Patagonia says its entire line of new high-performance wetsuits is made with natural rubber

Patagonia says its entire line of new high-performance wetsuits is made with natural rubber

Outdoor wear specialist Patagonia has unveiled what it says are the world's first neoprene-free wetsuits made with natural rubber from sources that are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified by the Rainforest Alliance.

The "groundbreaking" development expands on the company's first foray into natural rubber in 2014 and increases its Yulex wetsuit offering from two to 21 full-length suits for men, women and kids.

The US retailer says the entire line of its new high-performance wetsuits is now made with natural rubber developed in partnership with bio-rubber specialist Yulex and FSC, and carries certification assuring customers the source plantation does not contribute to deforestation and maintains the "ecological functions and integrity of the forest".

The new suits feature fast-drying thermal linings with floating front-zip entries as well as back-zip options. There are also "new and exclusive" inverted microgrid linings, made with the highest possible recycled polyester content, that dry faster and create lighter suits while maintaining warmth.

Patagonia adds 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, the new collection has offerings that will keep surfers warm in water temperatures ranging from 75 degrees down to 32 degrees.

According to Patagonia, 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, the amount of CO2 emitted during the manufacturing process is reduced by up to 80%.

"Surfers and wetsuit manufacturers – including Patagonia – have relied on neoprene for years, despite the fact that it's a non-renewable, 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."

Now, 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 non-sensitising material.

The California-based company adds the new plant-based polymer, pioneered by Yulex, is sourced from hevea trees grown on reclaimed farmland in Guatemala.

Hevea has long been the source for the most demanding rubber applications but until now Patagonia has avoided using it, as some of the world's supply is grown in newly clearcut rainforest zones, making the rubber industry a major driver of deforestation in tropical countries. Patagonia avoided using hevea until a more sustainable source could be found.

"Yulex could not have found a better partner than Patagonia to champion this breakthrough for the surf industry," says Jeff Martin, founder and CEO of Yulex Corporation. "The collaboration between our companies has been an example of how sustainable products can be brought to customers without sacrificing performance and cost competitiveness."

All 21 fullsuit styles are now available in North America, Europe, and Japan with prices for the Yulex natural rubber suits comparable to conventional, high-performance wetsuits.

Earlier this week Patagonia said it would replace the Primaloft insulation in its entire Nano Puff range with an eco-friendly version developed by the synthetic insulation manufacturer. The new Primaloft Gold Insulation Eco has 55% recycled content, yet does not compromise on the performance of the existing Gold Insulation.

Primaloft launches Gold Eco insulation with Patagonia

Last week the outdoor brand also  announced it has developed its own wool standard, nearly a year after deciding to re-build its wool programme after an investigation exposed "extreme cruelty" at one of its main suppliers. The company says it believes it has set out the world's most stringent criteria for animal welfare and responsible land management.

Patagonia wool standard goes "above and beyond"