Why are you shopping for a daypack? If you are looking for an all-around pack to bring with you to work, on trips, and on short hikes, then the Patagonia Refugio is a perfect, versatile pack. With its padded laptop compartment and smartphone compatible sleeve, it makes the cross-over between sport use and around town use better than any of the other packs we tested. It is very similar in features to The North Face Recon, which leans more towards a travel bag than a hiking daypack, though the Refugio does not have a waist belt while the Recon does. It doesn't have easy to use hiking specific features like a hiking pole stash and ice tool attachment on the Osprey Stratos 24, but it is still hydration compatible with a cleverly placed hose port. If too many features drive you crazy, try the more streamlined Deuter Speed Lite 20.
Patagonia Refugio Review
Compare prices at 4 resellers Pros: Holds a 17” laptop, has handy organizational pockets, fun color selection, versatile
Cons: No waist belt, not the best ventilation
Our Analysis and Test Results
The New Version of the Patagonia Refugio vs. The Older Version
Another update for the Refugio! With nine new colors available, this model seems to have undergone small cosmetic updates from the updated version we tested. Still sporting the increased price of $89 along with new zippers, straps, and a less cluttered feel. See below for a side-by-side comparison, with the latest version shown on the left and the older model pictured on the right.
Here's a summary of the key differences:
- Pockets — This pack seems to have a bigger zipper for the upper pocket, though it is no longer sporting the vertical front pocket. The side bottle pockets seem to have morphed as well, appearing to increase in size.
- Water Resistant — The Refugio now has a DWR finish to increase its water resistance.
- Daisy Chain — The updated Refugio includes a new daisy chain to the front to clip on a few extra things!
We haven't tested this new version yet, so be aware that the rest of the review reflects the older version.
Hands-On Review of the older Refugio
An ideal pack for around town and for use as a carry-on backpack, this casual pack can also transition to short dayhikes.
The Patagonia Refugio is tailor-made for handy travel organization. It has a sleeve that will hold a hydration bladder, with a unique hose port in the center of the pack rather than on the side, or this same padded sleeve will perfectly hold a 15-17 inch laptop. It has a microfiber pocket on the top especially to keep sunglasses from getting crunched or scratched, and in the front compartment there is a pocket perfectly sized for an iPhone and other organizational pockets to hold pens, headphone, keys, etc. It has a really easy to access and stash front pocket that is ideal for items like tickets or wallets, and two stretchy water bottle pockets on the sides.
Though this pack is perfect for bringing to school or work, it will also work well for hiking, and its size is perfect for bringing along the ten essentials. The main downside is that it does not have a waist belt. It does have a sternum strap with an included whistle, but if you load up the pack, the lack of waist belt makes it less stable and uncomfortable for hiking.
At 1 lb 11 oz., the Refugio weighs almost the same as the Osprey Talon 22, yet is has a slightly larger volume of 28 liters. For a pack loaded with features, this seems reasonable.
The back panel of the Refugio is padded and slightly meshy, so it breathes decently well, and is cushioned on your spine. It is not nearly as breathable as the packs with innovative panel designs such as the Osprey Talon or the Osprey Stratos. The lack of waist belt makes it less comfortable when loaded heavy.
The Patagonia Refugio is a very versatile pack, being useful for sporting activities or as a briefcase or school bag. This pack transitions into around town use better than the other more sport-specific featured packs in this review such as the Deuter Speed Lite and Osprey Stratos, and transitions to hiking use better than the slightly heavier and more expensive North Face Recon.
With a padded base and 840-denier 100 percent ballistics nylon, this pack is ultra durable. Everything on this pack is solidly stitched and put together, so it will hold up to extended hard use, plus it comes with Patagonia's amazing guarantee.
Ease of Use
Our editors love that this pack fits a laptop, and love that in the middle compartment there is another phone-specific pocket for the iPhone. These easy to use features make this pack ideal for traveling when you need to carry all your important items at once.
In our packing test, this pack fit everything easily with some extra space. The Refugio has the most clever organizational pockets, which made stowing the small, important items easier and more intuitive than in the other packs.
Though the Patagonia Refugio would work well for hiking and other sports, it seems tailored to travel and around town use. Laptop compatibility, special pockets for pens, an iPhone, even a microfiber pocket for sunglasses, and the lack of a waist belt all seem to add up to being the perfect pack to bring with you while flying or on a trip.
— McKenzie Long