As of now, Patagonia has completely ditched neoprene in their line of full length wetsuits in favor of natural rubber. The Yulex natural rubber wetsuit line now includes 21 full-length suits for men, women, and kids.
“Surfers and wetsuit manufacturers—including Patagonia—have relied on neoprene for years, despite the fact that it’s a nonrenewable, petroleum-based material with an energy-intensive manufacturing process,” says Hub Hubbard, Patagonia’s wetsuit development manager. “Neoprene is nasty stuff, but for a long time we had no alternative. Through our partnership with Yulex we’ve invested in a plant-based game-changer and built it into our entire fullsuit line.”
The entire line of Patagonia’s all-new, high-performance wetsuits is made with natural rubber developed in partnership with Yulex and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified by the Rainforest Alliance. The certification ensures that the source plantation isn’t contributing to deforestation, and that it’s managed in a way that maintains the ecological functions and integrity of the forest. The Rainforest Alliance—an international nonprofit dedicated to the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable livelihoods, with a focus on tropical landscapes—performs audits to confirm that the plantation adheres to the FSC’s standards on the ground.
The neoprene-free Yulex wetsuits perform as well or better than conventional neoprene wetsuits. But because the main polymer is produced in trees instead of factories, using natural rubber reduces the CO2 emitted in wetsuit manufacturing by up to ~80 percent. The FSC certified rubber is blended with a small amount of chlorine-free synthetic rubber for increased ozone and UV resistance, and to meet Patagonia’s rigorous demands for durability and strength. The Yulex process also removes over 99% of impurities, resulting in a nonsensitizing material.
The best part is that Patagonia and Yulex plan to share this innovation with other companies, hoping to create a shift toward cleaner and less harmful materials throughout the surf industry.
Patagonia’s Fall 2016 wetsuit line has new, fast-drying thermal linings and new floating front-zip entries as well as back-zip options. The new and exclusive inverted microgrid linings, made with the highest possible recycled polyester content, dry faster and create lighter suits while maintaining excellent warmth. The floating front-zip increases the wetsuit’s lifespan and features an asymmetrical flap for better stretch, seal and mobility. Featuring wetsuits rated for six different temperature levels, Patagonia’s collection has offerings that will keep you warm in water temperatures ranging from 75 degrees down to 32 degrees.
The Patagonia Yulex natural rubber wetsuits retail for $299-$529 and are available now.