Marmot Preon Hoody Review
Cons: Zipper sticks, not as breathable as the R1
Our Analysis and Test Results
This jacket looks and feels a lot like the R1, so we put in the ring against the R1 and other R1-esque fleeces, including the Outdoor Research Deviator and the Arc'teryx Adahy. These fleeces inhabit the same niche; they are warm enough to take the edge off of chilly, breezy weather while you're being active, breathable to prevent you from being sweaty and cold when you stop moving, and formatting so they layer well. The Preon doesn't come out on top, but it still offers great performance at a lower price than its competitors, earning it our Best Buy Award.
The Preon provides excellent warmth, especially for being a lightweight fleece. In the warmth metric, the Preon equals the gold standard R1 and feels warmer than the Arc'teryx Adahy and OR Deviator. A snug fit keeps this jacket thermally efficient, no loose, billowing places where the cold can sneak in. With the hood on and the zipper fully zipped, the Preon warms your head and neck, with the scuba-style hood rests just beneath the chin. The hemline extends below the waist, offering some additional warmth and allows it to fit nicely underneath a climbing harness or the waist belt of a backpack.
This is a snug, stretchy, comfortable fleece, that fit our athletic testers very well. In terms of comfort, It distinguishes itself from the R1 in several aspects, not necessarily more or less comfy, but worth noting depending on your preferences. The R1 has a balaclava style hood that covers your face below your nose, where the Preon comes up to your chin. For weight savings and comfort, the R1 has a three quarter length zipper, where the Preon uses a full zip, which leads us to our one major complaint; the zipper on the model we tested was prone to sticking. Love pockets? The Preon has a chest pocket like the R1, plus two zippered handwarmer pockets. The sleeves are snug (too snug for some of our testers) and stay in place no matter how you move around.
The Preon is constructed from checkered fleece made from 94% recycled polyester (yay!). The checkered or "gridded" fleece pattern is a proven strategy for increasing a fleece's breathability with thin channels while maintaining its insulating properties with lofty squares. As you can see from the photo below, the R1 is thinner between the squares, while the squares themselves are thicker than the Preon's, making the R1 more breathable overall, though it's worth noting that the Preon unzips all the way for maximum ventilation, while the R1 has the 3/4 zip. If breathability is your main reason for getting a fleece, the Outdoor Research Deviator is worth a look.
As we mentioned, the Preon has a snug fit, a that makes it a good mid layer. It fits wonderfully under a hardshell or a puffy jacket, much better than bulkier models like the Patagonia Crosstrek Hoody or The North Face Campshire Hoody. The ideal layering piece doesn't have big zippers or think pockets or extra folds of fabric to bunch up uncomfortably underneath. The Preon has two zippered handwarmer pockets and a thick, albeit warm flap behind the front zipper. Compared to our ideal mid layer, the OR Deviator with its low profile zipperless handwarmer pockets and thin material works better as a mid layer than the Preon. Ditto for the R1, which doesn't have handwarmer pockets.
Fleece jackets aren't known for offering great weather resistance, and those that do often compromise more important "fleecy" traits like breathability, comfort, and layering ability. The Preon's breathability leaves it vulnerable to strong chilly winds and like almost all fleece, you'll get wet quickly if you're caught in a rainstorm. The exception to the rule is the Patagonia R1 Techface Hoody. The Techface feature a hardface outer material with a DWR treatment that does an excellent job of repelling light rain.
Preons are subcomponents of subatomic particles called quarks and leptons, not to be confused with prions, the proteins that cause mad cow disease. Being named for a subatomic particle, you'd think that the Marmot Preon would be the lightest fleece available. Not so. Weighing in at 13.95 oz, this jacket straddles the line between what we consider mid and lightweight. Serious ounce counters need to look elsewhere. The 9.6 oz OR Deviator is better if you need a mid layer and also want to shave weight off your kit. The R1 and Arc'teryx Adahy are also lighter. Where does the Preon hide those extra ounces? We reckon it's that big flap behind the front zipper and perhaps the jersey lining behind the handwarmer pockets. It might also be heavier due to its slightly thicker (but not warmer) material than the R1. The longer hemline also adds to the weight, but we'll happily carry it for the extra coverage.
With this jacket's athletic fit and scuba hood, you'll look ready for the mountains. If you want to look ready for date night or a football game, go for a stylish jacket like the Patagonia Performance Better Sweater Hoody or The North Face Campshire Hoody. The Preon is available in 3 colors: Black (looks gray to us), Arctic Navy, and Mallard Green.
At $125, this jacket is a great value considering that it has great features and performs almost as well as more expensive models from Patagonia, Black Diamond, and Arc'teryx. If you're hunting for a fleece layer and you see a Marmot Preon on sale, grab it! If you don't mind spending a little more, the Patagonia R1 Hoody performs better in almost every metric ad remains our all-time favorite.
Running in cold weather, ski touring, climbing, backpacking or anytime you need a comfortable, dedicated mid layer is a good time to bring along this versatile jacket. The "R1 style" layer is a staple in all of our tester's layering systems, we rarely head into the backcountry without one. Again, the OR Deviator is better if you're looking to go light, but that jacket doesn't match the warmth of the Preon.
Aside from the sticky zipper, and the fact that Marmot named their less-than-ultralight jacket after a practically non-existent particle, we can't find anything thing to complain about when it comes to this Best Buy award winning jacket. If you want handwarmer pockets and don't care about a balaclava style hood, you may even prefer it to our Editors' Choice Award winner.
— Matt Bento