The Páramo Bentu Jacket is a bit of an indulgence. It’s good looking, super comfortable, totally windproof and has a few great practical features. It’s the perfect three-season jacket for hiking in most conditions. The reason it’s an indulgence is that it’s not a jacket we (or Páramo itself for that matter) would recommend for heavy, sustained rain, which means realistically you’d still need a waterproof jacket in your arsenal.
More comfortable than a hard-shell jacket
Ample zippered front pockets
Couples up neatly with the Bentu Fleece
Not suitable for heavier rain
2-way zipper can be a bit fiddly
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Páramo Bentu Windproof Jacket: first impressions
Páramo does things a little differently. Founded in 1984 by Nick Brown, the man behind clothing and gear aftercare brand Nikwax, Páramo is named after the ecosystem found between the continuous treeline and the snowline in the Andes and Central America. It was here that Páramo’s first fabrics were put to the test.
RRP: $160 (US) / £120 (UK)
Weight: 420g / 15oz
Water repellence: Nikwax Duology Windproof fabric with zoned Pump Liner
Materials: Polyester treated with Nikwax water repellent finish
Colors: Midnight, Cobalt/Midnight, Moss, Dark Gray
Compatibility: Three-season hiking in mostly dry conditions
What makes Páramo different is its approach to weatherproofing, shunning the likes of Gore-Tex and waterproof membranes entirely and ploughing its own furrow. It makes use of Nikwax water-repellent treatments and dual-layer fabrics to create weather-resistant garments. Its followers are many, though it has some detractors within the outdoor industry too.
Its Bentu Windproof jacket is an intriguing prospect and it’s designed to be worn alongside Páramo’s Bentu Fleece. Although it’s not fully waterproof, it’ll withstand drizzle and the occasional shower, making it a great option for hikes in dry-ish conditions.
This is no lightweight windbreaker for runners, the Bentu feels (and weighs) like a substantial, fully-featured waterproof jacket for hikers. However, unlike the stiffness of a Gore-Tex hardshell, the main polyester fabric feels lovely. It’s soft to the touch and wonderfully comfortable on first wear. While there’s nothing like elastane for stretchiness, it doesn’t really matter – the supple face fabric moves with you, allowing for free movement. Fit-wise, it’s neither baggy nor slim fitting and there’s room beneath for a few mid-layers on colder days.
The inside of the hood and upper back have an obvious mesh lining on the inside of the jacket. This is a ‘zoned Pump Liner’, designed to give additional protection against the rain. This works by moving moisture through the jacket to the surface, making for a fast-drying garment. This kind of approach to moisture vapour transfer is what Páramo champion.
Sewn onto the right arm of the Bentu is its ‘Duology Windproof by Nikwax’ patch, indicating the specific directional textiles at play.
It’s designed to be worn either as a standlone outer or with the matching Bentu Fleece beneath for additional warmth and weather protection. There are even interior zippers within the jacket’s handwarmer pockets that line up with the zippered handwarmer pockets on the fleece jacket, meaning you can stash things within in the fleece without taking your protective jacket off. Pretty neat design.
Here’s the caveat. Páramo state on their website that they ‘do not recommend this combination for cold weather and persistent rain’, which is why the Bentu is very much a 3-season jacket. However, they’ve tested the jacket and fleece combo in Leeds University Textile Department’s Rain Room and it was able to withstand at least four hours of heavy rain, apparently five times the intensity of the kind of heavy rain often experienced in the UK. More on this topic later…
As well as the two handwarmer pockets, there are two large chest pockets with enough space for a topographical map. There are no interior pockets, but four on the exterior is more than enough in my book. Just don’t forget to zip up the internal zippers on the handwarmer pockets when not wearing with the fleece, otherwise your car keys will fall straight through and out onto the trail!
The Velcro cuffs, wire-peaked hood and elasticated hem are all adjustable, allowing you to tailor your fit to the conditions.
On the trails
I wore the Bentu Jacket on mountainous hikes in Wales’ Eryri (Snowdonia) National Park and in England’s Lake District National Park, as well in normal everyday life. I found it to be a pleasure on the most part, comfortable and preferable to putting on a hard shell on blustery days. The main fabric's suppleness made it a great choice for scrambling, as it's less restrictive than a stiffer waterproof jacket.
I always like an outer layer with handwarmer pockets and the way the jacket couples up with the matching fleece is great, letting my hands nuzzle into cozy, warm fleece fabric while getting the benefit of the windproof polyester shell. I also valued the quartet of front pockets, giving me plenty of storage options. Meanwhile, it was easy to adjust both the hood and hem when the need arose. I did find the 2-way zipper a little fiddly at times, but this is a minor gripe.
After trying to wade through the – admittedly slightly confusing – guidance on how much I’d be able to trust the Bentu Jacket and Fleece combo in rainy conditions, I was glad to see a showery forecast for my test hikes in the Lake District.
Now then, Páramo state they’ve laboratory tested the Bentu fleece and jacket combo and that it can withstand at least four hours of heavy rain – and not just any heavy rain, mind you! Heavy rain that’s five times as intense as “normal” UK heavy rain.
I'm not so sure about this. I found that after less than three hours of moderately heavy Lakeland rain, both jacket and fleece had given up the ghost and water was starting to soak into my base layer. I wouldn’t have even described the conditions I encountered as “heavy rain”, so it just goes to show that it’s perhaps difficult to mimic the conditions found in the mountains in a university lab.
In fairness, the combo did repel the rain for the first couple of hours, as well as other periods of drizzle during the test period, but it didn’t cope with the prolonged deluge. I dread to think how I’d have ended up had I actually been in rain five times as strong as "normal" for four hours. The phrase ‘drowned rat’ comes to mind.
All of this means that I’m a little torn as to how I feel about the Bentu Jacket. I do really like it – it’s good looking and very comfortable to wear. It kept the wind off me on blustery ridges and I was able to move relatively freely. However, rain can come at any time in the high places, so I’d always have to pack a waterproof given my experience. In the case of that rainy day in the Lake District, I ended up taking it off and swapping it for a Gore-Tex jacket.
So, the Bentu is an indulgence – an excellent hikers' windproof jacket but certainly not a waterproof one, despite the nods towards this kind of use, when worn with the fleece, on Páramo’s website.
Alex is a freelance adventure writer and mountain leader with an insatiable passion for the mountains. A Cumbrian born and bred, his native English Lake District has a special place in his heart, though he is at least equally happy in North Wales, the Scottish Highlands or the European Alps. Through his hiking, mountaineering, climbing and trail running adventures, Alex aims to inspire others to get outdoors. He is currently President of the London Mountaineering Club, training to become a winter mountain leader, looking to finally finish bagging all the Wainwright fells of the Lake District and hoping to scale more Alpine 4000ers when circumstances allow. Find out more at www.alexfoxfield.com