The classic down jacket is one of the best bits of kit you can get for keeping warm. Gram for gram, there’s nothing warmer than the combination of pertex and down of one form or the other. In that respect, synthetic insulation doesn’t come close. That said, there’s no need to write off synthetic insulation as the poor relation of down. It’s both cheaper (usually) and remains effective when wet, which with our current winter is more useful than a down garment made for subzero temperatures.
The Paramo Torres system is, quite possibly, the pinnacle of synthetic insulation. Conceived from the off as an over-layer to be placed over wet gear, this is kit that’s been thoroughly designed for the British winter that we more realistically experience. We all have a romantic notion of cold, crisp winter days but the reality is more often than not a damp slog in, with progressively more snow until you reach the proper snowline and only on the very highest section does the snow cease to resemble Slush Puppy (lime in some instances – keep clear). For this you need kit that performs in the damp, and the Paramo Torres does so admirably.
As far as looks go, it’s just a smock with an extremely simple design, kangaroo and zipped pockets on the outside and two mesh ones on the inside, elasticated cuffs and a hood. It’s exceptionally minimal. You pull it on, and it keeps you warm while you have a coffee or lunch without worrying about it getting wet. The size is sufficiently ample to cover your winter layers as well, so none of that straight jacket feeling that you get with some belay jackets. The scooped back means you don’t get a cold back when you’re bending to get into your pack (though should I say, bend at the knees?) It may even be too large, so even if you think you know the sizing, you’ll be best advised to try it on for size with what you’d usually wear on a winter trip underneath.
The only drawback of the garment is that it is rather bulky, despite the claim by Paramo that it packs down small. An equivalent down jacket would vanish into nothing while the Torres takes up significantly more. This isn’t really an issue on a day walk, but it does pose a dilemma on winter wild camps when I find that with a full on winter tent and sleeping bag, space does get a little tight. The weight isn’t that much heavier than your average down jacket and is perfectly suited to keeping warm around camp in the evenings.
The Torres is available as a smock (as tested), gilet, jacket and as sleeves only. You can even buy the sleeves and gilet as a core and sleeves package for the ultimate in flexibility. There’s also a trouser, though we’ll review that separately.