Patagonia R-3 Front Zip suit is a no-nonsense practical wetsuit built to last
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 21 June, 2012 : - - The preferred suit of the wild and woolly north, the Patagonia R3 front zip wetsuit has made some design changes for 2012. The company updated their kneepads and cuffs utilizing Supratex material. Theyve also redesigned aspects of the suit for improved fit and easier entry. Theyve tossed out the smooth skin neoprene so that the entire suit (with the exception of kneepads and cuffs) has the nylon outer layer.
All in all Patagonias re-vamped high-end R3 Front Zip wetsuit scores excellent marks for its craftsmanship, durability and painstaking detail to green construction, while the suit gets average marks in flexibility. In the wetsuit world there is a tradeoff of durability vs. flexibility. Weve yet to encounter a wetsuit that is both super flexible and durable and will last more than one season. In that regard, the Patagonia suit is a no-nonsense practical suit built to last.
What sets Patagonia suits apart from the competition is their use of wool for insulation, their rock-solid seam construction and commitment to an environmentally sound wetsuit.
Wetsuits makers have recently begun to put a cushion of air between the surfer and suit as its the most efficient way to stay warm in the surf (its easier for the body to heat air than it is to heat water). Several companies use neoprene with little air pockets to achieve this thermal dynamic and there are several very light and airy neoprene suits on the market. The drawback is that if the neoprene is too light and airy (too many little neoprene chambers) then the suit loses some of its thermal properties.
New this year are the Supratex kneepads
Patagonia has steered around this issue with their patented merino wool method of insulation for all their coldwater wetsuits. During test surfs the wool was definitely warm, but we must caution that the wool lining feels quite different from other wetsuits. Gone is the clammy feeling of traditional wet neoprene. During testing we discovered that once the water got into the suit, it warmed quickly. Sitting out the back while waiting for a set the suit really heated up.
Patagonias marketing angle is that the merino wool laminate is a better insulator than neoprene alone. And that the wool, laid out in patented grid pattern similar to other Patagonia weather gear, wicks water off of the body. The warmer insulation value allows the surfer to wear a thinner suit, for example, a 3 ml suit replaces a 4/3 ml suit in similar water temps.
Another benefit of a wool interior is that the suit dries very fast, allowing for more comfortable double sessions should you be so lucky to have the conditions and the time. 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 scratchy. However, after a breaking-in period the wool was downright comfy. An added bonus of the wool is that it is naturally more odor-resistant. Who doesnt love to pee in their wetsuit? We did and after heaps of sessions the suit never developed that unmistakable wettie odor.
Close-up of Patagonia's seam construction
What also sets Patagonia suits apart is their no-nonsense approach to seams. While most wettie makers come out with new seam technology every season (with varying degrees of success), Patagonia has stuck to making the most durable seams on the market. While these seams last, their shortcoming lies in their ability to stretch. A wetsuit with glued and taped seam keeps water out and is usually soft and pliable, but weve all had those tape or rubberized seams peel off or crack after a season or two. For what the Patagonia seems lack in flexibility, they make up for in durability.
What also sets Patagonia suits apart from others is their commitment to environmentally sound production. Patagonia uses high-quality limestone-based neoprene which is not petroleum-based and the suits construction blends merino wool with recycled polyester (the kneepads are PVC-free too). If its important to you as a consumer that the few yards of material used to make your wetsuit are very kind to Our Mother Ocean, then this suit is a good bet.
In keeping with their function-not-fashion philosophy, youll only find this suit in black. The lines and panels are really basic. The R3 front zip neck is designed to seal tightly to minimize flushing. The dual neck gaskets on the R3 front zip can be restrictive if your sizing isnt spot on. Everywhere else the suit fit snug and didnt bind or suction-up. 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 repair. This will help you make an informed decision when choosing a well built suit.
Design-wise the Patagonia R3 Frontzip falls into the durable camp for wetsuits. This years wetsuit has some subtle improvements on the companys original launch into the wetsuit market like new kneepads & cuff material and the absence of smoothskin neoprene. All of which improve on the suits long-lastingness. However, the tradeoff is going to be flexibility. If you value a suit with high-performance flexibility, this is not the suit for you. Should you be in the market for a suit that is built well, long-lasting and carries high environmental standards, then this is your suit.
Teamrider Chris Malloy staying warm and barreled
Some selling points on the R3 Frontzip listed on the Patagonia website:
front yoke is overlapped for easy on/off
panels and seams are strategically placed for ease of paddling
seam eliminated at back of knee for better comfort and flex while swimming and bodysurfing
double neck gasket (internal/ external) minimizes flushing and is reinforced at the shoulders for durability
fully lined with soft, chlorine- free merino wool for warmth, comfort, ease of paddling and environmental sensitivity
durable Supratex cuffs at wrists and ankles minimize flushing, resist tearing; re-inforced with bar tacks and a polyurethane tab
anatomically engineered knee-pads are made with strong and stretchy Supratex instead of stiffer, environmentally harmful PVC
critical areas faced with nylon and recycled polyester for greater flex and durability; underarms are double-faced with nylon for flexibility
seams are single-needle blind- stitched on the outside using nylon-bonded thread and triple glued for extra durability and strength; crotch seams are taped inside; critical seams are stitched, glued, reinforced and taped
Patagonia's mission statement:
Make the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
Author: SV Editors / Jake Setnicka