Paramo Ladies’ Andina Jacket Review

I’ve had a Paramo Ladies’ Velez Adventure Light Smock waterproof jacket for many years and it’s terrific. Even in the worst of heavy downpours it’s never failed and, after many winters, it still looks like new. My main, rather major, problem is that I overheat in it. The smock doesn’t have a full length zip or sleeve vents. So unless there’s ice on the ground it stays on the coat hook.

So I’ve taken the plunge and bought a Paramo Ladies’ Andina Jacket to replace the smock. The Andina is designed for walkers and backpackers with “demanding levels of activity”. It isn’t Paramo’s lightest waterproof jacket (that’s currently the Mirada) but it does have a map pocket and mesh-lined shoulders and back (for when you’re wearing a rucksack) which the Mirada doesn’t have.

Here’s Paramo’s video about the Andina…

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Colour:

I have the lavendar/cobalt version which, in my opinion, is the only decent colour it comes in. The Andina also comes in pink/purple, bright red, or er… another red. Luckily “lavender/cobalt” is just light/dark blue. Due to the nature of Paramo fabrics and the bright colour the Andina in blue is a bit ‘shell suitey’, but only a bit.

Size:

The Velez in Large is generous on me but in the Andina it fits perfectly with room for a medium weight insulation layer underneath. (I usually wear a UK size 12 or 14.)

Weight:

The Andina in L weighs 675g on my scales. (My smock weighs 615g.) So this isn’t a light jacket. However it feels robust and if I don’t have to take my jacket off then I don’t mind it weighing a bit more which brings us to…

Breathability:

Recently I hiked up and down Offa’s Dyke with a 10kg backpack in typical autumn weather, hot sun one minute and cold wind/rain the next. Everyone I met had been playing jacket-off-jacket-on all day and yet I hadn’t felt so hot I had to take off my Andina. When it got too hot I unzipped the front and generous sleeve/torso zips. When I reached the windy top, in cloud and rain, I zipped everything up.

The breathability of fabrics is something clothing manufacturers like to go on about and I do believe in the technology, to a point. There’s nothing more breathable than an open zip which is where the Andina excels compared to the Velez.

Comfort:

One of the benefits of paramo jackets is that the waterproof fabric is soft and quiet. It’s also windproof and, obviously, waterproof. Plus, in the case of the Andina especially, the jacket and hood are well designed for comfort even during activity. The Andina doesn’t hinder movement at all, is nice and long at the back, and has a well fitted hood with extra room in case you have long hair. Additionally it has practical pockets. Although the ‘valuables’ pocket is too small for my smart phone that fits in the map pocket and the 2 hand warming pockets are perfect for hands (or dog biscuits and keys). I’m so comfortable wearing this jacket that I’ve worn it pretty much every day since I got it.

Waterproofness:

I got the chance to test the Andina’s waterproofness in the Chilterns last weekend when autumn threw everything she had at us and I stayed warm and dry. Now, the caveat is that this is a brand new jacket. The DWR coating is new and still working as it should. Paramo jackets need regular washing and reproofing (like any waterproof) so only time will tell if this jacket is as waterproof as my Velez. I’ll update this post with how it performs over time.

Feature list:

  • Uniquely shaped hood to accomodate hair comfortably, fully adjustable with wired peak to protect vision.
  • Large sleeve/torso vents for rapid on-the-move cooling with minimal rain ingress.
  • Fully articulated shoulders and elbows for maximum freedom of movement.
  • Pump Liner reinforcement on shoulders and back for extra protection when load carrying or in heavy rain.
  • Reflective strip (front and back) for improved visibility.
  • Internal secure zipped pocket.
  • Internal map pocket.
  • Two hand-warming pockets, easily accessible during activity.
  • Two-way zip with internal storm flap.
  • Long sleeves for protection with cuffs that are easily pushed or rolled up.
  • Generous length with scooped tail to protect lower back.
  • Hem drawcord for easy temperature control.

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Camping: Tent Review: Vango versus Quechua… Fight!

On our last camping trip we used the Vango Orchy 500 as our main tent with a Quechua Base Seconds Full as a separate kitchen/utility tent. This was spacious and convenient but pitching and packing away was a pain. In total it took 3 hours to dismantle and pack away camp and an hour of that was just packing away the Vango. In comparison it took just minutes to put away the Quechua.

