Patagonia R4 Jacket
Not for hiking, unless for rest stops, in which case you could take something more packable and lighter. This is due to the thick pile and the water-resistant membrane laminate construction.
Mine is the early design, which was improved somewhat. Pockets are high enough for a pack belt, chest pocket is slanted. Cuffs do not open so the heat builds up, and there are no pit zips. Hem draw-cords don't work as they should. Pile eventually flattens out under a pack.
More of a fishing/photography jacket.
JANUARY 11, 2009, UPDATE:
This jacket has real potential as a hard-wearing belay type jacket in my opinion. If Patagonia added a hood, made the cut a bit longer at the back and opened the sleeves, then they would be on to a winner.
I say this because as a warm-up type jacket it can function as an adjustable insulation layer: the heavier pile on the outside of the membrane only really cranks up the heat when you encapsulate it in a shell. You can then remove the outer shell once you heat up and the jacket itself as you heat up further. Therefore, the versatility it has over a synthetic down belay, which only beats this type of material in weight and compression (drying time and water resistance being a moot point, in my opinion, as it depends on the climate you intend to use it in and the habit of carrying a light hard shell), would accompany its advantages in durability, anti-shoulder strap slide and general coziness. Find a way to bond the seams and it could get even better.
Either wait years for that or look for a company making technical fleeces with hoods. As far as I know only Mammut, a company with hardly the widest distribution in the UK (USA?), are making anything resembling the above.
NB: I went up a size for comfort and layering, when I originally purchased this.
Price Paid: E-bay for $80
I've had my R4 for around a year now, and it truly is a wonderful piece of kit. Yes, it is not very breathable; yes, it is as windproof as windproof gets. For strenuous, above 30F hikes I grab my R2, and for colder hikes, or walking around the city, it's the R4 every time. The winds whipping around Chicago skyscrapers in January are tamed by this jacket. Both the R2 and R4 can be thrown into an x-small sea-to-summit compression sack (6x10?) together, and crammed as small as possible, without any worries.
No 5 because the fit is just OK. A bit big in the arms and shoulders is all. Pockets are just where they should be, drawcords hold, and the collar fits my neck great. I am 6'1", 165lbs, and the medium fits me best. I do not miss the lack of drawcord around the neck, nor the lack of velcro at the wrists.
For $80 on E-bay, in that deep blue color, I have never found a better deal.
Price Paid: $125 Ebay
I disagree with the previous review. This is the coziest, most comfortable jacket I've ever worn. I'm a slim 6' 5" and the XL fits me perfectly. I've been out all day in 35 degree weather with 25 mph North winds, and this jacket kept my core warm and toasty. It's just a bit stretchy, completely windproof, but very breathable -- never clammy like my old Windstopper fleece I replaced this with.
The quality and detailing are what I've come to expect from Patagonia. I've been looking for a windproof jacket with decent insulating qualities for quite some time. I looked at every soft shell on the market, then tried out a Marmot Gravity soft shell, but returned it due to the boxy fit and lack of insulation.
The R4 is exactly what I was looking for. I probably wouldn't have coughed up $215 for one, but I didn't have to. I'm an extremely happy customer.
To the previous reviewer -- Patagonia does guarantee everything they sell. If it had a defect or didn't fit right, they'd take it back.
Price Paid: $125 (ebay)
This is a very warm and super comfy jacket. It is the perfect jacket for just kickin' it around town! I don't hike or pack with this jacket, it's too hot for hiking, unless it's freakin' really cold out, and doesn't pack down very small.
The jacket is worth the cash!
Price Paid: $215
I received the R4 as a gift. I have hiked with it on numerous occasions as well as used it as my primary winter coat. It works wonders for both. It is very durable and after going camping recently I washed it to get the campfire smell out. You can tell a lot about quality by how something comes out in the wash. I just line dried the jacket.
The only complaint I would have is the ability for this jacket to dry. Being that it has the wind block membrane it takes a while for it to dry completely. I was used to the Polartec windbloc fleece-The Polartec product dried very fast but was not as warm and not as windproof as the R4 Patagonia. Hiking through areas with rock walls with water falling and water fall areas in general is probably not the best place to use this jacket and would recommend using a shell with it, even if it is a low cost parka.
Overall the jacket is great and cannot wait until I can wear it again when it gets cooler. This jacket is very warm and toasty-after a brisk hike in 30-40 degree weather I found myself almost taking it off, but it's a great jacket. The pocket placements are great as well and the chest pocket works well for my Garmin ETrex GPS!
Price Paid: $200
I never hit the trail without this fleece.
-Incredibly soft, plush, and comfortable
-Effective ventilation via the stomach-high pockets
-Just about the warmest fleece I have ever had the pleasure to wear
-Rock solid Patagonia construction
-Does not pack too terribly small
-Too warm to wear during hiking or other high-intensity physical activity
If you're looking for a bomb-proof insulating layer for those cold nights at camp, then this is what you're looking for. I cannot recommend it for use while hiking; personally, I get quite hot and sweaty while exercising, so I don't wear too much more than a base layer and a shell while hiking anyway. The pros FAR outweigh the cons.
Price Paid: $175
The concept, Thermal Pro fleece in a windproof jacket, is great. However, at 6'2" tall, it barely comes down to the top of my pants, and the sleeves are equally as short. The same is true of the R2 Body Rug and the R2: too short in the torso and the sleeves. Patagonia should make some TALL stuff. I ended up returning the R2, R2 Rug, and the R4. I really wanted them to work because I could tell the fabric was going to do what it was supposed to do, breathe and heat. The EMS Quadzilla works better with High Loft Thermal Pro, and sections of Power Stretch, for a bit less (retail) price. It is long enough and the stretch sections vent well. It is not windproof.
Price Paid: $170
This is not a serious piece of outdoor gear. The drawstring on the bottom does not hold any tension meaning it doesn't seal effectively, and does not keep me warm. Additionally, the sleeves are not tight enough to keep out the cold, and there's no drawstring on the neck.
All together, this adds up to a very expensive jacket that does not keep me warm. It might serve me well to go to a cafe but I don't drink coffee so I'm SOL.
I bought this on sale (now I know why) after I lost my Mountain Hardwear Link Jacket. The MH was better in every way, and cheaper.
Price Paid: bartered
Perfect multi-use jacket. I have found no other fleece that is comparable to this one and I have done quite a bit of shopping around. Medium fits me great being 5'9" and about 165.
Price Paid: $150
I love this jacket! I use it daily, I wear the medium and I'm 6 ft and it seems to fit me great.