New neoprene, glued outer seams and other changes in store this year
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 5 November, 2013 - Despite a somewhat clumsy entrance into the surf market a few years back, Patagonia is beginning to get it right with their latest line of wetsuits. Hiring one of the top designers in the wetsuit field, Hub Hubbard of Billabong fame, Patagonia has put in the resources to improve upon their first-generation of wetsuits.
The new suits are a big departure from the heavy, utilitarian structure of their first suits with changes that include new neoprenes, flex panels and outer seam seals.
"This season we sought to address three main points based on customer and athlete feedback while not compromising durability and warmth," said Patagonia's Jason McCaffrey. Where McCaffrey and crew have made changes to the suits are weight, stretchiness and seam construction.
Green, Orange and White
Patagonia has color-coded their grid-lined neoprene according to temperature rating. R1’s have a recycled green polyester liner, R2’s have orange in the core and green in the extremities; R3’s have the original heavy weight wool in the core and mid weight wool in the extremities; and R4’s have even more heavy weight wool in the core and mid weight in the extremities.
This fleece wool or recycled polyester area works on the philosophy of wicking water off the body and warming a cushion of air between surfer and suit. The neoprenes are all still limestone based.
We examined the men's R3 backzip full suit rated for water 48-55° F / 8-12° C. The difference between this year's model and last year's is that the entire torso and thighs are lined with the original weight merino wool (3.5 mm white lining) while the arms and legs are lined with their mid-weight merino wool grid (2.5mm orange lining). What this means is that instead of having the same thickness all throughout the suit as in years past, the R3 now has lighter neoprene in the arms and legs.
They've also added a traditional-feeling neoprene (no fluff or wool) paddling panel under the arms. This frees up the suit greatly over prior year's models.
Another big change in the wetsuit design is that the outer seams are liquid taped, so they are more watertight and durable than the first generation. "No seam seal lasts forever, but the sealant we chose was what we found to last the best, and it is repairable," said McCaffrey.
What We Found During Testing
The wool helps the suit slide on easily, making it one of the easiest fullsuits on the market to get into. The feeling of wool can take some getting used to, as on the first session the wool felt a bit scratchy. A bonus is that the wool dries pretty quick and has natural odor-resistant properties.
The backzip design is great and allows a lot of flexibility. We had no issues with flushing and give it good marks as a solid backzip design.
Patagonia's design changes under the arms with a more flexible neoprene freed up a lot of flex through these paddeling panels. So, yes, this year's model is more flexible. However, we did experience some pit rash between the chest and front section of the armpits.
Last year's R3 suit had 3.5 mml of original heavyweight merino wool neoprene throughout the entire suit. This year's R3 has 3.5 mml of wool-lined neoprene restricted to the chest and torso while the arms and legs have the 2.5 mid-weight orange neoprene.
The mid weight wool has the same amount of wool content as the original wool, but with a more open weave that allows for 60% more stretch. This makes for a more flexible suit, but in the end it's less insulation on the R3 than in prior years.
While this suit makes heaps of progress toward performance, if you value a suit with super gooey neoprene flex, this is not the suit for you. That said, the suit is a major improvement on the previous generation of Patagonia suits.
Should you be in the market for a suit that is built well and carries high environmental standards, then this suit is a good option.
Check with your salesperson to help you choose the correct fit. Note: this is important not only for the Patagonia R3, but for all wetsuits. Another way to help make an informed wetsuit purchase is to ask the shop person which wetsuits are returned for material or construction malfunction. This will help you make an informed decision when choosing a well-built suit.
The Patagonia R3® Back-Zip retails for $539 or 450€