The versatile R1 Regulator fleece is a Polartec® high/low interior-grid Power Dry® fabric - the inside of the fleece is a grid system, the exterior a soft-sheen fabric which reminds me of the Powerstretch from Rab. This aims to provide a stretchy, warm, wicking and breathable fabric which functions equally efficiently in a variety of temperatures - this is exactly what I wanted - a versatile base-layer and mid-layer that would work across a multitude of theatres and altitudes. The Fleece has 'high/low' grid system on the inside which enhances compressibility, airflow, and drying time and the microfiber face speeds moisture-wicking and moisture transfer. This is primarily what enables me to utilise the R1 as a base-layer, directly next to the skin, or as a mid-layer as it does not hinder the moisture transfer of the base-layer below it. It also has Capilene® 4 stretch panels under the arms, at cuffs and the hem (more on that hem later) reduce bulk and increase breathability.
In terms of 'features' there is also a balaclava-style hood with a deep offset front zipper which has the dual advantage of ensuring venting is easy and the chin isn't chaffed by the fully closed, locking zip. A mesh chest pocket exists, which also helps venting and something small could be placed here if using the R1 as a mid-layer, as well as raglan sleeves for comfort under pack straps and Capilene 4 cuffs which stretch and have thumb loops to hold sleeves in place.
The body is made from: 190g Polartec® Power Dry® 93% polyester (41% recycled)/7% spandex. Cuffs and hem: 150g Polartec Power Dry 92% polyester (54% recycled)/8% spandex. Additionally, the R1 is recyclable through the Common Threads Recycling Program.
Designed for alpinists and backcountry skiers, the R1 is a winter base-layer fashioned around a refined version of the Polartec® high/low interior grid Power Dry® fabric. This fabric provides an augmented breathability, which stretches and remains durable and warm, but the most interesting quality is how quickly it dries. Overnight, after a cold, wet day in the Lakeland Fells in winter, the outer material was still damp and cold to the touch but the inner grid fleece was much drier, and warmer, despite storage in a drybag. Once I had pulled it on, realising that it was still reasonably warm and comfortable - the residual moisture was wicked away from the inside to the outer and I remained sufficiently warm to set about breaking camp. Aiming for the pared-down detailing that climbers and backcountry skiers require there are not much in the way of 'features' - only the deep-venting, front locking zip which is offset at the face; wrist-warming thumb loops and the balaclava-style hood. The pocket is more for venting than storage to be honest. It also has raglan sleeves (a sleeve which extends in one piece fully to the collar, leaving a diagonal seam from underarm to collarbone which enables a greater freedom of movement - this is not a new innovation but an essential one) for a comfortable pack-carry. Interestingly, it is recyclable through the Common Threads Recycling Program.
However, there remains one final feature and it is one of the most significant facets of the R1, making it eminently suitable for winter hillwalking and scrambling, mountaineering and ski mountaineering - the low-grid stretch polyester at the cuffs and bottom hem which engenders virtually no bulk under a harness but, snug as it is, prevents the R1 riding up. This hem is a broad character - the top sitting around the waist and the bottom falling below the buttocks - creating something akin to a small skirt. This is actually crucial in winter hillwalking and scrambling - with so much movement involved over a range of angles, a different top might well expose the small of the back to the elements - this is something the R1 avoids completely and I very much favour it. There is literally nothing in the way of bulk to make the fitting of a harness uncomfortable yet it breathes and warms all the way down to the buttocks which is, again, useful when sitting in a snow bucket seat or a cold rock.
So how did the R1 perform in winter conditions, on the move? It wicks well enough and I wore it alone underneath the Páramo Aspira Smock in some cold, windy and wet conditions - both on the move and whilst stopped. When not moving, an extra layer was starting to become necessary as we did some preparatory work on roping up and moving together in the Coire an t-Sneachda in the Cairngorms this February - but we were standing in a cauldron of wind and snow for nearly 40 minutes. I cannot blame the R1 for that. When moving, it was perfect - not too warm and not at all cold. The fit is designed to be snug and athletic which is why I went up a size - this is not intended to be a loose garment, it is intended, primarily, as a base-layer so you should remember that when choosing your size.
The hood is not as snug a fit as Patagonia would suggest but I should say I went for a larger size (L) deliberately (which is just too big for me on its own) as I knew I would want to use it as a mid-layer as well so I did not want too snug a fit as to make this uncomfortable. I found the hood to sometimes move into my eyeline but it was not often enough to be annoying and I got used to where the offset zip needed to be to avoid this. It simply means that ensuring you get the right size is even more essential.
The thumb-loops were excellent. Whilst they exposed the Capilene 4 to the damp of my often wet gloves and, as both my smock and gloves compressed against the wrists of the R1, they were often damp, they kept my wrists warm and comfortable which, in turn, assisted my hands. The range of movement is 100% even with the thumb-loops engaged and I think this would be the case, given the stretch of all the materials involved, even if I had gone for a medium and a tighter, base-layer only fit.
The R1 is a genuinely classic piece of kit that climbers and hillwalkers alike will love, and have loved, for years. On this evidence, I can see why.