Andy makes another interesting point saying:

“Perhaps, the problem with the Third Element was that there just aren’t that many of us about. Sometimes I think that 80% of regular backpackers in the UK know each other, if not in person then through the internet. Maybe there just aren’t that many of us!”

It makes me wonder whether backpacking is more of a micro minority pastime than a minority pastime. Sure a lot of people walk in the hills, but the vast majority appear to be day walkers. I don’t decry day walkers; I was a day walker for many years until I started backpacking again five years ago. It was interesting when I was in the Lakes recently, I’m not sure that any of the walkers that I met were backpackers. I was the only one who was visibly carrying a tent.

Part of me is glad that most walkers don’t want to wild camp in the hills as it might get quite crowded. I’ve always been surprised recently at the lack of wild campers when I’ve been up in the Lakes. On the other hand, people are missing out on the sublime pleasure of wild camping. It also suggests that the market for lightweight backpacking gear could be considerably smaller than we might think.

Left to right:  Viento, 3rd Element, Vasco



35 thoughts on “Paramo and the micro minority”

  1. I think the regular wild camping, overnighters are limited in number n the UK, the vast majority of people in the hills being day walkers but there must be a huge amount of people who do not have the time, resources or inclination to write a blog so it’s probably slightly skewed to set it as high as 80%. Also, how would Mark Richardson’s ULOG, Hike Lite and Bob & Rose’s BPL survive without a reasonable marketplace – much of their wares are UL which is a far more specialist Market. Most UL kit is geared to the wild camper. A campsite camper will have a car so has no need of UL camping kit. An occasional camper would not spend £200-350 on a tent when Decathlon will give them one for £50. If they are surviving & profitable, that suggests a wider serious hillwalking base than we think.

  2. When I was purchasing my Vasco Jacket in the Covent Garden Paramo store the attendant was harping on about the 3rd element and at the time he was wearing one, though just the gillet. He did say that it was far more adaptable and I’m beginning to think that maybe I should’ve grabbed one too! I run hot and at any time without rain I’d be whipping those arms off to vent myslef! Also the benefit’ of sitting at the pub after a walk without the feeling of wearing a full on jacket and being more casual and comfy.

    Ebay ‘Paramo Extra’s’ have some going on there but still holding their value! I sold my Vasco and now have a Cioch Glamaig Jacket. My only wish with the Vasco was that it could’ve been a tad longer at the waist. My Glamaig fills that and the hood is superb! I wonder if Cioch would’ve made zip off arms for the Glamaig like the 3rd Element?

    I wonder if the new lighter material that Paramo are using could be used in a 3rd Element design?

  3. I’ve certainly been impressed with my first Paramo garment, the Velez Adventure Light. i was out at the weekend working hard on a steep climb, sweating lots, even with the venting open, but most importantly, when I was resting, dried out very quickly…

  4. You have forgotten cycle tourers in you assumption of people buying kit. While a cyclist wouldn’t probably buy the Paramo they might buy other bits of lightweight kit
    I can’t backpack anymore, due to my ankles but I like cycle touring and I look at lightweight kit. Less weight I carry the easier it is going uphill.

  5. Most backpackers are identified by two indicators:- 1 – the size of their packs and 2 – the obvious rolled sleeping mat that is nearly always lashed onto the outside.
    Lightweight backpackers are harder to spot. I think when most people see me on the hill they are very probably not aware that I’m a backpacker, my pack isn’t a lot bigger than many of theirs and I never lash stuff on the outside (my shell jacket is sometimes flat-packed under the built-in bungee cord). There just might be rather more then we think.
    I agree though that there seem to be very few, even taking that into account.

    1. I take your point but I’m almost certain that very few of the many that I saw in the Lakes were backpackers.

  6. I think I agree with Maz, just because everyone doesn’t have a blog or spend a lot of time on the internet doesn’t mean few people camp. look at any popular location on any weekend and there will usually be tents there.

    Also like Geoff says the days of having a foam mat outside your pack are long gone apart from DofE and Ten Tors. TAR’s have been inside packs for 20 years and are now much more the norm, esp with the likes of Alpkit, POE, Multimat, etc. The majority of people are obviously daywalkers but lots of people are under canvas too.

  7. I guess that part of the customers for the UL gear shops in the UK come from overseas. For example in Finland the selection of wild camping gear (UL gear especially) is quite limited, so we often order something from the UK, Germany, … (and avoid the hassle with the customs).

    The Páramo keeps popping up in discussions, I’m becoming really interested in it! 🙂

  8. Interesting post this Robin.

    I have to say – I’m part of the ‘strap on a foam mat’ crowd – but only in winter 😉

    I’d say there are many more backpackers that most will think.

