It’s been a while since Snowshoe Magazine has reviewed anything with the Patagonia brand attached to it, and doing so is considered a huge step for our matured gear review process – refined throughout our eight-year history. While most of our reviews focus on gear and accessories for snowshoers, it’s reviewing jackets that I personally love the most. From the everyday to the extreme-cold-weather garments, I enjoy everything a fully-functional jacket has to offer the snowshoeing experience. For early-season shoers, the Patagonia R4 is a stellar choice – especially among the fleece category (few brands can compete).
Using fleece as the core material for any garment is either a hit or miss – rarely a mid-level thumbs-up. Many brands will use fleece because it’s cheap and generally accepted as warm and functional. While it looks and feels warm, fleece will often need to be combined with a proprietary, enhancing technology to help make it more efficient. If not, it can often miss the mark on functionality.
Usually considered a great alternative to wool, fleece is a synthetic fiber that’s lightweight, breathable and can dry quickly. The downfall of fleece is that it can generate a lot of static electricity and can be susceptible to hot temperatures (found through tumble drying or ironing). Without a technology like Polartec, fleece by itself isn’t windproof, which can be a problem for snowshoers. Wind is often the prime conductor of cold and can penetrate a fabric that can’t maintain the heat near the body’s core. This is often the very thing that can ruin a day of snowshoeing, quickly.
Simply put, Patagonia knows its fleece. The R4 jacket gets its name through the use of Patagonia’s R4 fabric that’s windproof, warm and stretchy. R4 is an improved Polartec Windbloc polyester that has a windproof laminate between a high-loft exterior and an R2 grid interior. While invoking Star Wars-like names, the R4 jacket certainly has a “coolness” factor that’s hard to ignore. For snowshoeing, it’s an excellent choice for mildly cold days and nothing beyond freezing.
The R4’s high-loft exterior gives it a soft, furry texture. While many competing brands offer a high-loft fleece jacket – fashionably popular nowadays – few incorporate fabric technologies and essential features for snowshoers. Beyond just providing perfected warmth and fashion, the R4 jacket integrates sonic-welding and micro-stitch technology on the zipper seams. In other words, the R4 has a thoughtful zipper that’s sleek and not bulky.
For snowshoers, the R4 is a wise choice for leisurely snowshoe outings. Day-trips on the open trails where the sun is still shining but the cold air plays a more prominent role are ideal for the R4. When the conditions are bitterly-cold, you’ll notice that frost can easily build-up on the high-loft fleece, which is a sign that the fleece is doing its job as a breathable fabric.
In my opinion, the R4 should be combined with a shell when it’s far below freezing. As it requires, you can shed the shell if it gets too warm. However, I wear the Patagonia R4 as an everyday jacket when I’m going to and from the office. It just works best for everyday situations, on and off the trail.
- Microfleece-lined collar, cuffs and hem enhance comfort
- Shoulder yoke offset for comfort with pack straps
- Interior wind flap prevents chill through the center-front zipper
- Pockets: Two handwarmers and one chest secure with zippers
- 629 g (22.2 oz)
Regulator Insulation: Regulator Insulation provides phenomenal compressibility, lightweight warmth and moisture transport, whether used alone or as part of a layering system.
To purchase the Patagonia R4 jacket, click here.
For more information on the Patagonia R4, visit http://bit.ly/vV6lQs.