Perfect, But Very Baggy Fit
The only thing that held me back from buying one of these before was the price. Sorry, I'm cheap - I realize the jacket doesn't cost more than barely functioning fashion statements from other retailers, but still, I have a near heart attack if more than $100 flies out of my pocket for any single item. So I was very happy when this went on sale. However, I foolishly waited until I returned from vacation before trying to order my favored color (brown) online. Ouch! It was sold out (as frequently happens with Patagonia sales). Then low and behold, despite the miserable economy, I got a bonus. A NICE bonus. So after settling up my credit card bills, I hurried down to my nearest Patagonia store to check out my long-desired Retro jacket. Egads, it's even nicer than when I first fell in love with it! Originally, the Retro jacket had that "wild sheep with thistles in its fur" look that I kind of loved and kind of thought was too weird even for me. But NOW it has a well-groomed sheepishness to it, the furry look without the matting and thistles. No, you won't mistake it for a Synchilla with immaculately manicured plush fleece, all the same precise millimeters from the base, but no, you won't mistake the Retro jacket for a retro shagcarpet anymore either. It's wooly, but in a nice understated way, which is probably why YOU are looking at it now, and wondering if it's worth the dough. Yes, it is. Yes, it costs much more than "regular" fleece, but here's why: It's a highly technical wind-proof fleece that is actually quite rainproof (after you Nikwax it) with a great breathing, but windbreaking, thin, flexible (not stiff or crinkly) inner membrane. It's "no name, mystery" membrane outperforms some supposedly higher tech and definitely more expensive "name brand" membranes. Years ago the first "windproof" fleeces, including the Retro-X suffered from liners that emulated the hard shell rain jackets of that era in their ability to make you suffer and sweat. Then Paty got it fixed to the point where they breathed and were mostly still waterproof (waterproof by street standards not by test standards), but the liners were still a little stiff and thick. Now, you can buy this Retro in a casual fleece with Paty's "house" membrane that performs really, really well. In fact, I think it breathes better than their "technical" R4 windproof fleece, while only giving up a little in water impermeability. It keeps the wind out, which makes all the difference in the world, for fleece. At the same time, it doesn't feel like a steam bath and keeps water out. The best comparison is to the old Gore-Tex Activent. I use this for cold, rainy, miserable days in Northern California and for the snow at Tahoe. As soon as I got home, I washed mine in Nikwax Tech Wash to remove any possible manufacturing residues, then treated it with Nikwax Polar Proof which is environmentally and personally healthy, durable, and reasonably priced. This makes the water from rain mostly just bead up on the outside, and not get soaked up which is the case with untreated fleece. While the water wouldn't get through the inner membrane lining, I'd rather not have my fleece soaking up water like a sponge. By proofing it, a very simple and inexpensive step, it now works fine IN HEAVY DOWNPOURS without a rain shell over it. Yes it gets "wet," but it doesn't "wet out," I just shake the surface water out of it when entering a cafe, and enjoy the stairs of people who think I must have been suffering in the rain moments before, when actually I was as happy as Yogi Bear (who also has his fur on the outside with naturally water repellent oils to bead up the water). I think Buffalo gear or some such British company may have pioneered the concept of water repellent pile (shaggy fleece) for outdoor inclement weather use. But Paty is the only company that actually makes and sells it over here - albeit without the same marketing push. Paty ups the ante by adding an excellent built-in windproof, mostly water resistant membrane that allows us to wear nothing more than a tee shirt under and feel comfortable down to some pretty low rain temperatures. Having the windproof membrane greatly extends the temperature range of this piece, even if you aren't an advocate of using it for rain wear, as I am. For real winter - snow - use, this is GENEROUSLY cut to allow underlayers. Be warned, though, that this same GENEROUS cut is the one sore point of the jacket. You may well feel a little like Santa Claus when you put one on. You suddenly have a paunch that wasn't there before, as the jacket bunches at your waist. This is clearly a love it or leave Paty piece. There are enough people who love it, to have kept it in the Paty line for years and years and years, with incremental improvements. But it is definitely something you yourself have to look and try on. It is NOT a generic fleece piece. Finding it, finally, in black, was the icing on the cake for me personally.