3 hours is a long time when you have to be off a pitch by 11am. The longer it took the more tired we became and the slower we moved. We made it by 11 but were shattered and facing a long drive home.

Since then I’ve been thinking, is it worth taking the Vango? I love the size of the Vango, it’s massive. It’s well designed. The windows make it feel spacious and light. It’s withstood gale force winds and rain storms. However if it’s raining you can’t have the doors open and it’s a labour intensive, slow job to pitch it and pack it away. The tent’s still sitting in our garage waiting to be dried out because it’s so big we need a really dry day to get it out on the lawn.

When we arrived at our pitch it was poaring down with rain. We’d been driving for 5 hours with the dogs in the car. We all needed to get some fresh air, stretch our legs, and have a drink before even thinking about pitching the Vango. So we grabbed the Quechua out of the car and popped it up. Within 10 minutes we were sheltered from the rain with the kettle on.

Using the Quechua Base Seconds Full with our 2 Seconds III attached makes a similar tent design as the Vango (one porch plus one sleeping area). I used this set up when I went camping earlier in the year (see photo above). It’s a much smaller living space and the two tents aren’t actually attached to each other. Also they both take up more room in the car than the Vango.

However they are _much_ easier to pitch and pack. We could have camp set up in minutes rather than hours. The lack of space could be helped by adding a 2 Seconds I (£25) as a storage tent (or perhaps even our Wild Country Duolite Tourer) to the 2nd tent attachment point. Another advantage is these tents are much more convenient to dry when you get home. With the modular system you can dry one tent at a time by just popping it up in the garden for half an hour.

We could, of course, sell the Vango and replacing it with a quick-to-pitch alternative. Like Vango’s new Velocity 400 (£415) or Quechua’s Seconds Family 4.1 (£180). However this is a more expensive option and isn’t as flexible as a modular system of three smaller tents.

For our next trip, we’ll use the Quechua tents instead and see if we can cope with sacrificing a bit of space in exchange for less back-breaking work.

Links:

Quechua Base Seconds Full review.

Quechua 2 Seconds III review.

Vango Orchy 500 quick review.

App Review – A Smattering of iPhone Apps

It’s difficult to know what it would be like to own a device without seeing what it’s like to USE a device and, for me with the current generation of smart phones, that’s all about the apps.

So here are some of my top apps on my iPhone. This is in no way an exhaustive list of what comes pre-installed and what I’ve added. This is just a smattering of apps excluding, for example, all games (I have a LOT of apps on my phone).

Phone Calls & Messaging:

Phone (included) – The stories about bad reception with the iPhone seemed to dry up the moment it was available on more than just the incredibly poor AT&T network in the States. I’ve never had issues with dropped calls or bad reception using my phone in the UK. FaceTime (free video calling) is fun if you know someone else with an iPhone but as it’s not cross-platform it’s not that useful.

Messages (included) – Traditional text messaging. For me this has been replaced by Beluga, WhatsApp, and Twitter DMs. Probably an issue with my network provider (O2) but I find that text messages can get significantly delayed before being delivered which makes them totally pointless whereas Beluga, for example, is consistently fast. Plus with other messaging services I don’t need to worry about monthly limits and I can text my friends who live abroad.

Beluga (free) – An app I’ve written about before here. Free international cross-platform group text messaging. Brilliant.

WhatsApp (59p) – Another free text messaging app. This one has a Blackberry app (rather than Blackberry users needing to use their web browser) so it’s more BB friendly than Beluga. However the design isn’t quite as clean.

Mail (included) – A basic email app which can handle multiple accounts.

Social Networking:

Echofon Pro (£2.99) – A great Twitter client and I’ve pretty much tried them all. Stable app with regular updates. Echofon wins over the others for me as it includes push notifications so @replies, direct messages, new followers, etc. are pinged to you even if the app is closed. Free ad-supported version available.

Facebook (free) – The standard free Facebook app. It’s buggy as hell, notifications are unreliable, and I hate facebook’s poorly designed rambling complexity but until everyone’s on Twitter, or a better social networking site takes off, resistance seems futile.

Foursquare (free) – The number 1 geolocation check-in social network. I love Foursquare although there are obvious security issues with saying “I’m not home” so I’m only Foursquare friends with close friends and family. It’s useful for bumping into people in town (I fancy a coffee, oh look my friend’s at Starbucks), letting friends know you’ve arrived at a venue, finding hints & tips about places, and keeping track of when you visited somewhere. Plus there’s the whole competitive points-scoring, mayorships, and badges side which makes it a fun game too.

