Next up is the Patagonia R2 Yulex with Nexkin (front zip). MSRP $529.00
If you remember back to our last test Patagonia’s suits were lined with Merino Wool. The wool was naturally harvested from sheep and it was Patagonia’s first move towards a more sustainable and environmentally sourced suit. In true Patagonia fashion the team of suit designers and product engineers were not satisfied with the solution as it still relied heavily on petro based neoprene rubber.
Back in 2006 Patagonia started working with the Yulex company and a shrub called the Guayule (Why-U-Lee) plant. The shrub is grown in the Southwest US, is a desert/arid ecosystem crop and as such takes less water to grow when compared to say Cotton (it also takes less pesticides too). The reason Patagonia took special interest in the plant is the rubbery/latex properties the processed plant provides.
It has taken Patagonia and Yulex several years to create a material that possesses the necessary, stretch, durability, and insulation needed to keep surfers happy and to keep Patagonia happy. Remember Patagonia is the same company that tells you not to buy a new jacket, but rather hold on to your old one because the longer it lasts the less natural resources you take from Mother Earth. The new material is a 60/40 blend of polychloroprene (neoprene) and Yulex. Yes, it is true they are still using traditional neoprene but they are using 60% Yulex which means 60% less neoprene with every Patagonia suit. Pretty bold move to challenge conventional thinking (in my opinion).
And all that is the inside of the suit. What I also like about this model Patagonia wetsuit is Nexkin. Think of it as slick-skin. That glossy material on the outside of the suit that protects you from the wind. Big fan of this stuff – primarily because my favorite surf spots always have a breeze. Winter means low water temps + wet + breeze = cold. Slick skin or Nexkin in this case is key…hint hint.
So how’d it do?
The conditions… 2-4’ and like every suit I started my 120 minute session in the dark. In this case there was some cloud cover and light fog so it was pretty much pitch black. Air was 55 degrees and water 62 at the start. I took 3 waves right on the face as I was trying to get position for some pre-dawn patrol action. The surf got a little bigger – closer to the 4’ range as the tide was building and then got a little swampy during the second hour. The last 30 mins was pretty slow. To make up for it I went to the inside and rode shorebreak – forcing duck dives and intentionally falling to test the seals and seams.
My one word description of this suit is WARM. This was by far the warmest suit I’ve tested and you could feel it. It heated up quick, it stayed warm, and from a heat perspective was fantastic. I knew I was warm but looking back at the data I am surprised how quickly it heated up and how long that heat held in the suit.
Patagonia ankles and wrists are like no other suit. They allocate 3-4 inches of cuff material. It’s a tight almost woven (see picture) finish that really keeps the water out. I think this really helps keep the suit warm as there is virtually no seeping in at the wrist and only minimal at the ankles – tops amongst the suits tested.
There are a couple of trade-offs. First is the stretch. I knew as I was putting the suit on that this was going to be less flexible than the other suits. I was stepping in and pulling the suit up and was putting some real muscle in to it. Once suited up I needed to adjust the “franks and beans” area and the suit was not having any of it. The chest zip step in neck hole is perfectly sized to keep you warm – nice and snug. But for a broad shouldered guy like myself exiting the suit was difficult. Literally took me 12 minutes, 90% of which was getting it off my shoulders.
Another trade off was the weight. I could tell this suit was heavier than others. Compound that with the limited stretch and I felt slower. Did it affect my surf – no. Was it noticeable – yes. If this was your primary suit you probably wouldn’t even notice after four or five sessions. Truth is, I owned Patagnoia suits before (Merino Wool days) and they were heavier too. I could never tell until I put on a different suit, but it’s my job to compare to it’s peers, so I want you to know the difference.
Last little note – I did notice the tiniest of rashes on the back of my neck. Red skin, not full blown rash – I’ll be sure to watch this in my next test. This suit was tested on my 4th consecutive day surfing so it may have been the result of just wear and tear.
Session 2 (with booties).
A few weeks have passed since test #1 and while the surf conditions were similar – 2-3’+ with lots of waves to go around. The weather conditions are much different. The water has dipped to 59.0 degrees, the starting air temp is 52.3 and as usual there is a light offshore. Ending air temp was 61.0
My surf was 100 minutes, started in the dark (pre-dawn), with clear skies and would have lasted longer but a crew of longboarders showed up during the last 20 mins and took every set wave sitting on the outside. It made all the regulars pretty “unhappy” and when the vibe went south I had all my data so I bounced.
Pretty much everything I said initially about the suit rang true in session #2. The suit is very warm. It feels warm and the data pulled confirms that this suit is the warmest of the bunch. I’m not sure if it is all the slick-skin on the outside, the internal construction, or the combination of both but the suit heats up quick and retains the heat throughout the session.
The cuffs and ankles are lock down tight. They only allow water in at the slowest of paces and I believe this is why the suit warms up so quickly once you’ve put it on and during your paddle out.
While this suit is warm, like everything in life there are some trade offs. In this case you are losing some flexibility for sure. I mentioned it above, but it bears repeating. The suit is not nearly as flexible as some of the other suits. Sure the other suits aren’t as warm but it’ll be up to you to weigh what’s more important – heat or stretch.
I did monitor that slight irritation on the neck and this time it was not my 4th day of surf in a row. The irritation was negligible and I would barely call it anything. You would get worse irritation with a little sand in the suit – so great news there.
Very happy with the suit. I’ve surfed a couple times between the tests and I have no problem pulling out the Patagonia for those early, cold, windy mornings. There is some solace in knowing that you are putting on the warmest suit in the stack.
Tags: Patagonia, Wetsuit, Winter Wetsuit Test, Yulex