It’s hard to find a fleece jacket that stays comfortable during high-output activity, but the R1 Air is one of those rare few.
Breathability was the name of the game during an unseasonably cold spring at Smith Rock, and this became my go-to layer for long days in the shade while working as a rock climbing guide. In temps down to 35 degrees, I also enjoyed the R1 Air while hiking in Central Oregon and during some spring ski touring in the North Cascades.
In short: When you’re working hard and churning out the heat, the Patagonia R1 Air works wonders to vent off the perspiration, while also holding on tight to that hard-earned warmth. The slim fit suits a number of different high-output activities, and it’s a piece I always reach for when the temps dip.
Patagonia R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody Review
My Experience With the R1 Air
Right off the bat, the first thing I noticed about the R1 Air is that, unlike many other fleece jackets, this layer doesn’t bunch up underneath a harness or backpack waist belt. There’s also a chest zip pocket to stash your chapstick on a big day in the mountains. Very nice.
Moving onto the real deal: the zig-zag patterned fabric provides excellent breathability, as you would expect, though this does also mean that there’s little to no wind resistance. Be sure to pack a windshell if you anticipate a breeze. The garment is form-fitting and moves well through all ranges of motion.
If you’re looking for a layer to wear during active, cold-weather pursuits, the R1 Air is it. Once warmer weather hits, this jacket will likely be too hot for intense activity, and it should be paired with a shell when the wind is howling.
Sizing and Fit
The fit is one of the things I like best about the R1 Air. Unlike many bulky fleece jackets, the R1 is lightweight and form-fitting, making it easy to pair with the rest of a layering system if needed.
It’s easy to throw a wind shirt or puffy jacket over this fleece, which becomes necessary on a gusty day. The athletic fit and partial elastic seam on the hem of the jacket also help keep it from bunching up under a harness or getting stuck on carabiners.
The R1 runs slightly big, similar to other Patagonia women’s clothing and jackets. For reference, the women’s extra small R1 fits me perfectly, though I’m closer to a small in other brands.
I also liked the multiple zip pockets, though the location of the handwarmer pockets makes them difficult to access under the waist belt of a backpack or harness.
Along with the slim fit and wide range of motion, high breathability makes this jacket an excellent option for active days in the mountains. Even as you work harder, the R1 does a good job releasing sweat with its zig-zag patterned fleece.
The fabric alternates heavier and lighter-weight materials, providing insulation while dumping moisture. With a full zip, it’s easy to vent the R1 even further as you become warmer from exertion.
The R1 Air is part of a family of fleeces that Patagonia makes, centered around the cult-classic R1 fleece. If you’re looking for something with even more weather resistance (but less breathability), there is also an R1 TechFace Hoody, which incorporates a softshell face and turns away a breeze easily.
The R1 Air is best paired with an outer layer in certain weather conditions. When gusts of wind came ripping through the canyon, our tester could feel air blow right through the jacket while she was climbing. For a long or exposed climb on a windy day, a light wind shirt or softshell jacket is recommended to complete the layering system.
The hood fits tightly around the head, so it’s easily compatible with a climbing, skiing, or bike helmet. On a cold day, it’s possible to trim your kit by using the R1’s hood in place of a warm hat. The high zip neck also works well to trap warmth.
Categorized as a lightweight fleece, the R1 is not designed to be your sole layer hanging out at camp on a cold night. It has only the insulation you need while you’re working hard and generating warmth.
I typically throw a puffy jacket over the R1 while belaying or stopping for a break. In an active layer, much more insulation than this wouldn’t be ideal. While ski touring in spring conditions, this layer started to become too hot as soon as the sun started to peek through the clouds.
Though this is not a bargain jacket, it could be a go-to layer for winter ski touring, ice climbing, alpine climbing, and cold-weather hiking.
After some serious use and several washes, it’s holding up well and will likely have a long life. We also appreciate that Patagonia constructed the R1 using Fair Trade-certified sewing. It’s also Bluesign certified, using 100% recycled polyester, adding to the overall value. Depending on your activities, this could be an essential part of your layering system.
The open weave, while essential for breathability, is a bit more susceptible to holes and snags, and will require a little more care in practice.
Patagonia R1 Air: Conclusion
For those who are moving in the mountains in cold temps, the R1 Air makes a great addition to the kit. While it’s not the big, cozy fleece jacket you’ll want around the campfire, the R1 Air will have you covered as an integral part of a layering system on a long day in the mountains. It fits seamlessly under other layers, a harness, or even a helmet. In the right conditions, you might end up wearing it from sunrise to sunset.