Review: Patagonia R4 Yulex Wetsuit

When the rivers surge, paddlers, rafters, and river-surfers take advantage of the spectacle. Spring air is sometimes warm, but runoff comes straight from the mountains, and is always cold. Made for water between 38-48 degrees, the Patagonia R4 Yulex Wetsuit handles these surges, no problem. This wetsuit utilizes highly flexible rubber with a toasty 3.5mm hood, and 5.5mm torso and thigh. I’ve used it for both river-surfing and kayaking, and I’d say it’s the best wetsuit I’ve ever worn.

A common complaint with wetsuits is their drying time—nothing is worse than putting on a cold and damp wetsuit early in the morning. The R4 Yulex has done nothing but impress me with its ability to dry quickly. Another repeated reaction to Patagonia’s wetsuits is that they are too expensive—why pay $550 when I can find one for $150? Indeed, there are cheaper models out there, but they are exactly that: cheaper, in terms of quality and warranty.

Cheaper wetsuits are often riddled with cold spots and poorly-designed seams that let water in. The high price tag also allows the materials to be sourced in a more ethical way. Using Patagonia’s own Yulex natural rubber, these wetsuits cut down on byproduct waste and energy-use compared to wetsuits that use traditional rubber. Patagonia’s Yulex rubber is tapped from hevea trees in tropical climates via responsible farming operations. Along with the environmentally sound practices, the wetsuit also comes with a generous warranty, including free repairs on blown seams and zippers.

If you're in the market for a wetsuit, check out Patagonia’s line of cold-water gear. Your ecological footprint will be smaller and your product will last for years to come. Available online; $589.