Things to Consider
If you read the reviews on this fleece they are all true, except for the nit-pickers. Firstly, you will look cool in this hands down, and with Patagonia's varying color choices you can't go wrong with the brilliance of individuality. Secondly, it is warm. It does its job as a fleece. Since it has a windblocker layer inside you will be able to tolerate higher winds. I would say you could get away with wearing this fleece in the 30-40 degree range with comfort. People vary on that case, but after all its just a fleece. Thirdly, fit. This is something that I have read about myself, and I even pondered sending my fleece back to try a medium. You might strike gold, or you may have to send it back. I am 6'0 and weigh 185 pounds, medium to thin build. What the reviewers say about the waistband is true. Either I wish it was a little more snug, or at least I wish it provided me the option to make it that way. I think that alone would have compensated for the bulky feel of the fleece in the size I got (large). I still however believe that a medium would have been too small for me in the neck, and short in the sleeves. I definitely believe the sinched-waistline would have helped, and made the Retro-X perfect. However it is what it is and I like it anyhow despite this. And to be honest I paid the sale price (89.99), so I can live with it. Lastly, care, fit. I do recommend washing this thing before wearing it. Additionally, I highly recommend getting a water repellant spray similar to the ones you use for shoes. In time, this will fit you better, feel better and look better. This is an unusual garmet, but it gets better over time. Once these are on sale again, I will get another color. I have grey/red. I think I want something obnoxious like purple. Thats just me. Thanks.
Another good investment
I received my Retro-X Jacket 3 days after ordering from Patagonia's website. Apearance: The expected "I'm wearing a sheep" appearance / texture. Color is spot on with the website. Construction is excellent. The interior is a bit different than the website, I can see a shiny material below the nylon jersey, it is just a bit crinkly - must be the wind membrane (the sound went away after a few wearings). It's also a bit stiff out of the box, washing cured that too. Fit: I'm 5'10" and hover from 165lbs to 180lbs, athletic (usually) build.
Based on my 12 year old Patagonia fleece jacket I bought a Medium. The Retro jacket is just a bit looser than my old one, much warmer, and completely windproof. I don't seem to mind the lack of a drawstring waist, but I didn't buy this with anything technical in mind. I waited to review until I'd worn the jacket in it's intended environments.
Dawn patrol surf - Not cold at all an hour before sunrise. And pre-dawn offshore is non-existent inside the Retro-X zipped to 3/4 with a SS T-shirt.
Shooting desert races during Fall / Winter / Spring - First cold, windy morning was spent standing on a small rise in the middle of the desert with a camera on a tripod. Shortly after getting out of the car, I had the jacket at 3/4 zip again - toasty warm!! 73% Recycled bottle and a recyclable jacket is pretty cool too! My only worry is that the extra shaggy sheep fleece doesn't get too matted over the years.
Best Fleece Jacket
Let me start off my review by saying that I have 5 Patagonia jackets and this jacket, including my Retro-X vest, are my favorite. Including the 2 Retro-X jackets, I have the Scythe jacket, the Synchilla Windzone jacket, and a polyfill parka.
Fleece is useless if it doesn't block the wind. This ultra warm jacket offers both a warmth layer and a wind blocking layer. That wind blocking layer is key to keeping cold winds from blowing in.
The pile on this jacket looks incredible. Reminds me of real shearling. I love the chest pocket also. It allows easy access for storing a wallet.
Even though I give this jacket 5 stars, I want to note a few things for those that are nitpicky.
The material on the inside collar of this jacket should be the smooth fleece instead of the shearling fleece. My vest has the smooth fleece, but I think the latest model vest has gone back to shearling fleece. The reason is because the smooth fleece holds up better, doesn't pill, and has a smoother feel on the neck.
Even though this jacket is supposed to breathe, don't expect it to breathe and wick moisture like Gore-Tex. If you're wearing a t-shirt under this jacket during the winter and perform any physical activity, expect to get sweaty and a bit stuffy.
Don't buy this jacket too large though. It's not meant to have multiple layers worn underneath it. Also, buying it too large will allow wind to blow under the elastic waist.
