Two years ago, I had the fortunate pleasure of testing what was, at that time, the most eco-friendly wetsuit on the market. I tested the wrong size suit, but that’s neither here nor there.
In the past decade, Patagonia has changed the wetsuit manufacturing game by pioneering suits made entirely from a natural rubber material called Yulex – totally sans neoprene. It’s better for the planet and comes from sources that are Forest Stewardship Council certified by the Rainforest Alliance.
This year, though, Patagonia upped the ante. On top of staking the claim that this year’s line of wetsuits is lighter and stretchier than years past, all of their suits are now Fair Trade Certified, too, a first for the industry.
To put the performance claims to the test, we knew we had to get our hands on one, stretch it, dip it in some Pacific Ocean brine and see how it held up.
So how’d it do? In short, quite well.
First and foremost I didn’t make the same mistake of ordering the wrong size (read more here!) twice. Fool me twice, shame on me, right? Even just pulling the sleeves and legs, the rubber was noticeably more elastic than previous iterations.
According to Patagonia, numerous other updates have been made to their line including an improved fit, more comfort from a lower profile internal tape and a smoother interior feel, and more. All these updates were noticed – or, rather unnoticed – after a few sessions. In the old suit, the few qualms I had were the inner tape occasionally chafed, as did the ankles and cuffs. In this suit, Patagonia has mitigated all of those previous shortfalls. No chafing.
Flip the R2 (their 3.5mm/3mm full suit) inside out, and you’ve got a comfy micro gridded polyester liner that’s 51 percent recycled. It’s also warm as hell.
Finally, the stretch. The biggest criticism in the past of Yulex suits has been that they feel less flexible than traditional neoprene. This year, they’re head and shoulders above what they used to be.
The bottom line is this: if you’re in the market for some rubber that’s built for performance, and is both good for people and the planet it doesn’t get any better than Patagonia’s latest offering. Period.