Patagonia is a name synonymous with Environmentalism. You can’t really just call them an eco friendly company or pin down one specific function that they focus on when it comes to the environment because they are built to support the environment as a whole. Spend ten minutes on their website and you will see the plethora of pro environment initiatives they have built, they support, and that they promote. What does that have to do with their wetsuits? Everything.
From the second you look inside the wetsuit you can tell it is made differently. The key differentiating factor in a Patagonia wetsuit is wool. Specifically, Merino Wool. We did some research on Merino Wool and found it is excellent at regulating body temperature, especially when worn against the skin. The wool provides some warmth, without overheating the wearer. It draws moisture (sweat) away from the skin, a phenomenon known as wicking. The fabric is slightly moisture repellent (keratin fibers are hydrophobic at one end and hydrophillic at the other), allowing the user to avoid the feeling of wetness. Source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merino#cite_note-sasmira.org-5
What Patagonia has done with the Merino Wool is combine it with polyester. According to Patagonia doing so achieved several things – when compared to a standard nylon-lined suit.
- Use less rubber – which made it more flexible
- Made it warmer
- Allowed for extended use – lasts longer
These are all things surfers are constantly looking for but my gut tells me Patagonia is even more proud of the fact that the suits are made from post-consumer recycled polyester, merino wool softened without chlorine, and no PVC. So the overall impact on the world is lower because of the production process.
We were also pleasantly surprised at the transparency around the production process. Check out the video on how Patagonia works with it’s Merino Wool suppliers.
And the transparency around the production facility. The map below gives you the name of the factory, the address, number of workers, and male/female split.
Some of you may have heard a rumor that Patagonia wetsuits have a lifetime warranty. We did the research and here’s the truth. The suits do have a warranty against product malfunction – busted zipper, torn stitching, glue failure, etc. All you have to do is fill out the form or take it to your Patagonia store and they will send in for repair. The suits are not under warranty for life. How could they be? The ocean is so corrosive, eventually the suit will break down. The good news is if something fails Patagonia has a wetsuit repair process. There is a charge for the repair but it is a lot cheaper than purchasing a new one.
Overall, we were stoked on Patagonia’s R2. Comfortable, yes. Warm, yes. And it also feels nice to walk into the ocean knowing you are wearing a suit that is pro environment. It will be exciting to watch Patagonia continually challenge themselves to create a suit that increases in performance while decreases overall environmental impact.