Music:

Spotify (free) – With our premium Spotify account I can stream music from Spotify’s servers to my phone ad-free and download music to listen to offline. Plus I can create, amend, and delete my Spotify playlists. Requires a paid Spotify account.

Sonos Controller (free) – A free controller app for the Sonos stereo we have. Used more often than not with our Spotify streaming service by creating playlists with the Spotify app and then playing them on our stereo using our Sonos app.

iPod (included) – Not used for music anymore (see above) but I do listen to audio podcasts. Formula 1 podcasts, audiobooks, beer podcasts, comedy shows. Podcasts are awesome.

SoundTracking (free) – A music check-in social networking app that I’m trying out. Seems fun so far. (Replaces my #nowplaying tweets.)

Productivity & Organisation:

CalenGoo (£3.99) – An excellent google calendar app. A solution we found when Nev and I were looking for one shared calendar without syncing headaches between Apple’s iCal and Microsoft’s calendar. Works perfectly syncing over the air with both of us able to create, amend, and delete events.

Notes (included) – Very simple note making app.

Contacts (included) – Address book. For me this syncs with my main address book as I use a Mac so it’s perfect. For PC users probably not so helpful.

RE.minder (£2.39) – I’ve raved about this app before on twitter. It’s a very simple app that allows you to set yourself a reminder to go off at a time of your choice. Recent updates have added more functionality without impacting usability. Free ad-supported version available.

Evernote (free) – I use my free Evernote account, amongst other things, for all my recipes. This app lets me access my recipes on the hoof. Evernote is just free and fabulous.

Dropbox (free) – Access your Dropbox on your phone. Dropbox is an online service for saving files to a ‘cloud’ and accessing them from all your computers. Dropbox is also free and fabulous.

Wunderlist (free) – Simple list making app that sync between devices. Very useful for shopping lists and packing lists.

Momento (£1.79) – Diary app that imports entries from Twitter, Foursquare, blog entries, Flikr, etc. I’ve written about Momento before here, it’s one of my favourite apps.

Blogging:

Tumblr (free) – A simple app with barely any functionality from the Tumblr team. It’s just enough to post a Daily Walkies photo though.

BlogPress (£1.79) – A better blogging app than the WordPress one which often crashes. Still not brilliantly designed though. A bit unintuitive and scruffy looking. Still on the look-out for something better.

Posterous (free) – Simple app for posting to Posterous blogs. I use it for Knotty Knittings.

Photography:

Camera (included) – 5 megapixel camera with 720p HD video recording. My only camera these days.

Instagram (free) – A simple photo editing (filters and tilt-shift) and social networking app for iPhone users. Great fun and immensely popular. I just wish they’d develop an Android version to widen its accessibility.

Camera+ (59p) – I only use this to crop photos so when iOS 5 is released later this year with simple photo editing included I probably won’t use this anymore.

Hipstamatic (£1.19) – Brings the quirkiness of old school photography to your digital pics. By choosing different lenses, films, and flashes you essentially add filters and effects to your photos. A great app for lo-mo style photography lovers.

Super 8 (59p) – An app to promote the new Super 8 movie, this adds old school effects to your movies. Well designed app and another one for the creative types.

Photos (included) – Access the photos on the phone.

Tools:

Calculator (included) – Standard and scientific calculator.

Parcel (£1.19) – Neat parcel tracking app which sends push notifications when a parcel’s status changes. Simple and useful. I’ve paid for the no ads version but a free ad-supported version’s also available.

Dictionary.com (free) – Dictionary and thesaurus that works without an internet connection.

My Convert (free) – Unit conversion tool.

Flashlight (no longer available to buy but many alternatives, free and for 59p) – Turns the camera flash into a torch. Not something you value until the day you need it and then it’s invaluable!

Tally Counter (free) – A simple tally counter that I use to count stitches when knitting. Beautiful retina display graphics.

Guitar Toolkit (£5.99) – Digital tuner that I use for my ukulele.

Knitminder (£1.79) – A knitting project app that allows you to track projects, yarns, needles, and patterns. Includes note-taking, photos, a stitch counter, and more. I only wish it synced with the Ravelry website. Free trial version available.

Clock (included) – Multiple timezone clock, alarms, stopwatch, and timer.

So there you have it, a smattering of my top apps. Hope this gives some impression of what the iPhone is like to use.