Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Trim fit, highly compressible, versatile features, thinner bottom material reduces bulk under a harness, no hood (if that's your preference).
Cons: Can be too warm for cardio activities in three-season temps, ugly dual material contrasting colors, uncomfortable thumb loops, Patagonia's R3 has larger hand pockets.
Best Uses: Active use in cold weather, alpine climbing
Revised for Fall 2013 the Patagonia R2 fleece is more technical than ever before. It combines top quality ultra comfortable high-loft insulation that's warm when wet, lightweight, and highly compressible with a good fit and features that perform very well in the backcountry. The R2 previously won our Top Pick Award but the new Patagonia R3 narrowly steals the award due to its increased warmth, larger pockets, and improved aesthetics. However, the R2 is still fantastic (it's our 3rd highest rated fleece) and we highly recommend it, particularly for climbers because the bottom of the jacket uses a thinner material that reduces bulk under a harness.
Check out our complete Men's Fleece Jacket Review to see how this product compares to others.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The R2 provides a near perfect level of insulation for both active and inactive use. It's warm enough to keep you cozy on an afternoon stroll around the park and on a frigid winter day of climbing or skiing. We feel that this is the ideal level of warmth for most people who want one fleece jacket. However, it can be too warm for many high-output activities in three-season conditions. For example, we found that it was too hot to wear while moving on most spring through fall backpacking trips—a lighter fleece, like the Patagonia Capilene 4 Hoody is typically best for backpacking. But the R2 still works for well backpacking, particularly in wetter, cooler climates like the Pacific Northwest. The jacket is best when used as a midlayer underneath a wind or water resistant shell. It is superb for downhill skiing and winter climbing. The R2 is roughly as warm as Patagonia's R1 Hoody: the R2's material is warmer but the R1 Hoody's hood and extra length offset its slightly less warm material.
The R2 is supremely cozy. Only a few heavier fleeces (such as the Patagonia R3 are slightly more comfortable and that's only because they wrap your body in more fleece. The jacket's handwarmer pockets are comfortable and there are nice touches such as fuzzy flap that prevents your chin from rubbing on the top of the zipper.
New for Fall 2013 Patagonia changed the arm design to use a lighter and stretchier R1 fleece underneath the elbows. This makes it more comfortable to swing your arms wildly about over head while climbing or frolicking in the forest. Patagonia also added two thumb holes that are VERY SMALL. The author and several others with average sized man hands found them to be too small for their thumbs and therefore uncomfortable to use. It's disappointing that Patagonia didn't test the thumb loops thoroughly; the same feature on their R1 Hoody is much larger and more comfortable. All other companies have larger thumb loops on fleeces. This is just a minor drawback; our testers rarely use thumb loops on midweight fleeces.
Perhaps the greatest reason to opt for the R2 over the R3 is that the R2 is less bulky underneath a harness. Its R1 fabric at the bottom is much more compact than the R3's high-loft fabric.
Weight and Packed Size
Our men's medium R2 weighs 13.3 ounces and compresses to slightly less than one liter in volume. Although fleece is not superbly warm for its weight (down and synthetic insulation are warmer per unit weight/volume), it's warmth when wet and comfort next-to-skin make it a material that we bring with us on most backcountry trips. The R2 has a lower warmth to weight ratio than some of our other top rated fleeces, like the Patagona R1 Hoody because it doesn't have a hood and has an average length (not extra long) cut that comes untucked from pants and harnesses relatively easily, especially if you're tall. The R2 only weighs 0.7 oz. more than the R1 Hoody; choosing between them comes down to the hood. If you don't want one go for this jacket.
Wind Resistance and Breathability
The R2 has very poor wind resistance and excellent breathability. The material dries very quickly.
The new R2's use of R1 fabric on the bottom of the front is less than attractive. Though Patagonia changes their fleece colors annually, if not more frequently, the current offering of offset colors is rather hideous. Only the black looks good and even in that color you can plainly see the contrast between the shaggy high-loft R2 fleece and smoother R1 fleece. This is a small drawback but it's worth noting because as the fleece became more technical its aesthetics decreased. Our testers found the R3 to be more attractive, largely due to its continuous front panels of the same material.
The two handwarmer pockets allow the jacket to function well around town when you don't have gloves. A single exterior chest pocket lets one keep a camera or a phone handy when the jacket is worn underneath a shell. We prefer the handwarmer pockets on the Patagonia R3 becuase they are significantly larger and better for storing things like waterbottles.
Unlike hardface fleeces, when you spill something on the R2, or lay it on the ground, dirty and yucky things tend to adhere to it easily. We usually come back from trips with the jacket looking less that ideal. But that's what the washing machine is for… If you want a jacket that works better as an outer layer for around town consider a hardface fleece.
All-purpose use, winter skiing and climbing.
The R2 is a great deal if you want one all-purpose top-tier non hooded fleece. If you don't need the ultimate in performance there are many other fleeces that get the job done for less than $50- they just aren't as breathable, as warm for their weight, as compressible, or as comfortable. We know many people that have used their R2 for a decade or longer. Also check the Patagonia + ebay store to see if used R2s are available.
If you're just looking for a cheap jacket to wear as a midlayer around town we suggest considering a lightly insulated softshell jacket, such as the Patagonia Adze. Also consider an insulated jacket or a down jacket for more warmth per dollar and better weather protection.
The R2 has a lower environmental impact than other similar fleece jackets because the fleece is made of recycled soda bottles and Patagonia strives toward low impact manufacturing processes. The company also donates a small share of their profits toward grassroots environmental efforts that work to preserve and restore our planet's natural areas and threatened species.
The Patagonia R2 - Women's, $170, is the women's version of this jacket.
If you're looking for something more lightweight, the Patagonia R1 Hoody - Men's and Patagonia R1 Hoody - Women's, $160, takes the highly versatile, breathable, and compressible R1 Pullover and adds: a balaclava style hood, longer arms with thumb loops, and an extended hem for tucking the fleece into your pants or a harness. This is our favorite style R1 and our top rated fleece jacket. Alpinists and backcountry skiers worldwide live in this layer; it's our testers' single most used fleece. The men's jacket wins our Editor's Choice Award, while the women's version wins our Top Pick Award.
The Patagonia R3 Hi-Loft, $200, was replaced by the updated Patagonia R3 Jacket (new Fall 2013). We've left our original review intact in because the Hi-Loft will likely be on sale for a while. The difference between the two jackets is substantial: the new R3 is 2 oz. lighter and looks a lot better because it's all one color and all fleece (no differential pocket).
— Chris McNamara and Max Neale
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Most recent review: June 24, 2014
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