I've owned Patagonia jackets for over ten years. From R2's under my snowboard gear to Retro Jackets under windbreakers on the foraging for adventure on the NW coast, they have done their job. This Retro-X is the first windproof Retro for me and it works great. Unless it is really coming down I no longer need a shell to block the wind. I love to drive with the window down and now I can even rest my arm on the window sill like summer. I get some funny looks at 60 MPH and 35 degrees. I just wave like what they really meant to say was, "Hi!" The warranty is the best in the business. I had an R2 arm seam give way and it was invisibly mended for free. My R4 has received so many compliments (Chili Red) I finally got it that folks were not putting me on, they genuinely liked the look. Both my wife and I wear R2's and sometimes R4's around the house as we keep the thermostat on low. We wash all our Patagonia gear together and hang it up to dry. I have some pieces that have been laundered 75 times. If I were to add anything to the design of the Retro-X it would be a draw cord around the bottom or waist. I know it is a lifestyle design and not a technical piece, but to me every piece ends up a technical piece. Good work again, Patagonia
For many years, prior to 2000, I had recieved Patagonia catalogs and dreamed of being in some of the pics featured. The fleece jacket that always caught my eye was the old Retro fleece. I longed to be in the wintery scenes the pictures captured with some dude wearing the jacket while woking on some 'outdoor' doo-dad. In 2000, I purchased the newer version of the Retro, the Retro-X and put it to the test. It is now 2010 and I still wear my Pacific Blue Retro-X everywhere. It is my all in one jacket. It has the classic look of the Retro and is still windproof after all these years. The jacket has been worn while snowboarding and skiing, commuting on my bike on cold days, out to the garage to work on the car or fix a flat tire on a bmx bike, and camping in the snow in the Sierra Nevada. The jacket also has been worn for the classy side of things. It has been ideal to wear to the theatre in San Francisco on those foggy and dreary evenings, to semi-casual work funtions, and once in a while to church. My kids call my Retro-X,"a cool sleeping bag you can wear". The list goes on. I am one proud and satisfied customer of Patagonia. Everytime I put the jacket on, I still think of myself being a cool pic in a Patagonia catalog. -Greg
I own 2 retro-x jackets. I bought the 1st won about 10yrs ago. It is the perfect winter jacket for walking the dog, going to class, out to the bar, cold weather camping, commuting to work etc. Unfortunately a couple of years ago my dog tore the left sleeve into about 3 pieces. Luckily because of the character of the fleece I was able to sew it back together and most people would probably never know the difference. I got a new one anyway and has the same quality, style and features I loved in the 1st one. Only complaint would be the inside of the neck does tend to get a bit nappy and matted, use of a different material in this area would be better. I am about 6', 160lbs and wear a large Retro-X, while all my other Patagonia gear is size medium. The extra bulk of a size up is nice for layering underneath, I prefer a slim fit for aerobic activites (skiing, mtn biking, hiking etc.) but rarely use this jacket in those applications as it is entirely too hot. I tend to be sensitive to weird seams etc, but the horizontal seam across the back that so many people find annoying I have never noticed, this is probably due to going with a looser fit which is what I would recommend with the Retro-X.
Changes in the Classic Retro-X
Essentially, this Classic Retro-X is the same good jacket that it has been for many, many years. This year there have been at least two changes which I have noticed.
First, the pocket openings were, for some reason I don't understand, made smaller. It is now a bit difficult to put your hands in and would be very difficult to stuff any large item, like a thick winter glove, into the opening. The interior of the pocket appears to be the same old ample size; it is only the opening itself which was shrunk down.
Second, the zippers are all now VERY small. They are exactly the same size as on the lightweight Synchilla vest. There are no pulls on them. I do not see how anyone wearing gloves could use the zippers. This is true for both the main zipper and the pockets. You must take off your gloves first. Strange design change from a company with such strong mountaineering chops.
The material and workmanship remain first class. The body is a boxy cut which allows for easy layering of almost any sweater or fleece piece (such as an R1).
The only other change I would love to see would be a draw cord at the hem which is a bit loose unless you have an under layer.
After seeing this jacket in various stores, catalogs, and websites for quite some time, I finally found the deal I was looking for with this sites Web Special. At 50% the retail price, it could not be beat. Over the past few years I have bought many jackets and fleeces from various manufactures but have yet to find anything as versatile as this. It can be hard to find something that has the right combination of fit, features, and performance and so I'm left looking for more jackets just a few months later. With this jacket though I feel like I will be happy for quite some time. What I needed was a cool weather jacket for when its too warm for my puffy but still chilly and windy. This jacket is perfect for that, and if precip is a concern, I can fit my hardshell over it and be completely comfortable. It is perfect casually around town, but can also do just as well out in the backcountry when hanging around camp. Sure, there are better technical jackets like the R4 and lighter more packable insulators like the Nano Puff, but for around camp this is perfect.
I now have 3 Retro X Jackets. I bought the first in Ushaia, Argentina about 7 years ago. This is an older style Retro X without the chest pocket and a slightly trimmer fit than the modern Retro X. I loved my first Retro X so much that I bought a second one. Just to spread the wear and tear.
The new ones have a regular fit and feel a little bit bulky and stiff when new. Don't feel put off by that, they only get better with use and a few washings.
IMO the Retro X looks better than anything the competition dishes out, don't forget this is the classic original.
It will be your favorite feel good jacket, warm, windproof, super comfortable and tough as nails. Maybe expensive at full price but it will last forever as with most Patagonia products. Killer deal when on sale, go for that extra cool color.
Even in summer I can look forward wearing it when it becomes colder and now I have 3 Retro X jackets to choose from...let the winter begin.