The Ode to a Patagonia MidlayerGear
When a manufacturer commissions a song about a midlayer, it’s a sign that: a) they’re pretty proud of it, and b) they’re a little bit off the wall. That is, after all, Patagonia. For the 20th anniversary of the R1 midlayer, the company has been celebrating this garment like it was, well, 1999.
We’d imagine there are two types of readers to this article: the one that nods along in agreement saying ‘hell yeah, I still have mine’, and a second group wondering ‘hell, why are they writing about a 20-year-old base layer’ — valid point. But when we begin to look at the history of the piece, we realise that it sets the standard for many similar garments to come and thus deserves a bit of a nod.
Our very brief history starts in the mid-1990s when the, admittedly, still very useful fleece pioneered by Polartec, was the midlayer of choice. But for high-output trail runners and climbers, it was just too warm. So, working with Polartec, Patagonia’s technical designers began to cut away at the double-brushed fleece. The resulting fabric was ‘single-brushed’ on one side and developed with a microgrid pattern that allowed the insulating air to circulate and moisture to wick. It’s now a pattern you’ll see across midlayers. It was lighter, stretchier and more packable, but still warm.
The Regulator line (the R1) was launched in 1990 and has remained a Patagonia staple since, undergoing minor alterations along the way. Tommy Caldwell made the first ascent of the Dawn Wall wearing one. Luke Nelson ran his first 100-mile race in an R1. The crotch strap ‘to be used externally’ is no longer with us, however.
‘It’s easy to fall in the trap of making something better by adding to it,’ says Eric Rice, design director of outerwear and equipment. ‘If anything, we made the R1 better by simplifying it. It works so well that we’ve never had to abandon the foundation.’
As Patagonia climbing ambassadors Sean Villanueva O’Driscoll and Nico Favresse, put it in the song:
Stuck on a wall in the middle of a storm
Finally, it’s time to jam and make some popcorn
I really can’t remember when I last took a wash
But with this ninja hoody and chest zipper, I feel so posh
It’s my armour, it’s my outfit, my pyjamas, my tuxedo
It’s my girlfriend, my dish towel and it helps my libido.
See, I bet you didn’t think you’d get to the bottom of the article. As a treat, you now get to watch the song.