Trekking: Ditch Neoprene With the Yulex Wetsuit

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Man isn’t meant to stay indoors — our weekly “Trekking” column can attest to that. It’s a column dedicated to the adventurer inside of all of us, the one pining to ditch the office humdrum for a seven-week jaunt in the Grand Tetons, or fiending to catch some waves someplace other than the North Shore. One day we may highlight a new ultra-light camping stove or minimalist water filter, and the next you may find us getting wrapped up in a set of Norquayco’s handmade canoe paddles. Life doesn’t just happen inside the workplace and home, so get outside and live it.

From the beginning, manufacturing neoprene was never a sustainable process. The synthetic rubber — developed by an American chemist in the early ’30s — utilizes a toxic process that combines chlorine with butadiene, rendering the petroleum-based materiel as wasteful to produce as it is difficult. Conventional polychloroprene has become the go-to material when crafting wetsuit insulation given the product’s overall chemical stability and its resounding ability to regulate body temperature in frigid waters. However, Patagonia’s Yulex wetsuit ($529+) looks to maintain the insulating properties of neoprene without its heavy footprint on the environment.

Image 1Now, more than 80 years after neoprene’s initial debut, Patagonia has partnered with  Yulex for a line of sustainable wetsuits. The Arizona-based company has been testing the waters with plant-based rubbers for nearly two decades, crafting sustainable materials from the guayule plant. The non-food crop, typically found in Mexico and the southwestern United States, requires little water and utilizes no pesicides, rendering the botanical resource perfectly apt for the company’s water-based separation process. Patagonia’s R2 and R3 front-zip wetsuits employ a 60-40 blend of guayule and neoprene, with the natural plant comprising the majority of the material.

The sleek, jet-black wetsuits are designed for temperatures as low as 48 degrees Fahrenheit, lined with recycled polyester throughout the torso and arms to ensure warmth and movement under the coolest conditions. A windproof Nexkin coating also reduces evaportative cooling, while maintaining durability throughout the suit’s lifetime. Both suits utilize the hypoallergenic and latex-free rubber, with triple-glued seams that are additionally blindstitched and internally tapered on high-stress areas to help prevent breakdown. The interior guayule lining is also more elastic and softer than traditional neoprene, making the choice for a more sustainable future that much more appealing.

Check out the main Patagonia website for a closer look at all of the company’s Yulex wears, or to make a purchase. Also, check one of the company’s many retail locations for other surf offerings.

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