We're excited to have recently received our first shipment of the toasty warm Patagonia R3 Front Zip hooded wetsuits! The reputation of these suits is top notch, and they look great with very understated styling. The R3 means that the neoprene is 3mm thick through the whole suit, and there is a layer of chlorine-free merino wool and recycled polyester inside of that for extra warmth. The wool allows this 3mm suit to be warmer than a standard 3/2, without sacrificing flexibility. The R3 is built for water between 48 - 55 degrees, which is the exact range the Oregon Coast tends to be in for much of the year. The seams are blind stitched and triple glued, and the crotch seams are internally taped for maximum durability.
My girlfriend and I both recently got new Patagonia wetsuits (thanks to her for a great Birthday present :-)), so I can give you some firsthand notes about what they are like.
I should note that I got the R3 without a hood since I plan on using this suit in places besides the Pacific Northwest, and she got the R2 because she surfs more often when the weather is a bit warmer, and her sessions don't tend to last all day long. I went with the R3 because I wanted to be able to stay out there all day long if it's good.
This was my first front-zip suit, and I love the snug fit that it provides. Additionally, the lack of an exposed zipper on the back of the suit reduces flush of water into the suit, and it was nice to not have velcro rubbing on the back from time to time like my previous suit had.
It's important for me to be completely honest and say that this is still a wetsuit built for cold water, so it's not going to feel as weightless and flexible as wearing trunks, a long john, or a 2mm suit. There are still times that it doesn't feel completely comfortable. With that in mind, though, it's warmer and far more comfortable than the 5/4 I had before, and it's much easier to put on and take off. My girlfriend's R2 is so flexible that she can do cartwheels in it. She definitely wants to surf more often now that she's more comfortable and can change into and out of her suit more easily. That's great news for both of us!
I've worn the suit a couple of times so far and I wasn't the least bit cold either time. I think that's a great sign. Its nice knowing that I'll be ready for this winter's sessions.
I plan on owning this suit for quite a while, and will do my best to take great care of it. Patagonia has an amazing warranty, promising to repair or replace a suit if there are any manufacturers defects. They certainly won't replace the suit if you get a fin cut, scuff up the suit by taking it off on the pavement, or generally don't take care of it. But, if a seam rips due to a stitching error they'll be very fair and work with you. They are proud of the quality of their products, and for good reason.
The Patagonia R3 front zip hooded fullsuit is a little pricey at $575, but it's true that you get what you pay for. The warmth, flexibility, durability, style, and warranty are worth the extra price.