Toughest Gear: Patagonia Regulator Series

Fleece sturdy enough to satisfy an Argonaut.

Some people think fleece is like Styrofoam: a manmade plastic that might survive centuries in a landfill. It’s not. We’ve seen it rip, pill, and flatten in surprisingly brief test periods. Which makes us love Patagonia’s gridded fleece tops—with their best-in-class warmth, terrific fit, and simple features—all the more.

Introduced in 1999, the series included three weights: R1 (baselayer zip-T), R2 (midweight jacket), and R3 (heavyweight jackets). Each used a then-new Polartec fleece built on a high-loft, low-bulk philosophy that produced incredible heat retention—and earned the Regulator Series an Editors’ Choice Award. The pictured tops have seen more than 500 days in the field, and they remain Jon’s top choice when warmth isn’t optional. The line now includes other shirt and jacket weights and styles. $125-$250;