Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Big Boy Replacement for the R1 Hoody.

The R1 Hoody.  Ever heard of it?  It is a product made by Patagonia which is often the go-to baselayer for late 3 season and 4 season activities.  It became particularly identifiable when Richard Nisley mentioned it during a nice instruction he offered on the BackpackingLight forums where he addressed ideal clothing layering systems for backpackers.

My experience with Nisley’s research and findings has been very agreeable.  His insight into how wind and head gear affect thermal comfort, especially when coupled with a windshirt, really offers great insight on lightweight and effective clothing systems.  Fear of being cold is an emotion many people who enjoy the outdoors have experienced at one time or another and understanding that the answer does not always require you to be dressed up like an Eskimo is enlightening.

The problem with the R1 Hoody is two fold.  First, it is $149.  YIKES!  And second, especially when you spent a little too much time in the microwave like I did before I was born, the R1 Hoody is no longer made in sizes beyond XL.  Talking with Patagonia, they indicated even their fall 2012 line will not have an XXL despite offering it in their initial runs.

As a result, I needed to find an alternative to the R1.  So who did I ask for guidance after my own research fell flat?  Well, Richard Nisley of course.

Nisley offered two suggestions.  The first was the E.C.W.C.S Hoodie from Cabelas and the second was the MEC T3 Stretch Hoody.  

Needing something to cover my 6’5” frame (a “tall” version), I elected to go with the Cabelas offering.  The E.C.W.C.S Hoodie, or “Extended Cold Weather Clothing System”, was originally developed for the U.S. Military and U.S. Special Operation Forces.  I have no idea which product came first (Patagonia or Cabelas), but the Polartec Power Dry fabric and design look the same to me.  To anyone lacking affluence, a great perk was that this item was $79 in an XXL tall (it is $69 on sale now) which is a whopping $70 less expensive than the Patagonia (or if you need to explain it to your spouse, “half price”).  It is also made in regular sizes and non-tall versions.  No matter how you shake it, it is simply a far better deal.  If you need to see "Patagonia" on your chest to feel good about yourself, I suggest getting a marker and being as neat as possible.

So what’s the big deal?  Well, this is a very unique garment.  It is constructed to be a next-to-skin baselayer offering superior wicking action.  When you look at it closely, it looks like a little checkerboard with high spots and low spots.  When holding it up to a light, certain areas allow more light through than others.  The beauty of this design is that it will keep you warm and allow for great moisture management because there is still circulation which is really the only chance you'll have to dry your garment.  Because it comes with a hood, it can be used to greatly increase your comfort level when you stop or when you get cold.  Being able to regulate your thermal comfort without digging through your pack for a hat or something to supplement the system is wonderful.  Add a windshirt and there is no reason why this combination shouldn’t keep a moving hiker plenty comfortable in nearly any cold/colder conditions.  It is my go-to cold/colder weather garment of choice.  All this, and it feels more like a fleece or sweatshirt than the standard scratchy synthetic feel so common with capilene.

If you’ve ever struggled with staying warm or keeping your clothing dry in colder temperatures, this is truly a great innovation.  It may also enable you to forgo “sleeping clothing” as you may arrive at camp entirely dry and comfortable.  For bigger guys, it is nice to finally have an option that everyone else already had.

While you're shopping at Cabelas, pick up a nice Polar Weight Fleece hat.  It's a great weight for winter and Cabelas currently has a sale on a hat/glove combination for $10, or $15 off from the normal $25 price.  Well worth it.


Curt said...

Nice suggestion! Always great to see your posts for the XL or XXL crowd. Any clue why it's on sale? Are they getting rid of it? Also, what's it weigh in the XXL Tall?

Thanks again - hope you're fully on the mend!

Jolly Green Giant said...

Hey Curt,

It's 15 oz in an XXL tall which I don't find excessive for a next-to-skin hooded winter baselayer.

Cabelas only has it on sale because of the holidays and I have no reason to believe they aren't going to keep it in their product line. Conversely, I'd suspect to see these "PowderDry" options becoming a little more available through other manufacturers now that it is becoming more widely known.

Anonymous said...

Great find! Ive been looking for a similar piece. I contacted Cabela's "product specialist" for some sizing questions and the "XL" is 30" flat for the back measurement for those curious. Almost bought the matching bottoms but was let down by the 33.5" inseam!! Not quite tall in my book. Thanks again for all you do, wouldnt know what I do with out ya


Unknown said...

Interesting. I'm still trying to find the ideal winter clothing system, since I'm almost always perfectly toasty while moving, but I cool off very quickly at breaks. I'm experimenting slowly, but the winter season always seems a little too short to test enough new things. It's a hard life ;)

JimQPublic said...

I've been lusting after an R1 Hoody for years. Even though I'm an easy-to-fit medium, the price is too steep.

Another similar model is the First Ascent Bat Hang Hoodie from Eddie Bauer. It's $89 but some comments on their web page say they have gone away from Polartec Powerdry and to a different (inferior?) proprietary product.

I started making some of my own gear... mostly long john bottoms and hats. Easy to do without a pattern. A top is another matter though. So I have 7 yards of R1 fabric (Polartec Powerdry 6 oz grid), and about 5 yards of 8 oz Polartec Powerstretch which would be nice for the arms/neck/hood.

Unfortunately I haven't found a pattern anywhere that gets close to these garments. I keep threatening to buy an R1 from REI, measure it up, and return it with tags attached (so they can still sell it as new). But that's wrong and I know it...

Anonymous said...

Pricing has dropped a bit more on this.

Stick's Blog said...

I see that you have been back at it! Congrats on the recovery and glad to see you back!

I have an R1 flash pullover and I gotta admit, I love it. However, it is not the hoody that you are talking about in this post. I have often wondered if the hoody would have been a better choice, but to date, I am happy with the pullover version.

I agree it is all about layers. I wear a Cap 2 long sleeve crew as a base layer and then the R1 over it and I am good in a very wide range of temperatures from the teens to the mid 50's or even closer to 60 (F). It does indeed ventilate well to keep me cooler in the upper temps and warmer in the lower temps. All around great piece of gear, and it will be replaced if ever so needed.

I can pair these layers over my torso and add my black rock down beanie on top and I am pretty good to go. This year I picked up my first wind jacket so I am excited about incorporating that into my layering system too.

Regardless, that Cabela's piece looks great too. I will keep it in mind in case my R1 ever bites the dust...

Thanks for the heads up, and again, glad to see you back!

James925 said...
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