The concept of a super fuzzy fleece is not a new one. I have been attracted to them for a while, but until now, I’ve always been disappointed: I’ve had major fit or function issues. Although it isn’t perfect, the Patagonia Hi-Loft R3 (revamped for Fall 2010) is pretty darn awesome. As a functional mid-layer, it performs exactly as I think a high loft fleece should: it is extremely breathable, plus it’s extra fuzzy texture helps trap air and keep me warmer (previous fleeces, in my experience, have not been warm enough despite their fuzziness, or have not been breathable because they were “windproof”). As such, the R3 is not “windproof”, but works basically as well as an insulated jacket (e.g. when layered under a shell) to keep me warm.
Once I got my Hi-Loft R3, I basically found myself wearing it all the time, which surprised me because I had previously given up on fleece in favor of down or synthetic insulation. These kept me warm and breathed decently well, although they definitely lacked some ease of movement. The new Hi-Loft R3 fabric is very stretchy, so doesn’t restrict your movement like a denser fleece, or a traditional insulated layer might. The R3 also feels lighter than other fleeces of comparable warmth.
In terms of features, the Hi-Loft R3 is just right. It has what you need (hand-warmer pockets plus one small chest pocket) without excessive doo-dads that you don’t.
The Hi-Loft R3 is slightly different in the men’s and women’s versions, and since Luke and I both have one, we’ll both give you a couple thoughts about the characteristics of the Women’s Hoody / Men’s Jacket:
Women’s Hi-Loft R3 Hoody
The Women’s Hi-Loft R3 is a hoody, which I think is great! The hood has a perfect not-too-tight and not-too-baggy fit that allows it to fit comfortably over my head (pony-tail or not) and underneath the hood of a shell, or my DAS Parka. The hood isn’t big enough to fit over my helmet, but I can fit it under (although I’d need to adjust my helmet a little bigger).
Generally, I think the R3 Hoody has a more flattering fit than comparable “monkey fleece”-style jackets (I’ve had similar jackets made by Mountain Hardwear and The North Face) – it is not cut like a box/bag and is long enough in the torso and sleeves (unlike my previous fuzzy fleeces). Patagonia XS (and I assume the entire size range) seems to have been getting larger over the last couple years, which is sad for me, because the R3 Hoody, even in XS, has a little looser fit than I would really like. (This sizing issue in XS also holds true for many other pieces of Patagonia outerwear, including the new R1, the Down Sweater, the Nano Storm, the Micropuff.) A loose fit makes it harder to wear the R3 under my tighter fitting shells, but it does mean I can easily wear it over my Down Sweater Vest.
I wasn’t super excited about the colors that the R3 was offered in for Fall 2010, so I ended up choosing brown (an unusual choice for me, I usually go with bright), and it has been a great choice. It doesn’t end up looking dirty (like some of the lighter color choices might) and is a great color for wearing to school, or to the crag.
Men’s Hi-Loft R3 Jacket
The Men’s Jacket lacks the fuzzy hood, but gets an external chest pocket and is offered in an amazing yellow color. Following comments by Luke:
When I first saw the new R3 I wanted it. The yellow screamed out to me and in that over the top kinda way I hope it would be “cool”. When my new fuzzy jacket arrived I wore it all the time. The material is soft to the touch both inside and out.
The first weeks had me wearing it around the town and eventually it made its way into my climbing pack. In the mornings when skateboarding to the train station, I could tell that the R3 breathed well while still keeping me warm.
In California the R3 is perfect for most cool weather situations. Traveling over the holidays the R3 layered well under a jacket to keep me warm during the small blizzard that hit the east coast .
As a climber, the R3 is great for active situations. I would throw it on right after a climb and the fleece would breath out my sweat and keep me dry. For long approaches and alpine climbing I expect the R3 is a bit heavy since it doesn’t offer much more warmth than the Nano Puff. However the fit is much more flattering and the jacket is stretchy and moves with my body. In the size that I tried (a medium) I appreciated that the R3 was long enough to tuck under my harness. This really helped keep in the warmth and kept it out of the way while climbing.
Conclusion: the Hi-Loft R3 is a great lightweight, yet warm mid-layer fleece, perfect for the climbing gym, around town, or chilly belays at the crag. The fit may not be perfect for smaller women (like me), but in my experience, this slight negative is more than made up by the great function of the R3. Also, the hood on the Women’s Hoody is awesome.
Full Disclosure: Lizzy purchased the R3 Hoody first and Luke was provided a sample by Patagonia for review. The opinions expressed above are those of the reviewers and reflect our experience with these jackets. Feel free to leave comments regarding your opinion of the Hi-Loft R3.
For more Sweet Gear reviews from Luke and Lizzy check out our Gear Reviews page.