Review: Patagonia R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody

Hooded Fleece Jacket
Patagonia R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody
$179, 12.5 oz./354g (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s XS-XXL, women’s XXS-XL, kids XS-XXL

As I’ve repeatedly written at this blog, virtually no piece of outdoor apparel offers more versatility than a highly breathable, midweight insulation layer; arguably, the only “layer” you will wear more is your skin. Find a highly breathable midweight jacket that’s soft and fits like it was custom made for your torso and you have a winner. Patagonia’s R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody could play that role for almost any outdoor user, from hard-core backpackers, climbers, and backcountry skiers to the average dayhiker or fitness walker, as I found wearing it on backpacking trips in Glacier National Park and the Canadian Rockies, not to mention countless days around town and at home.

At 12.5 ounces/354 grams (men’s medium), this midweight fleece is designed for wearing as an outer or middle layer in a huge range of cool to cold temperatures, including activities and seasons as diverse as hiking or climbing in virtually any mountains in any month of the year, southern climes from fall through spring, or for any winter activity—skiing, hiking, running, walking, you pick.

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The Patagonia R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody.
The Patagonia R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody.

It kept me warm without overheating—rarely even breaking a sweat—wearing it over one base layer while hiking with a full pack, uphill and downhill, on cool, generally calm mornings and some windy afternoons during a weeklong, nearly 70-mile September backpacking trip in Glacier National Park, and hiking in chilly, very strong wind on three-day hikes on both the Skyline Trail in Jasper National Park and the Nigel, Cataract, and Cline Passes Route in the White Goat Wilderness of the Canadian Rockies in the first week of August.

On those backpacking trips, I also wore it in camp both as an outer layer and, when temps dropped, under a down jacket—meaning the R1 Air Hoody doubled as an on-trail layer and a camp layer that allowed me to bring a lighter puffy and forego a midweight, long-sleeve shirt. To frame it another way: The R1 Air Hoody cut my layering system weight by replacing or reducing two other layers. Few pieces of apparel offer more versatility while reducing your pack weight.

I also wore it on breezy, cool evenings in the 50s between waves of thunderstorms while camping in June at Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve. And I fully expect it to become a go-to outer and middle layer on winter days of backcountry and Nordic skiing.

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The Patagonia R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody rolled into its hood.
The Patagonia R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody rolled into its hood.

The secret sauce is the 100 percent recycled polyester jacquard fleece with hollow-core yarns and a unique zigzag pattern that wicks moisture, dries lightning-fast, and is about as breathable as any outer garment you’ll find short of a much lighter and less-warm base layers. Boosting warmth without compromising breathability means you wear it more.

Cold tolerance varies greatly between individuals, of course. But people who get cold easily will find more situations and reasons to pull on the R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody; and people who don’t get cold easily will simply wear it in a bit lower range of temperatures. Nonetheless, thanks to its breathability, virtually anyone will find a variety of uses for it.

The flip side of that superior breathability, of course, is that wind cuts right through it. That works in your favor whenever you need to dump excess heat because your body is producing it faster than the ambient temperature, wind, and precipitation conditions are sucking it away (and that can certainly include very cool, windy conditions when you’re working hard enough). When ambient conditions draw more heat from your body than you’re producing, there’s a simple solution to the R1 Air’s lack of wind protection: It’s called a shell jacket. That’s why God invented layering systems. (But on a tangential historical note, many outdoor-gear brands, Patagonia among them, have greatly improved upon animal skins.)

Wearing this hoodie while Nordic skiing, I felt its versatility is more limited in a sport like that, where you create wind against the front of your body when going fast downhill, but also exert at a high level going uphill: On a calm December day in the high 20s Fahrenheit that was overcast when I started skiing but the sun came out before I finished, I would sweat the usual amount going uphill—the R1 Air’s warmth eclipsed the benefit of its breathability in that combination of ambient conditions and exertion level—and felt at the edge of comfort skiing fast downhill (even with the hood up) due to no wind protection.

The feel of the jacket may hold more appeal than the performance properties for many people. The close fit almost emulates that of a moderately snug sweater while creating space for one or two base layers—and, from a performance perspective, enabling more efficient heat retention and moisture movement from inside to outside. Off-the-shoulder seams avoid lying directly under pack straps. The quick-drying woven binding at the rear hem and cuffs add stretch and enhance the fit. The sleeves don’t ride up when lifting your arms overhead and the hem extends below the waist.

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The Patagonia R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody.
The Patagonia R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody.

Plus, the full-length front zipper not only permits easier on and off (than a pullover) and enables venting, it also smoothly integrates with the close-fitting, non-adjustable hood, which layers easily under helmets and shell jacket hoods. That means the R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody closes to your nose with the hood up—and the hood remains in place on your noggin in wind or when you turn your head even with the jacket completely unzipped and flapping open. That translates to significantly more comfort and better performance than so many insulated jackets that seem designed with little thought to how the hood interacts with everything below the neck.

Another versatility detail not to underestimate: That fleece hood punches above its weight in terms of how much it boosts warmth while adding nominal ballast. I think the hood is one of the R1 Air’s best features.

The two zippered hand pockets have a solid fabric lining to provide a little extra warmth by cutting wind a bit and space for a pair of three-season gloves or one warm, winter glove in each pocket. The zippered chest pocket will hold small items like a map but is strangely just slightly too small for a smartphone. The jacket doesn’t stuff into any pocket but will roll easily into its hood, packing down to the size of an American football.

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Patagonia has long excelled at insulation and base layers and its R1 line has remained at the top of the field since it revolutioned insulation with its introduction way back in 1999—and I vividly remember wanting to get my hands on one of those early R1 tops. (Fun fact: Tommy Caldwell made the first ascent of the Dawn Wall on El Capitan in an R1.)

Don’t confuse the R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody with the similarly named and comparably breathable and versatile R1 Pullover Hoody; the former is a true jacket and warmer, while the latter is a stretchier, closer-fitting base layer that can also be worn over a lighter, better-wicking base layer, like Patagonia’s own Long-Sleeved Capilene Cool Lightweight Shirt. But I see the R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody and R1 Pullover Hoody as similar enough that wearing them together would create duplicative functionality that doesn’t justify the combined weight and bulk (and fleece sleeves usually do not slide smoothly in direct contact with each other). Pick one or the other.

Other R1 Air models include the R1 Air Zip-Neck and the R1 Air Crew.

The Verdict

With midweight warmth, unmitigated breathability, and excellent comfort, the Patagonia R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody delivers four-season versatility for many outdoor activities, including backpacking, dayhiking, all forms of climbing and skiing, running, and fitness walking.


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See all reviews of outdoor apparel at The Big Outside, including “The 10 Best Down Jackets,” “The Best Base Layers, Shorts, and Socks for Hiking and Trail Running,” “The Best Rain Jackets for Hiking and Backpacking,” and “The Best Ultralight Hiking and Running Jackets.”

NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See my Gear Reviews page at The Big Outside for categorized menus of all of my reviews and my expert buying tips.

—Michael Lanza

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