I first came across the Patagonia R1 in 2009 while shopping at Nordstrom. A black R1 was hanging on a clearance rack where it was 70% off and it was my size! I had never owned anything from Patagonia, though I had heard about the high quality of their clothing. Frankly, I’m not sure I ever really had the money for anything from Patagonia. Of course I bought the R1. At the time I thought it was a simple stroke of luck that brought the jacket into my possession. However, nearly nine years later with a heap of technical outdoor gear and a blog to talk about my experiences, perhaps it was a bit more serendipitous. The R1 is one of the only items that you will see cross both my professional travel bag (for consulting) and my outdoor essentials. Today I will review the classic R1, arguably my favorite piece of outdoor clothing.
Patagonia describes the classic R1 as a “versatile midlayer jacket.” The jacket consists of a light and breathable Polartec midlayer fleece with Patagonia’s patented Power Grid technology. The current jackets weight is 6.4 oz with 93% recycled polyester and 7% spandex with included Polygiene for odor control. In human, this translates to the fact that the jacket is light, warm, stretchy, and it takes a lot to make it stinky. The Patagonia R1 Fleece classic comes in a half-zip hoody, a half-zip pullover (no hood) and a full-zip version (no hood).
This is one of the most versatile pieces on the market. The full-zip version functions as an insulating layer or jacket in down to 40 degrees-ish (when active), a foundational layer 2 in your base layering system, an essential jacket for planes, etc etc. The breathability of the jacket allows you to regulate temperature in a multitude of environments while the Polartec fleece allows you to warm-up quickly in temperatures nearing freezing. That said, the jacket does not protect you from the wind and is far too light to standalone in high altitudes or any weather below or near freezing.
The Patagonia R1 is warm enough for most environments. Standalone, on a non-windy day, the jacket is good for up to roughly 40 degrees without prolonged exposure. That said, the warmth rating is a near moot point as this jacket is an essential part of a layering system. I have survived typical city activities with an R1 and a heavy Better Sweater Hoody (The thick version, not the thin ones they sell today). My best example of this was being out and about in Chicago in 12 degree weather and feeling fine. I have also survived Annapurna base camp with an R1, a Better Sweater down jacket, and an Arcteryx FL hardshell, though I admit this was on the cold side and really reached the limit of that system.
The R1 classic is extremely comfortable in several conditions as it serves as both a primary layer and a base layer. It is loose fitting and therefore could be a bit bulky in climbing where folks often seek more form-fitting apparel.
Where it has succeeded:
- The Inca Trail, Peru
- The Tour Du Mont Blanc, France/Italy/Switzerland
- The Annapurna Circuit, Nepal
- Glacier hiking, Alaska
- Glacier climbing, Iceland
- Various Colorado hikes
- Kayaking, Alaska
- Everyday Use
What Doesn’t Work
There is no full-zip hooded model
The R1 comes with a hood, but the zipper on that piece is almost a 3/4 zipper. Why Patagonia does not make a full-zip hooded version of the R1 classic I have no idea. For this reason, I ended up purchasing a new R1 Techface hoody. I have a separate review on that piece which can be read here. Spoiler alert, I don’t like it. If you’re a Patagonia representative reading this, please make a full-zip hooded R1 (classic). Thank you.
The R1 is unfortunately not a particularly packable piece of clothing. In this way it largely resembles other fleeces as it is fairly heavy and difficult to pack even in a stuff-sack. Additionally, it is not great when it’s wet. Although it retains it’s warmth, it gets soggy and heavy. Moreover, it will stay that way for quite some time. That said, in a large portion of my treks and hikes at higher altitudes the packability and dryness of my R1 was less of an issue as I am almost always wearing it.
Warmth and Quality
The R1, while it is great in many ways when it comes to warmth, there are areas where it struggles. A simple cold gust of wind cuts directly through this piece, so do not expect this to keep you warm on cold, windy days, unless you are planning on wearing a hardshell. Additionally, lately, R1 models seem to be of a little bit less quality. I’ve noted that as I’ve lost and replaced R1’s the PowerGrid technology has become spaced further and further apart. The latest model is sporting significant gaps between insulation. One Patagonia retail worker explained to me that the increased spacing is meant to allow more air out to be warmed by body heat from the jacket, which in turn warms more air between the R1 and hard shells, thereby keeping you warmer. I’m not sure I buy this perspective. First, this would obviously make the jacket less effective in as a standalone piece since your body heat is obviously not going to heat the entire environment around you. Second, I’m not sure that hard shells really work as heat retention. The idea of Goretex in general is to be breathable in these situations. If this is the case, then it would seem that the R1 itself just became a little less effective in cold weather environments.
Buy this or something similar. While this piece may not function as a standalone piece in every environment, it does function standalone in some, it is crazy comfortable and it layers very well. For me personally, this is the piece of outdoor gear I wear the most. While I have both the full-zip version and the half-zip hoody, I use the full-zip way more often simply because it is more convenient. It frustrates me to no end that Patagonia does not make a full-zip hoodie version of this piece, but nonetheless, the Patagonia R1 Fleece is an essential part of my layering system and sits firmly on my Essential Gear list. WARNING Do not mix this piece up with the new Patagonia R1 Techface hoody, the two pieces are similar in name only and my feelings are entirely different about the Techface hoody.