Monday, November 21, 2011

Gear Review: Patagonia Men's R1 Hoody

Sometimes I think it's amusing to pretend that it's fun to be outside climbing in the cold.  At these times, I realize that it is, in fact, fun to be out climbing in the cold, provided that you are staying warm.  Meet the Patagonia R1 Hoody.

To be quite honest, there is a lot to say about how much I (and many other people I know) love the R1 Hoody.  First and foremost, it does the intended job--it is incredibly warm for the weight, which isn't much at 11.5 oz.  (Yep, you read that right, one of these weighs more than a fleece pull-over.)  Despite the warmth, it is also quite breathable, an attribute that is accentuated by an extra-long, to-the-navel front zipper.  Despite all my prior experience to the contrary, the single front-zip vents almost as well as pit zips.

More importantly, when you're not moving around, sweating and generating body heat, the features of the R1 Hoody work wonderfully to help retain body heat.  The hood zips into a full balaclava that can be worn under a helmet.  Not only does this make you look like a climbing ninja, but it comes with the added bonus of an offset and lined zipper sleeve to prevent face chafing.  (While that might not seem super important, try two days of stubble with a thoroughly sun- and wind-burnt face in 20F temps and high winds and you'll soon see the importance of a well-placed and properly guarded zipper in preventing a nasty after-shave style rash.)  Further, the waist is extra long with a slender and stretchy cut, creating the perfect tunnel to tuck into your pants without bunching, keeping you warm while preventing chafe against a pack.

I find the fit to be pretty much perfect for me.  I am consistently impressed with the fit of pieces by Patagonia.  The R1 Hoody is cut for athletic individuals; a large quite reasonably accommodates my lanky (6'3" 175lbs) frame.  The cut on the garment is fitted but not tight, with just a tiny bit of room to breathe, making it excellent for layering beneath a soft shell or heavier insulation.  The thumb loops serve not only to keep the sleeves in place under layers but also offer additional warmth and a modicum of hand coverage when the gloves come off in cold weather to cling to a heinous crimp.  Finally, the fabric is recycled and recyclable, just one more perk of buying Patagonia. 

What could possibly be wrong with such a well-designed piece of clothing? Not much, though there are a few things worth mentioning.  The R1 fabric is not very wind resistant, so it won't be much good against the wind if worn as the outermost layer.  On the other hand, if it's the outermost layer, you're probably working pretty hard, in which case the wind might just be refreshing.  Aside from that, a few of the details caught my attention.  The thumb loops on the sleeves appear to be adequately reinforced, but I haven't used the piece enough to know whether they will actually stand up to repeated use and abuse.  While the balaclava hood is great for some added warmth and fits well under a helmet, it is not cut quite like a true balaclava, making a helmet chin strap rest awkwardly and pinch the fabric.  Finally, the size of the chest pocket and its location on what is likely an inner layer of clothing preclude it from seeing significant use, with the exception of storing a lighter where it will stay warm, dry, and most importantly, functional.

For 11 years, the Patagonia Regulator Fleece line of products has been lauded by those who spend time working hard in cold weather, and rightfully so (see the latest issue of Climbing for yet another rave review).  The warmth for the weight is unbelievable, the fit is outstanding, and the features are brilliant.  While the R1 Hoody doesn't hold up well against heavy winds, there is little else to complain about.

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