Microgrid fleece is regaining some popularity, and that's a good thing for me as I prefer multiple thin and light layers over one big beast of a layer. Patagonia are way ahead of the curve and have been making their R1 fleece for 20 years, building up a loyal following along the way. I was keen to see what all the fuss was about and put it through its paces in a variety of weather and uses.
The R1 is a basic fleece gone tech, you can see this straight away from the stitching which is all at jaunty angles to provide the articulation and freedom of movement that you need in the mountains. And in this sense, it's a winner, put it on and it hugs the body close enough to retain warmth inside the Polartec Power Grid pattern but lets you move around without restriction. This is, of course, helped by a natural amount of stretch from the thin weave fleece but props to Patagonia nonetheless. We were impressed with the hood when the wind picked up on top of a Welsh mountain, it went up easily, hugged the head and stayed there thanks to a form fitting (under helmet) cut and a thin whisp of elastic lining. We love the weight and weave of the fabric which takes just enough out of a wind chill but lets some through for great ventilation when you're pushing the tempo and increasing the heart rate. Two hand warmer pockets and a zipped chest pocket add a little functionality when the R1 is worn as a top layer but with a pack on they're all in the path of straps. Our favourite odour control is put to good use with a permanent Polygiene application allowing you to wear the R1 for much longer between washes - great for the environment as well as saving valuable packing space.
Overall this is a keeper, super comfortable to wear and just the right balance of warmth to airiness - perfect for changeable weather in the mountains as well as travel. The value of spending £150 on a thin fleece is questionable but then this is Patagonia.