I have been pretty psyched on the upcoming Fall 2013 Patagonia Wetsuits for a while now, and I recently got my hands on a new 2013 Patagonia R4 Wetsuit. This is my first wetsuit from Patagonia and so far I am extremely impressed with the quality. It’s hard to explain, but it just feels better than any other wetsuit I have worn. I am talking about the first impression when I had the suit in my hand and felt the neoprene, and new external seam seal. The new neoprene is soft, and the liquid seams appear sleek and sealed to perfection. Anyways, that’s what I think about the suit out of the water. Read on to hear my initial thoughts after a few sessions in new Patagonia R4.
First Impressions (5 Sessions)
The Fit - One of the better fitting suits I have worn. I don’t think I am a text book size in most wetsuits, but I really like the way a size small O’Neill fits me. A small is definitely to short in a Rip Curl, so medium is the ticket, but takes some breaking in before it is truly comfortable. I am 5’11 and 155lbs and the medium Patagonia R4 fit’s me as good as I could hope for. The Hood - I am really impressed with the hood in this years Patagonia R4. It is the most comfortable hood I have worn to date. At first I was a bit skeptical because the hood was gusseted a bit more than the average hooded wetsuit which left a lot of room around the neck, but in the end I was thankful it wasn’t choking me like many other hoods out there tend to do. Also the hood, like in most wetsuits, is adjustable with pull cords and you can lock it in at a comfortable level of tightness. It actually has a ton of range for adjustment, and the way it tightens around the face is well though out. I found I could get it fairly tight where it was still comfortable and it did an amazing job at keeping water out, especially when duck diving. The Zipper/Entry – A first for me, and unique to Patagonia is their front zip entry. I think this is a great design, as I didn’t notice any flushing paddling out, duck diving, or getting tosses around in the surf. It’s also a breeze to get in and out of. Typically chest zips are considered harder to get in and out of compared to back zips, but I don’t think the Patagonia Front Zip entry is as difficult as your average chest zip. Kudos.
Flexibility – I think this is a huge improvement over last years Patagonia Wetsuits. There are a lot of reasons the new 2013 R4 Wetsuit has increased in performance and flexibility. One big change is the neoprene itself. Still limestone based, all of the new 2013 Patagonia suits have the same neoprene as the R1. This neoprene is lighter and more flexible than the neoprene found in previous R4, R3, and R2 wetsuits. Also, this year Patagonia is using two weights of merino wool in their suits. The original(heavier and warmer) merino wool throughout the body and thighs, and the lighter weight and more flexible(and orange) merino wool in the arms and lower legs. The new light weight merino wool has 60% more stretch than the original merino wool. Lastly for the R4 the thickest cut neoprene on the suit is at 4.5mm compared to last years 5mm making it that much more flexible. Flexibility is a must in any wetsuit and Patagonia has definitely stepped it up.
Durability – I’ll keep this short. This remains to be seen of course, but based on the look and feel of the suit, and Patagonia’s track record of making products that outlast anything else, I feel safe saying this is the most durable wetsuit on the market right now.
Warmth - This suit is warm. No doubt warmer than most 5mm wetsuits out there. Before I go into my personal experience wearing the suit in the water I have a few things to say about it compared to the previous R4. Last years Patagonia R4 Wetsuit was considered by many the “Warmest Wetsuit on Planet Earth“. This year I have to say I’m not ready to restate that claim until I have worn it through a winter mainly because the neoprene has been bumped down .5mm in thickness. Patagonia has done a few things to make up for that. Extra water tight seams and newer more insulating and wind resistant neoprene. I think there is potential for gains in these areas that keep this suit contending for the warmest wetsuit title. I surfed a few solid sessions in low 50′s water with no sun and felt comfortable the whole time. At times after paddling a lot I did get a little warm and had to take the hood off. The real test will come when the cold currents, and arctic winds come down from the north. Come December I’ll get back to you guys on this one.
Quick Dry Properties - On par with any of the other wetsuits out there, the suit dries as fast as I would care for it to. It’s lined with wool, and wool dries as fast as anything when you turn the suit out and expose it to the open air. Weight - I was impressed with the weight of the suit. For having the merino wool through the entire suit, the lower density sections help make the suit feel less bulky. Also the new neoprene has cut down the weight a lot. I didn’t find it to be insanely light, but it is lighter than last years suit by a bit, and it feels great in the water.
Aesthetics/Appearance/Looks - Not really the most important factor when I am selecting my wetsuits, but why not touch on it. I think this suit makes you look like pretty good. It just looks sexy. The simplistic paneling with lines of “liquid” seams and deep black neoprene makes this suit stand out from the crowd in a very subtle yet very defined way. Flip the hood inside out though, and you’ll be flashing some bright orange fleece lining to anyone looking.
Final Thoughts - Patagonia has made a drastic improvement with the new line of suits. Finally we have a seam sealed suit that is more flexible, lighter, and just as tough and warm as the old Patagonia wetsuits. I think this suit is up there with any top of the line wetsuits available right now, and when it comes to quality of craftsmanship and durability the new Patagonia suits are untouchable. If you are on the fence about getting a new Patagonia Wetsuit, just remember, it is going to outlast any other suit on the market right now, and if it has issues Patagonia’s Iron Clad warranty is there to back you up. Questions or Comments? How do you like the new Fall 2013 Patagonia Wetsuits? ALSO: Check back in a month or two and I will update this with some additional thoughts. By then I’ll have the warmth question sorted out.