    Only in recent months did I discover some in the town I live and many more in two local cities.

    Talking with them – they don’t blog or use online forums. But they exist nonetheless.

    And as for Paramo? Fantastic stuff as it is – it still continues to have an image problem. It’s not perceived as ‘cool’ by many under 30’s. Heck, even age groups above that will often frown on Paramo even though they are aware of it’s merits.

    A sign of the times perhaps?

    Even so, it does not stop me purchasing Paramo gear in any shape or form….it’s just their pricing. Sure, it may be a false economy to buy lesser priced gear but at least I can have something I need now of which I can afford.

  9. Thanks everyone for your contributions. Hopefully we are not a micro minority, but sometimes it seems like it.

    Paramo must be a great product as they seem to make all the wrong marketing moves 😉

  10. Paramo is something I haven’t really looked at but after reading about Maz’s latest kit and knowing that you’re a fan I wondered if it would be a good choice for (open) canoeing. I was looking at the pertex/pile offerings from the likes of Buffalo/Montane etc but it seems that one of the lighter Paramo tops would be worth looking at. I’m looking for something that can be worn over a thin baselayer, that will dry quickly and be easily vented.

    1. I had a Buffalo Pertex/Pile smock a long time ago and was not impressed. Too hot and not water resistant. A Paramo VAL would be a better option. The venting options are brilliant. Paramo also dries very quickly if it gets soaked.

  11. I looked at a Buffalo Mountain shirt in Cotswold and it did look pretty bulky, I wasn’t immediately sold on it.

    I was looking on the Paramo site just now, not at the VAL but at the Adventure Light. I’ll have a look at the VAL.

  12. The penny has just dropped, a VAL is what I was looking at, Velez Adventure Light. I guess that’s why I couldn’t find a VAL on the Paramo website.

    Just been reading the comments on your other post about the VAL so might take a look at Cioch. I’m skinny with long arms, in your experience how is the arm length on the VAL compared to say Montane stuff?

    1. I can only go by the Montane wind shirts where I would say the arm lengths are similar. The Velez Adventure Light is cut a bit fuller than say the 3rd Element. If you can, I would try one (or a normal Velez) in a shop. Paramo have a reputation for eccentric sizing. If it doesn’t fit it’s worth looking at Cioch although I have no experience of them.

  13. RIP 3rd Element. Top jacket. As for the other points I agree and Wurz nailed it for me. Agree totally.

    Must dash as I want to see if I can bag another 3rd Element in black of course just in case mine gets stolen.

  14. To: R MacE

    Cioch are your alternative to Paramo although they both use the same system – materials etc.

    The beauty with Cioch is that if you want longer arms you get them because you need to send in your own personal measurments. The Glamaig is probably the nearest to the light weight Velez Adventure Light. They do an over the head smock but not sure if it’s the lighter materials, you’d have to call. The Hood on the Glamaig is great with the wired peak stretching right accross the front of the whole hood.

  15. Robin – I would say even with what has been said that the market for some specialised backpacking kit is still small in the grand scheme of things. Around the Lakes during the summer you will see a reasonable amount of people who are wild camping, But I am convinced that the backpackers in the UK don’t run into big numbers. What you do see is a great deal of day walkers, in The lakes, Dales and Pennines wearing Paramo – but the more standard jacket. I can’t say I seen many people wearing 3rd Element jackets. This is strange in a way because the attributes that attract backpackers are there for day walkers as well.
    Maybe the idea is a bit too radical for most folks who would wear Paramo. Until this year – I had not heard of the product – but it’s benefits seem clear.

  16. “Part of me is glad that most walkers don’t want to wild camp in the hills as it might get quite crowded.”

    As a keen, mostly Scottish, wild camper can I echo that. Almost the only bad thing about this blog is that I worry that Robin might encourage others to follow his example.

  17. Having read so many positives about Paramo, given I’m now in my mid 40’s and the fact that I haven’t shaved for a about a fortnight I have today bought a Vasco from Kountry Kit in Tavistock. A bargain at £95 and the silver matches the grey in my beard nicely.

  18. Thanks for the advice Robin and Phillip, just bought a VAL from Paramo Extras, decided on small as it seems to be the closest to my size, hopefully the sleeves will be ok. If it doesn’t fit I can always return it.


  19. I would agree with the Third Element, I have an original Ist generation jacket from about 6/7 years ago. a great jacket/ gilet. used for day walks, backpacks and cycling. very adaptable. Of course they discontinued it about 5years ago before re-introducing it as a “new” idea!!

  20. I now have my VAL, size is fine, smock looks great and feels really nice compared to a hard shell. If it’s as waterproof as my eVent/Gore-Tex stuff I’ll be delighted.

    Love it already, although I haven’t exactly tested it in action.

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