Patagonia’s R1 may be the most well-known and well-loved technical fleece of all time. When it launched in 1999, the midlayer redefined what it meant to stay warm while moving, with a lofted grid that trapped heat but also wicked exceptionally, all in a relatively slim package. It was the midlayer you never had to take off—one that was universally suited to almost any outdoor sport, from climbing to backpacking to skiing. (The R stands for “regulator,” as in the ability to manage body temperature.)
In the 20-plus years since, the brand has expanded on the Regulator concept with hybrids and higher-loft spinoffs. Dozens of other brands have launched their own grid fleeces. Midlayer technology has exploded, too, with the invention of ever warmer and more breathable fills like Polartec Alpha, Ventrix, and Patagonia’s own Nano Air line. But the original R1 has remained virtually unchanged—and just as popular.
Now, in August 2020, Patagonia’s flagship fleece will undergo its first major update in 20 years. The new model, called R1 Air ($159 for the hoody, $119 for the quarter-zip), retains the mid-weight loft and slim cut of its predecessor. But pretty much everything else is different. For starters, it’s fuzzy on both sides, which Patagonia says translates to more heat retention (the original R1 is fuzzy inside with a hard-faced exterior). More significant is the fabric, a loose knit made from hollow-core fibers that are far better at transporting and releasing moisture quickly. The result: an R1 that’s warmer yet also more breathable than any iterations before it, without sacrificing packability or the ability to keep it on all day. It will be available in a hoody ($159), quarter zip ($119), and crew neck ($99).
We haven’t yet tested the R1 Air for long enough to determine whether the fuzzy exterior will pill or abrade more than the hard-faced exterior on the original R1. But our few weeks with the new fleece have told us this: it’s breathable enough to get us through a 40-degree trail run without being uncomfortable. It’s also incredibly soft next to skin, and has toned-down looks that are destined to find their way into coffee shops and mountain-town bars.
And luckily, R1 loyalists need not fret that their favorite fleece is changing. The original model will remain in Patagonia’s line as it has for decades. It might just have to share the limelight.