New for 2013, the Paramo Helki Jacket is a bit of a game-changer for the brand. Where previous Paramo Nikwax Analogy walking waterproofs have been a tad shapeless and even baggy, the Helki is far neater fitting and streamlined making it a good call for those who’ve always liked the idea of the super-breathable fabric, but been put off by the high weight and loose cut of previous shells.
Paramo’s waterproofs generally are all about the Nikwax Analogy fabric system, an unusual combination of an outer shell fabric proofed with Nikwax TX10 and an internal ‘pump liner’ which is a sort of inverted pile claimed to move moisture outwards.
However it works, it’s highly breathable and condensation free in use and still effectively waterproof. Other advantages include a nice, soft handle, a distinct lack of crisp-packety rustling in use and easy repair if it does get torn.
One refinement this year is a new Pump Liner® reinforcement fabric used over the shoulders and centre of the back where packs and straps compress the standard liner and can lead to leakage. It has a sort of waffle look and is less compressible than the fabric used for the rest of the jacket.
We’ve always liked the Nikwax Analogy fabric, it has downsides being quite heavy – the Helki weighs a real world 700g in medium – and also warmer than most, which makes it a good call in cooler conditions, but it also has unparalled breathability and stays condensation free in conditions where more conventional waterproofs are struggling.
Up till now though, most full weight Paramo jackets have been old-fashioned and somewhat baggy – we reckon we could fit two mountaineers inside an Aspira Smock… The Helki changes all that.
It’s a neat, simple design with a clean medium sort of cut and length and fits us really nicely. There’s a single unobtrusive chest-pockets sized to take an OS map and two zipped-hand-warmer pockets. There’s a concealed waist cord too, but we never actually felt the need to use it, the cut is about right without.
It looks good too – possibly the first time we’ve said that about a Paramo waterproof – thanks to colour contrasting details and zips. And last but not least, as British brand, Paramo understands the need for a decent hood and the Hekli has one.
It features a close, move-with-your-head fit, decent lower face protection and a malleabe wired peak. No problems there.
Out on the hill we really like the Helki. Like other Paramo shells using Nikwax Analogy it’s a little warm and a little heavy, but the fabric is brilliantly breathable and handles moisture superbly. It also, in our experience, keeps the rain out provided you wash and maintain it properly.
The new reinforced panels seem to work too with no leakage under pack straps even in heavy rain. And although its warmer than average and we’d tend to keep it for cooler conditions, rollable sleeves and press-studs running down the storm flap mean you can expose your forearms and vent through the main zip without the jacket billowing fully open.
It’s not perfect, at 700g it’s lighter than previous Paramo efforts – the Alta 2 for example is a claimed 849g while the Aspira Smock is 868g – but still significantly weightier than more conventional waterproofs, making it best on days when you wear rather than carry.
And the handy zipped hand-warmer pockets, which also house the waist draw-cord ends, sit a little low, leaving them sat under most pack waist and hip-belts. Not ideal, but not a deal-breaker either.
Mostly though the Helki just works well in an unobtrusive, unflashy but effective way.
We’ve always liked Paramo’s Nikwax Analogy fabrics, but struggled with the cut and old-fashioned design of the brand’s walking jackets. The new Helki is a real breath of fresh air. It combines that excellent fabric performance, with a more streamlined cut and neat functional features including a very capable UK-friendly hood.
It’s still a little warm and a little heavy, but it’s the first Paramo walking shell that combines modern aesthetics with no-nonsense UK-friendly functionality and hey, it has red zips too. What more could you ask for? A cracking UK hill-walking jacket, though best suited for cooler conditions unless you run on the cold side.
Full Tec Spec
- Adjustable hood wth wired peak
- Articulated arms and shoulders
- Pump Liner® reinforcement at shoulders and centre back
- Waist drawcord with hidden cords
- Two-way front zip with poppered internal storm-flap
- OS map-sized chest pocket
- Zipper hand-warmer pockets
- Internal small zipped mesh chest pocket
- Hem drawcord