Patagonia R3 wetsuit review

Patagonia R3 Kiteworld test

KW tests the world’s first Free Trade wetsuit.. that’s also made from rubber trees!

THIS TEST FIRST APPEARED IN KW #99 IN MAY 2019

 

Patagonia R3

 

Words: Matt Pearce / Images: Robert Stephenson

It’s been a bit of a weird start to spring up north in the UK. Early April was really nice and then late April and early May have been grim, but it’s around this time of year that I start to peek my nose out from under the hood of my 5 or 6mm winter suits and consider donning a spring suit. I don’t have a set date at which I make the switch, it’s usually just whenever I’m feeling tough but, either way, I never wear thinner than a 4mm where I live. That’s now I came to be testing the Patagonia R3. 

The R3 is Patagonia’s medium thickness suit at 4.5 / 3.5 mm thick and is rated for 9-13°C / 48-55°F. It’s a spring or summer option for some parts of the northern hemisphere but would work as a winter suit for more reasonable climates. This year’s suit comes at the end of a busy five years of development that has seen Patagonia phase out traditional oil-baed neoprene and replace it with Yulex – a biorubber alternative derived from FSC-certified rubber trees that is a far more eco-friendly alternative. 

Their new wetsuit line is also Fairtrade certified, which means the people who make them are paid a fair wage and production processes are more environmentally sound. It’s an industry first and certainly a step in the right direction. 

Out of the bag, it’s black, clean and minimalist with zero extra colour. Even the logos are now totally black, which is a bit of a rarity in a world of colourful neoprene prints. The material has that smooth texture that feels reassuring when you first get your hands on a new top-end wettie. The Yulex rubber is softer now than any Patagonia suit I’ve had and, although not quite as buttery as some super soft neoprene, I feel really well supported in the suit and I know it’s going to last. 

The fittings and cuffs feel tight and well made and the zip is robust, but also totally replaceable should you break it. The seams are triple-glued and internally taped and, altogether, at first sight you feel like you’re getting a solid suit for your money.

Having had a couple of the older R3s, the first standout here is the entry system. It’s much improved. On previous models I’ve known the neck and shoulders to be a little tight and to fray over time so that you had to be quite careful getting in and out. Also, if you were on the borderline between sizes then water would sometimes find its way in. That’s no longer an issue and the suit’s easy to get off and on and fits snugly where it needs to but with plenty of room for manoeuvre. 

 

 

I’ve kited a lot in this suit, but I also regularly wore it when out getting whomped in the shore break with my swim fins and handplane (turbo hipster that I am) this year in Cape Town and, even on the heaviest of clobberings, there was very little water making its way in. I also didn’t feel my shoulders and traps starting to burn after 1-2 hours of feverishly treading water before front crawling into bombs. That’s a pretty solid test of a wetsuit, and it stood up well. 

The suit doesn’t come with ankle straps (removable or otherwise), but the tighter ‘Supratex’ cuffs stop too much water flushing in and I didn’t have too much ‘disco-leg’ happening on days when I’d forgotten to chuck my straps in the car.  

Warmth-wise, I first tested this suit in Cape Town for a month where the water temps were averaging 18°C / 64°F and I was more than comfortable even when in the water for a long time. I actually welcomed the occasional neck flush from time to time and, perhaps because of the improved fit, I felt warmer than I have in some older R3s.

At home in the UK, my most recent session was during the first weekend of May when it was still cold enough to get numb digits and most of my fellow kiters were in 5mm suits or thicker (and some were wearing hoods). Even when having to take a few diversionary head dips under waves after losing my board, the R3 kept me warm in roughly 8°C / 47°F water (with windchill) so that’s pretty impressive for a 4mm suit in my book. It’s actually slightly colder water than this suit is designed to cope with.

Another area of improvement is the lining. Older R3s used to take longer to dry out, but the 51% recycled polyester lining that Patagonia now use has a microgrid thermal pattern that dries out faster and weighs less than it used to. I haven’t yet had to wear it wet after neglecting to properly dry it out after a session and that’s always a help to the old morale!

 

SUMMARY:

The R3 is super plush and comfortable with great range of motion and will keep you warm in colder waters than you might expect for a suit of this thickness. It’s also solidly made and durable, so should last you a while and it comes with a lifetime ‘Ironclad’ guarantee too!

 

KW LIKED:

Sleek looks, solid construction and impressive warmth for a thin(ish) suit

 

KW WOULD CHANGE:

It would be nice if it came with a set of optional ankle straps.

 

www.patagonia.com

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